Board to discuss stiffer graduation requirements

Vote expected May 22 on new language, math, science criteria to align with UC, CSU

The Palo Alto school board tonight will discuss a proposal to stiffen high school graduation requirements, and to offer customized "alternative requirements" for students who do not wish to meet them.

The move, tentatively scheduled for a final vote May 22, would take effect with the Class of 2016 -- today's eighth graders.

The change would align Palo Alto's high school graduation requirements with entrance criteria for California's public, four-year universities, the 10-campus University of California system and the 23-campus California State University system.

It also would provide negotiable "alternative graduation requirements" for students who decide, with their parents' approval, that the standard requirements are "not in the student's best interest."

The proposal would not affect the large majority of Palo Alto students, 80 percent of whom already meet or exceed the UC/CSU entrance criteria, known as the "A-G requirements."

But officials hope the new rules would boost A-G completion rates for the 20 percent of graduates who consistently don't fulfill them, a group that is disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

Minority students and parent groups, including the Student Equity Action Network and the Parent Network of Students of Color, have embraced the proposal as a strategy for boosting expectations for -- and achievement of -- minority students.

The proposal would increase the required units of foreign language from zero to 20, but also offer the option of testing out of the language requirement. It would boost the math requirement from 20 units to 30 units, mandating at least Geometry for the Class of 2016, and Algebra 2 for the Class of 2018. It would change the science requirement from "20 units of science" to "20 units of lab science," and boost the total number of units to graduate from 210 to 220.

Those choosing the alternative path would meet with school officials to devise a curriculum "based on the particular needs, interests or potential career plans of the student." The alternative path would have to meet state graduation requirements and comprise at least 220 units.

Students and parents would have to sign an "understanding" about potential consequences of their choices on admission to UC or CSU.

Among other business tonight, the board will be asked to vote on a construction contract for $12.6 million in new construction and upgrades to Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School and on a set of "principles" to guide community discussion on the future of Cubberley Community Center, as well as membership of a Cubberley Policy Advisory Committee.

Following a dinner with students and a closed session to deal with legal matters, the board will open its public session at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave. (View the school board agenda)

Chris Kenrick


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Posted by Dean
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2012 at 11:37 am

Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a former mid-towner (Cubberley '67)

80% of students meeting or exceeding UC/CSU requirements is very admirable, higher than most school districts I'm sure, but that would be expected from PAUSD.

Palo Alto should recognize that not all students are college bound.

(I have one college grad, one in college, and a son who abhored the traditional learning system in HS, yet graduated, and is now is co-owner of a multi-state security alarm business headquartered in North Carolina. Each weekend in the fall he attends games at my college in Virginia and all the other college grads around our tailgate are amazed he is not a Tech grad...)

The 20% do need a viable alternate path that prepares them for either a skilled blue collar occupation that is in demand (electical, plumbing, etc.) or white collar (an entry level computer industry job requiring skills but not global aptitude).

Let's not get hung up over ethnicity. The parents of those 20% just want their son/daughter to have the skills to secure a job and/or the ability to be self-employed (e.g., course work/instruction in how to write a business plan, complete a loan app, basic business law---I remember a great busienss course Mr. Rosenberg taught along those lines at Cubberley!)

Graduating employable students in the 20% should be a worthy goal---PA is doing a fine job with the 80% who chose the college route.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I don't think that this is a good idea.

What about SPED students who may not be able to pass the foreign language requirement?

Now they will receive a second-class high school diploma?

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Posted by Nancy
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm

This is not necessarily helping anyone.

Take foreign language as an example, for many good students, foreign language is difficult but it doesn't mean that they are not good students or not college bound.

For students who are good at social studies and English, but find math and science particularly difficult, it does not help them, and they still want a college education also.

Or, am I missing something?

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Posted by gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on May 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Parent and Resident, students will have an opportunity to get the same standard dipolma as everyone else using the Alternative Graduation requirements pathway.

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Posted by pffff
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm

More nonsense in this school district, as if there was not enough as is... I am so looking forward to my children being done with this school district. A couple more years to hang in there.

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Posted by Nancy
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm

My comments were removed but I have not posted on this thread prior. Error!

This is a BAD idea to consider. What about the right-brained students? Math and world language are not easy for everyone. If they make them requirements, they ought to dumb-down world language, which is doubtful. Publicize the UC requirements, but let the students decide for themselves. We are a public school district, not private. Math and world language are not required to be successful. I know plenty of nerds who are intelligent but unsuccessful.

I thought PAUSD wants to lower stress for students. Apparently not.

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Posted by Different Tune?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 9, 2012 at 6:03 am

Noticing a pattern here: the dissenting voices come out of the wood-work in full-force AFTER the decision basically has been made. Seriously, the Daubers and the We Can Do Better group were flooding the boards for the past three months with this idea and NOW people think it's a bad idea? I know there were some people disagreeing with them on the other threads but I wonder if this will be like the calendar change--the majority of people don't know what's happening until it's really too late and can't make an impact and then the board gets hammered by outraged people AFTER the decision has been made. The board needs to hear from everyone before they make a decision and not just assume that silence is complacence or approval. There needs to be a better mechanism for polling opinion and receiving input. Please don't assume that people not attending meetings or not posting here just don't care enough or aren't willing to put their time in, so "oh well and too bad for them."

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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 9, 2012 at 6:43 am

Setting an opt-out standard to make sure every kid has on his/her schedule courses which will meet UC requirements is fine. There actually may have been a few kids in the past who "didn't know" what they should take to try for a UC. However, building in an "opt out" for kids who clearly are not on a UC path is even better.

I have no problem with this solution. Not all kids are meant for UCs ( or even colleges). My only concern is that somehow the "alternative degree" will be perceived as a "lesser" degree or a "degree for the stupid" or some such nonsense. But, there is nothing we can do about that except try to honor with our words and our deeds the fact that we need all kinds of people in our world to survive. Engineer PhDs and plumbers both have extreme value. How many PhDs can fix their leaky sink? How many plumbers can design a bridge to drive over to get to their job? How many bridge designers can actually build the bridge?

You get the point.

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Posted by Maria
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 9, 2012 at 8:11 am

Attending school in Germany prior to WWII we always had the option of attending an "academic" high school preparing us for the university or a "trade" high school offering a variety of classes from bookkeeping and cooking/nutrition to carpentry and plumbing. One foreign language was required of all, starting in grade 5. This resulted in an educated labor force on all levels. And all graduates knew how to read and write, add, subtract, multiply and divide! So what's with the obsession in this country with attending college? Not everybody wants to, esp. if there are good alternatives.

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Posted by
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 9, 2012 at 9:48 am


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Posted by board
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 9, 2012 at 10:31 am

our board only needs to look at the money and where it comes from.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Maria - I totally agree with you, but in Palo Alto, there is no real alternative after high school except college. We don't prepare our students for anything else.

If we are changing our grad requirements, they should accurately reflect what most colleges look for. For example, we require 4 years of history, colleges don't. We require living skills (which does not teach any actual "living skills" unless you were lucky enough to have Mr. Knight when he taught it.)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Colleges don't require P.E. either, but the state of California does.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm

In addition to requiring 4 years of Social Science (the State requires 3 years, college require 2), we require BOTH Visual/Performing Art AND Career Voc Ed (State requires on or the other, college require Visual/Peforming Art. That is 2 classes that students could use to pursue something they are passionate about instead.

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

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