News

Forum to tackle positives, negatives of teen stress

March 22 panel will feature staff from Adolescent Counseling Services

What's the difference between "good" stress and "not-so-good" stress?

This question and more will be discussed in a Tuesday (March 22) forum sponsored by Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), a local nonprofit group focused on teen social and emotional development. The agency maintains counselors on Palo Alto's middle- and high-school campuses.

ACS Executive Director Philippe Rey will moderate the panel discussion at Cubberley Community Center.

"Teen stress is universal and something that most adolescents experience in their lives," Rey said.

"This forum will enhance the understanding of stress in teens, increase awareness of good versus not-so-good stress, address the use of drug and alcohol in times of stress, and offer accessible and healthy coping strategies."

Panelists will include ACS On-Campus Counseling Director Roni Gillenson; ACS Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program Director Enrique Flores; Ursula Vogelsang, a counselor at Community Health Awareness Council of Mountain View; and Jennifer Jones, also a counselor at Community Health Awareness Council.

Tuesday's forum is part of an ACS series called Breaking the Stigma. Since June 2009, the group has hosted public panel discussions on teen depression, substance abuse, sexuality and bullying.

The event, free and open to the public, will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Room H1 of Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Road.

For more information call ACS at 650-424-0852 or e-mail info@acs-teens.org.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

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Posted by I hope he comes
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I hope Skelly comes because he believes that many Gunn students are not under a lot of stress, and he blames the suicides on mental illness, but he does not connect that stress brings out mental illnesses.


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Posted by PAMom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm

I am tired of reading about Skelly's failures. He, along with the other PA stuff are doing the best to monitor our kids. Mega high school, budget cuts that tremendously decreasing the acceptance to UC system, raising coast of living and economy, instability in families ALL distribute to kids stress. How can Skelly change that? All the created groups to support our kids are available. As many times before discussed - love your kids, spend time with them, monitor and share their interests. Do not lower the bar, just don't overwork them.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2011 at 8:24 am

Skelly won't be able to attend, there is a PAUSD school board mtg at the same time. Poor scheduling by ACS, the BOE meetings are scheduled for pretty much the whole year ahead of time...

I agree with PAMom, Skelly is doing a good job in a very demanding community.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2011 at 8:44 am

Perhaps the timing of this forum coinciding with a school board meeting is not a coincidence. Perhaps ACS wants to focus on what families can do rather than continuing to expect PAUSD to do it all.

It is about time that one of these meetings emphasized the role of parents. Many parents are pointing the blame at PAUSD and not looking at what is happening outside school to put stress on their teens.

Stress is a multi source factor in the lives of our teens. I am not saying that discussing school issues shouldn't be done, but there has been so much discussion about school issues and very little soul searching discussion about other issues. This time may be the time to discuss some of the other aspects of stress in their lives and whether families can positively help.


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Posted by Go to the BoE meeting instead
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

I disagree that there has not been sufficient community discussion of the role of parents and families in producing stress. That is ridiculous. You can't open a Friday Folder or cruise the PA Weekly without reading at least five different announcements for discussions on the role of parents in producing teen stress. That is the dominant view. It's absolutely insane for anyone to suggest that there has somehow been insufficient attention to the role of families.

The recent discussions of whether the schools have a role to play in this and whether there are systemic or structural issues is what is unusual and different. That is what we need to do, and what we have never really done.

What people are really saying when they post these comments is that "other" parents are the problem. No one is posting here about the role of parents who thinks that they are talking about themselves. So, in reality we have some people sitting around posting to this forum about their neighbors' parenting and decrying any effort to look at the school system. Why would you NOT want to investigate whether the schools can be reformed? Why all this contempt prior to investigation? There has never been a study. There are no findings on which to base the idea that the schools are NOT part of the problem. Yet there are parents sitting around posting to these forums about how we shouldn't bother to even find out, just blame those "other" parents. "They" (whoever "they" are) really need to change their parenting style. Don't bother with democracy, say these critics, don't bother to involve yourself in the political process. Don't try to get the school board to follow the recommendations of Project Safety Net P-8. We already know who to blame: "Them." The "other parents." Just sit around and gossip about your neighbors. How very Palo Alto of you.

But I do not believe that is the majority view. The majority want to leave no stone unturned in searching for how to stop the mental health crisis infecting our community. To that end, we must turn a cold eye on the schools, the leadership, the curriculum, the instruction, and all other aspects of youth life in this town.

Decisions about what is going to happen next to your kids in your schools are not going to be made at this forum. At the very same time, there is going to be a meeting to discuss the depressing results of the Developmental Assets survey, as well as the calendar. ACS means well but they do not control anything. The BoE makes the decisions. Go to the meeting and be heard.


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Posted by Let's not be irresponsible
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2011 at 10:26 am

The entire PAUSD administration understands that high school kids here are under a lot of stress. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible.


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Posted by You are right, but wrong
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm

The entire PAUSD administration understands that high school kids here are under a lot of stress. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible.

The administrators understand that kids are under a lot of stress, but do nothing about it. The administrators blame the parents. That is what Skelly did at the Church meeting in February. So we keep bouncing the ball, and meanwhile more students keep dying. Shame on all of us, including parents and administrators who do not want to stand up for their own kids, because they are afraid that the academics will suffer.


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Posted by scheduling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2011 at 8:04 pm



Maybe the scheduling is done on purpose, so that parents are not at the board meetings?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2011 at 8:29 am

Go To

I am not sure where to begin. It is very easy for parents to blame the schools and not look at themselves. It is also very easy to assume that "other" parents are in the wrong. I see many parents blaming the schools for the amount of homework, studying, etc. and don't see what they are doing (or not doing) to help their kids deal with the stresses of school.

Let me start with criticism of the schools. It is rampant here in the PA Weekly Town Square. I am not saying that the schools can't be criticised for too much busywork, and other poor teaching methods. But, it is very easy to overdo the school criticism and not look at the parenting.

It is parents who sign off how many AP classes a teen takes. It is parents who sign up for tutors, SAT prep classes, Life Coaches, etc. It is also parents who are paying for the Iphones and high tech gadgets that are distracting the teens from doing their homework at reasonable hours of the evening. It is parents who are allowing their kids not to start homeworking until 11.00 which means that the teens don't get to bed to the wee hours.

As the parent of teens I have seen my kids' friends called home on Saturday afternoon from our home to do their one hour piano practice instead of playing outside with a ball or a frisbee. I have seen other friends arrive with my kids after school for 1/2 hour of downtime before leaving to get back to their own home before their parents arrive back from work so that they can pretend they have been studying since they got home from school. I have seen my kids not able to spend time with their friends during winter or spring break because they are doing SAT prep classes or extra tutoring. I have heard kids say that they never do anything fun with their families at weekends.

I am not saying that we do the best job in our home, but we do have family time on a regular basis, we do eat dinner together regularly, we do sit and watch a netflix movie together, we do make Sunday church attendance a priority (with the teens in the youth programs)and we do make sure that they have some fun activities in their lives.

As for Friday folders, can't ever remember having one of those out of elementary school, and for attending parenting workshops, I would rather spend time with my kids rather than attending multi how to do it better sessions that seem to say nothing more than spend time with your kids. (Although there are some good ones like the college application procedures and the bringing up bicyclists).

I underscore that I am not saying the schools don't deserve some of the criticism, but I do think that we should all take a look at how our home/family atmospheres are affecting our kids too. Remember, if you point a finger to someone else, there are three others in your hand pointing back to yourself.


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Posted by another res
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 19, 2011 at 11:08 am



Resident,

"I have heard kids say that they never do anything fun with their families at weekends."

????????????????!





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Posted by Thanks for sharing your judgment and criticism of other parents
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm

@Resident

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Your idea is apparently that we can't do anything to improve the schools because those monstrous "other" parents (whoever "they" are) are somehow so terrible that they have wrecked it for their kids. Not your kids, of course, who are doubtless perfect, out in the yard throwing that ball around after Church youth group. Your attitude is anything but Christian. Your little lecture about the three fingers is hilarious since you are exemplifying the very problem that your publicly pious pronouncements are supposed to be calling to a halt.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 20, 2011 at 10:36 pm

@Resident

"I have seen my kids not able to spend time with their friends during winter or spring break because they are doing SAT prep classes or extra tutoring"

And this is, in your mind, evidence that the schools are *not* too stressful? Your kids' friends are so stressed by their coursework that they are studying over break, and trying desperately to catch up and do tutoring. They have to do SAT prep during break because there is too much homework during the semester. They are all drowning in school work. Over 75% of high school parents surveyed during the 2010 mid-strategic plan survey reported that their children were somewhat or very stressed by homework, tests, and other aspects of curriculum. I'm glad your kids are so happy. Everyone is not so lucky and that doesn't make their parents bad parents.


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Posted by I agree
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2011 at 6:23 am

@Resident - I agree with you. Pressure starts at home and continues with peers - the schools reflect it more than create it.

For those who get angry, thinking it must be the school's fault (since it can't be theirs) - you can take control any time you want. Don't like tutoring - don't hire tutors. Don't like SAT prep? Skip it. Don't like AP courses - don't take them. Don't like the college rat race - there are lots of colleges, many of whom beg for students. Want more connectedness - family dinner for a hour+ every night and family trips on the weekend. Friends and peers look down on your choices - find like-minded people (they are out there). It is entirely under your control - set the dial where you feel comfortable.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2011 at 7:20 am

I don't believe that the schools would have become the insane pressure cookers they are if some parents, over many years, didn't demand an environment of academic overachievers with the top schools in the country in mind. The PAUSD didn't have to comply, but they did, shame on them. Shame on the parents who didn't stand up to that group of parents. Look at what happened in Cupertino.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2011 at 7:22 am

I see that some don't like being made aware of home truths.

Thank you to those who agree that we should be looking at ourselves first and our schools second.


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Posted by you are naive
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 21, 2011 at 9:02 am

"Starting in the home" is fine, but you are super naive if you think your teen won't be unavoidably affected by the school/social environment, where they spend a lot of time with highly communicative peers, which is heavily stacked in favor of kids who have Tiger Moms. The funny thing is, the quality of teachers/curriculum takes lesser importance in this era of cram schools and such methods, and we actually (generally) have very good HS curriculum/teaching here...but the point for many isn't to learn, it's to WIN.

The regrettable fact is your mainstream kid, however talented or deserving or authentic, or exploratory or creative, WILL compete with the sons and daughters of local Tiger Moms for limited college admissions spots.

There are geographic limitations on offers, kids of Tiger Moms have YEARS of prep for this process, and it makes for a contrived advantage.

It is extremely competitive now - and also confusing for admissions persons when wealthy, prepped students place 20 apps out there. The students doesn't know/care about all these schools and there ISN'T a "match" with all these, HOWEVER there ARE bragging rights if your secure more offers compared to your peers. Apps still cost time and money, and wealthy, highly supported/managed teens are at a super advantage. Of course, deprived youth and/or those with a clever hook also have an advantage. The very high achieving authentic youth, who perhaps was NOT tutored to gain that extra 20 points to get close to 800 on each SAT section, but who has what most would consider a VERY high score, however, WILL suffer under this current process. It IS that close.

The whole admissions process is tricky now for students as well as universities. Unfortunately, there are parent-paid very costly handlers managing something like 26% of applicants, from what I saw in Newsweek's annual. This practice is strong here in Palo Alto, since this is a wealthy area.

These kids have had YEARS of sophisticated tutoring/structured support including 1)SAT prep at a ramped-up level 2)AP prep in advance of taking challenging AP courses at PALY or Gunn 3)paid private college admissions tutoring (which can be REMARKABLY sophisticated, with goal setting, hand-holding, essay writing, checklists, tailored prepping/tutoring, prompting, overall management) Oh, don't forget the necessity of going to CTY as early as possible, too. Parent-arranged ECs (some quite clever and unusual) have gone out of control. I think it should be required for the kid to find/do the EC. I always laugh at the parents who pay several thousands for their kid to travel in summer to Vietnam to volunteer in an orphanage (cue the violins) -- all arranged through a commercial "educational" service -- and this is highlighted on their college apps!

These practices are at such an outrageous level that the kid who manages his/her own life, school and EC choices, and university apps OUGHT to be given extra credit. (By the way, apps aren't necessarily easier though they are mostly and in some cases entirely online nowadays...the rare kids who do their own apps for the most part WILL learn valuable skills, but they are the exception)


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 21, 2011 at 9:12 am

"You are naive" said it very well, high school is not about learning, it is about WINNING. Winning in this case is getting into the "best" college. PAUSD is not the place for a regular kid from a normal family. Regular kids feel stupid here and when they head off to college, they realize they are actually intelligent.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2011 at 11:03 am

What is CTY and EC?


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Posted by What's next?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

@you are naive - so is the proposal that PAUSD should outlaw Tiger Moms? Or change college admissions criteria? It sounds like the only real response is to reinforce values at home and do what you think is right.


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Posted by Yeah why bother with democracy
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

@resident and what's next:

This is a democracy. Just because some parents may have pushed their kids doesn't mean that the school district has to cave to their demands. The school district responds to what the voters want and also has an independent duty to do what is right for the children in its care. If the parents wanted their children to do chemistry without goggles, the district wouldn't let them, regardless of whether parents wanted them to let them because they could do better experiments without safety gear.

We can make a difference, people. Do not listen to these nattering nabobs of negativism. We can and will and must make a difference by changing those things we can change. We can't change other parents -- even assuming they need changing. We can change the schools because we are a democracy and we control the schools. Stop this shameful gossip and be a positive force for change!


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Posted by What's next?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm

@yeah - what are you suggesting that the school district do? "you are naive" found fault with other parents ("Tiger Moms") and how colleges admit students, which seem outside the scope of what the schools control. I agree with you - we "can make a difference by changing those things we can change." But what changes are you proposing?


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Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 21, 2011 at 4:15 pm

It is soooo very frustrating that this forum is up against a school board meeting in which the results of the Project Cornerstone survey are to be revealed and discussed. What a horrible scheduling decision somebody made ...

In any event, "What's Next?" -- here are changes I propose:
- Palo Alto can stop participating in "rankings," like Newsweek's (this will have NO ill effect on the perception of education here in Stanford's backyard but will remove a pressure tool)
- Schools can limit AP classes and extracurriculars
- Schools can reduce homework and enforce its policy of teachers not giving homework over breaks -- something it's NEVER done (the latter policy is there, just never enforced)
- Schools can come up with creative alternatives to finals if the calendar issue cannot be resolved
- Schools can roll out "pilot" programs like TEAM at Paly so that EVERY school in Palo Alto has child-sensitive approaches to managing the learning environment
- Schools can demand that advisory periods be used for advising. If the teachers don't want to teach during that time, use PiE money to pay for counselors trained in fostering social/emotional health

... and there are a million other great ideas out there.

It's time to ask ourselves: what have our schools consistently done? What SYSTEMIC change has been made? There might be one path at Paly, something special at Jordan, a new program at Addison ... but the schools aren't even close to doing all they can to reduce stress and to foster a good social/emotionally-positive learning environment.

Yes, families and the community can do more too -- but I, for one, am DONE giving the schools a pass. They want the PAUSD to be academically #1 but at too high a price. (And yes, it might be the parents demanding it -- so how 'bout the school stop rolling over for it. The kids have to be put first.)


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Posted by What's next?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm

@EcoMama - thanks for making some concrete suggestions. Personally, I am lukewarm on some of those (Newsweek is a pressure tool? Limit extra curriculars?), but if somebody wants to run for school board on that kind of platform, it will give a sense of how many do support it. Based on the eye-opening (to me anyway) calendar debate (now 5+ years and counting), I think we will find that things are the way they are for a reason, and change is more difficult than expected. But no doubt there are things that can be improved and it would be great for everyone, including the current board and administration, to establish a constituency for experimentation and incremental improvement.

BTW - I tend to agree with "You are naive" - the primary cause of increased stress is a combination of high-effort strivers (Tiger Moms of all genders and ethnicities) and tighter than ever college spots (driven by demographics and lately the economy). While the school district can (and should) fiddle around the margins, those are fundamentals we cannot change. Hence I do think the primary way to manage is by emphasizing our values to our kids and helping them make good choices (don't take that 4th AP! I don't care what the other kids are doing!). And of course a big advantage is that we don't have to convince the school board in order to succeed.


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Posted by you are naive
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm

High schools should encourage good works and good behavior, not gaming the system or cynical competition for the sake of competition.
You can't legislate morality or ethics but you CAN have some rules to try to make more level playing ground -- this is PUBLIC school, yet some wealthy kids have VERY costly outside tutoring -- folks, if you don't know, this is sophisticated and gains a major advantage for the teen. I believe there are ways to document these things, up to a point, or require disclosure. It makes a material difference in all the teen's experiences and results. I am discussing a group of teens who are of very similar IQ and motivation, yet certain ones have extreme advantages that often (not always) result in better offers.
CTY is Center for Talented Youth -- if kid is in 7th grade, certain parents pay for them to have prepping to take the SAT then (this is early, doesn't count for college admissions, but with prepping, the student may get labeled by CTY as "gifted" and qualify for elaborate and costly summer programs held at universities but not affiliated with them. I think some parents think bc their kid attends one of these programs (held at Stanford etc.) they think this will give the kid a leg up in future with app to that university - however space is leased, these programs are not run by Stanford etc. It is officially Johns Hopkins CTY, however I have a friend with a doctorate from JHU and this friend said they were unaware of the famous (here, anyway) JH CTY...it is a commercial program.
EC= extra-curricular activites (high school) -- these have always existed, it used to be what you did productively out of personal interest in your spare time, these go on the student's personal "resume" which will be used in elaborate university applications, and sometimes discussed in essays or short answer questions. But things have changed in recent years (not only in Palo Alto, but be aware it is clearly evident here.)
Someone with a good heart who volunteers in a local soup kitchen is how it used to be.
NOW, clever parents arrange and sometimes PAY for their teens to have highly unusual experiences (supposedly philanthropic or VERY advanced educational -- sophisticated medical/scientific, requiring insider access--, but usually through educational services, like I said)
-- example I gave already was a real one -- teen (not from Palo Alto) flew to Vietnam for several weeks in a summer, "volunteering" at an orphanage there -- the MOTHER did all the planning, arranging, paying -- even accompanied the girl -- I mean, it wasn't authentic or fair to compare this with a kid who must stay local and do something more mundane, volunteer at the community pool or whatever. Which do you suppose looks more compelling and glamorous on the college apps?! EC's are getting VERY elaborate and well-planned now, and the value and benefits are lost as it is a CONTEST to rack up hours and "prestige."
Why do I care -- we are experienced yet past this -- yet I am in contact with teens and knowledgeable about continuing practices, and the rise of "tiger Moms" and their nasty, competitive view of others (like your kid!) and some of these disgust me and as a public service I try to warn the naive out there - I know there are some. Be true to yourself and if your teens also are, encourage them to write in their college app essays that they did all their own essay writing and college-selecting etc.


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Posted by you are naive
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm

oh, be aware that in certain circles here, if you do not do CTY you are looked down on. Kid's/teen's peers may crow about elaborate teaching they had in summer at CTY -- many do not have access to such programs but would probably qualify -- it is kept as a semi-secret to gain advantages (on resume, in advance of taking a science course, etc.)My description of CTY is not exact, but it illustrates one aspect of the current competitive scence. I also want to point out that students are NOT asking their parents to apply to these programs (usually)rather the parents require/set up/make it happen by hook or by crook.


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Posted by What's next?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm

@naive - I've always found the anti-tutoring riff confusing. Kids get tutoring, perhaps even "very costly" tutoring. But so what? They do the work (with tutor), they learn the material, they take the test. It is extreme, I agree, but it isn't cheating. What would be the object of requiring disclosure - should the kid be graded on a different curve if s/he is tutored? I get that you don't like it and find it unfair - but I'm not sure why it is wrong if the kid actually does the work and learns the material.


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Posted by JMO
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

I think technology and social networking distractions are a root cause of much of teen stress. Students have always had homework, extracurricular activities and a social life to juggle. What has changed recently to add so much more stress to this equation? Technology. Kids get addicted to the instant gratification of the text message, or lightening fast distractions on the internet. These distractions eat up a minute here, five minutes there (hours for some). There are only 24 hours in a day and that use to be enough for students to lead a balanced life. Now technology is stealing time away from them and leaving very little down time.


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Posted by depends what the tutoring is for
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2011 at 9:54 am



What's next?

Depends on what the tutoring is for.

The Palo Alto tutoring that some see as toxic to the schools is the tutoring to learn material ahead of the curriculum, why do you think there is 9th or 10th grade Math in middle school?

would it really be the end of the world to limit AP's by the way?


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Posted by you are naive
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 22, 2011 at 10:18 am

I write from the perspective of someone who is not a parent of a current student in PAUSD but who has recent and also rather long-running knowledge (compared to someone who has their oldest kid in middle school, for example.) I try to open people's eyes to certain parenting practices that I found increasing in recent times and which I found unethical and cunning. The school should control the education, curriculum, transcript, teacher references, social environment to some extrent, but practices OUTSIDE of school are sometimes the priority of Tiger Moms. Sometimes I feel such persons are 1)obsessed with directing their kids' lives and college apps as the #1 high stakes project in life and 2)not really respectful of PAUSD education/courses/teachers -- I mean, they don't seem to think much of the curriculum if they must have their kids to CTY and other similar programs in summer and they are absolutely going to ensure their kid is optimally positioned to the nth degree with regards to peers in the college apps race, when it finally rolls around.
Let's distinguish between remedial, prescribed, needed tutoring -- which is not at issue -- nor is tutoring for the rare exceptional student who is truly gifted and interested in one subject, and what I am describing, which is a strategy used by Tiger Moms to push their kid regardless of talent, level, motivation: that is, paid tutoring as a lifestyle -- a plan - virtually year-round IN ADVANCE of taking specific challenging high-level courses (Math and Science at the forefront, but can include foreign languages and more) that are competitive, where grades and class rank matter, and where time investment will be greatly lessened by a teen who has been prepped in advance.
I even had an experience where someone (a Tiger Mom) showed me she had in hand the curriculum in advance for a tough course -- it had been carefully handed over by someone in her network. (No, it wasn't teacher's personal notes or that kind of thing, but it contained all one needed to know.)I discovered that insiders share these quietly with friends. My child, who was increasingly hearing all the time from peers about their advantages (like boasting how they already knew all the specific material -- which was challenging) and who worked always very hard in school at the hardest courses, requested one time early on (in the instance above) to see if I could get the curriculum in advance, too Though I was unsure about it and unfamiliar with this practice, I went to the district to inquire if parents could indeed get the curriculum in advance from the district and the curriculum person at the time was suprised and said no, there really is no mechanism for that -- one could try to persuade a teacher to release material over the summer in advance, but this person was dubious. Yet -- we saw in front of our eyes -- not only the situation above but other students who WERE being prepped in advance of taking the course next semester or after the summer. There have been commercial services that openly advertise this located in Cupertino. In particular, there was one local tutor who advised her group of tutees to not acknowledge they were tutored when asked by a particular high level teacher -- we KNOW this from several sources as well as a personal witness. Therefore, the teacher chooses to believe that few are tutored (as few acknowledge it) and gee, these kids are sure "gifted."
Not all can AFFORD this hand-holding - so it is an uneven playing field.
Also, there have been public controversies documented in past concerning students -- goodness, may have been 10 yrs ago?! -- who took AP Math over the summer at local JC (West Valley is the one that came to mind), THEN do not declare the fact they took the course to their HS (in case above, it was Saratoga High and I actually think Dr. Skelley was the principal at the time?!!)- and THEN these students take the challenging course for an easy A - which gives them a great advantage on their transcript and top university apps. It ISN'T an honest practice and there was a great deal of argument about it in regional newspapers, local TV.

It is also known that sophisticated, better quality, costly SAT prepping CAN raise scores, and around here, the naive may not realize a teensy bit can make a difference (if your student is applying to major universities) - but this prepping/tutoring/taking SAT has gone way out of hand, beyond the original intention of establishing some sort of evaluation or neutral baseline idea of a student's standing...it is a full-fledged competitive GAME now...this kind of tutoring is stressful, costly, timeconsuming and if we parents ALL must give in to this (the ones who don't require it of their kids/teens upfront), we are HARMING youth. Tiger Moms have stressed for years to their kids the importance of "winning" particularly in this case - the SAT. I disagree with making it the norm and I also disagree with giving this practice a pass as it makes for an uneven playing field. Things change from year to year, but with SAT Score Choice, kids can drop their lower SAT scores w/o universities knowing - this encourages taking it multiple times, which makes lots of $$$ for the College Board.

I think, as has been stated, university adcoms need to get really clued in to deceptive practices that position applicants artificially and gain paper record advantages that are based on Tiger Mom unethics. I urge those who are puzzled or interested or who don't know to get clued in by reading the many discussion forums online on College Confidential, esp Parents Forum -- this will give you a national perspective and covers all these topics.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

"you are naive" - If you don't like what the other parents are doing (i.e., paying for prep courses, tutoring, CTY, etc.), then don't do it. No one is forcing you to do any of these things.

It's so hypocritical to blame other parents for creating an "uneven playing field" when you yourself choose to live in this affluent town full of high-achieving people. A lot of people live in Palo Alto because the public schools here are considered better than those in other cities nearby. Is that seeking an "uneven playing field"? According to your logic, it sure is -- you need to have enough money to afford to live here.

There're also others who choose to send their kids to highly competitive (and expensive) private schools so their kids may have a greater chance getting into a top college. Is that also seeking "uneven playing field"? Of course it is.

There're also those who hire private coaches to help their kids get medals in all sorts of sports competitions, which also can give the kids' a leg-up in college admission.

Oh, not to forget those who donate a ton of money to their alma maters so their kids can enjoy legacy status.

If there's nothing wrong with choosing to live in Palo Alto, or sending kids to high-achieving private schools, or pushing kids to compete in sports, or donating money to one's alma mater in exchange for a lower bar for the kids' college app, then what's wrong with paying for an SAT or other type of prep course?

Palo Alto is a town full of parents of all ethnicities who want nothing but the best education possible for their kids -- those who you call "tiger moms." There's nothing for them to be ashamed of. It is YOU who should be ashamed of your own sour grape mentality.




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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm

parent/another

The difference between a private school and the kind of tutoring about which You Are Naive is talking is that one is above-board and on the transcripts. The other is not.

The issue becomes one of false representation. Is a child really mastering advanced curriculum at the first go-round or is the speed the result of repeating a course? It makes a difference.

Ironically, the "Tiger Mom" approach (not my ideal term for it, but it's up there, so I'll go for it.) is that once the kid is in college and not getting the "benefit" of endless supervision and cramming, he or she kind of flattens out. Some kids end up at, say, MIT and are faced with being comparative mediocrities. Others lack any sort of internal motivation because they've been running on fumes for years.

Basically, the do-anything-it-takes approach works to a limited degree--but only a limited degree. And there's a high cost attached.

If, as a parent, you're aware that the long-term prognosis for that approach is lacking, you do have to think strategically about how to make sure your child has options (and that means grades and classes that it possible to get into a college that's a good fit) without destroying your kid's spirit and childhood.

I think all of the cramming/tutoring, etc. should be required to be part of a child's academic record--then colleges and universities can judge an applicant accordingly.


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Posted by AP Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I have my last child in high school. None of my children has ever had outside tutoring or taken any classes in advance of taking them in high school (although I have known of the practice too for a number of years). My kids have taken AP classes because they wanted to and enjoyed them. Please, don't take that away from my last child who is taking AP classes.

Again, taking AP classes away would be punishing kids like mine for

There are families and students who "play" by the rules, including mine, and they would be victims in any scheme to limit AP classes.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm

OhlonePar - As you put it correctly, the overpushing approach doesn't necessarily achieve the desired outcome and may not be worthwhile in the long run.

However, I don't think the "record" approach you and "you are naive" suggested will work, because it's almost impossible to enforce such a policy. Are we going to make all commercial tutoring houses and college application services out there report to the schools every time a student registers for a class or receive a service there? I don't see how else the reporting is going to work. Asking the parents and students to voluntarily disclose tutoring activities and then attach a penalty on their college app won't work either. Worse yet, this will turn other parents into spies (which apparently is also happening, according to some of the posts on this forum) and encourage students to turn in their own classmates. Do we really want this kind of a community?

Also, it's impossible to monitor parents' own tutoring activities at home. A lot of parents here have advanced degress, and some may even be teachers themselves. They can buy study materials and have the kids do extra or more advanced work at home. Does that need to be reported as well?

Seriously, do you really think it's going to work?


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Posted by What's next?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm

If the colleges are interested in who gets tutored, I guess they will ask the students for that info. I'm not aware of any that do. From the high school's perspective, I would think just recording what courses are taken and the grades is sufficient. Any kid who wants to report that "I achieved what I achieved without tutoring or outside help" can certainly do so on a voluntary basis, and who knows, it might help!

Parent/another makes a very good point I think. It is at least a little ironic to have Palo Alto's high achieving residents complain that those other people are trying too hard or using their money to get ahead.

FWIW, my experience with Ivy League admissions (alumni interviewing for the last 15 years) is that they seem to see right through the highly prepped kids with over-stuffed resumes. I've seen tons of those kids turned down, while kids with genuine intellect, passion, and achievement (athletic, artistic, etc.) get further. Just one data point, though.

Someone asked why not limit AP's. I guess the question is why should they be limited? Any kid can self-limit and they are certainly warned sternly about the workload. I don't need to school to save my kids from themselves - they've got me for that ;-) And some kids will happily max out the offerings - that may or may not be the best thing for them, but I don't see why the district should make a blanket rule.


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Posted by JMO
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm

The college prep years are ruthless. I remember one classmate apporached me and asked me not to apply to a certain, pretigious school because that was her first choice and the school would only accept one student from our school. It was my 'welcome to life' moment. This is not an easy process and it can turn people into tigers, snakes and other creatures.

Please, can we put blaming "Tiger Mom" to rest? Good ol' Freudians "blaming the mother" once again. At least, can we say "Tiger Parents" to drag Dad in too? How about: blame the universities and their admission system of illogical hoops and mazes? Are they really admitting the best candidates when their choices are the ones who may not be the most intellectual, or the most passionate but rather the most trained to play their circus games? Blame the economy (we all love to do that) for making us fear that our children will never have a secure life unless they are padded with a degree from Stanford or Harvard. I have not yet seen the film "Race to Nowhere" but I hear it is an eye-opener on this topic.


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Posted by you are naive
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 23, 2011 at 4:29 pm

@JMO, for Heaven's sake, a Tiger Mom herself coined and published (with great publicity) the fitting term "Tiger Mom." Wow, a lot of us have seen this and been distressed with this nasty anti-social parenting behavior.
And, while admissions processes sure have been ramped up as there are more applicants putting out more apps, etc., the Tiger Mom attitude and behaviors increasily affects everyone in a pervasive manner - you can't escape it and it downgrades our society, sadly. Communities can be high achieving without excessive Tiger Mom behaviors and these will be nicer, more pleasant places for all of us.
In education and society I prefer and honor: honesty, self-motivation, level playing field, thinking in a community-minded way RATHER than Tiger Mom's incredible selfishness, nasty methods of packaging her kids for college admissions; tactics such as lying, plagiarism, cheating.


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Posted by PA Reflect
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm

I think anyone who wants to move to PA should read threads like these because it should serve as a warning for what their neighbors are going to be like. Shame on you all.


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

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