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Are PAUSD Schools Excellent?

Original post made by Working Mother of Three, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2007

I stretched myself thin to move to Palo Alto, and I squeezed my three kids into a small 1000 square foot house (1 bathroom, no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, 3 small bedrooms, slab foundation, cracking ceilings, cackling wall heater) for the PAUSD school system.

Was it worth it? Every penny. I'm thankful every day that I made that decision. My kids are well adjusted, they are happy, they are doing far more and learning far more than I ever did at this age. The schools and the teachers are smart, sensitive and caring, and my kids are getting the right level of challenge for their situation. They are pushed, they are competitive, they are leaders, they are learning. My 6th grade daughter was in the 99th percentile in her writing assessment. My son was reading at the 5th grade level in 1st grade. They are getting alot of varied opportunities.

Yes, I pay extra for things like sports teams, music lessons, etc. so financially its tough for us. And the school facilities are older. But the kids are thriving. And they are happy. They have well adjusted friends whose parents have high expectations too. And they are safe. My kids are going to be prepared for college.

So, my question is - is PAUSD really an excellent school district or is it somehow smoke and mirrors - and I'm just being tricked?

I don't understand the recent rumors that some parents are contemplating breaking out of PAUSD to become a charter school. Are there really a lot of parents out there that are so unhappy with their kid's experience, that they would rather leave?

Are there that many parents out there that have enough confidence in a small charter school start up to do better than PAUSD that they're willing to give up an outstanding PAUSD education?

I'm confused. It makes me feel like I should be unhappy about PAUSD results, when in reality, I feel thrilled and thankful to be part of PAUSD and the benefits my kids are receiving here. I wouldn't trade it for all the money in the world. It feels like the best investment I've ever made.

What am I missing?


Comments (44)

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Posted by Charter School Supporter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2007 at 11:49 am

Hi Working Mom,

Charter schools are opportunities for community members, teachers, and administrators to create a school, generally because the school district hasn't fulfilled their needs.

A Palo Alto charter school is not knocking PAUSD. PAUSD is great!

In fact, a Palo Alto charter school could exist within PAUSD, sharing much of the same fantastic qualities that the school district contains.

The proponents of a charter school just want one thing more than PAUSD, and that's a Mandarin immersion education. Same PAUSD standards, just in Mandarin. Just like Spanish immersion has.

The charter school doesn't have to break out from the school system, it can happily co-exist in the district with the other schools. It's allowed to have it's own curriculum and not have to conform to the school board.

If you want to know more about charter schools, there's lots of information out there. Or ask on this forum. Please make sure to not encourage fear-mongering since there's a lot of good charter schools out there.


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Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 14, 2007 at 1:00 pm

Charter Schools were designed to meet the needs of populations that were receiving sub-standard education from their own district. They were designed to allow parents a chance to, basically, use a voucher system of reimbursement to create their own school, in the belief they could run it better and get a better education for their kids than the District was providing.

I am a supporter of Charter schools when they are driven by this desire, the desire to break away from failing districts and create schools that allow their children to better themselves in all the core subjects and give them a better chance in the world.

IN fact, frankly, I am a supporter of vouchers, for the very reason that I believe that parents can, in fact, choose the best education for their child. However, I am a supporter of vouchers only in areas where the school district is paid on the basis of "per student" enrollment, in order to foster competition between the school district and private schools. This would mean that, regardless of where you are in a state, the same tax dollars follow you around, and you can choose to spend them where you wish.

I am not in favor of vouchers or Charter schools in districts that are recognized throughout the nation as top districts.

I am not in favor of vouchers or charter schools in a basic aid district. The financial impact is completely different.

I am not a supporter of a Charter school proposal which is driven by the desire for a school which will provide a specialty subject that is not core to the education of the rest of the children in general. If this were driven by a failing math program for the district, and parents thought that a Charter school would result in good math results, I would understand it. They would only do this if their children were not being served in what is an internationally recognized core subject.

But, this particular charter school is driven by the desire to teach children a subject that is not an internationally recognized core subject, and teach it in a particular manner to a limited number of children, which our District has decided it is not yet time for.

Before now, this subject had not risen high enough in this district's radar to address, but it seems that in the next few years this IS a subject which will be taught, in a way that all the children will have it.

I believe that the proponents of any charter school should ask themselves if they really want to keep going in this direction, or if they want to capitalize on the good they have done ( bringing this to the city's radar) and work toward bringing Mandarin to all the children who want it in our District. Face it, the proponents have done an incredible service by raising this issue to such a visible level.

I fear that to continue going this way will result in only a bigger disconnect. This is a direction which says "we don't believe our District is good enough to stay in it, and we don't believe in our election process enough to abide by spirit of the vote of our elected officials"

Of course, it is well within anyone's right to pursue a Charter School, and an understandable reaction to the feelings of betrayal there may be from this vote, but I would seriously and kindly submit that this would not be good for the community.








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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2007 at 1:40 pm

A basic-aid district with high scores and overenrollment issues is *not* a good candidate for a charter school. It's robbing Peter to pay Paul. I hope the charter-school supporters either work for FLES for PAUSD or look to opening the charter school in a district that's not basic aid, such as Ravenswood or Mountain View.


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Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2007 at 2:26 pm

As I understand it - a charter school does for all intents and purposes completely break out of the district. They are not operated under the school districts staff, not part of their curriculum or management decisions, not part of their hiring processes or even bound by their criteria for hiring teachers - they have their own Board, their own philosphy, their own policies, their own decision making. They run their own finances, their own fund raising, and manage their own finacial health. The have responsiblity for their own performance directly to the state (but they get supervision in that performance from the chartering authority). They run themselves like a district unto themselves.

The only connection to the home district is that the home district is has review oversight of the performance of the charter, the home district gives over its share of per pupil funding for the in-district students, and the home district gives space for the in-district kids that attend the charter.

but other than that - the charter is free to do whatever it wants with curriculum, performance, quality, teacher pay, teacher selection, operations, instructional philosophy, etc.

So, from a parent's point of view - its NOTHING like being part of PAUSD. Its choosing to be part of a completely separate school district from the point of view of what the kids receive and how it gets delivered.

Are there honestly a lot of parents out there willing to separate from PAUSD in this way?

(Sure, some are willing to pay plenty for private schools, even though they bought in to expensive PAUSD neighborhoods, but most of those are well established private schools, and can prove their results with years of experience, and I bet its not a slam dunk decision even then...)

Is there anyone who is involved in the charter investigation that can tell us if there is real parent interest in this? How real is this? Is this going to be a reality for PAUSD any time soon?


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Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2007 at 7:14 pm

The fact you came here is evidence you belong. 99th percentiles help make it happy. The people who find education important are the people who make it work. In 30 years you will have no doubts.


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Posted by Kindly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2007 at 8:07 pm

"I would seriously and kindly submit that this would not be good for the community."

I think I agree (though I'd like to understand the financial implications better). On the other hand, I would kindly submit that the decision to kill the MI pilot was not good for the community or MI supporters. And a charter school would be good for the MI people.


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Posted by languages for all
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 15, 2007 at 9:35 am

Opening a charter school would save PAUSD $6000 per student (Web Link). So, say they opened an MI charter school for 300 students, that would save PAUSD $1,800,000 per year. Just about the cost to implement FLES for everyone else.
Sounds like a win-win all around.


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 15, 2007 at 11:30 am

But wouldn't the district then be forced to reopen a school? How expensive would that be?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2007 at 12:43 pm

First of all -to Kindly - frankly I was referring to the pro-charter school community, and the effect of loss of respect they could experience by the rest of PA for trying to force their own will through non-democratic solutions, slapping democracy in the face and insinuating or schools are "failing", since that is what charter schools say. That may easily be the price some are willing to pay, though, considering how much money each family would save in private school fees. Nobody can fault that motivation.

As for cheaper for PA. I agree, it could be. At the very least there is a known control on expenses, since we pay per student, and on time spent on it, since our staff are not obliged to help in any way.

There is a legal obligation to give preference to PA residents for any charter school sponsored by PAUSD. So, assuming every kid in the charter school would then come from PA, (given that proponents have to assert this is now a core subject which has been denied them), it would be less expensive. The board that runs the charter school would have to function on much less than the rest of the schools.

Even better, put SI into the same space as MI and make it an international immersion charter school. This would make a small step toward solving one of the issues of a charter school that MI is going to have to overcome, which is the need to reflect the ethnic diversity of the sponsoring district. That will be tough, since we are such a diverse city.

And open up Escondido back to neighborhood.

The problem is placement. It will be interesting to see what happens there. If the state will allow a charter school to open with just 40 students, or even 80...out of a district of 10,000, I see modulars at Ohlone. But if it requires more numbers, I see PAUSD leasing or buying a building somewhere. If there is no space inside a district, then we have to find one as close as possible.

This would be a great boost to EPA, given one of their city council members begged our district to do this and "show them the way", so maybe EPA can provide a space. It can only be good for EPA, since they are losing students. I see it as a win-win.

I don't know how you start an immersion charter school with more than just k-1 combination classes, unless you start bringing kids in from the private schools for the upper grades. Since they won't be bound by a lottery system until they are full, they can pick and choose and fill the upper grades from the current private immersion schools.

All in all...possibly still a better solution than within PAUSD, assuming it can fill itself with PAUSD students.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Charter school websites

Web Link

Web Link


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2007 at 8:50 pm

To Working Mom of three: Some of my experiences are like yours. I work and sacrificed financially to have kids attend Palo Alto Schools. Unfortunately not all elementary schools in PAUSD are the same. We became very disappointed with the quality of our local schools education and in 5th grade removed our kids from PAUSD. In our elementary school the lower level kids and behavior problems received the attention. The teachers might have been very intelligent and kind, but the education I received was far superior to the education my kids were getting at PAUSD. I have met other families who left PAUSD, though we tend not to be a very vocal group. Eventually I learned from teachers/parents in other schools that my local school did not follow many of PAUSD traditional programs that had been successful in the majority of the schools. We will reenter PAUSD for high school and hope its the correct choice.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 15, 2007 at 11:27 pm

There won't be a charter school at Ohlone. There would be the same issue that there was before, which is that Ohlone has a waitlist and those modular classrooms could be filled from the waitlist. You'd still be pushing the school site over its designated capacity.

And Susan Charles *would* fight that one tooth and nail. Remember, she wasn't about to let an immersion program be run separately from Ohlone. She's hardly going to let a separate school be run on Ohlone's grounds.

Trying to use the underused Ventura site, or finding some classrooms in Cubberly are more likely options. EPA's probably the way to go, though--particularly any sites west of 101.


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Posted by languages for all
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 16, 2007 at 8:37 am

But wouldn't the district then be forced to reopen a school? How expensive would that be?

Yes they would have to provide space for a charter school, but from the latest board vote, this would just be bringing forward the inevitable - so opening a new school would cost no more than what it would cost anyway. Maybe this "threat" was the real reason they voted down opening a new school now.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 16, 2007 at 9:30 am

Sounds like the district will have to put the charter at Garland, if the charter people get it together.

What stage is the proposal at? How long does it take to get implemented?


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Posted by PV Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Feb 16, 2007 at 9:35 am

Why can't they rent office space on Fabian and open a school there like the Jewish high school that is there at present?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 16, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Having done a little research, I'd say that the BoE won't approve an MI school. An MI charter has all the problems of an MI problem and then some. A charter school has to be open to kids outside the district, but because of PA's basic-aid status and that of Menlo Park's there won't be complete reimbursement for kids from outside the district.

In addition, getting space for a charter will cost. Modulars cost, so does terminating the lease on Garland.

If MI supporters want a charter school ASAP, they'll look next door to Mountain View or Ravenswood, which are set up for charters. If it's really about making some sort of point about MI being IN Palo Alto, it's going to be more of a haul.


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2007 at 5:45 pm

You're right that it will drain money for outside students, cost more for space, etc., but the BoE may not have a choice. They can't cite those reasons in turning down a charter, even if they agree with you.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 16, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Concerned,

What are the criteria for approving/not approving a charter school? Do you have a link, preferably one that goes to that issue instead of one of those everything-charter sites?

Thanks,


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Web Link

Go half way down or so. It will start listing what would disqualify it. Notice that it must reflect the ethnic distribution of our district. How is this school going to attract the variety of ethnicities we have here? And the special ed component will be fun to watch happen. How many deaf kids can enter? Aspergers' kids? Mentally retarded kids? It will be tough to reflect the rest of the district.

Most of the rest of the campuses absorb some pretty disabled kids. A couple don't. It would be a pity for yet another one to be exclusive. There is a ripple effect on both sides of the camp in that one.

I have a question I can't find in here. Is there a minimum number required to start a charter school?

And, does the site the district provides have to be a site big enough for the full eventual school?

As for accepting students from outside the district, this looks pretty clear that preference has to be given to residents. If there is so much support for this, as the original MI proponents believed, then that won't be a problem. If there isn't, well...


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Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2007 at 8:21 pm

Thanks for chasing down this link.

It looks like the BoE can turn down a proposal for only very limited reasons (a poorly thought-out plan, etc.) Finance and district problems with siting are irrelevant. They just need to put together a proposal, get petitions signed, and they're off.

I think the majority of interest will come from non-Asians, but if not they could just fudge it with quotas at first and then phase them out once everyone forgets

Interesting that if interest exceeds space, we will have another lottery program in the district.


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Posted by person
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Well, then there's that pesky little problem of customers. Who IS going to choose an experimental start up program over a PAUSD education for their kids? For example, will Hoover families feel compelled to this new Charter school, compared to Hoover? A few? Or enough to sustain a school?

And PAUSD only has to provide space -for free- for in-district kids - the charter school has to reimburse the district for space used by out of district kids. I hear Palo Alto is a high rent area...

The district can't deny due to PAUSD finances, but they can deny due to Charter School finances - it has to hold water.

And I also hear the district can not be forced to break a lease on a property it has a lease agreement on.. Garland is leased. I hear Ventura is owned by the city not the district...

I thought the idea of PAUSD renting or leasing- space in EPA for the charter school was brilliant - probably the most cost effective solution possible, and perhaps very favorable for the EPA neighborhood that would receive it.

And, I think the district probably could deny it on soundness of educational program - after all the MI proponents have failed to show any actual statistics from any model Mandarin public schools showing that what they propose is actually being done successfully - which is specifically to teach non-mandarin speakers to be biliterate in Mandarin and English at 5th grade PAUSD standards, by 5th grade. (They said they 'saw it' happening, but notice, not a shred of stats were given as to those schools they used as samples...) If the school can't show it can perform its intended function - can it be denied?

If if they can go ahead, will the parents want the concrete evidence, or will they be happy to take a gamble on their own kids' education?

And are charters allowed to test for proficiency for entrance? Or are they bound to total lottery admission? (I believe its the latter.) So how will that work for them?

It sounds flawed enough that the district probably would have grounds to deny a charter if they wanted. But they should probably just approve it and let it flop all on its own. What a shame for the kids who are going to get dragged through it all, by the "amazing" few who are pushing this on their community.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2007 at 1:12 am

Thanks for the link.

PAUSD can't lease space for a charter school in EPA--it has to lease in the same county. However, the pro-MI charter folks can go directly to Ravenswood to get a charter school started.

Seems to me the total stumbling block is the student body having to represent the ethnic diversity of the community. Immersion programs aren't supposed to ever be less than 30 percent native speakers. Palo Alto isn't 30 percent Chinese. That requirement would also make it very difficult for English-speaking kids of Chinese descent to get into the program. If CLIP is any example, I think your main applicant pool would be English-speaking Chinese-American kids.

I'm not sure where, actually, you'd pull in the native-Mandarin speakers. There are fewer than a 1,000 in Palo Alto and, as my SO says, most of them are probably over 80. Okay, an exaggeration, but most of the ESL parents I know have kids who speak English first. The exceptions are families who don't plan to stay here.

One study showed that Asians were less likely than any other group to attend charter schools. I don't know if that's a reflection of an anti-charter/pro-tradition bias, or, which I think more likely, the tendency to move to good school districts that haven't needed charters.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Well, that's sort of what I was thinking - if you care enough about getting in to the highest quality school district to pay virtually any price to live in Palo Alto (no matter how unreasonable), then would you move to Palo Alto and THEN choose charter school?

If you are a person who would choose charter school, then you probably haven't moved to Palo Alto for the schools. You can live anywhere and choose from lots of good charter schools. A lot of places are nice places to live, with more public services, very nice neighborhood amenities, larger houses, larger lots, with lower mortgage payments, but with somewhat less favorable school districts, but with alot of charter school options.

Are there very many Palo Alto residents who are really willing to jump over to a start up charter school?

Bullis - different story completely because those residents wanted a neighborhood elementary school in their city where there were none. That's different than choosing a charter where you have excellent neighborhood schools otherwise. (And you've paid a pretty penny specifically for the right to get in to those schools...)

Not only that, but once you get in to this charter - you're promised they'll reach an education level in English equivalent to average. That's a far cry less than the PAUSD expectation.

If I were a parent with extremely high educational expecations for my kids, and I were being promised an average education in English (with added bonus of some level of Mandarin conversational, Mandarin reading, Mandarin writing) and I knew my kids were going to be competing with PAUSD kids for spots in competitive colleges (In English!), I don't think I'd be very inclined to sign up.

I'm not getting the compelling value proposition for the parents or the kids (the customers).

Not to say no one will choose this, I just suspect it will be few. It's not going to be enough to sustain a school, perhaps not even enough for a viable start up..

If anyone has any info that says I'm off base on the realistic numbers, I'd be interested. I'm really curious about the thought process for parents who would really consider switching over to this school.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 17, 2007 at 4:26 pm

MI is the kind of proram that starts small and builds from K to 6--it doesn't just launch a full-size school all at once. My guess is that an MI charter would start very small, and would probably draw students from multiple communities. There may not even be a lottery in the first couple of years, but if the program proves itself and demand increases, you'll likely see more PAUSD families jumping ship if MI is something they value. I'm often surprised at how often people pay huge mortgages to live in PAUSD, then pay tuition for private schools, so I conclude that PAUSD is not the be-all, end-all that we like to think.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2007 at 6:22 pm

Parent,

One of the interesting things I came across while reading about CLIP is that a lot of the parents of native Mandarin speakers were unhappy with the program because they wanted more in English. They want their kids to be fluent in English.

So, I agree that the interest in an MI charter in Palo Alto might be smaller, smaller, certainly, than an MI program at one of the elementaries.

Interested,

If most of the interest comes from outside PA, then there are some big financial issues for the charter school--the aforementioned rent issue.

Which brings us back to doing an MI charter in a district next door that's better situated for it and more likely to turn a blind eye to the fact that it's not going to reflect the demographics of the community.


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Posted by curious
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 18, 2007 at 8:00 am

Why would EPA want a mandarin charter school?


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Posted by Lydia
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2007 at 12:49 pm

Curious, does a community need to "want" a charter school in order for there to be one there?


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2007 at 12:55 pm

Those people confused by the discussion of charter schools need to get a copy of Our School, by local authoress Joanne Jacobs to see how they can work.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Curious,

EPA would get money for a charter school, since they're not a basic-aid district. They want more pupils, unlike basic-aid PA, so a charter school would be a magnet.

An MI school would also be seen as a potential high performer in terms of test scores. EPA could use a strong school. So could Mountain View.

There is a chunk of middle-class families in EPA that send their kids to PAUSD via Tinsley or to private schools. I think they'd *love* a charter that was focused on high attainment.


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Posted by curious
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 18, 2007 at 2:03 pm

Lydia, does a community need to "want" a charter school? Interesting question. Let's say people in EPA want a charter school. Do you think they could ask PAUSD to give them a place for their school?


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Posted by Lydia
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Curious, if some people in EPA wanted a charter school, could the EPA school district get(rent/buy) them a place for their school in Palo Alto or Menlo Park if no school space were available in EPA?


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Posted by curious
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 18, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Lydia, if people in EPA want a charter school and it is approved, it would be the job of their district to provide/pay for facilities regardless of location. If people in PA want a charter school, same story, PAUSD provides/pays for facilities. I don't think location matters a whole lot but there would be incentives to keep the program where it attracts more PAUSD students than outsiders. PAUSD would be incurring some of the costs for out of district students, so it's better to serve your own population.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2007 at 5:04 pm

A charter school has to be in the same county as the district that holds the charter. So PAUSD can't run a charter school in EPA, it could run one in Mountain View. EPA could run one in Menlo Park, but not Palo Alto.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2007 at 10:13 pm

To Mom: I was wondering if you can share more of your experiences with why you were disappointed with the quality of education of your local school and how their programs differed from other PAUSD traditional programs? Also, if parents are pulling their kids out of PAUSD for these reasons, I was wondering why the school isn't taking a more proactive stance in addressing the issues?


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2007 at 12:24 am

Linda,
It would take a long time to explain everything. Almost 1 year was spent discussing matters with the school Principal, Dr. Mary Francis Callahan and her staff. Very low level of expectations were prevalent in the school between grade 3-5. Teachers in upper grade did not encourage quality work. The child got the same feedback whether the work was poor or high quality. My kids learned it was easy to get away with less work because they felt no one cared. The principal implied it was 8-10year old child's fault if they were not putting in their best effort, the teacher did not have to address the issue. The principal did not see any problems with the program that accepted low quality work, it was the child's choice. Very low achievers and outspoken high achievers received most of the attention. The average "smart" kid usually missed out on a rewarding education. I volunteered in classes once a week (2-3 hours) from K-5, so I saw first hand what was going on in the classes.
Regarding programs, friends from different schools would have days were they dressed as Historical figures (biography report?), suit case presentations, and science fairs. My kids were disappointed when they realized they would not have the activities that seemed popular at other schools. Of course these activities were not necessary, but these are the special learning experiences that kids always remember. It seemed other schools had homework and tests, these were very rare at our school. In 4th grade the new math text book adopted by the district was never used. It was just another thing the staff wanted to do differently...The school experience was shocking for me, I never expected Palo Alto School district to permit such a wide range of learning "experiences" in a "standard" elementary school. I felt like I signed up for a Charter School by mistake. I think the school was "charter"-like and no staff would admit this. I was aware of some students transferring there because of the less academic atmosphere. Many neighborhood kids have opted to attend the choice schools, I was too late for that. Hope that explains a few things.


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Posted by curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2007 at 8:12 am

Barron Park or Briones?


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Posted by PV Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 22, 2007 at 11:27 am

Certainly not Palo Verde


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Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2007 at 6:16 pm

"If I were a parent with extremely high educational expecations for my kids, and I were being promised an average education in English (with added bonus of some level of Mandarin conversational, Mandarin reading, Mandarin writing) and I knew my kids were going to be competing with PAUSD kids for spots in competitive colleges (In English!), I don't think I'd be very inclined to sign up."

Well, not if you go with the disinformation on this board. Immersion is not "experimental"--programs have been around for decades. Research on immersion (and on Mandarin immersion) is abundant.

If you are the type of parent who is looking for a "value proposition," who measures your kid's education in how well they do on standardized tests, then MI could be for you. The kids attending these MI programs do better at math and English than their peers, so you could count (statistically) on better scores there. Your kids could also go on to take the AP Chinese test--one more test showing the value proposition and helping them compete against PAUSD kids (in English and Chinese!) for spots in name-brand, hotsy-totsy colleges or even universities.

But if you're the kind of parent more interested in the whole child, in an international outlook, in teaching your child to interact with other cultures, in taking advantage of the language-acquisition window, then MI might also be for you.




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Posted by Another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2007 at 6:21 pm

We have already established that while there is some data to support the fact that MI students may perform as better readers of English than the counterparts in an English only program, there is no data whatsoever about how they perform in writing English. So, if you want your child to be able to write a good college application essay, or even a good book report in 6th grade, then question the results before enrolling in MI.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2007 at 9:36 pm

I'm not sure we've established the better reading thing--we've established that they don't seem to do worse according to Lindholm-Leary, who, unfortunately, has been a vocal supporter of MI in PA, so can't be considered an unbiased source. She may be right, but there's a lack of other sources. Meanwhile, the API scores of the local immersion schools aren't the top performers in their districts.

Or, as a bilingual friend of mine points out, if immersion programs are so amazing why don't bilingual kids do better than their peers? Other things seem to matter more. (Parents' education, expectations, etc.)


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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 22, 2007 at 11:27 pm

OhlonePar: "Or, as a bilingual friend of mine points out, if immersion programs are so amazing why don't bilingual kids do better than their peers?"

Are you so sure they don't?

Here's just one of many references I found:

Web Link

key quote: "Many studies suggest that balanced bilinguals demonstrate a greater flexibility than monolinguals in their performance on different cognitive tasks. ...Recent research ... has given empirical support for linguists' statements regarding the cognitive and linguistic advantages of raising a child bilingually."


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2007 at 10:25 pm

If immersion works so well, and kids who end up being bilgual via mmersion classrooms outperform their 'peers', why don't we see (for example) test results of ESL spanish speakers across the US who are in English Immersion classrooms doing better than the overall average?

I think when you see Lindholm Leary talk about outperforming peers, she is saying that ESL students who are taught in their own language and English, are outperforming their >ESL< peers who are taught only in English.

I don't think she is saying that non-english speakers taught in english outperform the total overall average, nor that english only speakers taught in a non-english language outperform the total overall average.

When she's saying "peer" she's talking about ESL kids taught in two languages (their own native language and English) outperforming ESL kids taught only English. And big surprise - when ESL kids are taught in their own language plus English (instead of English only), they do better on the uptake of English and the rest of their academics, and they like school better than their ESL peers taught only in English...

The problem is, MI in Palo Alto isn't proposed as a program to support ESL Mandarin achievement gap. We don't have one of those - not one that justifies an entire school. Perhaps in districts like San Francisco, they have a large enough achievmeent gap population to justify immersion for ESL speakers of various languages. We don't.


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Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2007 at 12:52 pm

The discussion about the academic advantage (or disadvantage) of MI reminded me that it might be helpful to distinguish between choice programs and non-choice programs when it comes to evaluation of which one is better, in terms of academic achievement.

I think that in general it is the duty of the school district to attempt and maximize the achievement of any non-choice program, as measured on the district goals. Since academics are prominently included among those goals, maximizing academic achievement, tempered by achievement on other goals, should be pursued.

The situation is philosophically different for choice programs. Since parents and children are there by their own choice, these programs do not necessarily need to attempt and maximize academic excellence, as long as they meet the minimum standards set by the state and the district. Instead, they should be free to pursue the maximization of their *choice mission*, whatever it may be.

This does not necessarily mean that choice program cannot have academics as their choice focus and try to maximize them. Hoover is an example where academics is such focus of choice. Yet Ohlone is an opposite example where academics in themselves are not the focus of choice, and I don't think Ohlone should attempt to maximize its academic achievement, as long as it maintains at least the minimum expected by PAUSD and the state. Both models are acceptable for choice programs.

Coming back to the *choice* immersion programs, whether MI or SI, I think it is wrong to attempt and assess them based on the academic advantage of the immersion model. I think their objective is to promote foreign language (and culture) acquisition, and that should be the key criterion for their assessment. The concern whether immersion also maximizes academics in general should be of secondary importance, as long as it does not *heavily* detract from them.

This is different for FLES. Since FLES is proposed as a mandatory program, the discussion whether it promotes the overall academic achievement of students is appropriate.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2007 at 4:33 pm

"If immersion works so well, and kids who end up being bilgual via mmersion classrooms outperform their 'peers', why don't we see (for example) test results of ESL spanish speakers across the US who are in English Immersion classrooms doing better than the overall average?"

ESL is not dual immersion. Entirely different beasts.

"I think when you see Lindholm Leary talk about outperforming peers, she is saying that ESL students who are taught in their own language and English, are outperforming their >ESL< peers who are taught only in English."

No, "peers" means the average of children in the same grade across the same district, whether ESL or not.

"I don't think she is saying that non-english speakers taught in english outperform the total overall average, nor that english only speakers taught in a non-english language outperform the total overall average."

That's exactly what she IS saying. Non-English speakers (immersion) and English speakers (immersion) BOTH outperform English-only speakers in district in English.

It's odd that you ask for information, hard data, but then when it's supplied, you take potshots by calling into question the neutrality of the researcher, the meaning of defined terms or simply fabricate potential objections (maybe writing skills will lag, etc.).

There is a large body of evidence for immersion programs that go back decades and exist in many countries. You may not like immersion for your child or MI in Palo Alto, but these programs are proven, not remotely experimental. The "feasibility study" was a fig leaf for the board--anyone with serious interest knew the outcome in advance because of all the data: of course it's feasible. By asking the MI folks to pay for a study, the board members bought themselves time to test the winds. Then they caved to the threats of the anti-MI crowd.

None of this relates to the actual benefits of MI, which are proven.


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