News

Skelly: Parents wrestle with expectations of kids

Palo Alto superintendent, mayor talk to Barron Park residents

Palo Alto parents often fear that their children will not stand out in the sea of high-achievers, but Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Skelly told a group of Barron Park neighborhood residents Sunday that district students are prepared for excellence.

Skelly said that while public-university admissions formulas make it difficult for these students to distinguish themselves, private colleges agree that the applicants who attended Palo Alto schools are ready to excel in higher education.

Parents must remember that students' intra-district competition with peers, although more immediate, will ultimately be less important than competition with students from schools outside of Palo Alto, Skelly said.

"Palo Alto is not the real world."

Skelly, the former associate superintendent at the Poway, Calif., school district, said interest in student achievement is unusually high in Palo Alto.

"What separates Palo Alto is the real curiosity we have in our children," Skelly said at the neighborhood association's annual meeting at Barron Park Elementary School.

He cautioned that parents must wrestle with the temptation to expect too much from their children's academic performance.

"As parents, we get caught up with this thinking that by 18, our kids should have done something."

The college-application process can be unnerving, he added, and may be the first time in students' lives that they don't get their first choice.

But, Skelly said: "If your kid doesn't get into Stanford, life goes on."

Skelly also discussed other issues of concern to the district. He cited out-of-district students illegally enrolling in district schools, which are funded by property taxes. He described the procedures by which officials find and remove out-of-district students from school rosters.

"It's a hard issue for us to address," he said, after sharing an anecdote about a student expressing reluctance to identify her out-of-district peer.

Among residents' concerns were district predictions of increasing future enrollment.

"It's hard to read our moment," Skelly told them. "I wish I had a crystal ball."

He said that nothing guarantees that enrollment at the two high schools will grow.

Mayor Sid Espinosa also addressed residents, conducting a question-and-answer session along with City Council member Gail A. Price. He spoke about his efforts to articulate the goals for the city he stated in the State of the City address held last week.

"People can hold our feet to the fire and ask, did we get done what we want to get done?" Espinosa said.

Residents raised concerns about emergency preparedness, especially preventing the devastating impact a major earthquake might have on "soft-story" buildings, and Palo Alto's process of incorporating a a diverse community into civic life.

"If we don't engage the community … then shame on us," Espinosa said.

Comments

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Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 11:27 am

It's not really clear why this meeting was called, from the lack of information in this article. Was it called by the School District, or by a group of parents?

> Skelly said that while public-university admissions formulas make
> it difficult for these students to distinguish themselves, private
> colleges agree that the applicants who attended Palo Alto schools
> are ready to excel in higher education.

This sort of claim would be better bolstered by some actual graduation data from prior PAUSD students. It's a little hard to come by, but not impossible.

A couple of points to ponder, however:

The graduation rate for US colleges/universities is barely 50% for a 6-year time frame. It is scandalously lower for 4-year time frames. The transfer/"degree achieved" from the states community colleges is about the same (originally planned on a 2-year time scale). Both the CSU system and the CCCs have had to institute remedial math and English programs, because the high school preparation in the key topics has degenerated to the point that as many as 70% of college freshman can not perform in their entry-level classes.

If Superintendent Skelly wanted to prove that kids from Barron Park were "prepared for excellence", why not actually research a couple of the past graduating classes and see where these students went to college, and what their graduation rates were. It wouldn't be that hard to request the transcripts for a few hundred previous graduates and see what their GPAs were, also.

In this day and age, "trust me" doesn't go as far as it used to.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2011 at 11:44 am

This was the annual meeting of the Barron Park Community Association, at which Dr. Skelly was the invited speaker (and presumably a member, since he is a resident of Barron Park).


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Posted by Academics Again
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jan 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Instead of coming up with the academics issue, Skelly should had tell the audience what are they doing to support students emotionally and socially so our students stay alive. Another student died less than two weeks ago, and he does not mentioned anything about this important issue? This is what is wrong with our district.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Gunn and Paly do the best they can for our kids but one problem which is hard to address: State tuition versus Private tuition. It is great that our kids can stand out nationally but we do not get in-state tuition at the private and most out-of-state schools. It would be nice to adjust things so our kids stand out in California, where they are in-state.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 12:08 pm

does that mean now every school in the district should lower their performance?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 31, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I think it means that academic excellence is not the only way we should judge our kids and other's kids. It means that we should not support a culture in schools where the kids who are not doing as well, ie, not in AP's or the high reading group, are not considered stupid by their peers and their peer's parents.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

so,what will support our property value?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Dear Professorville Parent,
I don't see a correlation between lowering our performance and making it clear to UC's and CSU's that our standards are higher than most districts. I'm not sure what you are driving at. Furthermore, why should kids be responsible for your proprty value? Isn't that a selfish and co-dependant way to look at children?


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Posted by HaHa
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm

That last one, from "parent", may be the most telling of all the comments. What *will* support our property values when people start to realize that, aside from generating a somewhat high rate of suicides, Palo Alto schools aren't very different from those of surrounding communities. Especially, Los Altos where the same money that people spend on a tiny house on a tiny lot in Palo Alto buy a nicer house on a bigger piece of land, and far from the caltrain tracks.


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Posted by Careful
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm

@ Academics Again....We should be careful about blaming our schools on student deaths. Most of these studnets were dealing with mental illness. Mental illness is very hard to deal with for the family and the student going through the issues. If the student isn't willing to accept the help from the family it is hard to take care of them. Either way it is a very sad situation


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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm

palo alto also generated outstanding schools and outstanding academic students way way more than los altos did.should the school be reponsible for the property values,ashk your realtors.


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Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 3:23 pm

> palo alto also generated outstanding schools and outstanding
> academic students way way more than los altos

Hmmm .. and how would one know this? The scores for the current STAR system are on the State Dept. of Ed. web-site back to 1998, or so, but the preceding CLASS system scores are harder to come by. And before that, whatever test scores that were produced are probably impossible for the public to get its hands on.

So . where would one get the data to make the comparisons that would prove that Palo Alto schools have always been better than Los Altos schools?

Los Altos only has an elementary school district. So, as its students move into the secondary school system, their association with Los Altos gets lost, as the physical location for the secondary schools is in another city.

The elementary schools are actually outperforming Palo Alto, by and large, although the difference in test scores is marginal.

> ashk your realtors.

One real estate agent, when asked, said: "people want to hear what they want to hear". If you really want to see what real estate agents know about the schools, ask:

1) Explain how a school's API score is determined?
2) What are the API scores for a given school(s)?
3) What has been the upward (or downward) trend in the API scores for that school(s) for the last five years?

Pretty much a guarantee for: "dead air".


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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm

people move here because of its high schools. when you shopping house, the realtor will tell you location,location,location,they will have a stack of paper telling you the school info.even with two sides of a same street, a good school demands $100,000--200,000 more.if you do not believe it,just look at monroe stree in palo alto,its school is within los altos school district but its value is way less than same property in palo alto.


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Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm

> the realtor will tell you location,location,location

Then why are the homes in Los Altos generally more expensive than in Palo Alto?

US Census says:
Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2000:

Los Altos: $983,000
Palo Alto: $811,800

So .. will the real estate agents tell you the same thing the US Census tell you?

By the way, real estate agents are not obligated to tell the truth, on most things.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Don't believe a word realtors say about schools. The new development at the end of Loma Verde advertisers on the street Gunn High School. This development is in Paly district. As the realtors about it and they are confused but say it is easy to transfer. Absolutely not the case.


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Posted by paltoparent
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 31, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Los Altos might have more homes that are higher priced, but the key is how much they sell per square foot. The price per square foot is higher in PA; thus a house on a smaller lot in Palo Alto would be just as expensive as or even more than a similarly sized house in Los Altos. In Los Altos you definitely get more for your money and more land. It depends not so much on the schools as on the worth of land in Palo Alto. In any case the schools certainly help drive up the price in both cities.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm

houses in los altos generally have large lots and bigger square footages, if you compare apple to apple it would be probably the same, and those people live in los altos they tend to wait til their kids finish the middle school, most of them will start private high school for their kids.it is just like woodside or antherton,nobody cares about school, coz they can afford their kids in private school.if palo alto lose this good school reputation, what will support our property values of tiny lot house or tons of echolers.


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Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm

> The price per square foot is higher in PA; thus a house on a
> smaller lot in Palo Alto would be just as expensive as or even
> more than a similarly sized house in Los Altos.

Care to cite your source?

BTW--when one buys a home, the whole package (land+house+whatever) is what you pay for ..

Look at any real estate ad (what real estate agents are telling us) .. and the "price per square foot" is not listed. If it's that important, why aren't they listing it in the ad?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 5:05 pm

it is usually done by the appraiser,and it is a very important figure in access the house value when reporting to the bank.actually its one of the most impportant factors in lending.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm

@Show-me:
You can use several sites (I used redfin) for per square foot numbers. As of today, Palo Alto's average listing was at $779/sqft and Los Altos was at $653.
Indeed, you're right that you buy the whole package (several years ago, I sold my 3500sq ft house on the east coast on 1.5 acres for $221/ft and traded it for a 2800 sqft PA home on an 8500 sq ft lot -- mind you, an acre is +/- 40000 sq ft -- at $800/ft and would make that trade every day of the week)
Anyhow, $/sqft is the real estate benchmark closest to P/E or P/EBITDA for stocks . . . it's not perfect and subject to interpretation, but it's the closest that the industry comes to an apples-to-apples comparison


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Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 5:13 pm

> it is usually done by the appraiser

What was asked is your source for claiming that all of the homes in the PAUSD have a higher "$$/square foot" than the homes in Los Altos. Where is this information generally collated, and made public so that everyone can see? Appraisers' reports are generally documents that are held in confidence by the bank, or mortgage maker, are they not?

By the way, how is a purchase price of say, $2M in Los Altos, somehow less than a $1M-$1.5M in Palo Alto?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2011 at 5:14 pm

The comment about Palo Alto students not being able to "stand out" in the California Universty application process is about the CU application process and has nothing to do with the District. If you apply to a CU, the only information you give them is classes taken and grades. No sports, extra-curriculars, etc.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2011 at 6:00 pm

@ Show-me:
you should feel free to go on redfin (that's redfin.com - about as public as you can get) and you can constrain by most standard geographic criteria (incl. zip code and town).
As I said above, on an apples to apples basis, PA homes are asking (and getting - you can also search on recent sales) about 20% more per foot than in LA. I'm not judging, just stating the fact.
What that means is that for two equally sized square foot houses on equal lots you will pay 20% more in PA. Now, of course, a "standard" LA lot is much larger than a "standard" PA lot and the housing stock is different, as a result. Extending my above metaphor of $/sqft as the P/E ratio of real estate, comparing PA and LA isn't quite like comparing GM and Ford, but, rather like comparing Ford and Spirit Air Systems (an aerospace supplier). Sure, they're both transports, but they're different, too.
Another way to look at it: for whatever reason (including schools, but other factors play a part) you get a better "value" in LA


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Posted by FairWeatherAdvantage
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Kids in Palo Alto never have snow days. That gives them an edge over students from snowy states. I know families in New York and New England who are on their 5th snow day of 2011! They are worried that their children won't get 180 days of school this year.


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Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 8:27 pm

> www.redfin.com

This site does, in fact, have the $/SF number. However, from looking at the data, in situ, one comes to the point quickly of asking: “so what?” Who goes looking for a home based on the $$/SF?

> 20% more per foot than in LA.

From looking at the nice map on this web-site that is a part of the search results, it become clear that basic price, size data is related to the zipcode where the property is located. The following data illustrates:

Palo Alto

94306:
$$/SF = $652
Avg. Price = $1.04M

94301:
$$/SF=$957
Avg. Price=$1.6M

94303:
$$SF=$329
Avg. Price=$315,900

94304:
$$/SF=$1,001
Avg. Price=$5.12M

Los Altos

94222:
$$SF=922
Avg. Price=$2.35M

Given the high variance in the Palo Alto numbers, these numbers can not be honestly averaged. The have to be dealt with by zip code. (To make matters worse, the 94303 zipcode includes both Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, so these numbers are not useful.)

> you get a better "value" in LA

No .. you get a higher price.

Value is in the eye of the beholder, and can not be compared by any metric. At the least, one would have to count number of rooms, size of rooms, quality of construction, $$/year for maintenance, etc. This sort of discussion gets complicated quickly, because there are emotional issues, and location issues, associated with the selection of a home that can not be quantified (or not easily).

Consider the following--

1) Since houses in LA are more expensive than in Palo Alto (it would seem), then the cost to the families is much, much, higher over a 30-40 year period. The mortgage is going to double the cost of the home (less the effect of the down payment on the mortgage). So, the total cost of a PA home (based on these prices) tends to be about $2-$3M. The cost of a LA home over the same timeframe is $4.7+M.

This is an automatic difference of 2+M dollars, from the git-go, and that has nothing to do with the quality of the schools.

2) The property taxes are also a lot higher on the LA home. The PA home will cost the owner 10,000 to 15,000 a year. In Los Altos, the number jumps to $25,000-$30,000 a year. Over the next 30-40 years, the property taxes will double. This means the PA home will cost its owner $20K-$30K downstream, but the LA home will be costing its owners $50K-$60K a year.

All-in-all, the cost of buying, and owning, a home in LA is much more expensive than buying a home in PA. So, why would anyone pay all that extra money to live in LA?

Lot’s of reasons .. but let’s assume that the people who pay this kind of money have this kind of money, and can be secure in saying that they are more wealthy than people living in PA. Then there is the fact that the intrinsic value of the homes is higher than those in PA.

So .. the issues don’t really seem to be apples and apples, when people who live in LA want to spend more, or can afford to spend more, than people in PA.

BTW .. it’s interesting that the APIs of the schools in the school district where the properties are located are not in this data provided prospective home owners.



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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 8:45 pm

people living in la or atherton or woodside, they do not need to consider schools. but pa is different, its value depends much more on its schools.who would buy a small house in pa if they can send their kids to another good public high school or private schools.


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Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 8:57 pm

> who would buy a small house in pa if they can send their kids
> to another good public high school or private schools.

A couple of interesting points to ponder here.

1) Why are not all the schools in California of roughly the same quality?

2) When student performance can be directly related to the education of the parents (particularly the mother), how does one determine the value of the schools in promoting student performance?

3) If a family can purchase a home that is less expensive in another town, and use the difference of the mortgage payments, and tax payments, to send their children to a private school, why shouldn't they do that rather than pay the inflated PA prices?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 9:12 pm

coz even the private high school is probably not quite close to pa high school.of course for now, i hope they would not lower their expectations.


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Posted by Not_About_Real_Estate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 9:21 pm

"Skelly said that while public-university admissions formulas make it difficult for these students to distinguish themselves, private colleges agree that the applicants who attended Palo Alto schools are ready to excel in higher education."

Stated as fact, no less, with no supporting data.

Skelly's daughter got in to Harvard, so the school system worked great for him. I'm sure he cares about his salary, benefits, and pension plan. Don't expect too much by way of sticking his neck out.


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Posted by Barron Park Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Families who want to make absolutely sure that their kids can go Ivy League/UC should think twice before moving here. They are going to be much better off elsewhere, and, frankly, we would be much better off without (more of) them.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Palo Alto is becoming the mecca for Tiger Moms and Tiger Dads. My tenant family is one of them. That's what keeps housing prices so high.

We should be grateful, because not only they keep the housing demand strong, they also produce high quality future tax payers. The prospect of my social security is much brighter because of them.


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Posted by Wrong Again
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Skelly, you said that Palo Alto parents often fear that their children will not stand out in the sea of high-achievers. You are wrong again. Parents biggest fear is that we will lost our children to suicide, just like the other parents did. Can you imagine how sad they are? I guess not, you only fear that they do not make the schools famous by getting good scores or grades.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 11:53 pm

to be fair,Dr.Skelly really want to reduce stress for the kids,including this article which is about reducing parents' expectations for their kids,but he just thinks the wrong way,from the observation of our schools, i think half of palo altons want their kids do hard work and set expectation high for them,and the other half just want their kids in a good school without pressure,why can not we have two high schools,one is for kids need less stress,the other is for kids who wants to go to ivy,kids can choose the school.just kidding.


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Posted by PA resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2011 at 12:24 am

The difference in pricing between two similar properties in Palo Alto and Los Altos (in favor of Palo Alto) can be easily explained by the quality of high schools. Los Altos-Mountain View high schools do not have such great API scores as Palo Alto schools because of a large population of Mountain View kids that are Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged, their scores in 2010 were on average 706 compared to 908 of white kids and 946 of Asian kids. Just compare API reports of two schools for their ethnic subgroups and their API scores. Mountain View kids only flow into high school, they saty separate from Los Altos kids in elementary and middle.


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Posted by Paly Senior
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 1, 2011 at 3:15 am

I can definitely relate to where Dr Skelly is coming from. Palo Alto high schools are an extremely stressful environment to graduate from and are extremely underrated in the college admissions scene. Not only has Paly remained resistant to grade inflation (check out its school profile compared to any other school in the Bay Area), not only do PAUSD high schools only released unweighted GPAs (when schools in Southern California hand out 4.8s and other extremely inflated weighted GPAs), but the classes here are also substantially harder and colleges do not seem to realize this (while they do in the case of private magnet schools).

Example:
The average SAT score of someone who matriculates in UC Berkeley is slightly below 2000 (it's actually lower than the Paly median SAT); the average of Berkeley matriculants from someone who goes to Paly is near 2200. This is in part because (1) GPAs are substantially lower in Palo Alto and because (2) it is much harder to seem competitive compared to one's graduating class.

The same can be said for private schools. In the past two years, Harvard has accepted 3 students from Paly. Stanford has accepted a handful of non-legacy and non-affiliated students. In a school with multiple perfect scorers on the SAT every year, where 25% of students score above 2180 on the SAT, with nationally and internationally ranked athletes (some of the fastest swimmers in the world), multiple internationally-renowned musicians, Intel Finalist, Siemens Finalists, state athletic championship teams, unparalleled publications, a well-ranked debate team, a handful of USAMO qualifiers every year, and published writers, it is not only extremely disconcerting for one to think about his/her "competition", but it is even more disconcerting to realize that despite the wealth of talent at our schools, so few get accepted at leading institutions on talent. This begs many students to ask... What am I doing wrong? What am I lacking?

The answer, really, is nothing. Yes, there is more to college admissions than simply stats (personal qualities are as, if not, more important), but it's really not as though students at Paly have any less drive or charisma, or that they are any less unique. In fact, students at Paly are extremely engaging. My friends are all subscribed to several magazines, keep up with the news, and discuss politics, articles they've come across, and

Students will always be students. High-performing students will always aim for the Ivys or similar school, regardless of what they are told. Even if parents adjust their expectations of their kids, their kids will not change. Palo Alto schools have become increasingly competitive and students will still want to stand out.

The schools are the ones that should be doing something about this dilemma. There is only so much that parents and students can do. Currently, the two weakest aspects of a student's application from Paly are (1) GPA and (2) teacher recommendations. (1) If the school is not going to weigh or inflate student GPAs or ask that some classes be easier, it really should make note of this when students apply. (2) Guidance and teacher recommendation letters from Paly tend to be weak. At other schools, where only a handful of students try hard, these students' rec letters are great, sometimes hysterically so. At Paly, many teachers are seldom impressed by students. They have students sign up for recommendation letters and refuse to write any more after a certain number. This needs to be addressed. (3) Some classes really should be curved. When virtually everyone in an AP Chemistry class receives a 5 on the AP test, but the class average on tests in-class hovers around a D.. maybe that's a sign that the class should be curved. They do in college.


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Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2011 at 8:38 am

Great point, Paly Senior! Interesting data too.


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Posted by Barron Park Parent 2
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

Barron Park Parent,

There's nothing wrong with setting high standards for your kids. They will rise to occasion with the proper support. We should welcome more parents who want their kids to go to top schools. However, a parent's love should be independent from a kid's achievements. We do need to do a better job of educating Palo Alto parents how to convey the right growth messages to their children.

What college you go to absolutely matters - the networking and credibility are invaluable.
Anyone who says otherwise is just kidding themselves in this increasingly competitive global job market. However, it's not the be-all-end-all. Kids need to learn that if they have growth mindset, passion, and a supportive network they will be fine.

BTW - interesting to note that 33% of all Gunn grads go to a UC. That's a ton.
Web Link


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Posted by Data Interpreter
a resident of Addison School
on Feb 1, 2011 at 11:08 am

". . .33% of all Gunn grads go to a UC. That's a ton."

It could be skewed because Asians tend to prefer the tuition value of UCs vs. private schools.

From reading this thread, it seems that the more interesting personalties will attend private schools since those colleges value extracurriculars, sports, etc., rather than mere stats.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 1, 2011 at 11:36 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm

What do PARENTS want, Dr. Skelly? Here are the priorities, in simple order:
1.) We want to know that our kids are safe. Look at how your three middle schools are handling social/emotional health drastically differently. Jordan barely does a thing while JLS is more proactive. I'm not convinced that student mental health is a priority even though the district has labeled it a "focused goal" for this year. Saying the words doesn't make it so!
2.) We want connectedness between our kids and their teachers -- and we want that connectedness between teachers and parents, too. At the elementary level, 6.5 hours/day (even less once per week) is not enough instructional time. The home-school partnership needs to be strengthened at the earliest levels so that, down the line, parents remain comfortable approaching kids' teachers when they're not getting enough sleep at night and their mental health is being impacted.
And only then, we want:
3.) support for whatever goals a family has set with their child, whether it's Foothill College or Harvard. Rather than judge parents who, with their kids, aim high, how about helping everyone to figure out how to get on kids' teams to get there with proper support (like that the very articulate Paly student mentioned above)? Don't sell out to the "Challenge Success" program -- give families what they ask for without the laden judgment that we demand and don't concede. After all... it's parents and kids dealing with the disappointment when it comes -- and the same folks are watching the tracks.

This should all be a community effort, and I feel like the PAUSD is arms-length.


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Posted by another parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Data Interpreter,

I think you misunderstood the above comments regarding what the UCs look at vs. what private schools look at during the applications process. The UCs do look at and consider extracurriculars, sports, etc. It is the Cal State Universities that only look at grades. The post at the beginning referred to the CSU system as "California University" system. The person was not talking about the UCs but about CSU. Your conclusion, then ("it seems that the more interesting personalities will attend private schools") is based on this misunderstanding. You seem to forget that not everyone has the financial resources to go to a private school even when they are accepted there. The top UCs are excellent, by the way, and many students prefer them to private schools.


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Posted by Lopots
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 2, 2011 at 6:39 am

Paly Senior--you seem to have access to a significant amount of data that are not available to anyone else in the community, you draw some false conclusions and sound awfully arrogant.

How do you know the contents of teacher/guidance counselor letters of recommendations? These are highly confidential and not even the student and their family see these letters. So how can you make any type of comparison that the Paly letters are weak and letters from other schools are laughable? The practice of teachers limiting the number of letters of recommendations they write is common practice across public and private schools-look at it from a teacher's perspective, they can only devote so much time to the letters if they also need to prepare great lesson plans and have time for their family and friends, community, etc.

On what basis can you conclude that at other schools, only a handful of students try hard? This simply is an unfounded conclusion and you sound arrogant and looking for pity. How are you or anyone else for that matter able to make that assertion?

Local private schools have similar acceptance rates to selective schools when compared with Paly. In fact for the non-elite athlete, non-legacy student, its much harder since there are so many legacy parents at those schools. At best, Menlo has 1-2 students/yr accepted at Harvard, most years no one is accepted at Brown-for the past 4 years, only 2 recruited athletes were accepted.
is
As you prepare to go off to college, my advice for you to learn to limit your conclusions to what you know or directly observed rather than on false assumptions.


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Posted by parent of paly senior
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2011 at 8:46 am

Lopots -

At Paly, recommendation letters are not confidential, you can opt to read yours. Paly has a Teacher Advisor system where each student is assigned an Advisor sophomore year. They stay with that Advisor until Senior year and the Advisor is required to write a recommendation letter for the student. In theory, they are supposed to get to know the student well enough to write an accurate letter - but the Advisors vary widely. Some are wonderful and spend lots of time getting to know the student, some are less than mediocre. For example, a teacher thata retired last year has continued with her Advisory class this year, meets with them one on one for at least an hour, emails them encouraging comments over the years and keeps in touch with them once they are at college. On the other hand, my son's Advisor has never had a one-on-one conversation with him in the 3 years he has been in his Advisory class, so naturally his letters will be weaker than one written by a teacher who has gotten to know a student.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Oops Lopot, nothing like having to take one's own advice is there? That said, thank you and Paly Senior for your information. I've heard that some private schools--i.e. Castilleja--do have impressive acceptance rates at the top schools.

I've also heard, since the 2008 collapse, that though acceptances are supposed to be need-blind, they haven't been at schools, such as Brown, where their investment portfolios have been hard hit.

I think one thing to remember about the UCs is that class rank as well as GPAs and SATs are factored in the decision. If you're the valedictorian in a poor valley town, you may well be accepted over a middle-of-the-pack student at Gunn or Paly--even though that middling student may have higher SATs and a higher GPA (once all the APs are factored in.)


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Posted by parent of paly senior
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

OhlonePar - PAUSD does not provide a class rank, nor do the high schools have a valedictorian. For the UC's and CSU's, they use unweighted GPA's for academic classes only and I don't believe freshman grades count.


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