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Town Square

Diana Diamond: STAR test results show many students have proficiency problems

Original post made on Sep 5, 2007

The news, at first blush, seemed great. The 2007 STAR scores (California Standardized Testing and Reporting Program) were released last week and Palo Alto student scores were among the highest in the state. Santa Clara County students outperformed the state average.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 22, 2007, 12:00 AM

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Posted by d. rapaport
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Professor Michael Kirst. normally a wealth of informative analysis, really hit rock bottom when he roundly generalized that unless you're in an AP or honors class, "the course quality falls off the cliff." (Weekly, August 22).

When I received my doctorate in curriculum and instruction, my teachers taught us to avoid brutal, unfounded generalizations like that, especially when empirical data that refutes the assertion sits right under the researcher's nose, as is the case here at Palo Alto High School.

First of all, I have taught AP History and my comments are not a refutation of AP as much as they are a recognition of what is going on in other classrooms that Professor Kirst seems not to be aware of. Students who take my "regular" U.S. History class as juniors travel in a different direction than those taking AP History. They are able to do things that those students are simply not able to do, such as conduct year-long investigations of primary, original historical documents. Beyond the investigations of primary material, and to ensure that students hear a multiplicity of expert voices, I have also taken advantage of Paly's close proximity to Stanford and invited speakers.

The teacher education program at Stanford, STEP, has asked me to open my classroom for observations, presumably because I'm doing something that is helping students and, perhaps, teachers.

I think what Kirst meant to say is that we have to do more for those students who fail to learn the prerequisite skills necessary for their further success and that at each opportunity, as long as those skills remain unlearned the chances for achievement are significantly diminished.

David Rapaport
Palo Alto High School
Embarcadero Road
Palo Alto


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Posted by Not very appreciative of Education degrees
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2007 at 5:23 pm

Clearly Micheal Kirst generalized -- that was obvious from the quote and the context. But was he, in general, wrong? I, for one, have observed multiple times over the years exactly what Micheal described. The quality of teaching and particularly of EXPECTATIONS below the highest track classes, be they AP or "honors" depending on the subject, fall like a rock.

Now, it may be that Mr. Rapaport is an exception, and I am sure there must be some other exceptions around. But isn't Mr. Rapaport, despite his Ed. D. degree, doing exactly what he accused Micheal Kirst of doing -- generalizing from his own experience onto the whole district?

The issue is not about exceptions. The issue is about general trends in PAUSD teaching. For those, after 20+ years in PAUSD, multiple kids, and heavy involvement with PAUSD schools, I join Michael Kirst's observations.