Despite top test scores, Palo Alto 'failing'

State testing results illuminate achievement discrepancies in school district

Despite scoring among the top six K-12l school districts in California, Palo Alto failed to make "adequate yearly progress" in a state Accountability Progress Report issued Wednesday.

The results underscore the failure of certain subgroups -- socioeconomically disadvantaged, Latino, African-American and students with disabilities -- to meet growth targets under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

"Our scores for these particular subgroups are very similar or higher than last year, but the expectations have risen as well," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.

"In order to not be failing, you need to meet the standard overall, and in every group, and if you miss it for one you're considered failing."

The Academic Performance Index scorecard illuminates a well-known achievement gap in Palo Alto's high-performing schools.

Palo Alto is one of 17 out of California's 1,000 school districts to be labeled by the state Department of Education as having "significant" overrepresentation of minority students in special education.

"It's certainly an area we're making a big effort in," Skelly said.

"We'd like to be doing well with all of our subgroups."

The Oakland-based Education Trust West, which works to close "opportunity and achievement gaps," said Palo Alto's results indicate problems.

"When we look at why Palo Alto did not meet AYP, we get an even clearer picture of how low-income students and students of color are faring in their district," Education Trust West spokeswoman Valerie Cuevas said.

"Their Latino, socioeconomically disadvantaged, student with disabilities did not meet the federal targets of getting just two-thirds of students to proficiency in English Language Arts and math.

"Slightly more than half of Palo Alto's Latino students were at grade level in English Language Arts and math, and just 50 percent of African-American students were proficient in math."

Chris Kenrick

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Posted by Malcolm
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:29 am

How do the Tinsley (Web Link) kids figure into these scores? The ones I know and worked with are great kids, but they don't have the support at home that most of the Palo Alto kids do.

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Posted by fuming
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

It is absolutely false that every child who does poorly on the STAR teat is a "Tinsley" kid. It is a disservice to all to continue this assumption.

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Posted by Malcolm
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:15 am

I'm most definitely not assuming or saying or implying that any of the Tinsely kids do poorly on the STAR test, or anything else like that!

I'm guessing that school performance is 1/2 kids' ability, 1/2 teachers' skills, and 1/2 home environment.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:17 am

I think that this shows that it isn't necessarily the schools that are putting the scores up, but the private tutoring that is rampant amongst the highest achievers.

Whereas we have some great teachers and programs, there is plenty of outside school support for our good students and those that can afford to supplement. Those that help their kids see the results. Those students who are not doing well and are not getting help from parents, either by tutoring or just helping with homework, are just not benefitting from PAUSD the way it is assumed they should because we are a "good" school district.

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:23 am

If you look at logic and personal experience of your child's time in school, and compare their freedom vs. amount of time spent on homework etc, along with educational support from the family, you will see a great disparity. It is wrong to blame the school when the family unit is not supporting the child. The great disparity in income and family structure is what makes the separation so great. I'm sure you could input the same numbers in a more ethnically blended community and come up with a completely different picture. Statistics are garbage in, garbage out.

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Posted by jon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:36 am

The question about the Tinsley program is quite legitimate. It's great PAUSD "imports" kids from other areas to help with their education. But if that program is then used against PAUSD by the State by affecting the statistics, that does seem unfair. Now I don't know how large that effect is or indeed if it is an effect but it does seem a legitimate question.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:51 am

I would like to know how other high schools, with similar demographics, achieve their respective APR goals. Palo Alto can not be alone in their attempts to solve this problem.

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Posted by numbers game
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm

All targets were met for elementary schools. Is this just a transitional issue which will be resolved as the current elementary students progress?

Malcolm, your numbers show that home doesn't affect school performance if the schools & kids are doing their job! :}

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I recall seeing something about no child left behind that showed a required linear improvement curve, I guess coming from the false assumption that in this one area, linear lines to 100% could be applied instead of exponential curves. It appeared either to be a plan to eventually shut down all schools or the product of someone who was clearly left behind in their math education. Early on, the targets weren't that difficult, but at some point, they simply become impossible to reach in the real world.

Can someone please post some more specific information about the target curve (line)? I recall seeing that in a PTA meeting.

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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Palo Alto schools have been growing in size in recent years. There's much in educational literature about school size having a greater impact on disadvantaged minorities, and very large schools widening the achievement gap.

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Posted by The-Numbers-Tell-The-Story
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

> Statistics are garbage in, garbage out.

So much for teaching math, and all of the disciplines related to math!

> It is absolutely false that every child who does poorly on
> the STAR teat is a "Tinsley" kid.

Since the individual test records are not open to public access/inspection, this statement can not possibly be true, unless the person has access to all of the test records for the PAUSD.

Here are the numbers from the link above--

LEA-wide...............................8,810...... 926
Black or African American...... 250.......720
American Indian
or Alaska Native.........................24.......835
Filipino ......................................71.......891
Hispanic or Latino.....................849.......760
Native Hawaiian
or Pacific Islander......................56.......760
Two or More Races.......................6........939
English Learners.....................1,242.......830
Students with Disabilities...........946........701

There are about 600 students in the VTP program ("Tinsley"). With 841 students claiming to be "disadvantaged" and about 850 stating that they are Hispanic/Latino--and both groups performing almost 200 points beneath the average (and looking at the Census for the demographic representation for these groups).. one is left to "do the math". If the "Tinsley" kids are not in the under-performing group, then who is?

This begs the question as to why the PAUSD should be hosting these students, if they perform at the same level of the students who live in Palo Alto?

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Posted by Overstated?
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the test score impact of $$$ and tutoring is overstated at the elementary school level.

The biggest impact is how much the family prioritizes education.
Because the reality is that these days, supplementary education is practically FREE so long as you have a computer+Internet connection plus a library card.

Want to learn more math? Go to (or a myriad of other online options) to learn as much math as you want for free.

Want to improve your kid's reading skills? Borrow books every week from the outstanding Palo Alto libraries for free. Read books with them and actively suggest books that they might be interested in (librarians can help).

Want to learn more science, history, geography, art ....? Our public libraries are gold mines. Parents can have casual discussions with kids about these topics and use many free resources online (wikipedia, etc...) to go deeper.

Yes, our community can do a better job of raising awareness of these resources.
But the gating factor will be whether families in the subgroups choose to prioritize education. Fixing this issue may require a fundamental change in family values.

The life of Ben Carson shows what can happen when disadvantaged parents choose to prioritize education. His mother "saw Ben's failing grades, and she was determined to turn her sons' lives around. She sharply limited the boys' television watching and refused to let them outside to play until they had finished their homework each day. She required them to read two library books a week and to give her written reports on their reading even though, with her own poor education, she could barely read what they had written." Result: Ben kicked butt in school and went on to become one of the top pediatric surgeons in the world.

Check out this inspiring biography.
Web Link

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Posted by PA Asian parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 1, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Completely agree with Overstated.

It's a regular theme in Chinese colleges that many kids from poor areas outshine those from wealthy areas such as Shanghai or Beijing. The reason is their parents and they themselves knew education comes first if they want to change their life.

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Posted by asian mom
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Yes, the imprints of the importance of education are in their text books everywhere.

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Posted by Immigrant from south of the border
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Every time I read these school statistics broken down by ethnic/social groups, I see a pattern that is not unique to Palo Alto and the PAUSD will never solve, no matter how hard they try. I myself grew up in one of those countries 'south of the border' where probably many of the Tinsley kids (or parents) come from. I'm pretty sure many of these kids would probably also underperform in their home countries (with respect to the 'middle class' norm). It's simplistic to categorize this using a ethnic/social distinction, but are failing to look into much more critical factors like parents' level of education and the emphasis on academic success at home. Remember that equal opportunity does not equate to equal results.

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Posted by Tutoring examples?
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm

How common are "tutoring" services among *elementary* school kids?
What are examples of this?

I can understand getting a tutor if your kid is struggling and the parents' teaching methods are not working. But these kids are not the ones inflating API test scores.

For "advanced elementary school students", I can't imagine many parents spending a lot of money on this kind of stuff just to "get ahead" and score well on tests.

Why would you need tutors for such basic content like arithmetic, K-5 reading/writing, spelling words, etc.... this stuff would be a breeze for the average Palo Alto parent to discuss with their kids. If you need educational materials, you can easily find (and maybe buy) them online.

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Posted by be an asset
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm

The article points out a great opportunity for all Palo Altoans to step up to the plate and get involved in our schools. Not only can we be involved with the education of our own children and grandchildren but in the education of all the youth in Palo Alto regardless of the labels that may have been put on them. Each is a unique individual worthy of our respect and care.
During September the City of Palo Alto through Project Safety Net is supporting the following Developmental Asset: Parent Involvement in Schools. This involvement inspires a love of learning and leads to thriving students/youth.
We're not all parents, but most of us have some contact with the youth of Palo Alto. Take a second to ask about their day at school. Listen to what they have to say. Respond to what they say with words and if possible with actions. If you have the time, whether a parent or not, volunteer at the schools. Offer your talents as a tutor. Read to kids. Be there for them. Show them we care.
It's not just about test scores. It's about valuing youth and showing them that we care, by our words and our actions. Be an asset builder!

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Posted by Data Guy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Agreed with Immigrant from south of the border.

From the link above (Web Link);

72% of Palo Alto parents went to grad school (wow)
18% graduated from college
10% do not have a college degree

And ~10% of our PA students consistently underperform on the STAR tests.
While they may not necessarily be the same kids whose parents do not have a college degree, I would *guess* that there is a strong correlation.

If so, then strong outreach to these parents when the kids are very young may be a key to addressing academic underperformance of subgroups.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm

If you don't believe the tutoring at elementary age, go to any Sylvan or Kumon center (there is one that rents space at Cubberley) and see the rooms full of elementary age kids whose parents are paying large amounts of money on a weekly basis to get their kids ahead of the curve. This is true during school, but also during the summer.

Score in Midtown was a computer based system and very visible but has closed down, not because of lack of interest in tutoring but because of poorly run business franchise reasons.

Lastly, ask the parents waiting around at elementary schools. Middle and high school parents tend to be more quiet about this, but at the elementary stage the parents haven't received the memo that they should not broadcast the fact.

By the way, the memo is a joke!

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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm

1. I'm waiting for this report to lower property values in PA. I'm waiting. Still waiting. Waiting more. Oh wait, people don't appear to need a state-sponsored group to form an opinion on school districts.

2. @asset - I like your ideas, and will think about how I could get involved.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

It's all about how much the parents care about their child's academics, not ethnicity. I know parents who excessively help their children with their homework to the point of being ridiculous, and they have done this since elementary school. Ask them about a certain topic, of their kids' studies and they know the details, down to the questions on the exam. I also know of some EPA students who perform well academically due to the parents being involved in their education.

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Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm

did you consider that it's not the school, but the students that are the problem

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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

There are a lot of assumptions being made that the low test scores are from Tinsley kids but how do you know that the students who have identified themselves as a student of color are all from the Tinsley program? There are many students in the Palo Alto district who identify as a student of color and are residents of Palo Alto so lets not assume that the low scores are all from Tinsley students.

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Posted by The-Numbers-Tell-The-Story
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm

> but how do you know that the students who have identified
> themselves as a student of color are all from the Tinsley
> program?

Demographics for Palo Alto (Y2K Census)

White persons, percent, 2000 (a)................75.8%
Black persons, percent, 2000 (a).................2.0%
American Indian and Alaska Native persons,
percent, 2000 (a)................................0.2%
Asian persons, percent, 2000 (a)................17.2%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander,
percent, 2000 (a)................................0.1%
Persons reporting two or more races, percent,
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent,
2000 (b).........................................4.6%

Since Y2K, the Asian component of the population has probably jumped up to about 25%, and white component has probably dropped about 5%. That doesn't leave much for the other racial components.

There are also kids from Los Altos Hills, and Stanford in the school system, as well as children from "staff".

There isn't much "wiggle room" for the low-performers not to be predominately from the VTP group.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Assuming that most of the underperforming kids are socio-economically disadvantaged, part of the problem is age related. Elementary school age kids are pretty oblivious to any economic differences, and if they notice them, they really don't care. All the kids intermingle in elementary school. Once kids get to middle school, the financial differences become more obvious (cool clothes, Iphone, Ipods, vacations, etc.) The kids start to self-segregate and to a lot of them, doing well in school becomes less "cool".

Overstated - over 55% of elementary parents supplement their kids education per a PAUSD survey a few years back. A to say that "supplementary education is practically FREE so long as you have a computer+Internet connection plus a library card" is to assume that kids have access to a public library and the internet. Assuming that a percentage of these underperforming students are VTP kids, in middle school they take the bus from school to home (makes it hard to get to the public library) often/usually do not have internet access. The middle schools provide a lot of after school support, which is wonderful.

High school VTP kids have to get themselves to school using public transportation. Most of them have a part time job. Many do not have internet access at home. Their parents may be working multiple jobs. Life is just more challenging for them. Compare that to a kids who bikes or gets a ride to school, has internet access, a great computer, a tutor if needed, parents who are home to help with homework, no need for a part time job, lots of supplemental, interesting extracurricular activities and it is no wonder there is a disparity.

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Posted by The-Numbers-Tell-The-Story
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm

> .. is to assume that kids have access to a public library and
> the internet. Assuming that a percentage of these underperforming
> students are VTP kids, in middle school they take the bus from
> school to home (makes it hard to get to the public library)
> often/usually do not have internet access.

This poster seems to have some definite ideas about East Palo Alto, and its residents, which almost defy reality. For instance, claiming that students must take public transportation to go to a public library seems to be ... well .. not exactly accurate. East Palo Alto is about 2.505 sq mi in area, making the end-to-end distance about 1.2 miles, and the edge-to-middle-of-the-town distance about .6 miles--not all that difficult to walk, and certainly not that diffcult to bike. And it's hard to believe that there are no automobilies owned by the parents of VTP students. (Of course, perhaps walking .6 miles would be too difficult for a child in Palo Alto?)

The technology plan for the Ravenswood School District (available on the Ravenswood site) states that about 71% of the students in the 4th-8th grade live in a home with a computer and Internet access. Additionally, 17% have a computer, but no Internet access. That makes the PC availability at/about 90% (which is what the City of Palo Alto has claimed for its residents for some time now).

Even thought there is absolutely no reason to go to a brick-and-mortar library any more, for those students who might not actually have a PC at home, then the East Palo Alto Library is located at: 2415 University Avenue, which is sort of in the middle of this tiny, postage-stamp, city.

East Palo Alto Library
Web Link

The East Palo Alto Library is a part of the San Mateo Library System, which is probably the best library system in the greater Bay Area. It most certainly is one of the most technologically advanced. (Oddly, however, they don't seem to be a member of the Link+ system.)

There is also a group called "Plugged-In":
Web Link

Not certain how effective this group is, since its mission is to serve East Palo Alto. However, the supporters and funders of this organization are extensive, and comprised of all of the important technology purveys of the Silicon Valley.

These days, PCs/Laptops/Netbooks are very inexpensive. Netbooks are down in the $300 range (HP Mini 110 series). Used computers are also not that expensive. Internet access is available from AT&T for about $15/month for the first year--jumping to perhaps $30/month after that. High Speed Internet is also available from Comcast. A City-wide WiFi (or regional LTE) network could be installed in East Palo Alto for very little investment--which might be a way to provide very low cost/free Internet access. (Unfortunately, when wireless equipment has been installed in "disadvantaged communities", the hardware has been destroyed by thugs/vandals/kids, and the power of the Internet has not been available to the people who might have benefited from it.)

Additionally, the VTP students have access to the Palo Alto libraries, and the PAUSD on-line information resources. Claiming that a child in EPA is "disadvantaged" because of where he lives (meaning a lack of digital infrastructure) is simply no longer true to those to take the time to examine the reality of the situation.

To top of the publicly-funded resources, there are the fantastic private sources, which have become literally "awesome" in the past five years--

On-line Dictionary:
Web Link

On-line Books--

Google Books:

Internet Archive:

And Youtube, which has been mentioned via references to the Khan Academy.

One can only wonder how often the public librarians, or public school librarians, actually refer students to the private on-line archives, which will sooner-or-later have about 10M books scanned, and on-line for free download?

It would not be hard to contine to deconstruct the misconceptions of this post, but hopefully the point has been made that short of a few dollars in hardware/Internet access, that the "digital infrastructure" that Palo Alto kids have is also available to the VTP kids, and all of the other EPA children, too. It's not clear how many Palo Alto parents are fully aware of the broad array of on-line resources exist, because these resources have become so vast that almost no single person can keep track of these sea of knowledge out our collective finger tips. To many posters continue to suggest that public libraries are important for their kid's education, when, in fact, public libraries have become irrelevant for schools, since most of the information that public libraries used that public school libraries might not is now on-line.

Perhaps the PAUSD is failing its VTP students by not providing a comprehensive list of these resources for its non-Palo Alto parents, as well as putting some tutorials on-line for parents who may not have grown up in this country, and who may have no sense of what an "Information Society" is all about.

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Posted by Overstated?
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:27 pm

@The-Numbers-Tell-The-Story: Thanks for setting the record straight with facts.

All PAUSD school kids have access to great libraries - at their schools or in their town. In fact, the one in East Palo Alto is open later (closes at 8pm) than most of the libraries in Palo Alto.

And the PAUSD kids have Internet access at home or in the libraries.

But the issue is not do they have access to these resources (and many others).
The issue is how much do they choose to take advantage of these resources.
The Internet can be a great learning tool or a phenomenal waste of time, depending on how you use it.
What's the priority in the household? Education or pop culture entertainment?

It's easier to blame the schools than to blame family values (which is the root cause).
Let's work on both.

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Posted by Gunn Mom of 2
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I have 2 teens at Gunn. Both are smart and do well on standardized tests, but one has a learning disability and struggles with depression.

Many Gunn teachers do NOT FOLLOW the accommodations on my child's IEP. One teacher said he didn't believe in depression and that my child should just try harder.

Until PAUSD FIRES teachers who won't support our struggling students, we won't see any changes in these results.

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Posted by Ann Marie
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm

It's all about tutoring and discrimination. Kids in elementary school are being prepared outside the schools to be more competitive, to be stronger in math, etc. At least half of the kids in our school have tutors starting at 3rd grade. One of the topics of discussion in our classroom's yahoo forum this week is what is the best math tutoring school/ program available here in Palo Alto.

Kids who have parents that has to work the entire day to support their families, those who are not from PA, are in disadvantage, sure they are. They cannot spend time doing homework with their kids, because they are at work all day, sometimes in more than one low paying job, and they cannot afford private tutoring.

The system is failing them and our schools are also failing for not providing additional support. Many kids also feel discriminated and are made fun because they are not wealthy or just because they don't use the trendy clothes. It is hard for kids to survive in these environments. Many low income kids have low self-esteem and they are so worried about other things that they cannot compete with the wealthy kids.

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Posted by Ann Marie
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:49 pm

"Gunn Mom of 2", my son told me that his Physics' teacher was screaming last week in class at a struggling student who has learning disability CAN'T YOU FOLLOW DIRECTIONS??? That's the support that some children sometimes receive at Paly. :/

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2011 at 12:23 am

@Ann Marie: You are speaking of the infamous physics teacher that students panic about when they find out he is their teacher and flee in droves. Most Paly teachers are reasonable.

Give Phil Winston a chance; he has been productive in his year at Paly so far. He values feedback and makes things happen. He sincerely cares about students and would not accept that type of behavior from a teacher. Many of the difficult teachers have "retired" or shifted responsibilities since Phil took the throne. And there is more to come. . . I already know of a terrible teacher who will retire next year.

Thank God we have Phil because the Superintendent is a figurehead who does not care about students or parents. Phil has a Hayward State degree, yet Skelly has a Harvard degree. The superior administrator is not Ivy League trained. Goes to show that an Ivy League degree is no guarantee of success.

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Posted by Overstated?
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2011 at 8:22 am

Thank you, Ann Marie, for sharing info re: the high level of tutoring in your school. That's good info.

But the point of the article is not how the subgroups are performing against wealthy kids.

The bigger issue is that the subgroups are underperforming relative to California state standards (less than API score of 800). See the referenced data: Web Link

I agree that it's not easy being underprivileged.
Now let's hear some specific recommendations on what we can do to help the subgroups meet at least the minimum California target of 800 API.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2011 at 8:38 am

From my experience, areas which have a great deal of success with teaching kids in extreme situations are dealing with teaching the families of such kids as well just the kids. Inner city schools in places like New York and also London, reach out to educate the parents of students.

I am not saying that we should do the same, but it is worth considering. Making sure that parents are able to read and write English, have basic parenting skills, and have access to being kept informed with what is happening in the classroom so that they can support their kids is something we do not do. Inner city schools in difficult neighborhoods do this. When we have to register our children online each year it is not easy for many of us who are fairly computer literate so how can poorly educated parents even begin to feel that their kids are on a level playing field. This distress or inadequacy will be felt by the kids who will wonder why they should even try bothering to keep up.

We have parent education lectures run by the PTA and we have adult school, but neither of these are going to reach the families of those children who are not doing well because of circumstance. If we are serious about helping these students perform better, we had better start by making sure that the families of these kids are being helped too. Unless we do this, or even want to do this, then I fear that the achievement gap will not go away.

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Posted by Data Guy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2011 at 9:44 am

As the article above indicates, PAUSD failed 7 specific Federal minimum targets. Details in this table: Web Link

The Federal target is that 67% of each subgroup should score "Proficient" or above.

Here are our 7 Proficiency-level failures (need to get these above 67%):

1. Hispanic/Latino Reading: 55%
2. Hispanic/Latino Math: 54%
3. Black/African American Math: 50%
4. Socioecon Disadvantaged Reading: 49%
5. Socioecon Disadvantaged Math: 48%
6. Students w/Disabilities Reading: 60%
7. Students w/Disabilities Math: 55%

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Posted by Data Guy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2011 at 10:30 am

This subgroup underperformance issue is not unique to PAUSD.
The Cupertino school district has higher overall scores than PAUSD, but also "fails" in the same subgroups shown above.

See details: Web Link

So, the Cupertino school district could also benefit from a parent outreach program to these subgroups.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2011 at 10:32 am

Another interesting data point that is shown in the high school WASC data is gender. (WASC is the high school accreditation report which contains years of data). Year over year, girls do better than boys across the board (ie even for Asians and whites)(Gunn Chapter 1, Table 26). But the state does not report API by gender, does it?

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Posted by Another PA parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2011 at 11:12 am

I am all for closing the achievement gap. I think we can do better by
requiring weekly/monthly parent education and counseling in addition to free lunch, free bus, etc. We need to hold parents accountable for their part in the kids' education. They have to realize that they are ultimately responsible for how their kids turn out.

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Posted by Ann Marie
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Some of those parents are amazing people, but they have to work to hard to make a living. Many have more than one job.

I find it amazing that most people are just worried about the school scores, but not really about how to make the school and the system help those who are falling into the cracks.

Not being able to speak English properly does not mean poor parenting.

Sometimes poor parenting is just pushing kids too hard academically and placing them in numerous tutoring classes throughout their lives so they don't fail. Many of those kids have horrible stressed lives and sometimes they crack. Some may become very successful in life, hight achieving, but at the same time many are not kind and good human being.

How can we teach our kids to be better human beings?
How can we help them help other?
How can we help them have a happy productive life doing what they love?
How can we help them to be kind and generous?
Are we sending our kids to do volunteer work during the summer bc it looks good on college application?
What message are we giving to our kids?
Are we asking those questions to ourselves?

Poor families do struggle. There is also a lot of racial stereotyping hurting so many people, specially kids and teens. Let's think about how to help. Stop blaming parents and/ or kids. You have never walked in their shoes! Stop worrying so much about the school scores. Try to do something positive for your community and others.

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Posted by Overstated?
a resident of Barron Park School
on Sep 2, 2011 at 1:19 pm

We need to care about test scores because of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The federal government will _penalize_ PAUSD if we continue to miss our AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). Things look bad if this continues for 4+ years.

PAUSD has been downgraded to the "Program Improvement" status.

From Wikipedia:

"Schools that miss AYP for a second consecutive year are publicly labeled as being "in need of improvement" and are required to develop a two-year improvement plan for the subject that the school is not teaching well. Students are given the option to transfer to a better school within the school district, if any exists. Missing AYP in the third year forces the school to offer free tutoring and other supplemental education services to struggling students. If a school misses its AYP target for a fourth consecutive year, the school is labeled as requiring "corrective action," which might involve actions like the wholesale replacement of staff, introduction of a new curriculum, or extending the amount of time students spend in class. The fifth year of failure results in planning to restructure the entire school; the plan is implemented if the school fails to hit its AYP targets for the sixth year in a row. Common options include closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to directly run the school."

More details: Web Link

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Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 2, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Here's some food for thougth: instead of worrying about the consequences or financial impact of missing AYP targets (which are artificial anyway), reserve some funds in the PAUSD budget for a good legal fight to get rid of the Tinsley transfer program.
Might not look politically correct, but I'm pretty sure we'll eliminate this constant distraction/headache about the performance gap once this program is eliminated. People who agreed to this program a long time ago never had to deal with the long-term consequences of it.

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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm

All this hand-wringing over something so out of our hands... NCLB is going to make every single public school and district into a failure, because its sets impossible standards. We were lucky to hold the feds at bay this long but 2014 is coming soon. Sure PAUSD should be trying to improve just like everyeone else, never settle for the status quo, but the idea of the government labeling PAUSD a failure is just ridiculous. It's a rotten law, not a failing district that we're looking at here.

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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Hi Carlos. I don't think people "agreed to this program" - it was part of a desegregation order from the courts (back in the 70s? before my time in P.A so correct me if I'm wrong). I happen to think it's a good thing to desegregate schools. We can debate about the funding, but if we could get over our obssessions with testing and this dumb NCLB stuff then it wouldn't be a problem - might even help you know, to diversify schools and students' experiences. And one more thing if you look at that state chart is notice some of those subgroups made some pretty good progress on their test scores but like Skelly said you have to hit the government target in every group and that's going to be impossible for everyone in the next few years.

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Posted by It's Doable
a resident of Ohlone School
on Sep 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm

SkepticAl: Hitting the federal targets will be tough, but doable.

The current % proficiency for the subgroups is around 50%-55%.
We need to get this above 67%.

For example, out of the 841 socieconomically disadvantaged kids, we need to get 120 more of them to be proficient in English and Math.

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Posted by It's Doable
a resident of Ohlone School
on Sep 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Put another way:

About 30% of the economically disadvantaged kids are at the "Basic" level, which is one level below "Proficient". If we can get 1/2 to 2/3 of those Basic kids to rise to the "Proficient" level, then we've hit the federally-mandated 67% proficiency target.
This is doable.

The STAR reports provide this detail Web Link

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm

There is NOTHING in the U. S. Constitution that gives the Federal government any control over education in the STATES. Nothing. Like Health Care. Maybe its time for the states to challenge this invasive law, meddling, and Big-Brotherism. California should take the lead, but other more cognizant states just may. These bureaucrats
have never faced a classroom where more than half of the children don't speak English on opening day particularly kindergarten (just check around Santa Clara County.) Children come and children go, they may come to school hungry, they live in a drug culture, they live in a crowded flat, These so-smart rule makers couldn't teach the ABC's.

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Posted by parent went thru the path
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2011 at 11:08 pm

I saw flames coming out of how the statistics/data was not 'fair' to PA school district.

I would blame on the school district as my kids are going through the elementary and middle school here. most of the teachers are very helpful, resourceful, and definitely very caring to each child in the school.

I hate to say the problem is the kid him/herself if s/he is consider social disadvantage. It's up to the kid to use the enriched resource within the school. Family sure plays a role to the equation. However, once the kid is in the district, all the abundance resources are waiting for s/he to gain the quality education which his/her parents has laid in front of them. I went through the same path and sure I struggled. But, I can proudly say that I can finish college with my parents sacrifices.

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Posted by parent went thru the pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2011 at 11:10 pm

> I would blame on the school district

should be 'I would not blame on the school district'

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Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2011 at 10:54 am

I wonder why only one or two of the posters seem to care about the fact that Latino and African-American students aren't doing as well academically in P.A. schools. Isn't it important to analyze and try to come up with solutions IN the schools? Yes, reaching out to parents is important. No, we shouldn't be trying to get rid of EPA kids who started P.A. schools in kindergarten or first grade. Is it possible that PAUSD's lack of success in narrowing the achievement gap has something to do with our unwillingness to institute changes in the schools themselves? One poster recommended that we look at other similar districts who have had some success at improving test scores/achievement of Latino and A.A. students. This sounds like a good place to start.

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Posted by NCLBmat
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 10, 2011 at 11:38 am

Test test teat test

NCLB is all about supporting the newest industry in education - outsourced testing. School testing is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

So much for mimeographed tests from the back of the teachers' books.

2007 "The inspector general of the Department of Education has said he will examine whether federal money was inappropriately used by three states to buy educational products from a company owned by Neil Bush, the president’s brother."

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