News

Can Palo Alto close its achievement gap?

Minority achievement and talent development committee to bring ambitious set of recommendations to school board Tuesday night

A committee of more than 20 teachers, parents, school administrators, students and community members are hoping that a series of short- and long-term recommendations it developed over the last several months will help Palo Alto Unified School District turn the page on its longstanding achievement gap.

The superintendent's minority achievement and talent development committee, which began meeting biweekly in December, will be presenting its final report to the school board on Tuesday night.

The group's recommendations – both small and big picture, short and long term – strive to shift what the report describes as a "tale of two cities: a Palo Alto for a high-achieving majority of students, with access to enrichment opportunities and high expectations, and a Palo Alto in which access and expectations for students of color and students from lower-resourced backgrounds are limited."

Research, data analysis and focus groups conducted by the committee confirmed much of what is already known about the wide gap between low-income students and students of color and other Palo Alto student populations. The research showed lower levels of achievement in standardized test scores, GPA (grade-point average) and A-G subject requirements for the California state universities by socioeconomic status and for black and Latino students as compared to white and Asian students, according to the report.

The achievement gap by ethnicity also "occurred as robustly among students from highly educated, well-resourced backgrounds," the committee found. The committee also found that the level of proficiency in standardized tests in elementary school predicted A-G readiness in high school -- just under 50 percent of those who were below basic proficiency met A-G requirements versus more than 90 percent of those who were proficient or advanced.

And according to a survey the committee conducted, white and Asian students were more likely (63 percent) than students of color (26 percent) to feel that teachers sincerely care about the success of children of color. One Latina student told the committee: "Sometimes you have to like speak a little louder so they can hear you, and it shouldn't be like that."

Writing that it is "vitally important that students and parents not wait another year for tangible actions," the committee asks that the school board approve funding to implement 12 recommendations for the next school year.

At a high level, the committee recommends that the district develop a formal "equity plan" under the leadership of a new "equity coordinator" who would "serve as an ombudsperson for managing issues related to the education and well-being of historically underrepresented students and families," the report reads. This new hire, with an estimated cost of $130,000, is part of the committee's push for more comprehensive and systemic district accountability.

Viewing early education as a key to closing the achievement gap, the committee is also recommending that the district administer a diagnostic literacy and mathematics assessment starting in pre-kindergarten and through second grade. Tiered interventions and ongoing monitoring should be provided as necessary, the report reads. The committee also notes that administrators and teachers should have ready access to this student data, review it regularly and "use it meaningfully." (Data was another overarching theme in both the committee's own work and in its recommendations. The report asks the district to create a better system for obtaining, analyzing and reporting the data necessary to monitor student progress and report on results.)

Based on the results of the diagnostic assessment for kindergarten students, the district should provide an additional two days a week of extended or full-day kindergarten, the committee suggests. The district does not currently offer full-day kindergarten, but does have an extended day for all students two days a week.

At the middle and high school levels, the committee asks that there be "clear, objective, and well-communicated information about laning decisions and waivers in mathematics" to address what the report describes as a "significant divide" among students created by laning.

"For most underrepresented students, seventh-grade mathematics lane placement, which is determined by sixth-grade teachers on a district nine-point rubric and in-house placement test, restricts the opportunity to take higher level classes or even A/B Calculus in high school," the report reads. "In other words, students are disproportionately underrepresented in the more challenging high classes because of seventh-grade lane placement."

The report also recommends that the district launch a longitudinal study to analyze the impact of laning on historically underrepresented students and their peers.

During its months of work, the committee reviewed the myriad of intervention programs offered to Palo Alto students, both internally and externally, often agreeing that they need to be streamlined and better advertised to students and families. The committee recommends that the district commission an independent audit of current intervention programs to identify which are the most cost effective.

The top overarching "problem cluster" the group identified in its work is an "underlying and unconscious narrative of bias" that permeates the issues surrounding the achievement gap at every level. To begin to address this, the committee suggests the district launch staff development sessions on unconscious bias, with equity trainings for all staff every four to six years, and work to recruit, hire, retain and promote more diverse teachers and administrators. In the 2012-13 year, there were only 12 black and 39 Latino teachers out of 724 total teachers in the district.

A high school student told the committee that "diversity is only valued during holidays" and that in her entire time in the district, she "does not remember ever having a black male teacher," according to the report.

Parent engagement and education is also critical in closing the achievement gap, and turned up in the committee's second problem cluster: "quality and nature of parent-student-school-community connections." In focus groups and discussions with the community, the committee repeatedly heard from low-income parents and parents of color about the difficulty of learning "how to do school" in Palo Alto and an accompanying feeling of being disconnected to the school community.

Palo Alto should create a district-level parent advocate/liaison position who would supervise and monitor site-level parent advocates and liaisons, the committee suggests. The parent liaison at the site level will serve each school by increasing outreach to historically underrepresented families and creating opportunities for involvement. The committee also urges the district to collaborate with community-based parent groups that currently serve historically underrepresented families to improve parent engagement with the district.

With many more ambitious proposals, the report suggests the group continue as a standing district committee to oversee and strengthen its recommendations as they are implemented.

"Committee members also know that success will require sustained support at all levels of the system – in homes and classrooms as well as offices and the board room – and that, in addition to promising practices, the historically underrepresented students and families will be well-served by policies and a vision tied to strategic goals and measurable outcomes," the report notes.

The school board will discuss the full report at its Tuesday meeting, with funding requests to return for action on June 9. Tonight's meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

Related content:

Minority students speak to challenges they face in Palo Alto

New committee addresses Palo Alto Unified's achievement gap

'Broad action' encouraged to fix district's achievement gap

Superintendent to convene achievement gap committee

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Real American
a resident of Professorville
on May 26, 2015 at 10:25 am

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by school community
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2015 at 11:01 am

Congratulations on the hard work of the committee.

I am watching with a mix of hope and fear that we won't get beyond the problems of the district office culture. "The report asks the district to create a better system for obtaining, analyzing and reporting the data necessary to monitor student progress and report on results."

That is the crux of so many other issues - how is the district going to achieve this while still actively pursuing an untrustworthy cover up culture? It seems like the tack now is to see if they can just get rid of those who were damaged by the worst behavior and move forward with those who don't know better (which never works).

I don't want all the work this time to just go to waste. The trust issue really needs to come front and center, the district really needs to make an effort to restore trust with the public.


7 people like this
Posted by school community
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2015 at 11:12 am

I am just wondering if the plan has any provision in the training to encourage a district culture shift to benefit from, rather than reflexively and actively fighting advocacy.

We can't fix problems like this from one effort, there has to be a way to constantly improve, too. If the system is working mainly to squash and marginalize rather than benefit from advocacy, as it does now, that can't happen. Until we change that, every day we lose opportunities. Developing a culture that can incorporate and benefit from advocacy would help and is needed as much as hiring someone, especially for groups that have traditionally needed more advocacy.


10 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2015 at 11:42 am



ACLU should be the study team , not the same room mothers and their special friends who just happened to be invited to this "committee" Parents should not have to be married or home tutoring their kids if the teachers actually gave all the kids the same education . Many affluent homes are not "intact" but they do have money for tutors.

consider:


All kids should be on the track that leads to UC acceptance, not just a few that know about it on their own.
all kids should have been invited to Research opportunities, not just a secret wealthy group
all kids should have all the same instruction.
flipped classrooms will not benefit any child without a tutor
parents should not be giving monetary or gift card gifts
Parent helpers should not be allowed in their own kid's classrooms(this should be ok, but is not because these parents do ignore children not in their social groups) Yes there are exceptions, but this community is very outdated and adheres to old social class and levels ideas that have been damaging.
Opportunities need to be announced to all the students, not just ones whose parents are at the school.
Parents who think their kids are getting an equal education or think their kids will ever be considered equal should consider filing complaints.


13 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 11:45 am

Sounds like an expensive new staff position "equity coordinator" ??? which would have little impact or power to impact the base of the problem. I know if my children were part of an achievement gap, I wouldn't be sitting around expecting/waiting for the school district to "close the gap", I'd be expecting and helping my children close the gap by working their tails off. We get quarterly report cards.


2 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2015 at 12:17 pm

@Dan - teachers sometimes have different expectations based on appearances and the associated stereotypes. For example, when my daughter was in 7th grade, her English teacher consistently asked the 3 blond girls in the class if "they needed extra time" for tests. Only those three girls. Consistently. For the whole year.

I imagine at some point, some kids start to live up to the stereotype.


14 people like this
Posted by Get Help
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Academic success is from the values of the parents and students. Minorities who really want to succeed should be visiting their teachers on a consistent basis. Any teacher welcomes students who care and want to succeed.

Let's also remember affirmative action: minorities aren't bound by the same GPA and SAT requirements for college admissions as whites and Asians.


11 people like this
Posted by school community
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 26, 2015 at 1:11 pm

"Any teacher welcomes students who care and want to succeed. "

Actually, research shows teachers don't like students who exhibit characteristics of creativity much, and they favor children who exhibit characteristics of least creative (also tends to go hand in hand with most compliant). The same research shows teachers claim they want to foster creativity -- because they apparently don't know what it really is.

In my experience as a parent, creative students are at best tolerated. Add another negative, like race or special needs, and you have a situation in which petty personal nastiness by people whose power over children and families in the educational arena basically goes unchecked and the damage unrecognized by anyone except the families and children.


4 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2015 at 1:24 pm

[Portion removed.] Academic success is from the level of instruction given fairly to all students and a high level of expectations for all the students. Teachers do not welcome questions and these kids may be too embarrassed that they have to ask a teacher instead of a tutor. Children can not be in the high lane without tutors and people like you are fine with that as money does have advantages.

You speak of minorities as if they are separate and unequal from your child.

Teachers do not have one hour per to help each kid that wants instruction and many just can not afford the exrta tutoring at home

ACLU really should read these comments. Yours implies that treating them unfairly in high school is fine because you feel they get a break? really? so... is it ok not to give them the A_G classes needed for UC level applications? Are you one of the PALY math teachers who wrote about bring a horse to water etc..


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2015 at 1:39 pm

@ outsider: PAUSD HS graduation requirements = UC A-G. By default, if you're on track to graduate Gunn or Paly, then you have taken the courses required by the UC system. Of course, GPA and test scores are additional factors - but you can no longer imply that PAUSD students are on "secret" UC tracks.

@ get help: Not sure when was the last time you had a child (or know of a child) applying to college...but as an example, the UC & CSU systems are prohibited from using race/affirmative action as a means to qualify/accept UC applicants.


5 people like this
Posted by school community
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 26, 2015 at 1:50 pm

"I imagine at some point, some kids start to live up to the stereotype."

It happens, and it's called "stereotype threat" -- the stereotype become a self-fulfilling prophesy.


17 people like this
Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 26, 2015 at 2:51 pm

muttiallen is a registered user.

I work in Ravenswood District and the students there do as well as low-income in Palo Alto. It's time to end Tinsley and let the EPA kids come back to good neighborhood schools.


4 people like this
Posted by Just a resident now
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 26, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Each kid learns differently, some got the point in class, some need more review to get it. So, when a teacher teaches a class, he/she cannot accommodate all 20-30 students in the class. What parents should do is to monitor their kids, correct the problem as soon as possible. People would say that rich people can afford tutor, yes, that is true. However, with technology booming in this town, I hope all parents should know there is a "Khan Academy" here, which offer online FREE classes for all individuals. I don't have kids in PAUSD anymore, but I heard Khan is very good and free, so you can catch what you missed in class. Just need to get online and DO IT. My friends as far as Minnesota are asking their kids to use Khan, not sure why not local students :-(


9 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 26, 2015 at 3:56 pm

>I work in Ravenswood District and the students there do as well as low-income in Palo Alto. It's time to end Tinsley and let the EPA kids come back to good neighborhood schools.

I have often wondered why Palo Alto liberals insist that students of color can only do well in school districts where those students are a built-in minority. Noblesse oblige? Guilt? Misplaced altruism?

However, the larger issue, IMO, is that the pedagogy is wrong in both PA and EPA. Firstly, there should be educational vouchers, which allow parents to choose the school of their choice for their own children. Secondly, online teaching (e.g. Khan Academy) should be used as a primary teaching method, with the teachers as individual coaches. It ain't rocket science, but the teachers' unions always block the sensible things.

This perpetual discussion of the "achievement gap" should have been placed in the dustbin of history decades ago. However, it will, sadly, continue, as long as the discussion is about contrived remedies that do not demand freedom of choice. This current attempt is just one more losing proposition.


8 people like this
Posted by Doubtful
a resident of Mayfield
on May 26, 2015 at 5:29 pm

It probably is impossible given that we bus students in from a nearby town where the socio-economic background is completely different from that of Palo Alto residents. Palo Alto residents of all colors do very well. The problem is the mixing we do of two different communities. I am not saying it is a bad thing. However, I do believe it makes for an intractable achievement gap.


Like this comment
Posted by @Craig Laughton
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2015 at 5:34 pm

"have often wondered why Palo Alto liberals insist that students of color can only do well in school districts where those students are a built-in minority. Noblesse oblige? Guilt? Misplaced altruism?"

Aside from your constant fetish for political labeling, Laughton, I would suggest that you read Chief Justice Warren's opinion in Brown v. Board of Education as to why segregated schools (which you obviously want to bring back) are not the way to educate minority students.


2 people like this
Posted by si
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2015 at 5:51 pm

"I have often wondered why Palo Alto liberals insist that students of color can only do well in school districts where those students are a built-in minority. Noblesse oblige? Guilt? Misplaced altruism?"

There's nothing specific to Tinsley in this report. The problem is that PAUSD is supposed to be a high-performing district. At present, it's only high-performing for children of high-income parents. It should be high-performing for all students. Other districts manage not to have such a huge achievement gap.


18 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on May 26, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Despite all the good intentions in these projects, and all the corresponding resources that get spent looking into this problem, this achievement gap will simply not go away because nobody is willing to address the real issues behind it.

It might be very convenient to point the finger at the PAUSD (or any other school distric, or the system, etc) and say more needs to be done to help certain students, but have the 'smart' people proposing changes really looked into the family, cultural, and individual circumstances of the kids falling behind? The inconvenient truth is that parents' level of education and involvement, the kids' own drive to succeed academically, and whether or not a student's peer group values success at school are all critical factors in a successful academic experience. All these factors are beyond what our local schools can realistically address, and we just have to accept that 'equal opportunities' never meant 'equal results'.

As a Latin-American immigrant myself, I would not be surprised if some of the kids falling behind and blaming it on race/language issues would probably be equally behind or worse off in their home countries or those of their immigrant parents. They would no longer be able to play the race/language cards, but the truth can be painful to digest sometimes. Unless these kids and their families do what they have to do to excel at school, the harsh reality is that one day they will graduate from the local schools and they won't have anybody else to blame.


3 people like this
Posted by please be informed
a resident of Stanford
on May 26, 2015 at 6:27 pm

@doubtful

Perhaps you aren't aware that there are Palo Alto kids/families who live in horrible circumstances and don't have enough food to eat. I met one such young woman - living in a one bedroom apartment on Alma with 3 other people and only one of them was over 18 - and the "adult" was a 20 year old working in landscaping trying to keep the other 3 in school. I helped her with an application for assistance.

You're perception that everyone in Palo Alto is wealthy is very wrong.

Further, I spend a decent amount of time in the Ravenswood District as a volunteer - I find the kids to be delightful, thoughtful and just capable as any kid growing up in Palo Alto.


5 people like this
Posted by Andrea Wolf
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 6:29 pm

@Doubtful
Your comment that “Palo Alto residents of all colors do very well” is incorrect. Please note this sentence from the article:
“The achievement gap by ethnicity also "occurred as robustly among students from highly educated, well-resourced backgrounds," the committee found.”

As is often the case, even in Palo Alto, the historically underrepresented students do not perform as well as the caucasian and asian students. This is not because they less intelligent or don’t care about education, it is because they are
treated differently by the majority culture. This is what this committee is seeking to change.


3 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 26, 2015 at 6:47 pm

>Aside from your constant fetish for political labeling, Laughton, I would suggest that you read Chief Justice Warren's opinion in Brown v. Board of Education as to why segregated schools (which you obviously want to bring back) are not the way to educate minority students.

I could care less about the racial makeup of schools, as long as they are not forced into one school or another, based on race. My main point is that all students are being wedged into a faulty system...and yes, this tends to hurt some students more than others (no matter the color). A truly good system would allow all children to grow and learn with no particular pressure (from anyone). Our current system is a lecture and absorb method (19th century stuff). We have immensely better alternatives now, with our technologies. There is no reason that students of any color, in PA or EPA should be forced to endure antiquated pedagogical methods. This means that an artificial construct, like transferring students from EPA to other districts is both misinformed, but also damaging to those students. There is no reason for an achievement gap, if the proper tools are available to all students.


6 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2015 at 6:52 pm

I wonder who of you attended any of the Martin Luther King celebrations (especially the one at Nixon) where mostly white kids are singing and talking about the" I have a dream speech" and what it meant. I also wonder if the 11thgraders reading To Kill a Mockingbird would see the same type of really shameful behavior as seen in these comments.

I am not sure why some think following actual laws are up for discussion and why they think palo alto is exempt from them based on their opinion of the other town- ... a few blocks from theirs. I am not sure if there is a realization that giving opinions about another culture or race is offensive to those families wanting the best for their kids. They are referred to as "they" not "we" No committee can fix this areas perception of anyone coming from across 101.

How about bussing Palo alto Kids into East Palo Alto and let's allow them to print what those parents think of the Palo Alto parents and kids.


10 people like this
Posted by Doubtful
a resident of Mayfield
on May 26, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Speaking of not being informed:

"Children can not be in the high lane without tutors", says outsider.

Not true. I know firsthand that students can be in the high lanes without tutors. I actually know a number of students who have been in the high lanes without tutors. This is a myth.


2 people like this
Posted by school community
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2015 at 9:10 pm

I find in this district that it's way too easy for people in the district office or even teachers to deny individual children educational opportunities, support, etc., for the smallest petty personal reasons, and those can amplify through the system and over time. Families of special ed kids or kids of color are just more likely to cross said people. I'm sure there is more to it, but simply fixing the trust problem so that our district runs more fairly for everyone would do a lot. Answer records requests so parents can know what is fair, find ways to give everyone recourse (not just people who can afford to fight with legal help), and fix problems when they happen, it's the only way to ensure kids aren't discriminated against for whatever reason.

It's also so hard in any other contexts to bring up this issue, it's like it's supposed to be contained in discussions about the achievement gap and verboten otherwise. For example, in suggesting we reopen Cubberley in order to keep more optimally sized high schools, one of the reasons was that schools larger than we have are worse for the achievement gap. (who cares, right? at best the point was ignored and at worst treated like it was some kind of ne'er do well agenda).


5 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Well, maybe that could have been true in the past. Now, they almost all have tutors. sorry but you are just wrong. Many do not admit this. Knowing a number of kids not admitting they get extra help proves nothing. There are always exceptions.

I know firsthand 10 parents in class of 30 that pay 100 dollars per week per tutor so their pretty smart, hard working kid will stay afloat and get ahead. Even if 90 percent have tutors there will be 10 percent that do not-perhaps you know them? Are they minorities in the high lane? so sad to see this in this day and age. Lack of instruction from skilled teachers and low expectations have caused the gap. It is not the kids responsibility and parents should not have to teach their kids after they come home from school.


5 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Sounds like the creation of some new pencil pushers in charge of programs who are hands off.


Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 26, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

One long term solution is what a new organization called RISE Web Link is doing. Read about it then contribute time or money.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2015 at 10:49 pm

@ outsider: Unless you have verifiable data, your assertion about tutors is your opinion, it is not fact. You should be careful in how you state such things.


4 people like this
Posted by former activist
a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2015 at 4:55 am

"Viewing early education as a key to closing the achievement gap, the committee is also recommending that the district administer a diagnostic literacy and mathematics assessment starting in pre-kindergarten and through second grade. Tiered interventions and ongoing monitoring should be provided as necessary."

Congratulations Committee!!! You couldn't be more right on this point. I'm so happy to see it in your report. I hope all children will get the benefit of this implementation. Our white and Asian children also need these diagnostics.


Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2015 at 8:56 am

Sparty is a registered user.

No one has walked by a tutoring business and looked through the window to see what kids are in there? No one???


1 person likes this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2015 at 10:45 am

crescent park dad.

Why are you upset that so many smart kids have to have tutors and why are you not upset that minorities are not in the high lane? It is not a secret that being a tutor in Palo Alto is lucrative. In other areas it is a joke that the kids need so much help to do a-g work at a public high school. That is what I have heard, not fact of course. Parents with money for tutors have enjoyed an advantage. I guess they like it that way? I guess that is why parents are not at the school demanding that teachers give fair instruction to all the kids? I guess this may be why all these really smart white/asian kids are missing their childhood to sit at tutoring centers. Have any "minorities" or what many consider out of towers... committed suicide? do they perhaps have a better childhood because their parents are not making them sit at a desk for hours and hours after they already sat at a desk for hours and hours? So odd that you would be so upset that someone said the kids at PALY have tutors. why is that? Is it because that would mean they are not better than everyone and are perhaps equal? pretty interesting little pocket of weirdness in these schools. like a time warp.


7 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2015 at 11:02 am

Just wanted to point out that Paly offers free tutoring at the ARC unless something's changed since I went there. There's also tutorial to go see teachers. Also, most of them have prep periods where you can visit them for extra help. While it's not guaranteed you'll get 1 on 1 help, if you choose the right times to visit you often can and oftentimes students have similar questions so 1 on 4 or 5 isn't too big of a deal. Despite what many claim here, there IS help available at Paly (and I assume Gunn): you just have to seek it out.


11 people like this
Posted by Parent of 3
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 27, 2015 at 11:04 am

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2015 at 11:18 am

I have a dream that one day my kid will be called "disengaged" and not part of a community. One on one tutoring with professionals is not like getting help from a kid in the ARC. One kid leaves a binder and they obviously do not care like your family does. Hmmmm Maybe they were at work. Maybe it was an old binder.... Maybe they did not need it to complete homework. Maybe his dog died.... Maybe that kid is every bit as smart and nice as yours. wow.


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2015 at 11:20 am

Simply put: I don't like people stating opinions as facts, no matter the subject.

Whether intended or not, it muddies the water and distracts from the real facts and the need to find solutions. It's counter-productive.

I agree that there is an achievement gap at PAUSD that needs a quick and comprehensive solution. But pointing fingers, throwing around unproven accusations, etc. does nothing towards solving any problem at hand - including this one.


1 person likes this
Posted by Duh
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 27, 2015 at 11:27 am

The whole point of the report is that there is one criteria for being in the high lane and that is white or Asian skin. That's the issue.


23 people like this
Posted by Doubtful
a resident of Mayfield
on May 27, 2015 at 11:36 am

@ outsider

Are you a high lane parent?

Fact: my son was in AP Calc BC and in AP Physics at Paly last year: he never had a tutor. Our friends' daughter also in AP Calc BC with no tutor. Several of my son's friends in AP Calc BC and AP Physics last year with no tutors. I am sure there are kids with tutors as well, but there is a fair number without. (All the students mentioned are Caucasian if that matters to you). Some did not have As in the classes, but they accepted it.

Note that I have no reason to make this up. We are all do e with PAUSD.


14 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2015 at 12:08 pm

True is a registered user.

The reason stereotypes form is because it's a recurring theme. Outsider keeps making excuses for the disengaged children. Why does everyone think that the non-residents who attend PAUSD are thrilled with it? Many of these children feel inadequate having to be bused from out-of-town because their lives are not aligned with the typical PAUSD student and they don't have the material goods and parents with advanced degrees to help them with their homework. They probably wonder why everyone is understanding the schoolwork when they are not. Why does Outsider think these children are so excited to be in PAUSD? Wouldn't they rather be in a school where they feel that everyone else has a similar lifestyle? My children have felt dumb in PAUSD because of the gene pool, and we both have advanced degrees. I can only imagine how the VTP students feel - it's not healthy for their confidence.


14 people like this
Posted by Find the real problem
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm

LOL, I don't understand these debates here. I have two kids in PAUSD (until 2012). One son was in the Highest Math Lane at Gunn without a tutor and doing very well. He is in STEM field. The other son was in the 2nd Math Lane at Gunn but still a so-so student. Yes, we had a tutor to help him out once a week to get through, and I sat down daily after dinner to make sure that he did his homework. And, we are proud of saying that we did it right. We only can afford a small condo in PA and never go any fancy vacation or eat out. One year that he was not doing well, we cancelled our Xmas vacation to stay home, made him to redo homework to catch up. He eventually study business in college. Both my sons are in the SAME RACE (any argument for this???) and I did not discriminate them at home. So, even between our own sons there is a difference, not related to income, race, discrimination at all. Do you expect that all students in PAUSD are the same??? Parents needs to be on the top of their kids, monitor them, and get real help as soon as possible. There is no way for a teacher to catch all 30 students in a class as a parent can...you know your kids the best.


7 people like this
Posted by Julia
a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I home schooled my three kids, and used various online lessons, especially the Khan Academy. It was easy and very smooth. Each of my children had different interests and abilities in the various subjects, but they learned at their own rates. All of my kids had a ton of free time to play and socialize (after they cleaned their room!). They easily passed the standardized tests that they had to pass.

I agree with Craig Laughton. He is thinking out of the box. There is no reason for an achievement gap for any child.


1 person likes this
Posted by Observant
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

In my immediate neighborhood there are parents who spend $100-150/week per child in middle and high school. For two of these families, this adds up to $600/week.

These same parents have instructed their children NOT to ask questions in class, because it is shameful. "Ask the tutor we are paying for."

Also in my immediate neighborhood are three-generation families: mom and dad work full time, grandma and grandpa clean house and cook and walk the little ones to school. Education is the
Job of the tutors mom and dad work so hard to afford.


4 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2015 at 1:10 pm

True.

[Portion removed.] You use the word "they" as if there is a separation and they are somehow very different. Your reason for separating them would be that you assume they are not understanding what is being taught? How could they be happy next to priveleged child. Did you really use the word "gene pool" as if a certain race is smarter???? really? Are you able to see inside "their" brains. Do you know there is life outside your bubble?

sorry, a few kids not having tutors does not excuse the lack of instruction at Paly and the need for tutoring centers all over town. It is a fact that they are filled every night of the week. This creates an achievement gap. This is a public school and kids should not have to find their own instruction at night, after school.


Like this comment
Posted by Laning question
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm

"In other words, students are disproportionately underrepresented in the more challenging high classes because of seventh-grade lane placement."

I hope that there's the possibility of, and effort towards, allowing school to "upgrade" their lane placement. As the home-schooling parent illustrates, math is an area where it's especially possible to learn a lot outside of school, so it would great if students were encouraged to make up the gap and get into a faster lane (if they have the desire and motivation to do so).


Like this comment
Posted by Laning question
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2015 at 1:31 pm

sorry, that should have been "allowing *students* to upgrade their lane placement."


9 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2015 at 1:40 pm

To the person who commented sarcastically about tutoring "professionals" and ARC tutors:
There are benefits and disadvantages to both. Professional tutors are very expensive, ARC tutors are free. Professional tutors are available at your beck and call, ARC tutors are only available during lunch/after school/prep periods. Professional tutors might be better at teaching concepts but ARC tutors are (in general) better at helping study and practice for tests because since they've taken the class they know exactly what the test is going to be like. If a student repeatedly isn't understanding concepts in a class, even after meeting with the teacher etc., maybe that class isn't for them. There is a reason that the top lane has an insanely high attrition rate over 4 years of HS.


@Outsider:
Have you ever sat in a classroom at Paly to witness this alleged "lack of instruction" and could you give an example? I haven't heard of, for example, teachers refusing to lecture and just handing out textbooks and saying "read."


Like this comment
Posted by Gunn mom of 2
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 27, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Every 8th grader should be taking Algebra. No need to lane before 9th grade in math, just like the other subjects.


15 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

True is a registered user.

Outsider: [Portion removed.] "Gene pool" refers to students who have parents who have college degrees. Sure, there are people who are smart who could have earned degrees if they had the chance, yada, yada, yada . . . You can argue all you want but the fact remains that stereotypes will continue until the culture of the stereotyped changes. The non-resident students should start staying after school and work with the teachers, start becoming engaged in their learning in the classroom and outside of the classroom. From what I have seen at Jordan, many of them are disengaged and the usual excuse is transportation issues - cannot stay after school due to the bus, cannot meet for a project due to transportation. [Portion removed.]

What has occurred here is that the teachers expect more of our students because they know they are more capable, which is why a school that is not ranked in the Top 100 in the nation will have easier academics.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Gunn mom of 2 - It's more complicated than that. First, common core says algebra is for 9th grade, but that doesn't leave time to get to advanced math by the end of high school. Second, California has been pushing 8th grade Algebra for everyone for the last 15 years, and the results have been mixed. Many more minorities have been taking algebra, but the proficiency rate is terrible. Black students who took algebra grew from 24% to 60%, and Latino enrollment tripled to 63 percent. But only 60 percent of black and Latino students tested proficient in eighth-grade algebra.

So it makes sense to start tracking in 8th grade. Algebra for those who are going to be taking Calculus in high school, and pre-algebra for students who need another year of preparation.


16 people like this
Posted by Let the Measure A dollars flow!
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Wow, an "equity coordinator" for $130K! Now that measure A has passed every pet project and boutique position will fly through and get approved. I would like to see the achievement gap closed as it is a very worthy pursuit. But this district should figure out how to do this with existing resources. Why is the knee jerk reaction always to hire? We have many creative & talented people at PAUSD, someone already on staff should be able to drive this initiative forward.


4 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2015 at 8:26 pm

@Let the Measure A dollars flow!

For a change it might be good to have people outside of PAUSD with an "outside the bubble" perspective provide leadership that is grounded and substantive.


3 people like this
Posted by data?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2015 at 8:29 pm

What does "achievement gap" mean in Palo Alto? Is it only about minorities?

Reviewing the 162 graduates that failed to meet A-G requirements, 92 were white students.

Odd that nothing is mentioned about the demographic breakdown in low performing students in any of these reports.


7 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@data? - I just read the report, saw there was a data analysis committee, but there was data appendix. There are only conclusions presented. And they say "The subcommittee worked within the confines of a data system that was not structured to allow for expansive and detailed analysis of groups in aggregate nor trajectories over time." The report amounts to some feel good suggestions and anecdotes, but doesn't justify the money required. How can we know, for example, if more hours of kindergarten provides more value than more buses? If spending a million dollars really would improve outcomes, then spend it. But the report doesn't give my any confidence that there will be a real impact. Hiring more bureaucrats and administrators seems like moving in the wrong direction.


4 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2015 at 7:57 am

[Portion removed.]

Also, classrooms have flipped formats. The teacher sends you tube links and reading home. Students work in class from informations gleamed at home with or without a tutor and the teacher does sit at a desk often correcting work or waiting for a test to be finished. This is true for half my kid's classes. Tutoring does give an advantage. Maybe your kid already is out or you just missed this trend. For the entire 8th grade, my kid just sat and listened to books on tape and then did all the writing at home. No rough drafts or advice, just books on tape.

You think it is ok to go beyond state standards because Palo Alto kids are in a different gene pool and somehow superior. I am really seeing now how parent's egos have disrupted a fair education for even their own kids.


2 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2015 at 10:25 am

I hope the parents who really, honestly think they are superior because of their address or education can excuse themselves from helping in the classrooms. The words gene pool do scare me into thinking back to other groups of people who thought they were somehow better than others. I am actually almost certain that many families just across 101 may even belong to common gene pools and have common ancestors. just a guess.


6 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 28, 2015 at 11:04 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ outsider - Why wouldn't you want some students to do more than the state standard? Do you really think a single standard can accurately describe the appropriate learning for all the students in a state with a population of 39 million? If you think about it, a little educational diversity makes sense. There is no one size fits all standard or curriculum that is going to work. The state standard effectively is the minimum standard.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2015 at 2:18 pm

BTW - The State requirements for a high school diploma are:

English – 3 years
Math – 2 years including Algebra 1
Social Studies – 3 years
Science – 2 years
Foreign Language or Visual/Performing Arts or Career Tech Ed – 2 years
PE – 2 years


1 person likes this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2015 at 7:14 am

There are state standards for each grade level and each high school class. Children in Palo Alto do not need to do more work than the 39 other children in Ca to get the same exact transcript. If Palo Alto kids are so above the rest, they would realize that doing extra work for the same product is like working overtime and getting less pay. The only ones who benefit are the ones who enjoy and advantage with extra tutoring . State standards are not low. There is even a whole list of how to do labs safely, what is legal and what the chemical hygienist is responsible for. Following state standards could possibly have prevented the accident in the science room at PALY.

If there are parents that want their kids to do more than the state standards for simple a-g work because they are somehow thinking that their kids are better than the 39 million, then , no is the answer to this headline.
They want their own kids to run the same race with a huge elephant on their backs and want to attach this to everyone that competes with their kids. Projects, research, clubs volunteering , hobbies can all accommodate any outlier. This area is not all composed of outliers. Outliers and gifted kids do not benefit from more homework so even they do not need to go above the state standards for any class because they probably are working on other things already. They should be able to test out of simple a-g standards for credit and take more classes if interest.


If you are planning on bragging about the rigor at your school, the rest of the world will just feel sorry for your kid and wonder why this is still a valued idea after the suicides. .


Like this comment
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2015 at 7:19 am

39 million! oh no! I am for sure not an outlier.


4 people like this
Posted by Admin
a resident of Community Center
on May 29, 2015 at 8:45 am

PAUSD sets its expectations too low for most minorities. Of course, then they live down to them.

But the teachers and staff often show an obvious preference for Asian and Caucasian kids--ask any student.

Teachers and staff also do nothing to make sure all math and science "groups" speak English and do not exclude Spanish or English speakers. It has been reported several times that the Mandarin speakers exclude non-speakers from their research and discussion ground, and teachers do absolutely nothing to stop this. This is racist behavior on the part of the teachers, staff, and Mandarin speakers.

Teachers and staff do NOTHING to make sure Spanish speakers understand the lessons, the homework, the tests....yet they make sure Mandarin speakers do! That is discriminatory and selectionist.


17 people like this
Posted by Chinese-American
a resident of Addison School
on May 29, 2015 at 11:07 am

@Admin: All of us none-Caucasians have to try harder in life to prove ourselves. Only non-Caucasians can understand this. Chinese never had a free ride and have had to prove themselves. The Spanish speaking students just need to speak up or work harder for help.


10 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2015 at 12:10 pm

"But the teachers and staff often show an obvious preference for Asian and Caucasian kids--ask any student."

Not a current student but I disagree with this statement entirely.

"Teachers and staff also do nothing to make sure all math and science "groups" speak English and do not exclude Spanish or English speakers. It has been reported several times that the Mandarin speakers exclude non-speakers from their research and discussion ground, and teachers do absolutely nothing to stop this. This is racist behavior on the part of the teachers, staff, and Mandarin speakers."

1) This, in theory, only shows preference towards Asian students (unless you're going to argue there's a sizable contingent of caucasians who speak Chinese, which I doubt). You said teachers are also bias towards white students - evidence of that, please.
2) I have literally only ever seen this claim made on this forum. I never witnessed anything like this in my time at Paly - the closest example I can think of is when people jokingly say a phrase (repeat: phrase, with the implication it's short, a sentence at most. Nobody's really being excluded) in another language. And that language is NOT always Mandarin. If your claim is *true* why have you said nothing to the district? Surely it would be easy to substantiate claims just by sitting in on a class and seeing if this is the case (which I might ask - have you done?).


14 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on May 29, 2015 at 2:42 pm


"Teachers and staff do NOTHING to make sure Spanish speakers understand the lessons, the homework, the tests....yet they make sure Mandarin speakers do! That is discriminatory and selectionist."

As a native Spanish speaker I find this statement to be very inconsistent with what I've experienced through my kids' experiences at PAUSD so far. If anything, I've seen school administrators/teachers go out of their way to ensure that someone would be available to help those Spanish speaking parents/kids with limited English skills. I myself have been asked at the last minute to come help translate in some of these situations.

It could be that some other people (regardless of their native languages)understand things faster due to a variety of other factors: academic discipline, intellectual interest, parents with advanced college degrees, etc etc. But you cannot accuse the system or PAUSD of being discriminatory just because some people are falling behind.

Crying wolf like this just perpetuates the problem because kids grow up with a 'victimization' mindset, without even realizing that other groups like XYZ(you can fill in the blank w/ your own experiences) have experienced tougher challenges in our race-conscious society and just worked their way out of them without constantly blaming the system.


4 people like this
Posted by Once a Little Girl
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2015 at 9:02 pm

I clearly remember being punished for asking too many questions. It was only that I wanted a clearer understanding, and wanted the teachers to expand on the subjects. But they could not answer my questions and punished me for it. This continued into college, where at last I was rewarded for asking questions.

Had I not persevered, I would never have gotten that college education. Teachers do NOT understand that it is their job to answer a student's questions. They teach completely by formula--God help the child who is above that formula.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

One more year
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 691 views

Attraction to a Person Outside Your Relationship
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 592 views

 

Registration now open

Sign up for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here