News

Save the 2,008 campaign raises larger issues for Palo Alto schools

Cheating rises to the top of district priorities

Grassroots school-reform campaign Save the 2,008 served as a platform at Tuesday night's school board meeting to address broader issues underlying student stress in Palo Alto, from cheating and homework quality to student voice.

Save the 2,008 – named for the number of staff and students at Gunn High School in November 2014 following a second teen death by suicide – suggests six proposals to "undo the worst conditions of any modern-day high school – crowded classrooms, overwork at home and in AP course loads, all-day student phone use, constant grade-reporting, and rampant cheating," co-founder and retired Gunn English teacher Marc Vincenti told the board on Tuesday, wearing a large circular sticker with the abbreviation "S2K8" in red and green, the school colors of Gunn and Palo Alto high schools.

"Undoing these conditions will disperse the fouled air of stress, depression, and distrust that they bring on, so that, once again, ties between classmates, and especially student-teacher working relationships, can grow and bloom," Vincenti said.

Save the 2,008 has been praised as a common-sense action plan by many adults in the community but criticized by students as a set of well-intentioned but out-of-touch suggestions.

At Tuesday's board meeting, nine adults – mostly parents in the district – all spoke in support of the campaign, compared to three students who expressed concern about bringing more change to Palo Alto's high schools without truly understanding how the plans will affect students and staff.

"Before making decisions that have a large impact on the staff and students, try asking them what they think," said Gunn junior Chloe Sorensen. "It is so, so important. Because if you ask them about Save the 2,008, I think you'll be able to learn a lot."

Gunn junior Shannon Yang echoed Sorensen's sentiments, saying, "I would advise the board to proceed with caution tonight. Undoubtedly, Save the 2,008 is made up of ideas from good-hearted people who want us to have the best high school experience possible here in Palo Alto.

"A policy change to address culture is something the Palo Alto community needs to take gradually, especially because there are inconsistencies between the proposals and what we students need to thrive both academically as well as emotionally."

School board members emphasized that Save the 2,008 appeared on Tuesday's agenda as an informational item, meaning no action would be taken on the six proposals.

Cheating, however, rose to the top of the discussion repeatedly throughout the evening as a prevalent, serious issue that stakeholders who disagreed on other issues agreed that the district needs to address.

Save the 2,008 suggests gathering data around academic integrity, implementing ongoing education about cheating and its consequences, and drafting an honor code "framed not as a strategy for catching cheaters but as a plan for teaching integrity" to address Palo Alto's "anxious climate of cheating."

Several students cited a survey administered by Stanford University education-research group Challenge Success this spring that found only 13 percent of Gunn students had not cheated in any way in the past year. (Paly students are scheduled to take the same survey in late September, according to Associate Superintendent Markus Autrey)

Conversely, there were only 35 incidents of reported academic dishonesty in the 2014-15 school year at Paly, according to data provided by Assistant Principal Adam Paulson.

When asked by board member Ken Dauber to explain the gap between high rates of cheating reported in the Challenge Success survey, as well as the district's own Strategic Plan survey, and the small number of reported cases at Paly last year, Paly Principal Kim Diorio said that cheating goes widely underreported.

"We feel that a lot of the instances of cheating on our campus are underreported because you don't catch the students necessarily," Diorio said. "They're really good at their methods and there's a real culture of secrecy around it."

A story in Paly's student-run Verde Magazine from this April, "Ring of Dishonor: Exposing Paly's Culture of Cheating," detailed the efforts of an organized group of 20 students who had been collaboratively cheating since sophomore year.

Diorio said cheating is a "serious" problem, and a symptom of larger issues around intense academic pressure and high expectations. High-performing Paly students who take on a rigorous workload "tend to be more apt to cheat than some students who have a more balanced course load," she said.

Students who are caught cheating often say they didn't feel like they had sufficient time to do the work themselves or "they felt desperate to get the 'A' at any cost," Diorio added.

Kathleen Ji, a Gunn senior, spoke to the board earlier in the evening about the importance of addressing the pressure that students put on themselves to achieve at a high level to compete with their peers.

Dauber said, "We just don't want schools where students feel like they have to trade off their integrity versus success and performance."

Board vice president Heidi Emberling said she would like to have a future board discussion around cheating and would support convening an advisory committee to look at the issue.

Board member Terry Godfrey stressed the importance of going to the root of the problem and understanding, first, what drives cheating.

Superintendent Max McGee said out of Save the 2,008's six points, confronting the culture of cheating – one that exists not only in Palo Alto but at many other schools and environments – is of "premiere importance."

He reflected on where he last worked, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), where the students wrote their own honor code and juniors were required to take an ethics lecture series outside of class time, which included small breakout discussion groups led by seniors.

"We need to start thinking about whether we have our own academic integrity code," McGee said.

The board also discussed the importance of class size Tuesday night. Save the 2,008's first step "to sanity" in the school environment is to "shrink classes to a friendlier size, creating a closer feeling between classmates as well as stronger teacher-student ties (which can sometimes become lifelines)," the campaign's plan reads.

"Of all the ways to ease campus pressure, this is the most powerful, because it's the teacher's attention that makes each individual student feel recognized, welcomed, and inspired to learn," the plan continues. "When school life is stressful, changing the teacher-student ratio has the same transformative effect as lowering control rods into an overheated reactor core. And as teachers know, one-on-one attention is the very definition of 'differentiated instruction.'"

Gunn student board member Grace Park said that the "teacher-student bond is absolutely critical to ensuring students are not stressed at school," but questioned whether or not reducing class sizes is the way to achieve that goal.

"If you're in an English class of 35 versus a language class of 15 (students) ... the difference really isn't in the class size so much as it is in the connection that you have with the teacher, the personal connection," she said.

Godfrey said high schoolers she talked to about Save the 2,008's class-size proposal told her they would rather be the 31st student in a class they really want to take rather than miss out on it.

Emberling also pointed out that research shows that investing in smaller class sizes yields the biggest return much earlier than high school – in kindergarten through third grade.

Banning student-cellphone use at school – Save the 2,008's fourth proposal – has proved controversial with many students, but adults, too, defended the benefits of mobile technology on Tuesday night.

"If you are a kid who has organizational problems, this thing is a miracle," Board President Melissa Baten Caswell said, holding her phone. "Let's not pretend this piece of equipment ... isn't way more than just a communications device."

A relatively young board policy, adopted in 2014, does prohibit cellphone use during class instruction unless designated by teachers, and McGee said his impression is that this policy is widely followed.

Dauber said that what is most important about Save the 2,008 is that it focuses on students' everyday lives at school rather than "abstract ideas about culture" or theories about how to cut down on student stress.

It is "that centrality of the classroom and the lived experience of students at school that I think is so important and so insightful here," he said.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:35 am

>> High-performing Paly students who take on a rigorous workload "tend to be more apt to cheat than some students who have a more balanced course load," she said.

If they are cheating for grades, they are obviously not "high-performing" students. The way this is written it sounds like a defense of cheating because the kids are so over-worked. But at the same time, the kids don't want to take fewer AP courses because it will lessen their future opportunities (from the SJ Merc article).

If the kids want to have a stronger voice, they need to take responsibility for their actions and understand the simple concept that the ends do not justify the means.


8 people like this
Posted by green mom/Silvia
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:47 am

Thank you to Save the 2.008 group for continuing to think and make proposals to improve the learning experience of our youth. I have two ideas that I have not seen in any discussion yet, but that I think are great contributors to stress, competition, etc, etc. And I would like to run it by the students to hear their perspective. One:To eliminate tracks and lanes,(unheard of, in many successful countries with the best school systems). All 10th graders, for example, are capable of a good, solid curriculum in math, or physics, or geometry, or any subject. They already reached the grade they are in, so they can handle the content. Tracks and lanes bring segregation, unhealthy competition and other problems, and they really do not improve the learning process. Students are simply divided according to their perceived capabilities at a certain point in their life. I think this is dangerous. Students could join electives instead, on the subject, or with a grain of salt, an AP class, if the interest in the subject is strong. The second point, goes along the line with the first one: make campus more cooperative than competitive: fast learning students in any give subject can develop their leadership skills and attitude of service by helping/tutoring peers, and both will benefit. It is known that the highest degree of understanding and learning, is when you can teach others. Thank you for listening, just food for thought, for the coming months and years, as we rethink what we are doing with our schools.


15 people like this
Posted by crowded schools
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:56 am

"undo the worst conditions of any modern-day high school – crowded classrooms, "

The problem starts in middle school. Jordan regularly has over 35 students in 7th/8th grade math classes. Wasn't there supposed to be a 24 student policy in the district? Whatever happened to that?


12 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Great suggestions @green mom/Sylvia! And another - stop grading on a curve! Grading on a curve by definition creates competition. Develop cohorts of kids that stay together for the whole year, and grade each on their ability and effort, not how they did compared to others.


26 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 9, 2015 at 12:21 pm

I think we should start listening to the kids. Their concerns about the elimination of zero period (which were well-based in data and supported by a petition signed by a majority of students) were brushed aside by Mr. Vincenti and his group who are always so certain they exclusively have all the right solutions.

Taking intractable positions and arguing via hyperbole is not helpful, nor is it setting a good example for our kids. The kids have to live with these changes. Please listen to them, fully include them in the dialogue.

The block schedule at Gunn was a very good start, though it probably needs some minor adjustment. Thank you, Gunn staff, for respectfully including parents and students in that process. Zero period elimination was a mistake [portion removed.] Let's not make that mistake again. As students predicted, the zero period change has made scheduling less flexible and, therefore, has added stress for some students who participate in off-site extra-curriculars.

Controls on the number of AP classes kids take was also a good change. Better moderation of cell phone use might be helpful, but HOW that will work should be discussed with the kids. (I have a kid with ADHD who uses her smart phone as her primary organizer, and it helps her a lot. Mr. Vincenti, please don't take away this important tool from everyone because some kids abuse it.)It might be useful to teach the kids some etiquette and strategies for phone use--this will serve them well in adult life where cell phones are ubiquitous. High school is supposed to prepare kids for LIFE.

Cheating is a problem of ethics. That's a character problem that probably starts at home. Yes. We should teach ethics in school, but that won't be a magic bullet. Values primarily are taught at home.

We should all listen to what the students have to say. They are in high school, after all. They are at an age when we want them to make independent choices and participate in adult decision-making. Let's encourage them to do so. Mr. Vincenti, step back and LISTEN to them, please.



5 people like this
Posted by Ravi Levens
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 9, 2015 at 12:26 pm

The student voices are not being heard. Ask the students at gunn or paly and you will find that an overwhelming majority do not agree with save the 2,008. The most important voice in this issue is the one of the students and that is the one we are ignoring the most.


7 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Seems to me out of the 6 line items that "Save the 2008" advocates, the one that has universal agreement is how to solve the cheating problem. So I suggest that we put some focus and energy behind that one, as that will make a big impact on secondary school stress levels.

I'm worried that continuing to debate about the other 5 items (which are not so universally agreed-upon) will just slow down solutions around the cheating issue. We can come back to those after we address the cheating problem.

The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.


3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm

The student voices are not being heard. Ask the students at gunn or paly and you will find that an overwhelming majority do not agree with save the 2,008. In this issue the most important voice is that of the students, and that is the voice we are ignoring the most.


6 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm

It'll be interesting to see the results of the Paly survey. Diorio's statement that high performing students with a more rigorous course load are more apt to cheat and the high number of males caught cheating contrast with the findings of the Gunn survey, which found no significant difference by gender nor between students who took more AP courses and those who didn't. The survey should have also asked about GPA/grades with regards to cheating behavior, i.e. any difference between "high performing", average or struggling students. Preventive solutions, like better test administration/proctoring (including removing devices/cell phones), using more than 1 test version or randomizing question order--which a friend did while teaching a class in a third world country) and increased use of plagiarism detection tools should be relatively simple to implement.


5 people like this
Posted by Gunn Dadd
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 3:32 pm

I am skeptical about the cheating statistics. The full set of Challenge Success survey questions need to be looked at to see what they consider "cheating". And if there's information about what achievement level the "cheating" kids are at, let's see that too.


7 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2015 at 3:41 pm

To many average high school students, their phone is as vital a tool as a pen and paper. They use the calendar for homework and other scheduling. They use the reminders and notes instead of post it notes, they use the camera for taking homework and other items on the white boards. The teachers for the most part know and encourage it. These tools merge into out of school life also. And yes, to some extent, they are probably used to cheat to some extent also.

Banning phones is going to be a difficult thing to do and probably won't make a difference, just handicap the honest students.

Expecting parents to instill an honor code is not going to work. Many of the cheating is encouraged and even enabled by the parents. Many parents have cheated in their academic lives and gotten away with and don't see any reason why their kids don't do the same.

The cheating culture of course has to stop. But expecting the parents to be on the side of stopping it will not work.

This is not an American problem, but many countries have the same problem. Certain countries have had pictures of parents actively climbing walls outside exam centers to give the answers.

The best way to prevent cheating is to put strong punishments against anyone who is caught cheating, parents included. If the punishment is against the parents who will face a legal court and public disgrace, it may make a difference. Warnings to all families must be made clear and any offence treated with the utmost seriousness including public naming and colleges forewarned.


34 people like this
Posted by 13 hours days = stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

So I pulled some scary stats out of the referenced Gunn student survey of 1,594 (mostly) complete surveys.


3 hours +/- 1.15 hours homework
PLUS
1 hour of non-assigned homework
Typical 3-5 hours per night.

2 hours per weekday on extracurriculars (88% of students)
12% work for pay – avg 1 hours per day

6 hours homework and extracurriculars per weekday.
4-8 hours typical within 1 standard deviation
Include the 7 hour school day that equates to a 13 hour “work day” for kids


75% of students reported going to bed later than 11:00pm
Mean reported: 7 hours sleep per night
Research recommends that adolescents get 9.25 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night

60% Percent of All Participants Experienced Exhaustion Physical Health Problems in the Past Month because of Stress

87% of the participants reported that they cheated in some way in the past year. Most common: Working on an assignment with others when the instructor asked for individual work. Copying someone else’s homework.

Gender observations - On average:
1) Males reported significantly more teacher support than females.
2) Males reported getting significantly more sleep than females.
3) Females reported significantly more homework time than males.
4) Females reported significantly more stress-related physical symptoms than males


Would you want to "work" for 13 hours every weekday? Should we expect our kids to? What a nightmare. The only way these kids can fit it all in is to sacrifice the reported mean of 2.5 hours of sleep every night. (which is horrible for their health).

Fight back now. I don't care if your teen says they want to do it.. be a parent or teacher and do what's right for their health and well-being.


39 people like this
Posted by Under-reported?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm

It has been stated in the Daily Post today that cheating in the high schools is probably worse than we know, because it has been under-reported. The same article also claimed that the cheaters threaten "squealers" with physical harm.

I suspect another reason is that when confronted with their children's cheating, certain tiger parents pull the race card and threaten to sue. That can prevent reporting of cheating incidents. I know of two such cases in the recent past, and it has probably happened before and since then.


4 people like this
Posted by ouch
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Diorio: "High-performing Paly students who take on a rigorous workload 'tend to be more apt to cheat than some students who have a more balanced course load.'"

What data do you have that backs up singling out high-performing students for this rebuke?

I ask because my teen observed that these students are LESS apt to cheat. They take their homework assignments seriously and do the work, so don't need to cheat and don't. It's the students who put their assignments off to the end, even in the "easy" classes, who she sees trying to cut corners and texting friends for help. Googling, Challenge Success confirms this: "cheating is more common among students with lower academic performance."

I suspect that plenty of Paly students who have worked hard and done well academically, those who per you "tend to be more apt to cheat," are wondering why their principal would publicly cast a shadow over one group's integrity ever, and especially now when they are applying to college and for the military, internships, and jobs.



22 people like this
Posted by Here's why they cheat
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:25 pm

As long as students have 3-5 hours of homework per night, there will be cheating. They are just trying to survive.

How much homework do teens in other countries do?
Finland: 2.8 hours per week
Japan: 3.8 hours per week
Korea: 2.9
Germany: 4.7
Hong Kong: 6.0
US: 6.1
Singapore: 9.4
Palo Alto: 20+ hours per week

What's wrong with this picture?

Natl Education Association (NEA) Guidelines: 10 minutes per grade.
10th grade: 1.7 hours per night or 7 hours per week

See more countries here:
Web Link

Of course they are cheating. They are being asked to do 200% more homework than recommended by education experts.

Response from teachers???


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Here's a link to a cheating article at Paly from PA Weekly. Web Link And here's another from 2006 Web Link

It is interesting to see exactly what comes up when you search the PA Weekly search engine.


15 people like this
Posted by Integrity
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Most of the research on class sizes has focused on earlier years, whereas for high school, much of the research focuses on optimal school sizes. That fact has been persistently ignored, because the previous administration chose to spend the facilities bond making two larger schools rather than 3 (including Cubberly) optimally sized schools.

Our experience with teacher connection was abysmal, mostly because of a negative interpersonal relationship with special ed and district staff. You can't ever establish a positive relationship with teachers when there is someone they answer to who has no problems undermining children and families behind their backs. And of course, if kids or parents get upset, it only reinforces the prejudice and the damage.

A system that encourages cheating is a system in which the children have incentives to cheat themselves when they could be learning. Tragic.


10 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I disagree that student voices are not being heard. In the discussion of the six-point Save the 2008 program last night student were heard. In diplomatic and often eloquent language the high school reps on the board, and other student speakers, made clear that a total ban on use of cell phones during school hours that would be deeply resented if imposed.

And students, whose representatives helped shape the new bell schedule at Gunn last Spring also were heard to say that the block schedule is viewed positively by their peers for altering the pace of the school day and reducing both homework and stress.

Many other points came up in this informational discussion of the six-point program for student well-being proposed by Save the 2008. Marc Vincenti, who has worked tirelessly on this effort, finally got the feedback he has been seeking. My sense was that the board felt that many of the issues raised when Save the 2008 began had been addressed in some fashion and that consideration of further policy changes would await the results of those changes.

Except, and here I completely agree with Barron Park Dad, for the cheating problem. This may be the biggest contribution of Save the 2008, one for which we owe a large debt of gratitude to Marc Vincenti. Initially there was some skepticism from the board. But as the discussion went on, everyone who spoke to this, most convincingly Paly Principal Kim Dorio, confirmed that this is an enormously important yet difficult to address aspect of student attitudes and behavior in our schools. If we can make headway against this, it will benefit not just ourselves, but other districts desperate to find ways other than stiffer punishments to reduce the incidence of cheating.


10 people like this
Posted by 87% admit to cheating
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Jump to page 25 of the Gunn survey results to see self-reported kinds of cheating Web Link

Excerpts:
62% Admit to copying someone's homework
72% Working on an assignment with others when the instructor asked for individual work.
46% Getting questions or answers from someone who has already taken the test
24% Helping someone else cheat on a test.
16% Copying from another student during a test without his or her knowledge.

The homework and stress burden is SO high that 87% of Gunn students admit to cheating at least once in the past year.

Radically reduce homework and you will reduce cheating. Teens are just trying to survive. What a way to live.

NEA recommends 10 minutes per grade level which equates to 1.5 to 1.8 hours per night for those in 9-11 grade.


1 person likes this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Whether the California STAR tests, SAT tests, SAT subject tests, ACT tests, or AP tests, Palo Alto students have done very well. How can this be achieved by rampant cheating? It is impossible to massively cheat in these tests, in all these years.

Very sad to see a few people who are willing to resort to such incendiary tactics that smear the hardwork of thousands of current, past and future students in order to achieve their own political agenda.

We do have problems in the two high schools. But we should not condone "swift boat" or "(blank) life matter" tactics that are sneaky and/or destructive and, in the end, do not solve the problems.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@m2grs

"It is impossible to massively cheat in these tests, in all these years."

This is not what has been alleged. Of course Palo Alto students have done well on standardized tests. What's being raised is a concern that large numbers of students cut corners when they feel they need to. Is that concern warranted? If so, why do they feel they need to cut corners? Why do they perceive there's an acceptable level of risk in doing so? These would be good starter questions to address as the district and community weigh what, if anything different, to do about it.


2 people like this
Posted by ouch
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Thanks for posting the survey results.

Ms. Diorio, Gunn's Challenge Success survey results refute the proposition that the students who are the most problematic - on cheating and rigorous workload - are the high performing students who are taking the most challenging classes.

Survey results:

On the number of AP/Honors courses a student takes -- "NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE" in cheating rates.

Students taking zip to 2 AP/Honors courses report "SIGNIFICANTLY MORE" academic stress than students taking 3 or more.

Engagement? Students taking at least 1 AP/Honors course report SIGNIFICANTLY MORE behavioral, cognitive, and effective engagement and students taking 3 or more report SIGNIFICANTLY MORE effective engagement than those taking 1 or 2.

Asian students?
- Asian students: report SIGNIFICANTLY MORE engagement (behavioral, effective, and cognitive) than non-Asian students of color and Caucasian students.
- Non-Asian students of color: report SIGNIFICANTLY MORE cheating and stress related symptoms than Asian students.

AP homework loads? Buried in the report is something that relegates burdensome AP homework loads to urban myth status: on overall homework load, there is "no significant difference by ...the number of AP/Honors courses" a student takes.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 6:48 pm

@Jerry Underdal,

Cut corners on what?

Can you imagine an athletic team, say the Giants, massively cuts corners in daily training, yet continues to win championships year in year out?

Empirical test data is the most reliable indicator. It clearly demonstrate these students, as a whole, have learned well. In comparison the survey makes no sense at all.


4 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Dear PaloAltoOnliners,

It's wonderful that the community, the Board and Superintendent, our high-schoolers, and many others are taking a look at Save the 2,008.

You can read more about this community initiative, which is open to all, at savethe2008.com.

Click on "The Plan in Full" and you'll see all of our proposals—including the sixth and last, on cheating—explained in detail.

I hope many people will come and comment to the School Board.

Sincerely,
Marc Vincenti
Campaign Coordinator
Save the 2,008
— bringing hope to Palo Alto's high-schoolers


24 people like this
Posted by I'll have what he's having
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:41 pm

"Dauber said that what is most important about Save the 2,008 is that it focuses on students' everyday lives at school rather than "abstract ideas about culture" or theories about how to cut down on student stress."It is "that centrality of the classroom and the lived experience of students at school that I think is so important and so insightful here," he said."

Whenever I watch board meetings or read about them in the paper I am struck with how thoughtful Ken Dauber is. He's just unusual for a school board member. Most of them talk about their own child or wander off topic and don't have much of value to add. He always is on topic, clear, and most of all thoughtful. I usually agree with him. I wish he talked more and Camille talked less. We need more board members like Dauber.


22 people like this
Posted by no excuses
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:42 pm

As a parent of young adults, I strongly feel there are no excuses for cheating. I value honesty, ethics, and owning one's own work.
Even if aspects of "the system" may be corrupt, or encourage cheating, in the end one should avoid cheating at all costs and refrain from having tutors do one's work, for example.
We are often told how bright our high school students are, so they don't need enabling or additional clarification; they KNOW what constitutes cheating. It shouldn't be necessary to take cellphones away, use the plagiarism detection software programs and so on. Instead, there should be ONE inspiring lecture (mandatory attendance) at the start of each school term (semester, whatever) with the clear statement that one should not cheat and one should do one's own work...for the sake of integrity and taking pride in one's self and one's own work. Lead by good example and inspiring leadership. I was saddened at the cunning cheating of high performing high school students in this district, but OF COURSE it is not universal.


5 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@m2grs

"Empirical test data is the most reliable indicator. It clearly demonstrate these students, as a whole, have learned well."

I don't think anyone is challenging that these students, as a whole, have learned well, just as I don't think anyone challenges that the New England Patriots are an excellent football team. But I think there's a fair play standard that's been breached in the NFL case, title or not. The question for high-performing high schools across the country, like Gunn and Paly is whether the fair play standard is being observed in the competition for grades, awards, and college admissions.


21 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 9:23 pm

The problem is, and continues to be, the insane and destructive amount of homework given to these kids.

"Cheating" is an outgrowth of desperation. Also there is drug abuse (stimulants), suicide, cutting, and a dozen other neuroses...rampant in these schools.

We as a city are putting these kids into a desperate situation where they are being rammed and overworked like rabid dogs. Then the adults -- the source of the problem -- can posture and preen and make long cultivated speeches about "ethics" and "health".

Gunn and Paly are completely unhealthy, unhappy, and destructive schools. They are getting worse, not better.


11 people like this
Posted by Two-way Grades
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:10 pm

Well, look at what's going on in a separate school district thread at the same time. District leadership engaged in spending tons of money on a person whose sole job will be to try to make the district look good even if it doesn't deserve it, even if wrong has been done to students and their families. Appearances over substance, almost no integrity when push comes to shove and people think they can get away with it out of the public eye. These are the people who are supposed to figure out how to educate our children with integrity and solve problems like cheating? Integrity is what happens when no one is watching. Doing the right thing even if it's hard, and even if you face criticism (even undue criticism) for it. Being honest - especially not lying to oneself in order to maintain appearances and avoid facing hard truths. Is that what a communications officer will be engaged in? (No?) Apply that standard to virtually every district action and they get a failing grade. (Why can't we grade them back, and anyone who fails is out??)


3 people like this
Posted by Parent of 3
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:26 pm

Gunn Parent brings up the subject of cell phone use but is concerned that children like one of her's that has ADHD and relies on her smart phone as her primary organizer, would have it unavailable if all cell phone use was banned. Simple solution: get her a cheapo digital organizer that is not a phone. This might be a radical assumption, but wouldn't a smart phone be the perfect tool to aid in cheating? Let's try one year without any cellphones on campus.


2 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:57 pm

@Jerry Underdal, I knew you would bring up the Deflate Gate to counter my analogy.

But Deflate Gate does not apply in standardized tests. One does not compete against another person. Or a school against another school. Tests are purely objective measures. If students cut corners or do other things to avoid hardwork, they will not learn as well, and the results will show in standard tests.


11 people like this
Posted by David Cohen
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:05 am

David Cohen is a registered user.

Thank you, Jerry and Mark, for advancing the dialogue – and even using your own names here in this den of anonymity.

Regarding plagiarism detection tools, the Paly English Department began using Turnitin.com under Principal Scott Laurence. He made it clear at the time, and we have continued to tell students that Turnitin.com is first and foremost a tool for their use, and secondarily for teachers. Students may upload a file, review the exact originality report that will be generated for teachers, and withdraw the paper, edit and resubmit it without penalty as long as the final submission is not late. We want students to learn about plagiarism and proper attributions. We don't want students (or community members) to feel that our prevention strategy is based on suspicion or the threat of consequences. Suspicions still arise sometimes (with cause, after all), and consequences are still in place when plagiarism occurs. For my classes, it has made a difference: it took a long time to reach this point but I finally had a school year without a plagiarism incident. I know there are still ways to cheat on a paper without being detected, but I try to look at drafts of work to see progression, and use in-class writing to gain insights about students' baseline writing aptitude.

Other than that, I try to build student interest in the work to be done, provide assignments that are hard to cheat on or fake, make sure they have necessary time and support, and ample opportunity to raise grades if they can show improvement after a low score.

As a parent, I should probably reinforce my expectations more explicitly, more often. Yesterday's board meeting and this article provided a launching point for that discussion.


12 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2015 at 1:13 am

Does using your "real name" make your comments more credible or thought-provoking? Why are some people so caught up in knowing the real name of posters? I suspect that they simply want to judge the comments on more than the words themselves.

Personally, I think the only people who desire/demand to know "real names" are those that feel they have power to bully others, and thus want to know with whom they are dealing. And I think some people figure they will gain more credibility for their words if their name means something to someone (such as say, as PAUSD teacher).

Of course people might be more politically correct in their statements if they are identifiable, but is that really the best way to get honest commentary on what and how people feel? No, in that case, only the powerful and/or political will speak up.


8 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 10, 2015 at 7:40 am

Banning cell phone use is laughable. Kids today are mobile-first kids. They use the phones to organize, to think, and to collaborate. Banning cell phones is akin to banning pens, or making kids use slide rules instead of calculators.

Why not make them ride horses instead of drive cars? That would be perfect for Palo Alto.


6 people like this
Posted by Integrity
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 10, 2015 at 9:44 am

@Really?

Thank you for your comment. The anonymity policy has been debated here so many times, and the conclusion of the Weekly stated directly by them, you are right, the way it gets used amounts to bullying and a way for some posters to try to undermine others when they aren't willing to engage on the issues or don't have a good enough leg to stand on. The policy is clear; posters who have an issue with anonymity should pick a forum to their liking or discuss the issue with the newspaper. Under the circumstances, continuing to push the issue this way amounts to being what's called a "troll" or even bullying, and I wish (given all the history on this issue) the Weekly would moderate such behavior.


12 people like this
Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 10, 2015 at 11:44 am

Agree with Another dad - too much homework leads to cheating. These students are just trying to survive the grade deflation in PAUSD. But yes, taking too many AP classes is also an error by students. Teachers should realize that extracurriculars and community service needed for college applications cut into students' time too. There are teachers who understand the stress, and we are grateful, but there are others who dismiss that students have 4-5 other classes. Get a few unreasonable teachers, and life is Hell for the student and the family. Just because the teachers are earning six figures, doesn't mean they need to justify it by forcing our students to work harder.


18 people like this
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2015 at 11:55 am

The majority of the cheating occurs on homework assignments, yet the students continue to get good grades. What this tells me is that if you can copy homework and still get a good grade on the tests, the homework was not necessary or helpful. Reduce homework and their will be SO much less reason to cheat (and more time to adequately prepare for tests instead of cheating on them).

The other problem is that middle and high school in Palo Alto are not about learning, they are solely about building resumes for college - hence the cheating to get the grades.


20 people like this
Posted by John94306
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm

John94306 is a registered user.

How is the Paly/Gunn situation any different than any other high school in the area where most students are aiming for top colleges? 20+ hours of homework/week is probably common at many high-performing high schools.

Why? The ultimate source of most of this stress is the hyper-competitive college admissions process.
Any solution is a non-starter unless you address this issue.

For example, the mean GPA to get into Berkeley Engineering these days is a 4.5!
Web Link
And the mean GPA to get into Berkeley is a 4.2.
Web Link

So, ALL students in America have no choice but to load up and excel in honors/AP courses (and do some amazing extra-curriculars) to have a chance to get into top colleges. I don't like this, but that's the world we live in.

Potential solutions for Paly/Gunn?
1. Remove the curve. Every student in a class should be able get an "A" so long as their scores are high enough (90+). If you get a "5" on an AP test, you get an A.
2. Re-evaluate how much homework is really needed for AP/honors courses to prepare students well for the AP exams. Our AP classes shouldn't be that much different in course load compared with other top high schools.


2 people like this
Posted by Integrity
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:46 pm

@m2grs,

Your analogy doesn't hold up. If you don't practice things like sports or musical instruments, you can't do well in competition. That's a completely different scenario than asking if kids could do well on standardized tests if they engaged in gaming their grades sometimes. Completely different.

Standardized tests are not the equivalent of sports competitions. Although prepping for the tests does help, it's not like they're really all that challenging if you've had a standard education. I attended a terrible high school, pre-Internet days, didn't have homework, and didn't even know there was such a thing as prepping for the standardized tests. I showed up at the ACT's 20 or 30 minutes late, after they had started testing, was running a temp of about 104 and coughing (turned out to be the flu), and still got a perfect score on the one I showed up in the middle of and either perfect or near perfect on the others. Never prepped for SAT and got near perfect scores on those, too. The kids who attend our schools are pretty much all capable of doing well on those standardized tests like the STAR and many of them don't even take them that seriously. There is no evidence that the behavior of concern here has anything whatsoever to do with performance on standardized tests, which are themselves a dubious indicator of future academic success too.

If the concern is cheating, let's look at what's really going on, whether it is or isn't happening, not something tangential that has no concrete relationship.


7 people like this
Posted by Integrity
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:51 pm

I should have added...

Because the difference between a C grade and an A grade here can often come down to a few really arbitrary factors, one or two assignments in a field of otherwise high grades. The children can be intellectually pretty similar and have similar command of the material. Especially since our schools tend to weight things like comportment and organizational skills as heavily as command of material, the difference in grades often has little to do with whether a child learned the material or not. If some kids feel they have to game the system in order to survive, we should know that and change the system.


30 people like this
Posted by Remove the curve
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 10, 2015 at 1:02 pm

I strongly agree with this...Potential solutions for Paly/Gunn--
1. Remove the curve. Every student in a class should be able get an "A" so long as their scores are high enough (90+). If you get a "5" on an AP test, you get an A.
2. Re-evaluate how much homework is really needed for AP/honors courses to prepare students well for the AP exams. Our AP classes shouldn't be that much different in course load compared with other top high schools.

Our student population is different from most schools in the country. The curve here is brutal. Really bright kids here get B's when they'd be getting A's anywhere else. That affects whether they identify themselves as bright...and it affects their college applications. It also affects their stress level. I imagine some kids are tempted to cheat in the face of what they perceive as unfair expectations.

This isn't college, it's a public high school. Let's keep the expectations appropriate by NATIONAL standards so that Palo Alto kids will be competitive, instead of feeling crushed and exhausted before they get to the next level.

We want kids to be excited lifetime learners. A constant grind of homework and brutal curves does not support that. Reward excellent work--whether or not one or two geniuses in the class did something a little better. Comparing kids in an environment like this is detrimental...and exhausting for our children.


15 people like this
Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 10, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Yes, why not give all "A"s if the students deserve it? Some teachers are generous with "A"s but others have their egos and refuse to give out more than 3.

The worst is when the student earns a "C" in the AP class, yet earns a 5 on the AP exam. Apparently, to earn a 5 on the Calc AP, one only needs to earn 60% or so, which explains it. Still, there are other schools where students are earning an "A" AND a 5 on the exam. My child's AP Calc teacher kept pridefully telling them that they will thank him when they get to college, and that his past students are texting in class in college because they already learned it at Paly. The majority of students were struggling in his class. What's with the distorted view that it's okay to blemish their transcript so they can be grateful to him in college later? Maybe they aren't accepted into the college of choice because of their lower grade in his class!


20 people like this
Posted by Cheating?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Rules that are widely violated and not enforced by the governing authority cease to be rules in practice. If this large of a percentage of the students cheat and suffer no consequences, the most logical conclusion is that "cheating" is not really forbidden in the Palo Alto schools. The other students need to learn these same "cheating" techniques and apply them, taking away the advantage from the current "cheaters."


4 people like this
Posted by Integrity
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 10, 2015 at 4:34 pm

@Experienced parent,
Very good points. Plus, I went to a top college and the kids who came in exhausted from high school did not do well. The kids who came in and coasted in freshman year often in later years resented that they didn't learn how to knuckle down during freshman year when they had the most leeway to mess up.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 10, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Integrity and Really?


Regarding the side issue of poster identity, here's what the Weekly tells anyone who is either posting for the first time or is a non-registered poster: "We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish."


2 people like this
Posted by David Cohen
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2015 at 9:33 pm

David Cohen is a registered user.

Making insinuations about my motives and character rather than engaging around the substance of the issues simply proved my point regarding anonymity. Yes, there are times when anonymity has value in these or similar forums, but why do we have to be so anonymous almost all the time about everything? I think it degrades the tenor of interactions online and the quality of interactions in real life, since we have outlets for our more impulsive and less polite comments and can evade the need to frame the issues more thoughtfully. But since that's not the point of the thread, I'm not interested in debating the point further. Everyone's entitled to their views on that issue, and I think both sides have merit. I regret if I exacerbated an issue has been debated more than I realize in these forums, as I'm not that frequent a visitor/contributor.

Back to the main issue, there are myriad causes of cheating, and it's probably not fruitful to pursue arguments about "the" cause. I'll focus on what I can control. I'll continue talking to my own children and my students about ethics and expectations, and I'll keep doing what I can in my own classroom and among my teaching peers to continually improve the way we work with students.


8 people like this
Posted by BP dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 10, 2015 at 9:45 pm

When a large culture exists that regards cheating to be a lesser sin than not getting into that top college, it is impossible to stop it. The clear message to the honest kids is that they are suckers, since the administration doesn't do anything other than pay lip service to the problem.

How can the administration allow students to take language classes in languages that they already speak at home? With a straight face, the students says they don't speak or read the language, yet have been spending weekends the last 6 years learning it? No reality check.

Also, with groups of students sharing test questions/answers from this year, and past years. How can an honest kid compete?

Can lie detector tests be given to students?


26 people like this
Posted by ThrowingInTheTowel
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 10, 2015 at 11:56 pm

[Portion removed.]

I'm done playing by the rules. My oldest played by the rules, never cheated and got dumped on by the system: massive homework and mediocre test scores graded on a curve, testing material that was not taught in class. I always suspected something was rigged when a genius-level IQ gets B's at Paly.

Let's stop imagining that homework and cheating are separate issues. Mediocre teaching used homework INSTEAD of instruction. It is up to families to get tutors, or up to students to cheat. 87% are cheating?

That is the penalty of crappy teaching: we have to sacrifice out students integrity to survive in this district?

[Portion removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by ThrowingInTheTowel
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 11, 2015 at 12:24 am

@David Cohen,

With all due respect, you are wrong on two counts;

1)" we have continued to tell students that Turnitin.com is first and foremost a tool for their use, and secondarily for teachers. Students may upload a file, review the exact originality report that will be generated for teachers, and withdraw the paper, edit and resubmit it"

Well that is just dreamland. Very few teachers accept anything other than right-first-time perfection. Whatever policy was there in the past no longer is in use.


2) you provide "ample opportunity to raise grades if they can show improvement after a low score."

Um, no. Your grading scheme is indecipherable, and it is impossible to understand your expectations. My kid had your class, and despite insane efforts and hours spent on essays could never figure out what you expect in order to get an 'A'. The bar for perfection kept moving far beyond what you taught for writing. You are out of touch with your own capabilities with which you teach and the insane perfection you expect from your students. No amount of effort seemed to move the needle.


Not a good experience. Didn't learn how to write at all.


26 people like this
Posted by Towel Thrower 2
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 11, 2015 at 12:45 am

Parents are teaching their kids to cheat. A lot of them cheated [portion removed] and they pass on their culture of cheating to their kids. It is not seen as morally wrong, but as a way to get ahead in the world.

[Portion removed.] No matter how much cheating, copying, stealing, and lying they had to do to get here.
No matter how much they pay for someone to write those fake letters of recommendation and tutor their kids until exhaustion.
Then they lay the psychological trip on their kids that they must be better, be number one at everything or else their child will let their family down.
[Portion removed.]

Then there is the issue of drugs - amphetamine-like drugs which all the kids are taking in order to keep up with the kids who are pushed to the brink by their parents (and also sneaking these drugs), to get the highest scores no matter what.

That's how they keep up.

Wait until you get one of these former cheaters as one of your co-workers on a team, or as a intern at Stanford, where he/she has to make a life or death decision, but doesn't want to "lose face" and ask his boss or an RN before he does what he does to YOU - neurosurgery or cardiac.

Many will see how habitual cheating will affect our entire society and life.

[Portion removed.]

I'm throwin' in the towel too.


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Posted by South PA dad
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2015 at 2:19 am



Instead of trying to change a public school district, why don't parents eliminate the after school activities? If kids weren't playing club sports they would have more time for sleep and family and homework. Kids in PA aren't working harder than other high school kids, but they are participating in year round sports, tutoring and other busy after school activities. Parens, if all your kids had to do after school was complete their homework, kids would have the entire eventing free to see see friends and hang with family.


6 people like this
Posted by Integrity
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 11, 2015 at 5:15 am

@South,
The data from the district surveys show the kids arent hardly doing anything after school except homework. Sports at least are good for reducing stress and was recommended by one of the experts after the first cluster. Ours had to quit sports because of homework.


5 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 11, 2015 at 7:29 am

Unfortunately there are so many like South PADad who want their kids to have no life outside of school.

Kids need to have things in life other than school, homework, family.

How dull they will be if they have nothing but academics and family.

Unfortunately, so many sports or arts are just as competitive. There is no balance for many kids. All they do is compete against their peers to get an edge over them when it comes to competing for college places.


16 people like this
Posted by Values-based decision making
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 11, 2015 at 11:08 am

This thread is starting to get weird.

I have never had my child IQ tested, so I don't know how her intelligence "compares" in this way. She seems bright and hard-working to me, and I'm a reasonably accomplished person who keeps a close eye on my kids. She makes interesting choices. In her Junior year she opted not to take any AP classes. She did, however, take highest level math and honors classes where they were available. She might take AP Physics and Calc next year because she likes a math challenge. She feels the AP classes teach to the test too much. Her schedule with the electives she wanted didn't allow any APs that really interested her Junior year. For the most part, she didn't see any advantage in accumulating APs that don't interest her except to get a leg up in college admissions process at "certain" schools. (We all get that the College Board is a money-making bureaucracy. Right? --For those who don't know, the College Board offers SAT and AP Tests and sets all those standards. Like all bureaucracies, they are more interested in gathering funds to maintain the organization that funds their jobs than they are interested in helping students learn and grow. The cultivated image that AP accumulation builds status serves their purposes very well. Go to their web site. They love to fuel parental fears in order to get you to force your kids to run their rat race of testing.) APs are not about learning, they are about earning a seal of approval. It's a status thing that has been cultivated through strategic communications. The fire is fueled by an industry the makes money on these tests--tutoring and test prep INDUSTRIES love to make us fear that our child won't measure up on the test without their help. It is more about building a resume than about learning. People are making money on this, and our kids are paying the price.

My student has given this a lot of research and thought, and she presented good reasons for her choices. I don't know how her choices will affect her college admissions process, but these are her choices to make. She appears to be working hard, learning a lot, and has time for extra-curriculars that interest her in music, drama, and art. I'm willing to bet there's a place for a kid like her in a good college. Maybe the Ivies and UCs will reject her. Their loss.

Because she takes this approach, she can earn good grades without being tempted to cheat. She's doing work she loves at a pace that feels right for her. She's making choices that put her in a position to live her values. I admire that.

Let's support and empower students who are trying to make thoughtful, values-based decisions.


28 people like this
Posted by @SouthPADad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 11, 2015 at 12:44 pm

What you are saying sounds like what the tiger parents do: school homework, SAT studies, tutor homework, meals in their bedroom, no sports, no friends allowed, no socialization, no down time, no fun, no chance to be a kid when it is appropriate to be a kid.

What do these tiger offspring do? They go to college, get a little freedom, and take waaaay too much. OR, they get out in the work force and cannot perform as team players, make enemies, acquire no networking. Become very irresponsible. Marry and have kids to please parents, live an unhappy, unfulfilled life. Then the legacy repeats. Kids never know their dads until they have lids of their own, lather, rinse, repeat.
LOTS of resentment for parents for "stealing childhood ".


20 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2015 at 4:28 pm

The problem isn't cheating. The problem is, the school administrators and teachers are completely and utterly out of control, pushing kids with stress that is literally deadly.

How many more kids need to commit suicide, how many more kids need to become cheaters, how many more kids will become addicted to Amphetimines? How much more of this, before Max McGee and the rest of the school officials, finally, finally get a clue?

The stress is out of control. The stress is literally destroying young lives.

Some parents, like me, have already escaped. We decided that paying 24K a year for private school is less expensive than seeing our kids in the psych ward.

To other parents: PAUSD is out of control. You can't win. The district has PR agents just waiting to distract you with yet another irrelevant argument.

Just get your kids out, before they become another statistic. The change in your kids, for the better, will be dramatic.


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Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2015 at 11:29 am

In my opinion the problem with "education" is a lack of objectivity. I would favor an apprenticeship model over herding 30 or so kids into a class and treating them as a collective, rather than as individuals.

Students are not applying what they learn to real life endeavors. Instead, they are told they must obey their elders... or else....

This kills their curiosity and passion from the start.

We really need to get rid of excessive paperwork altogether. Homework, testing, and truancy laws cling to antiquated ways which have utterly fallen behind technology and the Information Age. Get rid of the Common Core nonsense!

Give kids actual projects to work on with as much freedom as possible. Have them begin real-life work at an early age. Better than feeding them lies. Better than intimidation. No more drilling information with the objective of getting an "A" or passing a class or going to so-and-so college. These are not productive goals. These are not tangible objectives.
Its the definition of a rat race which 90 percent of the population seems to believe in.

There is a major fissure between the cushy, well-financed academic fantasy world and the reality of the working world.

The only way to fight this is to stop believing in college. Stop worshiping them, stop paying them so much, abolish the degree system, remove all government funding from schools and let education function as a free market. If you continue to drink the kool-aid and believe that going to a fancy expensive college is the key to success then you have no right to complain because you're playing right along with the "game".


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Posted by ouch
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 12, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Just took another look at the Gunn survey results:

- No significant difference in cheating, amount of homework, or stress by the number of AP/honors vs. regular classes taken. Gunn students seem to be doing a good job of self-regulating - not taking too many AP/honors classes - or, like one of the posters posted, its APs/honors courses aren't harder than regular classes (some are easier).

- In fact, AP/honors courses appear to be good for Gunn students. Those taking them are more engaged and worry less about academics than students who take fewer or none.

- Gunn students have 8 free hours a day to fill with extra sleep (beyond the 7 hours average) and whatever they like to do including extra curriculars which almost all said they enjoy doing.

While 3-1/2 hours of homework a night sounds high - and is more than 10 minutes a grade - while those Gunn students are toiling over the books they are email/chat/texting (41%), social networking (36%), on their phones (30%), and/or watching TV or videos (28%) so it's not all work.

- What is really high is 41% who missed more than a day of school that month due to a stress-related health problem. This should be confirmed with info from Gunn's attendance records. If the stats don't match, something is wrong with the survey question or how the survey data was tabulated.

- Most troublesome though is the data on cheating but it is hard to understand this data. Considered cheating: "working on an assignment with others when the instructor asked for individual work." Many teachers tell students to do both, work together on the assignment in class or during tutorial i.e., ask each other questions if they are stuck, but turn in their own answers. Is it cheating when a teacher tells you it's OK?


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Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2015 at 3:37 pm

@David Cohen:

>> Making insinuations about my motives and character rather than engaging around the substance of the issues simply proved my point regarding anonymity.

I didn't see that you had any point about anonymity other than an off-topic comment that sounded a tad derogatory. Yes, the anonymity issue has been debated a great deal on this forum, and usually those demanding "real names" fit my description.

It's a little odd to come on a forum only occasionally and right off make derogatory comments about a majority of the people that posts there, don't you think?

See, if we just stayed on topic and didn't take pot shots at others we could have continued the civil discourse!


11 people like this
Posted by jet pilot
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 12, 2015 at 7:01 pm

While I don't agree completely with every point of the Save the 2008 campaign it does lay out many problems and some reasonable solutions. I believe Dr. McGee "gets it" and I don't blame the administration and teachers for the suicides. One thing which is neglected by many is that much of the pathology seen in our Palo Alto high schools is driven by the high pressure parents and the successful students themselves. Not sure we really should listen to the student voices and their parents who demand zero period classes and the mind-numbing AP classes which are perceived to confirm a competitive advantage for admission to an "elite university." Just last week a parent shared with me stories of two Asian students who were told in one case that they "must sleep outside if they don't get an A" and the other whose parent threatened to "kill them" if they didn't improve their grade. At the Gunn HS "back to school night" a couple of weeks ago I was dismayed to see three different Asian mothers stand up during the teachers' presentations to photograph the homework policy slide with their cell phones. I wish I could tell them to just love their children. America isn't China-- you'll do just as well in life going to a "second rate" college.


6 people like this
Posted by Integrity
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 12, 2015 at 7:34 pm

@jet pilot,

Wow, you can tell those 3 other mothers don't love their children because they took a cell phone picture? Seriously?

I know plenty of "Asian" parents who would do something like that because their English skills aren't great and taking a photo would let them figure out what's going on later. I know plenty of kids who are extremely stressed by difficulty with organizational skills (especially boys) and do need some help with the rules (but not the learning) until their brains mature enough that things click in on their own. In the hypercompetitive environment, many kids feel more comfortable getting that kind of help from parents rather than people at school who demonstrate every day how little regard they have for some of the children or their families. I know some people who would take a photo because a spouse asked to be filled in later. I'm sure between those photos and the hearsay you repeated (that sounds a lot like the apocryphal "I heard that's" from kids years ago), you are definitely qualified to condemn the personal relationships between those parents you don't personally know and their children.

One of my closest friends grew up with nothing but studying in a foreign country and is the most fun-loving, loving person as an adult (including with family that encouraged the success in that system -- believe me, the alternatives such as hard manual labor in a 3rd world country or not getting enough to eat are far worse). People learn, people grow. You know what doesn't help? Jumping to conclusions about people, being hyperjudgmental, scornful, and demeaning. Even if you accidentally got it right in your snap judgment, what do you think will help the most? A system that allows their children to learn and shine without feeling like they have to do so at the expense of a life, or you telling them they need to love their children based on seeing them once?


2 people like this
Posted by no excuses
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2015 at 8:15 pm

In fact, AP/honors courses appear to be good for Gunn students. Those taking them are more engaged and worry less about academics than students who take fewer or none."
A tad smug, perhaps?


1 person likes this
Posted by no excuses
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Sorry, front quote missing from above statement.

I also question self-reporting; some have an ego the size of Detroit and some may not wish to share their inner thoughts.

We HAVE seen some high accomplishing students have demonstrated sad situations, regrettably....even though some state they are above it all.


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Posted by ouch
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 12, 2015 at 8:47 pm

no excuses,

That is pulled from the Challenge Success survey results, so is not opinion or smug.

Those traits - engaged in learning and less worrying about school - are on the short list of positives we want for students and Gunn's AP/honors students do better on those measures.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Values-based decision making

Your timely comment got caught in the middle of an exchange and didn't get the discussion it merits. It takes a lot of self-confidence for your daughter to plan her education as she has, and confidence on your part in her judgement. That didn't come easily, I'm sure, but it's a goal worth pursuing. She's fortunate to have the educational resources of PAUSD at her disposal to pursue her goals, and, it would seem, the drive and ability to make use of them as she decides.

Back to the topic of cheating: It's puzzling that some posters seem to consider a statement that we need to look for ways to reduce incentives for cheating while increasing the risks of doing it as equivalent to branding all PAUSD students as frauds. It's not. We need to emphasize that the primary goal is a positive one, to encourage and promote the kind of honest, principled behavior that most students display most of the time as it is. Cheating cannot be fully stopped any more than can other negative behaviors, but I believe it can be significantly reduced. There have been lots of good suggestions in the related online threads. This would benefit all students, those who currently cheat, at least occasionally, and those who would not dream of doing it.


2 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 9:55 am

Blaming the teachers for the giant homework loads is nonsense when parents and students were the ones signing up for the heavy course load.

I want to say here that having taught my children to be ethical, I'm very angry at parents who encourage and help with cheating, and also with students who cheat. My children have the reward of knowing that their achievements are their own. They have a lot of self confidence as the result. Being a cheater builds a flawed personality that will always be at risk of exposure.

How about rewarding students who do their own work and exposing those who do not? Paly kept secret the identities of the cheating ring last year because of threats made by those students. They should not be rewarded with diplomas they did not earn.






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Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:13 am

@A Gunn Parent: "Blaming the teachers for the giant homework loads is nonsense when parents and students were the ones signing up for the heavy course load."

That's an assumptive, knee-jerk posting. Obviously, your children have been fortunate to have the easygoing teachers. We are complaining about regular lane classes, so no, we didn't sign up for "the heavy course load". Even with only 6 classes, if you get the wrong teachers, the homework is outrageous. But, agree, there are students who sign up for too many AP/honors classes.


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Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:31 am

Experienced, Perhaps you should read my comment before pasting it into yours. It says, "when parents and students were the ones. . ." If you are not doing that, my comment does not apply to you. [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:47 am

@A Gunn Parent: Who here is complaining about AP/honors class homework? Isn't it obvious that there is more homework in those classes?


6 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:57 am

Experienced, I would think it is, which is why it is nonsense to complain about it when it is the result.

But your own comment suggests that it is not the case, that non AP classes with too much homework is the problem. In the experience of my children, when they chose higher level classes, they had to budget their time for more work. When they did so, they had to cut back elsewhere, and it has been challenging at times. But if a teacher, such as the APUSH or APCalc teacher at Gunn made it very clear ahead of time that there would be massive homework, parents complained when it turned out to be true. I have heard many parents vociferously complain at Gunn parent events that their students, who were in numerous AP classes as well as other activities, had too much homework. These are the parents I am referring to. College level work is college level work.

Neither do I agree with many hours of busy work for no reason. We have not seen much of this in any of our children's high school classes. Certainly there was lots of it in middle school.


9 people like this
Posted by In the Recent Past
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:18 pm

When my son was in kindergarten, he was placed in morning class, even though I specifically requested afternoon kindergarten. I had valid reasons: he was a very physical boy who needed some play and exercise time before going into a rather academic kindergarten class.

Just as I feared, he became restless by 10:00, and the teachers had no patience for it. I got called in for conferences once a week. Finally, I volunteered in the classroom to see what was going on: the class was overcrowded, and was moved to a room without a restroom, but the children were not allowed to go to the restroom when they needed to: a teacher had to lead them by the hand, IF one of them had time ( they did not).

If boys cried in class, they had to stand in the corner, face in. Girls who cried were cuddled and rocked in the rocking chair ( they had time for this, but not the restroom?).

Finally, the teachers, district psychologist, and principal insisted I put my son on Ritalin or one of its newer , more expensive derivatives. That did it! I took him out of PAUSD out of fear of bad things to come. Turns out I was right.... We dodged a bullet.


2 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:13 pm

What PAUSD school still had morning and afternoon kindergarten "in the recent past?" Over-crowded classroom? Where and when was this really?


4 people like this
Posted by In the Recent Past
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2015 at 8:18 am

In answer to your question, El Carmelo, 1999.


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

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