News

Palo Alto teachers agree to use online homework system

Proposed new contract gives 4.5 percent raise and requires middle and high school teachers to use Schoology

Palo Alto Unified School District's secondary school teachers would be required next school year to use online school management system Schoology to post all course information, homework and grades under a tentative contract with the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) that is coming to the school board for discussion Tuesday night.

The new requirement regarding Schoology follows the airing of a grievance the teachers union filed against Gunn High School Principal Denise Herrmann in November, accusing her of violating the union contract by asking all teachers to use the online tool to post homework.

The grievance alleged that Herrmann violated Appendix C, Section 1 of the union contract, which states that "In order to provide readily available and inclusive access to learning expectations, secondary teachers are expected to electronically post homework assignments, instructional materials, and test and quiz dates ... in a timely manner."

The grievance was resolved after Herrmann clarified to Gunn teachers that she was asking, not demanding, that they use Schoology. School sources said the debate over Schoology continued to be a major sticking point in union negotiations throughout the school year, with the district insisting on the new mandatory language.

According to a district-prepared summary of new provisions, the new contract requires all secondary teachers to use Schoology to post their course syllabus, instructional materials, assignment handouts, graded homework assignments and assessment due dates. Test and quiz dates would be posted on the Schoology calendar, with the exception of pop quizzes, according to a staff report on the new contract.

Posting of assessment, test and quiz results will be required at least every three weeks, according to the staff report.

The new contract language itself has not been released by the district because the union had not yet approved it, which was expected prior to the start of Tuesday's board meeting.

The tentative agreement, which the district and teachers union arrived at after more than six months of bargaining, also includes a "memorandum of understanding" that establishes a transition period for teachers currently using websites they created on their own to post their class materials, according to the staff report.

This was a point of contention in negotiations before the grievance was filed, with the union offering Herrmann what PAEA President Teri Baldwin called a "compromise" in that links to teachers' external websites could be posted on Schoology. Herrmann later called this idea a "step in the right direction," but one that doesn't take advantage of the "power of the Schoology software" -- particularly a calendar feature -- to provide students and parents a full picture of their school loads.

"Teachers may post links to their websites on Schoology but will still be required to post homework assignments, assessment dates, and test/quiz dates on the Schoology calendar during this time," the staff report reads.

The district will provide ongoing teacher training on Schoology, which some have described as clunky and not user-friendly, and will create a committee of teachers and district staff to "explore the various learning management systems currently available," the report reads.

The new contract includes a range of other provisions, including a 4.5 percent increase to the 2013-14 certificated salary schedule, retroactive to July 1, 2014, and a .5 percent one-time "off schedule" increase. The salary increase is negotiated every year, so a new contract negotiation in the fall will determine pay levels for next school year and, if implemented as in the past, will be retroactive to this July 1.

If the contract is ratified, the district will also launch a two-year pilot program for district-collected student input into teacher evaluations at the high school level. Another memorandum of understanding commits the district to forming a committee of teachers and district/site staff to discuss working conditions for both special education and general education teachers in the areas of prep time, training and caseloads.

The new contract will be up for discussion at the board meeting Tuesday night, and then officially ratified at the board's June 9 meeting.

In other business Tuesday, the board will take action on a new proposed bell schedule for Gunn, hear a report from the superintendent's minority achievement and talent development committee, discuss a series of recommendations regarding Palo Alto High School's proposed new $42 million gym project and certify the results from the May 5 special parcel tax election. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by student input
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 26, 2015 at 8:46 am

"..the district will also launch a two-year pilot program for district-collected student input into teacher evaluations at the high school level. "

Why isn't this extended to Middle School level?


38 people like this
Posted by finally!
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2015 at 9:18 am

Can't believe this took so many years to accomplish - nice job Dr. McGee!


13 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2015 at 9:25 am

So what's the bottom line. How much taxpayer money is this going to cost? And interesting it's just for one year. Count on it costing more next year. So to get them to use sociology we give them money. Nice play teachers.


21 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2015 at 9:34 am

This is fantastic news. So they will post grades on Schoology too so does this mean they will no longer post grades on Infinite Campus? Will Schoology's grades be just as detailed as IC's?

Knowing their grades will help alleviate stress for our students. It's so helpful to students to be able to view their grades so they know where to improve instead of having to find time to talk to teachers who are not always available.

The P.E. department notoriously does not post grades. Yes, one would think P.E. would be an "easy A" class, but my child got a "B" for not making up 3 class periods which were missed from illness (excused absences). And we weren't warned that this would occur (no course syllabus). In addition, Dance is not an "easy A" and my child got a "B" which came out of nowhere. This an athlete with a great attitude who is a hard worker. Why should our students have to stress out over not getting an "A" in a P.E. class when traditionally, everyone who does the work and has a good attitude earns an A?


31 people like this
Posted by wow
a resident of College Terrace
on May 26, 2015 at 9:55 am

Like General George Patton said, "Liberal Democracy" is the devil! Whatever happened to a teacher just being able to post homework on the board and the kids were RESPONSIBLE to write their homework down. Or how about if you are wondering about your grade you actually get up the courage to go ask the teacher in person how your grade is and if grade is not good what he or she has to do to get the grade higher. Of course that would take social skills which is way to much to ask of the youth of today.

The easier we make things for the kids and all the excuses we make for them the more we keep enabling and ruining the kids of today!


11 people like this
Posted by Another parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 26, 2015 at 10:02 am

Why is the special ed review only a self review? It seems to me that's where we need truth and reconciliation effort. Especially because the same employees are involved in mental health counseling. Many of them, having gone down the slippery slope of lying in student records, lying to families, then lying to themselves so they don't have to confront the stain on their consciences, are too far gone to do the right thing anymore by our depressed students.

If any area should be subject to some investigation into student and family feedback and experience, it's special ed. If the teachers see the leadership is sincere about truth, they might be willing themselves to speak up.


21 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2015 at 10:04 am

Finally, a way to actually measure the homework load. Now maybe, the will be more than just a Homework Policy.

Under Skelly, it seemed as if there were lots of discussions but very few actions. At least some decisions are made now.


43 people like this
Posted by PO'ed
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 10:49 am

This makes me sick. So all it took for teachers to do something that should be part of their job and something in the well being of our students was a new contract with a 4.5% raise. [Portion removed.] So glad to see those Measure A dollars being put to such good use already, NOT!

What makes me so sad is from our experiences of being part of PAUSD we have encountered many good teachers who deserve every cent they get and more. But we have encountered just as many average to below average teachers who are probably the ones fighting schoology use and not worthy of any increase. Yay for unions!


32 people like this
Posted by Rajiv Bhateja
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 26, 2015 at 11:26 am

I have been lobbying the School Board to implement this since the InClass days (circa. 2003).

Major credit for this goes to Dr. Hermann. She was the one that brought this to a head, resulting in this change. The School Board members who sat on their hands all this time, waiting for the "light bulb to want to change" should hang their heads in shame at the thousands of students who were deprived of this due to their inaction.

The PAEA is to be commended for coming around to this.

Thanks to those who helped make this happen.


17 people like this
Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on May 26, 2015 at 11:45 am

So much drama, my dear Palo Alto. Just because the article includes the Schoology issue doesn't mean it was tied to raises, there are lots of issues covered in contract negotiations but reporters need to find a story and hey - commenters in Town Square just eat it up. Grab 2 pieces of information and slap them together and suddenly you have cause/effect, you know everything, like there weren't other issues that might have been part of a larger problem with the technology or like there weren't a whole bunch of parts in contract. Just assume the worst though. Throwing around words like "extortionist" is what makes me sick, more than the idea that some teachers were slow adopters or had issues with technology. It's probably a good thing to get last holdouts on board doing the same thing as most of their staff, but wow- we need to get a grip.


17 people like this
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 11:59 am

Genes and money -- not skilled teachers -- make Palo Alto Schools' reputation. [Portion removed.] So glad that my own son and daughter are long out of these schools.

Teachers, like all of us, should be accountable to their managers. Bottom line. That's why they make their inflated bucks.


31 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2015 at 12:02 pm

@wow: That was two decades ago prior to technology when teachers stayed after school, college admissions were easier, there was less homework and more free time. Schoology allows those who have missed class to find out the homework. Schoology helps students be responsible too. Students nowadays have to be much more responsible than back in the day. College admissions are brutal now. Just ask your grandkids what it takes to be accepted into UC Berkeley and UCLA today versus in 1975 - it'll blow a brain artery. One even needs a 4.05 GPA to be accepted into UC Santa Barbara. I suggest you ditch your rotary phone and buy a smartphone.


22 people like this
Posted by Been There
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Teacher evaluations are much needed! Thanks, Max McGee! Its so unfair that one class can be exceptionally rigorous while students in the same subject next door are hardly lifting a finger. Please be sure they are administered by someone other than the teachers, otherwise students will not be honest if they know the teacher can read their negative evaluation.

As far as using Schoology, it's about time!


23 people like this
Posted by PAUSD High School Teacher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm

PAUSD High School Teacher is a registered user.

@Concerned Retiree: Thinking about why students are successful - you indicated that it was about "genes and money." That's a fairly fixed mindset and one that most folks find doesn't yield much besides bitterness and disappointment.


7 people like this
Posted by Changing world
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2015 at 1:14 pm

"Just ask your grandkids what it takes to be accepted into UC Berkeley and UCLA today versus in 1975 -"

All it takes is to move out of state:
In State Admission rate, percentage of California applicants admitted for 2014 as freshmen (from Mercury News)
UCLA 16%
Berkeley 19%
San Diego 30%
Irvine 33%
Santa Barbara 37%
Davis 38%
Santa Cruz 54%
Riverside 57%
Merced 66%


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 26, 2015 at 1:50 pm

@Changing world, I spot checked freshman admissions data for Berkeley.
Average GPA in-state 3.89, out-of-state 3.92
Average SAT in-state 2124, out-of-state 2171.
Average ACT in-state 32, out-of-state 33.
Looks like out-of-state students need to be better than in-state.


8 people like this
Posted by One Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 3:10 pm

I've used the name Another Parent here in the past, but it got hijacked by the above joker, who accuses teachers of all sorts of bad behavior. Please don't hijack people's names. And please don't accuse our teachers of such extreme behavior when their union has clearly let them down recently by rebuking the Gunn Principal for no reason. Badly done Baldwin. Please enter the negotiations with a spirit of cooperation in the future.


7 people like this
Posted by anony mouse
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2015 at 3:26 pm

@ student input:

"Why isn't this extended to Middle School level?"

Because a 12-year old will give that Big Old Meanie Teacher a bad review if they are not allowed to sit next to their bestie in Science class or are disciplined for not following directions or talking when they should be listening to instructions.


7 people like this
Posted by student input
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 26, 2015 at 4:07 pm

@anony mouse,

Way to exemplify why our students feel they aren't being heard.
You should run for the school board, you'd fit right in.


19 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 26, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Thank you so much Dr McGee and Dr Herrmann!!

This is looooong overdue, as is the MUCH needed standardized and centralized student input for teacher evaluations.

Yes!!


16 people like this
Posted by Just another teacher
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 26, 2015 at 6:11 pm

@ One Gunn Parent

The teachers are the Union, it isn't just Baldwin as you say. And how do you think the Union executive board heard about the contract violations in the first place? From us, the teachers who saw our contract being violated and asked our Union Representatives for help. If you dislike the union, then you dislike the teachers, because we are one in the same.

Also, we were informed about negotiations during the year and it wasn't Schoology that was holding things up, it was the union negotiations team trying to get contract language on Full Inclusion and keeping the class sizes down, getting students and classrooms adequate support and much more. Unfortunately they weren't able to do that, they were only able to get a commitment for a committee. I am grateful for their effort though, because students and teachers need the supports they were fighting for. Another fact, the union didn't tie the raise to Schoology, the district did.


2 people like this
Posted by new to PA
a resident of College Terrace
on May 26, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Does this system allow parents to check grades? I cannot imagine, when I was a teen, how it would feel to have my parents lording over my schoolwork. A system for kids is great but parents should not be able to access this.


8 people like this
Posted by Dislike PAEA, not teachers
a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 26, 2015 at 8:44 pm

We have some fine teachers and we have some lemons, PAEA can't claim them all. The secondary folks using Schoology only was agreed to because they were given a huge raise, and the raise was only given to them because the parcel tax increase passed, even though we were led to believe that one had nothing to do with the other. Now our principal and all the principals will get a me-too raise. Not every teacher should get this raise, not every principal should get this raise. The board was right: we are all in this together.


5 people like this
Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Geez, anony mouse, give our students more credit. Most are not so immature.

New to pa: Yes, parents can access the grades on both Infinite Campus and Schoology, which does make it difficult for students with Tiger parents. Yet, for those with good relationships with their children, it's no big deal. Even if parents weren't given access, the Tiger parents would force their children to share the password. Some teachers don't use Infinite Campus precisely due to parental pressure, but IC benefits the students tremendously except for those with a Tiger parents.


13 people like this
Posted by JLS/Paly Parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Major kudos to Dr. McGee and to Principal Hermann. This should have happened years ago - yet another example of the board (not including Godfrey and Dauber) and our prior superintendent dithering instead of taking action.

The next thing I'd love to see happen: extending enforcement of the homework policy to honors and AP classes.

I am looking forward to the 2016 school board election and hope to see a slate of candidates who will take the thoughtful, evidence-based, change-oriented approach that Dauber has demonstrated this year.

As for the PAEA, I believe strongly that - in this community in particular, which tends to view teachers as hired help - the union is 100% necessary. At the same time, the union's tone deafness and horrible communications strategy has been staggering to watch. Please, PAEA, get yourself better advisers who can do more to get your real message across, which, in my view, is an honorable, highly child-focused message.


20 people like this
Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 26, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Thank you Dr Herrmann for your vision and courage!


5 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 26, 2015 at 9:34 pm

@One Gunn Parent,
I have used "Another Parent" in the past, too, if you want to claim an anonymous tag REGISTER UNDER IT, don't call other people names for inadvertently using such a common one and not knowing you used it before.

Secondly, if you want to call people names READ THEIR POSTS FIRST. Maybe even read the entire article, it's not all about Schoology. You said, "please don't accuse our teachers of such extreme behavior when their union has clearly let them down"

I wrote:
"Why is the special ed review only a self review? It seems to me that's where we need truth and reconciliation effort. Especially because the same employees are involved in mental health counseling. Many of them, having gone down the slippery slope of lying in student records, lying to families, then lying to themselves so they don't have to confront the stain on their consciences, are too far gone to do the right thing anymore by our depressed students.

If any area should be subject to some investigation into student and family feedback and experience, it's special ed. If the teachers see the leadership is sincere about truth, they might be willing themselves to speak up."

I was commenting on:
"Another memorandum of understanding commits the district to forming a committee of teachers and district/site staff to discuss working conditions for both special education and general education teachers in the areas of prep time, training and caseloads."

You clearly do not understand anything about special ed, what is wrong in our district. I was not criticizing teachers.


11 people like this
Posted by Happy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2015 at 9:49 pm

>> Another fact, the union didn't tie the raise to Schoology, the district did.

Of course, the teachers would have taken the raise and continued to refuse to use Schoology. Sad they had to be bribed to do the right thing.

When tenure is eliminated I look forward to getting rid of the bad apple teachers (who I believe are in the minority).

Great work Dr. Herrmann and Dr. McGee!!!


22 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Green Acres
on May 26, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Great job Drs. Herman and McGee! Your leadership is impressive.


14 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 27, 2015 at 1:26 am

@Happy,
If the district were smart, they would do what other agencies do. Cap the amount any teacher can make without giving up the security. They can keep tenure, but only if they forego the big bucks....


5 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2015 at 8:07 am

I've missed something. Why do we need homework at all?

Work smarter, not harder, you work a 9-5 your not taking work home. How does homework that takes you out of the family unit, social events ect. Prepare you for life? I've never sat in a board room and thought, gee if only I did more homework.

I think schools need to dump the crap classes that clog schedules and get back to teaching core subjects. If you can't get your message across in a period, you fail as a teacher. It's not my job to have my kid spend hours at home doing homework after spending 8 hours at school. Family first, life second, schoolwork third.

University of Auckland is a good school. We will pay international fees for our kid to attend, cheaper than UC and not crap classes like basket weaving with 450 other students. 30,000+ kids isn't a university that's is designed to excel little Benny or Sally. Their basically corporations and you son and daughter represent a unit valued at $20,000-$40,000 year. Once mandatory accommodations in their housing is factored in".............stop being sheep america!!!!!!


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 27, 2015 at 12:32 pm

@Bunyip, in boardrooms it's obvious when someone hasn't done their homework.


6 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2015 at 1:54 pm

So does this mean that for teachers to use chaulk on a blackboard that there has to be a contract item negotiated by their union authorizing them to do so?

Clearly the teachers do not see themselves as employees, like people in the real world who pay their salaries.

What a sick, sick, place!


15 people like this
Posted by full story
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 28, 2015 at 7:19 am

SkepticAl has it correct.

McGee deserves very little credit here. He just arrived. PAEA and HR have been crafting this transition through years of negotiation. The vast majority of PAEA has no problem with Schoology, but a strong group of teachers correctly point out that they invested years in building their own homework communication while district IT leadership was sadly lacking (given our silicon valley heritage).

As for posting grades via Schoology, that's just plain incorrect. IC will continue to be the parent/school conduit.


Like this comment
Posted by correct
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 28, 2015 at 8:55 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Like this comment
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 28, 2015 at 9:53 pm

To support six, simple stress-lowering measures at Gunn (and Paly), consider joining the 345 signers of our "Open Letter to the School Board and Superintendent."

Our signers include a multitude of Palo Alto parents, grandparents, kids, alums, doctors and lawyers and professors, LMFTs and faith-leaders, artists and a yoga master and the Chief Health Strategist at Google.

To read the letter and consider adding your name, please visit:

www.savethe2008.com

Signing deadline is next Monday, June 1st, for publication in the Weekly next Friday.


3 people like this
Posted by Student at JLS
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Yaaaaaaay. Now my teachers will finally be required to post HW on Schoology.

:-D


4 people like this
Posted by protest
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 31, 2015 at 7:21 pm

I guess this explains why PEA protested against Dr. Hermann urging the Gunn teachers to use Schoology; they didn't want to give up a valuable bargaining chip. Disgusting.


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

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