News

Intensive summer school draws to a close

Two-semester classes are new this year

Nearly 100 high school students are immersed in a new summer-school offering in Palo Alto this year -- two-semester classes.

Of the 2,958 children and teens currently enrolled in summer school, 98 are high school students completing courses such as algebra 1, geometry, biology and world history.

The "second semester" will end July 30. First semester ran from June 21 to July 9.

The two-semester program -- squeezed into six weeks of intensive, five-hour days -- is a new offering, created in response to pleas from teachers, students and parents, according to Assistant Superintendent Virginia Davis.

Previously, Palo Alto summer school offered at most only one-semester's worth of class.

"Students were having to go to other districts or to private high schools in the area to make up the credits they needed or wanted, so we added the extra weeks," Davis said in an interview Wednesday.

"Our kids have changing and emerging needs, and we're trying to change to address those needs."

About one out of every four Palo Alto students is enrolled in the district's summer school program.

Students sign up for both "enrichment" and "remedial" reasons, according to Davis and Summer School Coordinator Barbara Lancon.

In some cases, high school students need to make up one or even two semesters of a class they failed during the regular school year. In other cases, they seek to complete a course over the summer to make room in their schedule for more academics.

"For some of them it's just a way to take a more intensive school year," Davis said.

"We also have kids who get a B+ and want to take the class again. It's their first experience with getting anything less than an A.

"We're addressing each individual family and spending a lot of time meeting with parents.

Davis said she wished students taking the intense summer school classes would opt to schedule more creative courses during the school year, rather than more Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

"We need to look at creating whole adults, with many interests and abilities."

By far the most popular summer offering at the high-school level is the one-semester "living skills" class, which is required for graduation at both Gunn and Paly.

High school students gathered for class at Terman Middle School this summer because of heavy construction work on the Palo Alto and Gunn high school campuses. Terman remains in session through July 30.

For elementary and middle-school students, the four-week summer session ended July 16.

The middle-school program -- almost entirely "enrichment" classes -- was held at JLS Middle School and offered courses such as "Hogwarts' Haven," "Let's Draw Manga!" and "Graphic Design."

Elementary schools offered Mandarin and Spanish immersion classes, and both enrichment and remedial courses in math and language arts.

High school summer school enrollment totaled 794 students; middle school 1,111; and elementary school 943.

In addition, 110 rising juniors and seniors took living skills online. Those students were required to complete their work within the three-week session and to meet weekly with a teacher at Terman.

They also had to attend two CPR-first aid sessions at Terman.

Comments

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2010 at 10:06 am

And then "they" wonder why our kids are stressed!

It is no wonder that kids are not maturing into well rounded adults, they have no time to be kids, teens, adolescents because all they do is study.


Like this comment
Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm

What's learning got to do with it? It will only be when these kids get into their sophomore or maybe jr. year of college that they'll hit the wall. The wall will be when processing and regurgitating information no longer earns them an A or B, and the professor starts expecting them to think for themselves, analyze the material and write in good English. The point of an education isn't to learn how to jump through hoops, it's to learn to think and be a cultured individual.


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Posted by high school parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Does this mean just 98 high school kids, out of 794 taking summer school and roughly 3,800 high school students, are taking the 2-semester classes? The classes mentioned are basic requirements, not AP classes. It seems these summer school classes would be a real benefit to these students, so they don't have to repeat the class during the school year. Surely Davis' comment is not in reference to students taking these classes.

I wonder how many of the roughly 700 remaining are in living skills. Most high school kids I know in summer school are taking the one semester living skills class to get it out of the way so they can take a year long class and continue language and music/theater. Some may take AP classed too.

There's a difference between the intense summer school schedule and a demanding accelerated class being offered during summer school. Most of the kids I know taking accelerated classes are taking them at Foothill, DeAnza, Stanford or online, not through PAUSD. Is this what Davis is talking about? There's not much the school can do about what those students do during their summer. My recall is that what PAUSD is offering is reasonable and needed.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I grew up here and live here now, and I've gotta say, Palo Alto is one *royally* messed up place, and that's driven by parents & extended families that are screwed up beyond belief. Summer's for chillaxin' people, and all you parents who think you're doing your kids service by giving them more and more academic work are setting your children up to be consistent middle of the pack losers in the work world. They will hit the will, they will lack hope, imagination and flair, and they will be working for the students whose parents raised them in a less stressed-out milieu.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Chris, I always find when someone tells other people generally how they should parent, it comes off kind of silly. Your post is not an exception, I'm afraid. It may be perfectly right for your family, and likely for some others, but certainly not for everybody. I'm sure you are very successful (as you imply) and not a 'middle of the pack loser' (nice jibe at all those middle of the pack folks), but you aren't an expert on how other people's families should behave. No one is.

I do think "keeping up the Joneses" in school accomplishments, material possessions, etc. is a dangerous thing, and probably not by itself a good reason for anyone to do pretty much anything. But working extra hard at summer school is a good formula for some kids/families, and I applaud those who make the extra effort.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2010 at 1:35 am

Me Too, call my post silly then, that's OK, it's just my opinion; this board's for dialogue, though, so let's have one. I've watched Palo Alto for 30+ years, and I am telling you that parents who push/allow their kids to get caught up in the PA academic rat race to such an extent that they sacrifice the sacred slowdown ritual of summer are, IMHO, horribly misguided parents. What use is academic achievement if the student learns that there's no part of life that's meant to be care-free, that 'normal' is always being worried that you're not smart or educated enough?

Summer school for remedial purposes is fine, of course, but as far as I can tell, there's not a kid in the world who would or should *choose* to spend summer studying, apart from kids whose parents (or friends, possibly) are raising them with just the "keeping up with Jones" mindset you yourself scorn.

Aside from enjoying the summer with friends & family, kids should work at jobs during the summer or invest of themselves in some art/craft/hobby/game/etc. As with learning, *work* itself prepares kids for adult life, and in most cases more effectively than schooling does.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 25, 2010 at 9:27 am

Chris - I totally agree that summer for kids should be about spending time with family and friends, playing, relaxing, being creative, sleeping in, getting a job, etc. In many parts of the country it still is - but not in Palo Alto. And unfortunately, there are kids who have so bought into the academic system that they do choose to spend their summer in class.

Palo Alto Parent - for too many people, education in Palo Alto is about building a resume for college - not about learning to think.


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Posted by Big Al
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2010 at 9:40 am

nothing sounds as fun as an "intensive summer school session!"

-i'm sure your kids will cherish the memories spent in the classroom during the most beautiful days of the year....

and you can relish in the free day care!


Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 25, 2010 at 10:16 am

I definitely agree that education is much more than academics and getting ahead on coursework or taking a whole year's academic class is not helping the kids in the long run. They need time to be kids, time to travel, get a job, visit with family, clean out rooms, taste adventure and all the other things mentioned by other posters.

On the other hand, I wish PAUSD would put some more fun options into the 3 weeks of summer school rather than just academics. How about some photography classes, cooking, even drivers' ed. Many kids enjoy the challenge of learning something new just for the sake of learning it.

As the parent of a teen who has just done living skills, I am actually disappointed at the lack of real living skills that were taught. Morality, sex education, drug awareness, etc. is all fine, but where are the realities of learning how to pay your taxes, or open a bank account? These are often just as hard as the more delicate subject matters for parents and kids to agree on and learning them in a classroom setting is just as useful.

Our summer breaks are longer than most other countries, but treating them as times to cram in more academics for the high achievers (or high achieving parents) is not the way to keep the nation's standards up to par with everyone else's. If we want to improve standards, then increasing the number of days in the school year and the number of hours in the school day for all students is the way to go.


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Posted by Connie
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 25, 2010 at 2:30 pm

And we wonder why we have to spend money and finding volunteers watching the tracks during the summer (last year's suicide happened during July) not to mention during the school year .... and man that "living skills" requirement is just a mindless bureaucratic time suck adding more stress.

-- a Gunn parent whose kid is off doing his own thing this summer


Like this comment
Posted by Zelda
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm

“…Palo Alto is one *royally* messed up place, and that's driven by parents … that are screwed up beyond belief. Summer's for chillaxin' people, and all you parents who think you're doing your kids service by giving them more and more academic work are setting your children up to be consistent middle of the pack losers in the work world. They will hit the [wall], they will lack hope, imagination and flair, and they will be working for the students whose parents raised them in a less stressed-out milieu.”

Wow. Not exactly the poster boy for “chillaxin’.”

Not to stir you up further, but I’d like to refer you to an article in Time magazine (which I am sure you will thoroughly lambaste along with the author and the messenger—me!, but, hey I’m chillaxed about it, and perhaps others will find it interesting) by David von Drehle, who presents a view of summer vacation as “an outdated legacy of the farm economy….[which] adults still romanticize…”; and presents research showing “those months out of school do the most damage to the kids who can least afford it.” An abridged version is presented in the following link:

Web Link

Perhaps you and other posters should not stereotype all kids who go to summer school in Palo Alto as being forced by their obnoxious competitive parents. Perhaps it is the best option for them.


Like this comment
Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2010 at 11:09 pm

It's fine to take a class or two in the summer if you want to, but it's very sad that we think of school as something to get through, instead of what it should be: a wonderful privilege and a learning experience that's appropriate for each student.


Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I was surprised at the sentence in the story: "We also have kids who get a B+ and want to take the class again. It's their first experience with getting anything less than an A." With $515 or $800 for the summer class cost, it seems these high school kids are buying 'A'!


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm

It is sad - school is no longer a privilege or regarded as an opportunity to learn - high school is all about grades and building a resume for college. So yes, "buying" an A is not uncommon, whether from extensive tutoring, summer pre-prep of courses (taking them ahead of time not for credit so you get an easy A) or retaking the course for a better grade.

High school is absolutely something to be "gotten through" for too many kids.


Like this comment
Posted by Patti
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Having a son who just graduated, I was shocked to learn of all the strategies that other parents seemed to know about to help their children maintain a high GPA. For example, when my son took Chemistry in the summer at a local private school, more than half the class was taking it so that they could retake it during the year and make an A. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with this, and one does have to applaud their extra effort. However, it's important to recognize that it reflects the growing emphasis on competing for college admissions, and it definitely favors those who can afford expensive private tutoring and private summer school classes. (That chemistry class was expensive!)


Like this comment
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2010 at 9:02 pm

I agree with chris, here kids are pressured so much both during the school year and summer.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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