News

Panel: Stepping off the college admissions treadmill

Speakers share ideas for redefining the college-entry process

Than Healy, head of school at Menlo School in Atherton, asked those who came to hear a Nov. 15 discussion about college admissions to stand if their children had been experiencing "dangerous levels of sleep deprivation, non-ordinary difficulty with emotional regulation," or had "dropped a class or activity they cared deeply about because it wouldn't fit with their idea about what colleges want."

Much of the crowd stood.

"If anyone in our child's life came along and said they'd try to deprive them of health, vitality or happiness we'd fight like crazy, as parents, to prevent that," he said. Instead, by hiring tutors, enrolling students in test prep courses, and hiring outside admissions counselors, "I think we're complicit" in amplifying the stress, he said.

Alluding to the old story that says a frog that would immediately jump out of boiling water won't notice a gradual rise in temperature in time to escape death, Healy noted: "I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that the frogs in our community are boiling, and it's sad that some of them are dying."

Families seem to believe their children need to get into a selective elementary school in order to get into a selective middle school in order to get into a selective college "in order to end up with a selective life," he said. "That's as bizarre as anything else, and yet nobody wants to get off the treadmill first," he said.

The panelists Healy was introducing, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, Harvard educator Richard Weissbourd and Challenge Success founder Denise Pope, had some ideas about how to power off the treadmill. They were part of a Common Ground program called "Turning the Tide: Redefining the College Admissions Process."

Common Ground, a coalition of 31 local schools with 15,000 families, sponsored the program as part of its 15th anniversary celebration

Different definitions of success

Pope said somehow students no longer seem to have the same definitions of success that their parents do.

She says that when her organization asks parents how they define success for their children their top answers are: happiness, fulfillment and a good spouse.

Ask their children, and the answer is quite different: "The first thing they say is money, and college and test scores and grades," Pope said.

Weissbourd said other studies have found the same thing. In one, 50,000 students were asked to rank the importance of being a caring person, being a happy person and achieving success. Nearly 80 percent put achievement or happiness first with only 20 percent choosing caring as most important.

"We are concerned about the messages that kids are getting from adults about what matters in life," he said.

Concerned enough that he authored a report titled "Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good Through the College Admissions Process."

The report, which has been endorsed by officials from 120 colleges and universities, suggests changes in the college admissions process that could emphasize the importance of caring for others while giving students who can't afford tutors or counselors or expensive foreign community service projects a chance to get into competitive colleges.

"You don't really need to go to Costa Rica or Belize," he said. Doing service with a group, not for a group, should be emphasized, he said. "It's the quality of service" that should count, he said.

Among the suggestions in the report are giving students who spend time working to help support their families or providing care for siblings or ill family members credit for that "service." The report also suggests limiting the number of extra-curricular activities students can put on an admissions application to three or four, and limiting the number of advanced placement classes students take to five or six.

The report suggests schools should look at historic data about how well achievement tests such as the SATs predict whether students will succeed in their school, and then use that information to de-emphasize, or eliminate, the use of test scores for admissions.

Acting collectively

"The only way to stop an epidemic is by acting collectively," Weissbourd said. "This is a way that schools and parents can really stand up."

Childhood is not a practice for adulthood, he said. "Adolescence is this incredible time. It's this wonderful time in life and we are turning it into a treadmill."

The risk you're taking by choosing to step off the treadmill "is maybe ... our kids will get into a good state college and not a highly selective college."

The reality is, only about 4 percent of students go to a selective college and less than 1 percent go to a highly selective college, Weissbourd said.

Bruni, the author of "Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be," said parents and students put far too much emphasis on the value of getting into the most prestigious schools.

But taking a look at the biographies of successful people often shows that what they have in common "is not diplomas from fancy schools," he said.

Instead, he said, the schools that aren't prestigious often aren't even mentioned in a biography. He used Ted Cruz, who went to Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and Marco Rubio, who attended a community college, the University of Florida and the University of Miami School of Law, as an example.

Both, he said, ended up "in the same place," the U.S. Senate, Cruz representing Texas and Rubio, Florida.

Good at getting in

Bruni said that as a visiting instructor at Princeton University he had students whose classroom work was not as good as the essays they wrote to get into the class. "They are good at getting into things," he said, but seem to believe "you rally your energy to get through the door and what happens in the room matters much less."

Some companies, he said, are now avoiding hiring the graduates of the most selective schools "because they want people who will work hard and humbly." Employers say, he said, they "don't want to deal with that sort of entitlement anymore."

Pope said avoiding the treadmill is the parent's choice. "If you want what's best for your child, if you truly want them to be successful and fulfilled ... you ultimately have the power," she said.

A good fit

Look for schools that are a good fit for a child and that they know they "have a pretty good chance of getting into," she said, and "things get calm."

"You shouldn't have a school on your list that you're not really excited about," she said. Give your children the message that "in our house, we value well-being more than status and (school bumper) stickers."

What's really important, she said, is to "create human beings who will serve to create a better world."

****************

Additional resource

Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success -- A free website and set of online tools designed to inform students as young as ninth graders, who may not have access to college advisers, how to prepare for college.

Nearly 100 colleges and universities have agreed to accept the website's applications for the 2017-18 school year.

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Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

Happily, there is a plan RIGHT NOW in Palo Alto to help students and families step down from his academic treadmill and resume a saner, safer life.

As panelist Richard Weissbourd said: "The only way to stop an epidemic is by acting collectively."

Well, collective action is available NOW in Palo Alto and is already underway, though the community alliance Save the 2,008--now supported by 548 parents and teachers, therapists and faith leaders, Stanford professors and PAMF physicians, engineers and scientists, business people and attorneys, artists and musicians and authors.

Founded two years ago by a Gunn sophomore girl and a former English teacher, and christened for the number of students and faculty at their hard-hit school, Save the 2,008 makes six proposals to create a healthier school climate through commonsense changes in the areas of class-size, academic fraud, school-day use of social media, homework- and course-loads, and grade-reporting.

With just the keystrokes of your name, you can add your voice to this chorus for change, at: savethe2008.com.

"If anyone in our child's life came along and said they'd try to deprive them of health, vitality or happiness," said panelist Than Healy, "we'd fight like crazy, as parents, to prevent that."

Join the fight; join Save the 2,008.


28 people like this
Posted by Concerned Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Please don't blame the teachers.

I have far too often than I would like to admit been part of or listening in on conversations with parents in this area who seem completely obsessed with their child's potential admission to a top college. It is as though nothing else is important; that they are missing out on fun activities, that they are addicted to drugs, that they are not showing any signs of being able to use common sense, that they are not nice to strangers, that they are possibly suicidal... All these potential side-effects are relatively inconsequential. I am embarrassed and concerned to be a parent in this area. How is it that so many other parents go beyond turning a blind eye to this problem and actually perpetuate and intensify it?

The other day, I heard several parents debating the best plan for a 9th grader... The conversation seemed to involve different strategies for taking a combination of advanced classes, the "proper" extra-curricular activities (not the ones that could best enrich the child's life or that they would enjoy the most but specifically which the colleges view most favorably) and which college prep advisor type would be of most help. I seized a moment of silence to ask the child what they wanted to be when they grew up. This child said "I don't know." I said that in 9th grade, a student typically wouldn't know yet and not to worry too much about it. I even offered the possibility of delaying college if they weren't ready after graduating from high school.

That comment seemed not to be appreciated by the other parents, despite research suggesting that a gap year is often helps students do better in college and often much better once they join the workforce after college.

Parents: It's OK if your child does not go to the best college. And it's actually OK if they don't go to college right after graduating from high school. And it's even OK if they never graduate from college. There are different paths in life. Is it worth sacrificing everything else in your child's life to make sure they get to a top college? Really?


14 people like this
Posted by Bernadette Clavier
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:04 pm

"Collective action" is the keyword of this article. Our first child was very vocal about what the right college fit was for him and it did not include any notion of prestige. It was all about having mentors and discussion type classes where he could exchange with others. This didn't rhyme with Ivy league. Now in his Junior year, he is very happy, learning tons, and being very successful. Our son wasn't susceptible to social pressure. He charted his own way. For our second child, the pressure is constant. Even though as a family we feel totally comfortable with unconventional approaches to education, the pressure comes from the environment. The power is not totally in our hands as parents but it certainly is in the hands of the community as a whole. I appreciate Save the 2008 to organize the Palo Alto community: a much needed effort!


11 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:26 pm

Cruz and Rubio as role models?!


11 people like this
Posted by Another mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Totally get it. This can be taken way too far. See Gunn today. Remember the days of Musgrave, Thornberg, Dayle, Saults, Farrell, Adcock, Little?! They loved teaching, and students loved learning.

Today?! Mid-west mediocrity and personal agendas.

Change!


4 people like this
Posted by A Father!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Yawn!!

Really, Palo Alto?

You need someone else to state the obvious?

Cf, Frank Bruni, or Shakespeare, for that matter.


102 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:50 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

Richard Weissbourd has degrees from Stanford and Harvard, Denise Pope has 2 from Stanford and 1 from Harvard, Bruni UNC and Columbia. Having a group with that kind of pedigree on stage saying don't worry about college admissions is like getting Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Elon Musk to tell the poor not to worry about money.


50 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2016 at 5:56 am

I agree with @concerned Palo Alto parent.

Right now at Paly, a group of parents are trying to change a long held way that GPA's are reported. Many are furious,
yelling out at school board meetings, forming angry e-mail groups, Facebook groups & who knows what else.

It is so sad for our kids. It is the parents here in Palo Alto. The school only reacts to the pressure of the loudest
group of hyper competitve parents. The school tried to mitigate some of this by reporting unweighted GPA's on
the transcripts........

I think that many people are hesitant to even contradict these angry parents. They are so aggressive, "smart"
and competitive. OK, hyper-competitive parents...and go. Tell me why I am completely wrong, and don't forget
to make me feel really stupid.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2016 at 7:37 am

It has to start with putting pressure on colleges. I have no objection to their academic base lines, but expectations of things like community service are making kids (and their parents) take on much more than someone of their age can realistically be expected to do.

I would like to see the colleges value things like after school jobs, family involvements and activities that are not challenge orientated as being a worthwhile activity for prospective incoming students.

When it comes to equally academically qualified students, the colleges should be spreading their acceptances around rather than the same students getting multiple offers and others getting rejected.


11 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Lite
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 7:51 am

The new leadership's rash rush toward uniformity (and mediocrity) would be laughable if it weren't appalling.


34 people like this
Posted by sara
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2016 at 8:07 am

@anothermom--"Mid-west Mediocrity" is how you describe teachers? That's an elitist judgement if I ever heard one. I grew up in the Midwest and I long for the generosity and caring of people there. Many people who live in the "flyover states" have a better idea than those in Silicon Valley as to what is important in life.


13 people like this
Posted by Another mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 8:14 am

Sorry. To clarify, we have had very good experiences with our kids' teachers; they're the ones spending time in the classroom teaching and modeling ethics along with academics. I, too, appreciate the generosity and caring you note. They deserve our gratitude. Those not in the classroom passing judgment and, sometimes, making policy, are what I question. Thanks for helping me see the imprecision in my late-night note.


37 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2016 at 8:23 am

Another is a registered user.

"Resident" is right. The simple reason why high school students strive for bulletproof resumes with perfect GPAs and intense extracurricular activities is because the elite universities' admissions committees reward this behavior. Also, because elite universities reserve a significant proportion of their coveted spots for rich donors and alumni children, this means that the number of spots awarded based solely on applicants' achievements is even smaller than you'd think.

Another factor making things even tougher for the many Asian American students here in Palo Alto is the well-documented bias against Asian applicants (read "The Price of Admission" Web Link or this Wall Street Journal article Web Link).

I do think we as parents can try to reduce some of the pressure on our children by reminding them that getting into these elite universities is not the make-or-break determining factor in their lives as many seem to view it as. As I'm sure we've all seen as adults, out in the real world, whether that's the business world, government, the arts, or wherever, there are many, many people from non-elite schools who have achieved enormous success and also many Stanford and Harvard graduates who have not.

At the same time, I wouldn't be too quick to get angry at those families who are just trying to navigate a college admissions system that is inherently biased in often unfair ways and that promotes narrow definition of achievement.



7 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2016 at 8:36 am

Another is a registered user.

Oh yes, and one other thing. I mentioned "enormous success" in my last post, by which I meant traditional measures of career success, like money, titles, awards, power, etc. But striving for that is questionable as well. Who's better off, the centi-millionaire who's always worked 70+ hours/week, rarely spends time with their children and spouse, or the single-digit millionaire with a less demanding job who talks to their kids and spouse every day, has time to coach their kids' sports team, and is in general, under a lot less stress?

I see the allure of both outcomes, but I know I'd choose the latter. And those of us who do choose the latter are setting an example for our children that family is important and that a total focus on achievement at the expense of everything else is not necessarily a healthy way to live.


25 people like this
Posted by local business owner
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2016 at 9:11 am

As a local business owner in expansion mode, I am soon going to be hiring high school students for part-time jobs. I must admit that if I see "Palo Alto" on their resume, I will have a bias towards rejecting them, as it seems to me that PA students are disproportionately unfit for work beyond what is hammered into them at school. I want employees who care about customers and who can think outside the box. As someone who deals with hundreds of students each month through my business, regrettably I feel that Palo Alto students, in general, are the least desirable. That is not to say that they are all unemployable. But for the jobs I want to hire for, I do not care about GPA, that they play 3 musical instruments and 2 sports. Not that I do not think PA students are capable of learning customer service skills or to think creatively on their feet. But that's not what they have been focusing on. And thus training them would take more time than for students of other areas.


2 people like this
Posted by Long time Palo Alto resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2016 at 10:18 am

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:23 am

when you live in a community and work in local industry where credibility is measured by uttering a few words - i graduated from X - what else can you do?
maybe the local industry should reconsider their hiring practices.


7 people like this
Posted by Eva
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:27 am

Reforming our parental expectations for our children's college admissions is our responsibility. It is an interesting process to realize that our children may not get into the same colleges that we did, and be OK with that. It's helpful to find like-minded parent friends and community members to help keep this perspective in this beehive we live in.

That said, it also seems that the college admission process needs to change as well. If they don't want a bunch of overstressed, NGO-starting applicants with the same CV, it would behoove colleges to change their evaluation process. Or to look at relatively simple changes like limits to the number of times students can take standardized tests so they don't start taking them in middle school. The "system" is stress-invoking and regardless of how mindful we are it still lingers, especially in Palo Alto.


42 people like this
Posted by A Paly Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 12:25 pm

It's very funny to see after these 120 colleges signed the 'Turning the Tide' paper, what they said in their admission website about what students they want:

Harvard:

Growth and potential

Have you reached your maximum academic and personal potential?
Have you been stretching yourself?
Have you been working to capacity in your academic pursuits, your full-time or part-time employment, or other areas?
Do you have reserve power to do more?

Yale:

Academic Ability
Yale is above all an academic institution. This means academic strength is our first consideration in evaluating any candidate. The single most important document in your application is your high school transcript, which tells us a great deal about your academic drive and performance over time. We look for students who have consistently taken a broad range of challenging courses in high school and done well.

Cornell:

So what do we look for?
Your Intellectual Potential
Have you challenged yourself with the highest-level courses? How have you demonstrated your passion for learning?

John Hopkins:

Access your full potential

Does my academic schedule reflect my true potential as a student?

Are you challenging yourself by taking rigorous courses? Competitive universities seek focused, driven students. If you’re you getting good grades, is it because your classes aren’t challenging enough, or because you’re inspired by and putting quality work into your studies?

UC top 10 factors for admission:

* Academic grade point average in all completed "a-g" courses, including additional points for completed UC-certified honors courses.
* Scores on the following tests: ACT with Writing or the SAT Reasoning Test.
* Number of, content of and performance in academic courses beyond the minimum "a-g" requirements.
* Number of and performance in UC-approved honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate Higher Level and transferable college courses.
* Identification by UC as being ranked in the top 9 percent of your high school class at the end of your junior year (Eligible in the Local Context, or ELC).
* Quality of your senior-year program as measured by the type and number of academic courses in progress or planned.
* Quality of your academic performance relative to the educational opportunities available in your high school.
* Outstanding performance in one or more specific subject areas.
* Outstanding work in one or more special projects in any academic field of study.
* Recent, marked improvement in academic performance as demonstrated by academic GPA and the quality of coursework completed or in progress.

Ironic?

If you really believe 'Turning the Tide' now and react accordingly before colleges really change their admission processes, umm, good luck!

I wonder if any of these speakers have college bound children who are in public high schools? Or they all attend expensive private schools like Menlo School?


16 people like this
Posted by former PALY parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:28 pm

This ugly subject - and reality - rears it's head every so often. When one has to stress about going above 4.0 or else one's chances at Harvard are ruined, scream, scream, we know we are now living in a sort of artificial situation!
I have seen the steady increase locally (and of course, to some extent, nationally) of absolute focus on: prepping the student for beating peers out in "prestigious" academic admissions. There are so many ways to concoct a "strong" paper record, often managed by Tiger parents.
Wealthier, closely supported kids may apply to an excess of top schools in order to brag to their peers about their admissions, even though it is impossible to attend more than one school, and by applying to Yale (for example) when one is not really interested in Yale but wishes to try to get an acceptance to Yale for the sake of competition, then the student may have removed the opportunity for a school peer to get that admission (that s/he may actually covet and feel is a real match!) Universities don't give offers to numerous students from the same graduating class/high school - they want geographic diversity.
I distinctly remember a PALY student who attended Harvard and bragged openly about a multitude of other offers - it was truly vulgar and showed complete lack of character. This guy would be in his late 20's, had aggressive Tiger parents, and was entirely self-focused.
I agree with several posts about recognizing kids who hold after-school or summer jobs, who tutor in a low-key, local way as opposed to having parents pay to fly the kid to Latin America during the summer to do a luxury medical "volunteer program" (ha! - no genuine "volunteer motivation at all!) for the resume - and above all, I wish influential colleges and universities would take a clue about the parent- and tutor- prepped kids and instead better reward those who do their own work, show some creativity and individuality, and perhaps speak engagingly in personal interviews.


1 person likes this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:50 pm

[Post removed.]


48 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 1:57 pm

@Palo Alto

Totally agreed with you. These parents yelled and shouted at the school board meeting and at Gunn's Principal Cafe, and they badly behaved. They are very vocal and verbally bullied another group of parents who supported Unweighted GPA. They treated WGPA as a part of their life. If the school board is controlled by these bad behavior parents, PAUSD will be hopeless.


35 people like this
Posted by Laughing All the Way
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2016 at 2:33 pm

I agree completely with John Alderman..., it's useless!

PAUSD has tiger parents of all races [portion removed.]

I know of one local family [portion removed] who disowned their eldest daughter because she " only" got into UC Davis! The father is a cardiologist who defected to Harvard Med School because Stanford didn't pay him enough! He regularly complains that if he hadn't been a goof-off in high school, he would have been a more highly paid neurosurgeon!


12 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 1, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Bernadette makes a great point - different kids have different needs. Some kids thrive on the treadmill. Some kids who would otherwise be fabulous creative learners are destroyed by it. School doesn't have learning options for different learners.

For kids who hate it, there are other options readily available. Homeschooling in the Bay Area can end up being a kind of hybrid or ala carte kind of schooling, not even necessarily happening at home. People don't realize that all one needs to do is file an affidavit and you are a private school that can do whatever you want. There are lots of communities that you can join and find community of other highly motivated learners for the kids. Or you can join public charters that even have funds for classes. If your kid is overwhelmed by school but also bored and unable to do in school the kind of substantial project-based autonomous learning that would really enable them to grow and shine, then homeschooling could be an answer.

Homeschoolers do get into elite schools, too, though in contrast to this article, I personally wouldn't recommend it as a calculated way to get entry, since the vast majority end up transferring from community college not entering the traditional way. Still a lot is getting written now about elite schools liking homeschoolers because they tend to be more independent and engaged.
Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

It's not for everyone, but interestingly, test score studies show that homeschoolers score better with no gender or achievement gap, even when parents had no money or high level of education themselves. Some school districts work with homeschoolers, so that people can take some classes at school and otherwise do their own program, for example, Fremont does this. It sure seems like this should be considered here as a way to help some kids who need it.

(We are homeschooling and because of it, have developed very selective criteria of our own for college - basically, looking for, not elite names, but an undergraduate environment that is more like grad school, in which independent and engaged creative learners can thrive. Being independent educationally is not a state of being, it is learned, often despite school rather than because of it.)


36 people like this
Posted by Quiet Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2016 at 3:44 pm

We went to the board meetings. We did not yell, nor shout. Instead, each of us calmly and humbly presented our views supported by data and research papers. But we did see a parent who seemed to be against wGPA yelling and shouting right after the board unanimously passed to adopt Gunn's wGPA method for Class of 2017 seniors at both HS. I wonder if that "yelling and shouting" description is from a piece of "hearsay", or from that parent who is against wGPA? Besides, speaking of "tiger moms and dads", sadly, it is seen not only in academics, but also in sports and many other areas. I do agree that parents need to be "educated" / "re-educated" not to parachute on everything for their children. Our kids should be set free and encouraged to choose. As long as our children choose to put efforts on whatever they are passionate about, and exert their grits to reasonably challenge themselves, their performance should be appreciated and well recognized, despite it could be in sports, arts, music or academics. We should be mindful not use double standards and recklessly jump into any conclusion not supported by evidence. For example, NOT every dad/mom originally coming from China or Korea etc. has a so-called hidden agenda. This kind of statement seems to be a "hidden" racial profiling one, which possibly invokes an anti-Asian sentiment, and therefore, should be removed.


29 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Sorry to say @Quiet Mom, they did yell. There were also several WGPA e-mail groups, where the parents went
completely insane trying to push their agenda. It did happen, you might not like it, but I saw it with my own eyes!

I & many others are to intimidated to respond, I believe some of these people will stop at nothing to be heard the
loudest. So sad for our kids. The behavior has been very eye opening for me.


27 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 1, 2016 at 4:32 pm

@Quiet Mom,

Yes, they did yell shout. I saw it with my own eyes, and I was at the board meetings and Gunn's Principal Cafe.


13 people like this
Posted by No No
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2016 at 4:42 pm

If people say something you don''t agree, that is going to be considered as yelling and shouting?! I did not see they were yelling and shouting. I was there, too, to listen...


1 person likes this
Posted by Jet pilot
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 1, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Fantastic dose of sanity! Appreciate Palo Alto Online for publishing this.


17 people like this
Posted by Real Gunn Parent
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 1, 2016 at 10:01 pm

@Gunn Parent

I was at Nov 04 Gunn Principal Coffee meeting. Principal Herrmann was not even there. The GPA matter was only brought up towards the end of meeting for less than 10 minutes on few requests: posting a WGPA calculation methodology on school website (school did so in following Tuesday); PTA needs to distribute GPA debate information and up-dates to all parent groups because two parent groups at Gunn did not receive the information. Dr.Herrmann already announced on Nov 02 that Gunn will report both GPAs so there was not even a debate on this issue on Nov.04 Principal Coffee meeting, its a done deal. Why are you spreading the rumors of parents shouting and yelling?

I suggest you to read one book "The smartest kids in the world by Amanda Ripley" and to watch one documentary " Waiting for Superman."

"The smartest kids in the the world "compared the education systems in Asia, Europe and US. There are pros and cons in each but you will comprehend the fundamental issues of US system: variance in teacher quality; money went to teachers unions to bribe the legislators for their own political agendas; lobbyist with the hat of "reformer" but the ultimate goal is to profit from the budget of the second largest per student spending in the world that does not produce a competitive workforce anymore since 70s. You will not be surprised that they are at the same time sending their own kids to private schools because reform is a money making business, remember the Every Day Math? New ones are coming soon!

A typical Apple iPhone factory needs 100k workers with 25% of them are entry-mid level engineers, where are you going to find such a qualified workforce in US in a single city or county to build this factory? America will be great again is just an empty political rhetoric without a solid public school education system. Bill Gates will tell you that by 2020, 60%+ US workforce need to be imported from other countries because the failure of US public HS education. [Portion removed due to factual inaccuracy.]

You should be more appreciative and supportive to the "vocal" parents that are watching out the tax money for you and trying to preserve the last few good school districts that are still producing qualified work force to make America great again dream to be true.


15 people like this
Posted by voice
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:07 pm

it seems a great idea theorectically to get off the treadmill at the high school level. however, there is a serious disconnection if colleges want you to get ON the treadmill to give it all, highest paying jobs demand elite college status and, worse of all, the parents' sense of authority by these speakers with elite credentials.







3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 2, 2016 at 12:14 am

Is Selective Service Registration a requirement for college admission or financial aid?

Or is that another Federal suggestion that we Californians ignore?

I remember a time when that was a source of stress. Current students don't know what they are missing.


3 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2016 at 7:43 am

@voice,
It's not "theoretical" though, the benefits of getting off the treadmill in order to put time and energy toward real activities.

Check out this documentary "Class Dismissed"
Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2016 at 10:00 am

The funny thing is that when parents tell their kids they can not do something and are not as good as others, the kids believe it. Parents at PALY who just have smart kids who want to be challenged and enjoy learning are labeled poorly. Also, parents who notice the line that if the kids chose to be in an honors or ap class, they will need to teach themselves as a silliness all in its own will be punished. The stress or treadmill is not from a high level curriculum, it comes more from excessive testing and a system of reward and punishment rather than best modern teaching practices. (presentation, work at home on what was not presented, test in class-this is the one main delivery of instruction and the only way for the kids to see if they understood it is by way of numerical points given or taken.hen is posted publicly-the teacher is given no chance to check for understanding and fill in gaps before the next reward punishment test. Kids are shamed and are generally too embarrassed to reteach themselves. This process is time consuming and the HUGE amount of time taken away from instruction for long weekly tests is a time suck. Obviously there must be some teachers that do not rely solely on this and they get it and we thank them.

If the school could streamline their instruction so kids do not have to teach themselves and then spend 1/5 of their time testing in class, there would be more unstructured, unplanned available time to those of us who love to unschedule and release kids into the wild. Yes, there are parents that plan unplanned time so maybe the kids are just pretending to have homework so they do not have to learn unusual sports to get into elite IVY programs like fly fishing ballet or underwater archery. It is just a-g high school and it should be delivered and evaluted all from 8am-3pm with some extra reading at home and then time for whatever.


5 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2016 at 10:05 am

Oh no.... :smart kids' really sounds bad. I should have said eager kids. All kids are smart.


7 people like this
Posted by Kaz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm

I'm glad this new push towards less hyper-prepared kids is coming along just as we're starting to look at colleges. It was clear we were stifling our kids' passions and independent thinking by trying to play the PA game. They don't have buffed resumes. However, I think they have been able to get to know themselves better and be more self-confident because we haven't been pushing them to prioritize their lives for an impressive piece of paper.

I look at other parents who are demanding multiple areas of excellence (the top in grades, sports, music, art, all at once), and I can see that they don't know who their kids are. Gaining their parents approval is so hard for these kids that they're hyper-vigilant and terrified of being less than perfect. And I see these kids drifting towards risky behavior (drugs, alcohol, reckless driving) or crippling anxiety or suicidiality and wonder if they're heading towards a freshman year breakdown.

Beware colleges and universities who are judging how much you will contribute to their reputation. You'll be paying top dollar to be a pawn in their competition for top ranking. Look for a school that's interested in giving you a chance to find out who you are. We were delighted to hear a college admissions officer acknowledge that it's hard to pursue many extracurricular activities if you don't live in a city or an elite suburb like PA. It was a small elite school whose reputation for fierce intellectuality scares away a lot of students. They aren't driven by a need to see themselves at the top of the ridiculous USNWP ranking; they're driven to give students extensive opportunities to discover the field their passionate about.


22 people like this
Posted by Sadly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Sadly, there is no stepping off the treadmill at PAUSD. The school requires full time commitment of every hour god gives your student.

Whether the parents want it or not, the school will pressure your kid or fail your kid unless they commit to the school 110%.

There is no flexibility to switch to a competent teacher, no flexibility on scheduling, test load, hw load, or any other aspect that would provide much needed relief to the students.

Even a slight setback like the flu will quickly drive your grades into failing territory.

As much as Bruno, Pope and others jawbone about stress and success, the school does not give one shit about this issue, and what little they have done to relieve the pressure THEY have created has been too little too late.

You can add all the lecturing to the mindfulness center, and it doesn't do a bit of good when Johnny isn't learning geometry because his teacher cannot teach. And Johnny knows every college required geometry.

THAT incompetence is what is stressing our students.

Having to teach yourself with no help, and total overload from your teachers. It is grossly unfair.


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm

There was no yelling at any board meetings. You can watch the video and see for yourself. There was a reaction while the principal was speaking, and the board chair admonished the crowed to be quiet. (Here's the link - you can't even hear what the audience said, and it lasted about 1 second Web Link). The board chair even had them snapping their fingers instead of applauding for speakers. The audience clearly favored one point of view, but the idea that they yelled, shouted, intimidated, etc. is just incorrect and a misrepresentation.


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm

@Sadly - wow, the teachers are incompetent and the schools are heartless. You sound like a good candidate for private school!


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2016 at 2:43 pm

"There were also several WGPA e-mail groups, where the parents went
completely insane trying to push their agenda. It did happen, you might not like it, but I saw it with my own eyes!"

Also a misrepresentation. There was one Google Group that covered Paly and Gunn parents, plus a web site that promoted weighted GPAs. The comments were on one side, but almost entirely informational and generally respectful, though sometimes frustrated with the process. I recall two posts that I considered rude (one called Dr. McGee a "bozo" - you can decide if that's "completely insane").

Come on, we can disagree without demonizing.


7 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2016 at 3:01 pm

@Sadly,
True. But you can step off the treadmill by going out on your own. Kids do not even have to do middle college to take community college courses. They can take the CHSPE and take whatever CC courses they want. If they don't like it, they can go back to high school, the high school cannot reject your child for having taken the CHSPE.. Or free online coutrses from MIT/edx/coursera or a million others. There is Stanford online high school. Charter schools where they will give you money that you can apply toward courses at Fusion Academy or Center for independent learners. You can design your own english course where your kid has time to read all the great classics, and you give your own transcript and a holistic grade at the end, no more burdensome process as @outsider described. In fact, one of the biggest complaints of people who decide to go independent is just how overwhelming all the choices and opportunity can be. (Common advice, in fact, is to "deschool" one month for every year the kid was in school - before embarking on anything structured.)

My high schoolers spends more time doing more math, and more advanced math, far more happily, than ever would have even been available to a kid like that in PAUSD, where PAUSD was such a disaster in our household. If the system isn't working for your kid, you can try to change it, but just recognize that if your kid is getting older and the system isn't changing, and your child isn't getting the education or environment in which they can thrive, there are alternatives most parents can't even imagine. We never would have if things hadn't gotten so, so bad, and our creative super motivated kid would have continued that clear march to zombiehood.

I have nothing but great things to say about our own experience in PAUSD elementary (well, with the exception of everyday math). But I wish things had fallen apart earlier and we had started this independent learning path then. The freedom hasn't just been good for education, it has probably saved us emotionally. You can get off the treadmill, and it doesn't hurt college applications to be able to get a far more broad, advanced, interesting, and real-world education. (Ever heard of travel schooling?)


3 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2016 at 4:19 pm

@Parent

I guess we will have to agree to disagree. People see things in different ways. Right? I believe that many of
the pro WGPA parents were overly aggressive about their opinions, pushing their agenda very aggressively.
E-mails were on letterhead with their "super smart" job positions. I was really surprised by the behavior.

That is my opinion. I think it is OK to have one, that is different then yours?

Have a great weekend!


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2016 at 4:27 pm

I don't disagree that some people were aggressive; nor do I think that is a problem (though you may). I do disagree that people "yelled and shouted" at board meetings or "went completely insane trying to push their agenda." As I said, we can disagree without demonizing.


8 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2016 at 7:49 pm

@A Paly Mom,
Kids can attend community college and have a guaranteed transfer to a UC. By then what they do in CC is more important than high school. No admissions stress in high school.


4 people like this
Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2016 at 10:53 am

To John_Alderman - Would anyone have showed up if the speakers were from Foothill, San Jose Sate?


6 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:05 am

@ Native,
I can't speak for Aldermann, but think so. We attended the Gunn Community College Fair. Lots of parents there. Almost no kids. Mine got to talk to a couple of Foothill De Anza students who went to CC at 14 and 16, respectively, and were able to have a more advanced, less stressful, happier precollegiate education. The young man was going off to UC Davis in the Fall, again, having had no stress, but able to take advanced courses in a less traditional way, through CC and other outside educational opportunities. Very sad that there were so few kids to hear from the accomplished volunteers from all the CCs at that event, though.


12 people like this
Posted by Residnet
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2016 at 12:25 pm

I graduated back in '04 and the fixation on college admissions, by teachers and students alike was a serious problem back then.

I'm amazed its taken 12 years or longer for them to wake up this problem.

We're herding our kids into antiquated institutions that lie to them, take advantage of them, and scare them about their financial future -- instead of helping them discover a passion and find a job they love.

If we are seeing the end of Common Core, it may start to alleviate the problem. We need to get rid of SAT testing entirely because all it does is waste the students' time.


11 people like this
Posted by Look Around
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Look at what the tiger parents, both foreign and American, are doing g to their children! Giving them a choice of only PhD or MD, nothing less will do!

These kids burn out, hate their jobs, become bad physicians, engineers, or whatever. They go just nuts and finally leave their jobs, families, and go off on their own-- and their helicopter parents are left bewildered as to what happened!


10 people like this
Posted by fact checker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2016 at 4:55 pm

As parents, we are responsible for teaching our kids our value system and how to not be freaked out by the system. As parents, we decide what activities and support we pay for.

But, let's stop the one size fits all mentality and get down to the facts.

The reality is that the District knows what our students are saying needs to be improved, but we don't see changes.

Here are the student comments from the District 2014 WASC self student Hanover report Web Link (see pages 432 and following) where, although stress is mentioned, classroom management is the hot topic: unfair grading (26), specific course stamina (21), stress/pressure (15), positive feedback (14), inconsistent teacher quality (12), too much homework (10), etc..

And, there is the later 2015 course alignment reviewed (Hanover report as well) Web Link. In that study, students suggested expectations could be better managed by homework overload (42%), teaching material on tests in homework and in class (13%), generally too high of expectations (not just academics, sports, extracurriculars) (10%), coordinating due dates (10%), improve/align grading standards (7%), late work (4%), etc..

Other Districts in recent years have created 1) standardized due dates so that a student may not have more than 2 projects/tests on the same due date, 2) late work policies, and more generous absentee policies.

Yes, college admissions cause stress, but the District has control of some key issues.

Finally, although I understand that the weekly has linked weighted GPAs and stress, there is no data that supports this contention. The District has been sharing the UC eligibility GPA with students for as long as anyone can remember and that GPA includes a weighting. The problem with using this GPA for other colleges was that it is not cumulative (not years 9-12) and it excludes about 30 classes that the UC has not approved, but our schools each teach. There have been discussions in this forum about acceptances to the UCs/CSU becoming more difficult. One lesser known fact is that UCLA and UC Berkeley look beyond a student's UC eligibility GPA to her fully weighted UC GPA, just not including any grades and classes from 9th grade or the non approved classes.

Please review these linked documents and facts and then think through your positions about the schools, stress and weighting.


19 people like this
Posted by Sadly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2016 at 7:45 pm

@fact - I couldn't agree with you more!

Yes, these are all problems in the classroom. Have been for years: inconsistent teaching test/project stacking, inconsistent grades between classes, unfair grading, homework overload, teaching test material in class.

Some of these issues show up in strategic surveys and Palo Alto youth surveys back in 2008 and 2010.

All are solvable within the classroom or with first level management. The question is not whether these are issues, nor is the question how to solve them. The pressure the schools place on kids has been so obvious for so long, the only real question is why has the school failed completely to acknowledge what they are doing to our children.

It is long past time to call this out as gross incompetence. At this point it can only be through willful neglect that this situation remains unaddressed.

Who is responsible? There is a crowd motivated to ignore our children's needs:
- low performing teachers who cannot teach
- sadistic teachers who relish surprising students with new material on tests, projects over holidays, tests the day after vacation, no redemption in class, and severely restricted grades
- Poor performing IS who make no effort to coordinate their departments test days with other departments.
- Poor performing principal s who fail completely to dismiss low performance teachers. (Or move them out of the classroom, or into a rubber room.
- the union who makes it impossible to manage teachers for either dismissal for poor performance
- the entire teacher cadre for resisting, as a group, any attempt to manage the schools in any manner that would help students.
- The same teacher cadre who takes allies with the incompetent and sadistic, and will never call out a peer for their mistreatment of students.

Why don't they do anything? Because it is far easier to pressure kids to teach themselves than it is to step up their game and help the students. It is convenient to imagine the pressure comes from parents than to admit it comes from the classroom next door. Or from the system the are a key part of.

Who else bears responsibility?

- The superintendent who has washed his hands of responsibility to address student issues, turned this over to lackluster principals and ignored the resulting failures.

- The board for not taking a ripsaw to the whole [portion removed] mess. Thereby sending our children into a pressure cooker every day. Hoping the worst doesn't happen, while doing [portion removed] nothing to solve any of these problems.

Problems which have been known, and unaddressed for a decade. At least.


8 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2016 at 8:30 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Native to the BAY - "Would anyone have showed up if the speakers were from Foothill, San Jose Sate?"

Exactly. Now go be happy at Foothill because the folks from Harvard and Stanford said it was good enough for you.


4 people like this
Posted by fact checker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2016 at 10:46 pm

@sadly I don't know who bears responsibility for the past. I urge us not to spend time pointing fingers, but rather but to spend our time getting involved and insisting to the school board and at the school board meetings these student concerns are addressed.

If you want the student needs to be addressed and you agree that our goal is to educate students, please consider three changes that respond to student concerns reflected in two recent Hanover reports:

1) standardized due dates so that a student may not have more than 2 projects/tests on the same due date,
2) clear late work policies that give the student an incentive to complete her work, and
3) more generous absentee policies.

The surveys have been done and paid for, now we need change.


7 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:15 pm

@john_aldermann,

Foothill and DeAnza are considered the #1 large and medium sized CCs in the country. Attending CC here means GUARANTEED transfer to a UC. Entrance to CC is pretty easy. If a kids is not happy in the high school, if school is too much of a treadmill, there is so much more feedom in CC. Kids can take the CHSPE exam when they are in their 2nd term sophomore year. You can take it earlier if you file a private school affidavit, advance your own child to 10th grade, take the test, then put them back in their original grade. I know someone whose gifted kid did this at age 11.

No one has to stay on the treadmill. It doesn't even benefit the kids who don't do well in that kind of educational structure but would really shine with a different system. Having a mediocre transcript from a local school and no time for a life outside of school is way less impressive to a college than having an amazing portfolio resulting from having the time to pursue more and more unique educational and personal interests because of not having all that overhead from pressure cooker schools. Kids being in charge of their educations usually bodes well for their later success, too, that can't happen in schools that basically tell kids what to do every day of their tenure.

Our schools are wonderful places for community. It is possible for families to leave and do whatever they want, including CC with guaranteed UC transfer. It's hard to make that decision, though. It would be far better if the schools would offer a flexible hybrid option (well, for everyone, not just a favored few under the table as is the usual PAUSD way).


6 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:38 pm

Web Link

Why is that available in Austin but not here? Imagine getting a better education, no grades, not tests, broader educational opportunities...


9 people like this
Posted by Sadly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2016 at 8:11 am

@fact: the schools, the district, and board have known these issues for years, and have CHOSEN not to address them.

What could one possibly say to change their mind?


It's not like they are suddenly aware after years of obliviousness. There is no lightbulb going on "oh I didn't know these problems ".

Rather, they are well informed and actively avoiding solutions.

At some point you need to ask "Why?"

It is something I wish the newspaper asked in their interviews: "here's a (long list) of student issues; you've been on the board for years and won't fix them. Why?"

That is the interview question we needed...


11 people like this
Posted by teacher
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2016 at 8:50 am

I teach in the district. Went to a *GASP* community college and then to a four year. Turned out to be a *GASP* productive member of society that makes decent money. I would never in a million years dream of inserting that informational nugget on back to school night for fear of the judgement looks I would get afterwards. The treadmill comes from the PARENTS. You can hire all the fancy book writing educational jargon opportunists you want but we all model what we learn from our PARENTS. Surely all the fancy psychological degrees in in this town can tell you that. Ten years off the suicide clusters and the next generation of parents are becoming emboldened again after laying low for a time. It's sad. And yes, I do my share of alleviating the stress- but SOME parents don't do theirs. They have the kids who never SMILE. But I'm sure it's all my fault right?


8 people like this
Posted by be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm

be Positive is a registered user.

@teacher - do you share your educational background with your students? I think it would be valuable for them to see a great, real life example of success via the CC system.

I had two kids go thru Paly and I have to agree that some of the biggest issues they had were teachers that don't teach at all and teachers who didn't test on what they taught in class.


15 people like this
Posted by Sadly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2016 at 3:58 pm

@teacher asks:"But I'm sure it's all my fault right?"

I couldn't tell you. But your students could. Ask them anonymously if they see you doing any of the following:

- failed to teach a concept clearly

- stacked a test on top of another class

- had material on the test which was not covered in class

- assigned homework over a holiday

- assigned a project over a holiday

- held a test first day after holiday

- grade unfairly vs other teachers

- hold too high a standard or withhold A's from students

- don't allow enough time to makeup work after illness

- have too strict a late policy

- have made the class so hard that they have to seek outside help to survive (tutors, friends, mom/dad)

Then ask them to imagine their top 5 most engaging teachers in the last two years. Are you on the list?

Finally ask them if they would have trusted you enough to share their thoughts directly vs anonymously.

That will pretty much tell you if all your students have the same opinion as you do.

Good luck! Please report back how you are really doing.


6 people like this
Posted by Teacher standards
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 4, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Teacher standards is a registered user.

@Sadly Please remember that our teachers are responsible for teaching a whole class, a diverse set of 20-35 kids, and most of the kids are going to learn differently. It is practically a 100% guarantee that, for every kid, for some topic during the year, a concept will not be taught clearly. Consider whether the standard you are espousing is reasonable. What does it mean to "grade unfairly" or to have "too strict" a policy or "too hard" a class? What is fair to some is not fair to others. What is strict for some is lax for others. And what is hard for some is easy for others. I see this all the time with homework surveys -- is there too much? The answers are all across the board.

My kids have had some teachers that worked for them, some not so much, but the teachers uniformly worked hard, cared for the kids, aimed to do their jobs well, and showed great patience and dedication. That is a standard I think we can apply.


9 people like this
Posted by Sadly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2016 at 4:25 pm

The standard is whatever the students expect.


Any other standard has lost sight of why we're here.

Certainly the teachers standards are not appropriate- everyone grades themselves an A+

Yet the student stress issues go unresolved for the better part of a decade. How does that square?

Go ahead - ask the students. Unless you don't really want to face your complicity in this problem.

...although if you don't ask the students, then I think we all know where the problem is.


2 people like this
Posted by Teacher standards
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Teacher standards is a registered user.

> The standard is whatever the students expect

I could not disagree more.


9 people like this
Posted by Sadly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Precisely why student issues are ignored. Thanks for making my point: it is crystal clear where the problem is.

There can no longer be any doubt remaining where student stress originates. Bruni, Pope et al can jawbone about college admissions, the pressure on students, and lecture them to get off the treadmill.

But there is no 'off the treadmill ' when teachers literally don't care about student expectations around stress.

This is my original point: the system is broken, has been broken for years, and will not be fixed BECAUSE THE VESTED INTERESTS IN THE SCHOOLS DONT GIVE A S#!T ABOUT STUDENTS.

There is willful neglect of the students.


8 people like this
Posted by another local teacher
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2016 at 6:03 pm

"Sadly" is obviously not a teacher.

"Teacher" had it right.

I am also a teacher and I must concur that it is primarily the parents to blame for this problem.

Sorry. That's just the way it is. I have been teaching a long time, in a variety of school types. Personally, I consider the Palo Alto schools to be mediocre, at best. The main reason for the relative "success" of the students here is that their parents are pumping TONS of money into tutors, extra-curricular activities and college prep.

Parents: It is not that you do not have intelligent, hard-working, talented kids. But if a kid from a poor neighborhood has anywhere near the same resume when applying to colleges, I would think that they are the ones who would prove more successful in & post college, for they are the ones who have already proven themselves successful. Something to think about...


7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Haha, funny that the teachers here agree with each other and think that shows they are right. The definition of "groupthink." We all agree, it seems to obvious to us!

Trying hard and caring isn't good enough, sorry. You actually have to measure your performance, identify deficiencies, change, and improve. I know you mean well; but the question is whether you perform well.


Like this comment
Posted by Teacher standards
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 4, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Teacher standards is a registered user.

@Parent -- I have seen teachers do all that. They care, they work to improve. And they are measured out the wazoo. But which measurements are the right ones?


5 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2016 at 7:03 pm

@another local teacher
@Teacher Standards
@teacher

School districts and private schools are adopting standards for late work and testing stacking all over the country that encourage learning over process.

Are you open to supporting these types of stress-reduction of policies?

If not, why? Or, what information do you need to see to evaluate them.

If you do support them, what needs to happen to make them a reality here?

What other types of stress-reduction policies do you support?

Thank you for your input.


4 people like this
Posted by be positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 4, 2016 at 7:13 pm

be positive is a registered user.

@sadly and @teacher standards, I think the disconnect on your opinions is based on grade levels. IMO we have wonderful elementary school (where teachers have the 20-35 students that @teacher standards refers to). In high school and middle school, teachers may have 150 students (5 periods, 30 kids each). And way too many teachers at Paly and Gunn do too many of the things that @sadly outlines, things that are meant to deliberately make our children's academic lives miserable, uncontrollable and unpredictable from day to day.


Like this comment
Posted by Teacher standards
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 4, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Teacher standards is a registered user.

@Fact Checker -- I weighed in here primarily to point out that @Sadly's standards for teachers are not reasonable, or even desirable ("whatever the students expect") I expect we all share responsibility for student stress, and that some things can be done in school to help (e.g., seeing/managing workload from student's pov), and some things can be done at home to help (e.g., parents adopting and promoting more varied definitions of success).

I like the idea of encouraging learning over process (who wouldn't?), but I'd caution that many of the ideas I've heard in that vein add to the workload of teachers, and I prefer for my kids to have teachers who have reasonable workloads.


18 people like this
Posted by Sadly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2016 at 9:19 pm

@teacher writes:" I expect we all share responsibility for student stress, and that some things can be done in school to help (e.g., seeing/managing workl"

But goes on to say they don't want extra workload.

Let's skip for a moment the irony of shirking workload, while simultaneously overloading students.

Rather, take the list above and only ask students about issues which take no work from the teacher:

Ask your students if you have ever done the following:(as if you might want to know. Let's pretend anyway):




- stacked a test on top of another class

- had material on the test which was not covered in class

- assigned homework over a holiday

- assigned a project over a holiday

- held a test first day after holiday

- grade unfairly vs other teachers

- hold too high a standard or withhold A's from students

- don't allow enough time to makeup work after illness

- have too strict a late policy

- have made the class so hard that they have to seek outside help to survive (tutors, friends, mom/dad)

Then ask them to imagine their top 5 most engaging teachers in the last two years. Are you on the list?

Finally ask them if they would have trusted you enough to share their thoughts directly vs anonymous


Look at that! It's almost the exact same list! All we had to do was remove the expectation that you teach clearly. The rest takes either no time, or may actually save you time.

Mostly it is about treating students fairly and without excess pressure. Because they don't need it. It hinders learning and destroys quality of life and interest in education.

So ask your students how you are doing on this revised list which meets your goal to work less.


25 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2016 at 9:32 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Options exist now - I am not critiquing Foothill or DeAnza, they are important educational institutions. I am critiquing a panel of Ivy League and Stanford grads telling people they don't need an Ivy League or Stanford education. There is a lot of the haves telling the have-nots to back off.


2 people like this
Posted by teacher
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2016 at 9:36 pm

@Be Positive-

*Wouldn't dream of it. I know my demographic and would never dream of relaying I went to a community college. The parents judge you enough how it is I don't need an extra layer and besides it is not their business. The people that name drop their college are lame bores anyway.

@Sadly-

*I have high remarks regarding teacher feedback. And the feedback is uniform for everybody and apparently I rock it consistently year after year.*Blows a kiss*. And I always invite students to tell me using their name on paper or in person because I don't have anything to hide.
"The standard is whatever students expect". Hmm. Enable your snowflake much? Let me guess, you let them whine and whine at 3 and never told them no, just kept talking at them and tried to "reason" with the 3 yr. old. Yep, know that type. On the flip side, you are absolutely right. There ARE teachers who think their poop don't stink and don't give a rat's behind about student well being because they are too caught up being a "Palo Alto teacher". My advice- call them out, document their egregiousness, and they expose themselves sooner or later if you are coming from a sincere direction trying to advocate for your kid.

@Parent-

I don't agree with many colleagues. We do not all think alike. That is a myth.

@Fact Checker
*Easy answer. It has not been mandated from the top. Mandate it from the top, it shall be done. In the meantime it will be up to individual teachers and how important their Bio/ Chem/Physics/Algebra/Vocab final is. Get it on a Google Doc, and color code the s$(%. Someone has to move it back and day and start a new unit in the meantime? NOT A BIG DEAL.






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Posted by Teacher standards
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 4, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Teacher standards is a registered user.

@Sadly -- I am not a teacher. Probably not a great idea to misattribute quotes, even anonymous ones. (Or to repeat posts wholesale.)

Despite the fact that I am not a teacher, I find your anti-teacher rants offensive. I guess if I were a PAUSD teacher, I'd be inured to it. Will aspire to that.


13 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2016 at 9:05 am

@teacher,
I have never judged a teacher for where they got their education. How they teach, yes. Your last post, on the other hand, exhibits quite a chip on your shoulder about educational pedigree. Do you call parents "lame bores" to their faces or just maintain the disrespectful scorn behind their backs, backbite, and never deal honestly with people? I wonder if you would think they were "name dropping" if you were less sensitive and more comfortable about the issue yourself. You do understand how important connection to school is?

I would never judge you negatively for your educational pedigree, but your juvenile and unprofessional attitude toward parents who are supposed to be your partners in education (and who pay your salary if nothing else) -- some of whom will, in a public system, be flawed (though you should have to teach in an inner city school or an old money/snobby district for awhile to appreciate the spectrum of real flaws) -- that creates a real concern about your ego and ability to be fair and effective with all students and families.

@john aldermann,
While you make a good point, I don't think it's any more helpful to say their views are invalid simply because they did go to Stanford. Our independent learning journey has made places like the Ivies and Stanford less attractive because those places also still maintain a high regard for the treadmill, and after seeing the benefits of autonomy/control of time and effort, and work-life balance, no one in our family wants a step back onto the treadmill for college for the sake of appearances. For all its advantages, for undergrads at least, Stanford isn't really a supportive place for truly independent thinkers. So, while I think these experts could maybe look first to the beam in their own educational eye, that doesn't make what they are saying here any less true or valuable.


8 people like this
Posted by Thanks, Options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2016 at 9:55 am

Options,

Appreciate your links, insights, and sincere drive to educate parents who want to rescue kids and families from what seems to be an almost unavoidable academic, emotional, and psychological treadmill in communities like ours.

Agree that the teacher's tone did seem alarmingly contemptuous of parents and school kids. Perhaps this is why sensitive kids don't smile around this teacher? Perhaps they are on to something. As you imply, a student's feelings of connection to a teacher is crucial, and this teacher's contempt does not bode well for her/his students.

Around here, calculated risk-taking is often presented as favorable to innovation. What you seem to be doing, by educating those who are interested in alternative education and homeschooling in particular, is potentially reducing the sense of risk involved. Choosing to homeschool probably feels risky to a lot of people, so it's helpful to reduce that sense of risk and look at benefits.

Perhaps one trait of families who choose to homeschool is the willingness to take (calculated) risks? Perhaps this is a reason why more families throughout Silicon Valley are turning to homeschooling than ever before.




6 people like this
Posted by outisder
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2016 at 1:50 pm

@teacher
I do not think you can assume that @ sadly was a bad parent for reasoning with a 3 year old or that you can know what kind of parent she or he is because they have clearly stated what their experience has been. However, based on how you respond to parents and to your colleagues there are few assumptions about your ego.

I am sure no parent or teacher has intended to cause stress. I do think that the perceptions of parents and teachers and students should be looked at without emotion. There seems to be a very large disconnect between what is given direct instruction, what is sent home without instruction and then what the kid is evaluated on. There is a plethora of so much crud and the technology has made it easier for teachers to assign work. I do not think they realize that going off text or adding all the online extra stuff they have to master at home on their own without feedback adds so much time. with just reading, it takes less time than being chained to mandatory videos. With change and kids, adults need to be working together and listening even to negative comments as a way to streamline the time needed for a simple a-g class that most other high schools seem to be able to deliver without all drama. maybe just push restart and get rid of both high schools get a nice tidy IB program and use the middle school for transition into that program. The curriculum is very scattered and with different publishers comes different levels and expectations from year to year the teachers have to spend too much of their time filling in and figuring out where weaknesses are in the curriculum and then they have to layer that onto so many different types of learners. A nice set IB program would make it easier for them to add supplemental materials and give some differentiated levels within their classes. Just a thought....


6 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2016 at 6:18 pm

@Thanks, Options,
You are right that choosing homeschooling felt risky, until we became a part of some of the local communities and got information about the array of options. There are so many more than we ever realized.

We also realized that homeschoolers are getting into good colleges, too, and that it is possible to put together a portfolio application. There are even organizations that exist just to help homeschoolers put together a record of their learning journey.. It's probably not true that all colleges are in tune with autonomous learning, but many universities are now openly courting homeschoolers because they so often come with more diverse backgrounds, real-world experiences, and a healthier and keener interest in learning. So many of them take community college classes in high school, I just think there is no fear or prejudice about going the community college transfer route. In fact, the email lists are full of discussions about how to avoid having to transfer to four year colleges as juniors instead of freshmen (because it is perceived that starting as freshmn means better social integration) because of the many credits kids already have from CC.

I think the break came when we realized kids were really taking advantage of way more diverse and advanced learning opportunities, without all the stress of the traditional trappings of school. In our case, school itself - the stuff that had no real benefit - was standing in the way of the interests and passions that would, aside from increasing competence and happiness, lead to a better match and record for college. We have a life as a family, too. I often feel like we escaped. I have a chance to really see where my students need are and address them. I was really surprised by the problems I hadn't realized school was causing. We tend to think of the risks of homeschooling, but hadn't even understood the risks of staying in school until we left. Again, this isn't for everyone by any means. I wish we had known more earlier on, it would have helped to start in middle school.


2 people like this
Posted by another local teacher
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2016 at 9:24 pm

I do not know who "teacher" is but he/she seems to have a very clear understanding of the situation. I am certainly not "Parent" seems to want to accuse us of backing each other up since we are in the same profession. Fortunately, "Teacher Standards" appropriately points out that teachers (and students) are already being measured way too much (that is correct).

FYI- I am also a parent with kids in local public schools. And to say that I think PA schools are mediocre is not a complaint about the teachers but rather a statement regarding the US education system as a whole and in particular the way parents are pushing their kids here in what some of us consider to be the wrong direction. It is primarily this push from the parents that has changed the focus at school, increasing the stress level for students, lessened the enjoyment of today's youth. Unfortunately, many parents in this area seem interested in pushing even further in that direction, despite all the research pointing to overwhelming negative results.


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Posted by Concerned Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2016 at 9:39 pm

@Resident wrote:
> It has to start with putting pressure on colleges.

Why? Why shouldn't it start with caring parents?

> I have no objection to their academic base lines, but expectations of things like community service are making kids (and their parents) take on much more than someone of their age can realistically be expected to do.

Seriously? I think the addition of community service hours is one of the best things the schools have done in recent years. Unfortunately, I think many Palo Alto students - mostly as a result of pressure from their parents - would not take part in community service if not required. Community service work has the potential to give the students perspective they may possibly not otherwise get. I just wish the students - and their parents - WANTED to do volunteer work and didn't just do it because it, ehem, looks good on their college resume.

> I would like to see the colleges value things like after school jobs, family involvements and activities that are not challenge orientated as being a worthwhile activity for prospective incoming students.

Great!

> When it comes to equally academically qualified students, the colleges should be spreading their acceptances around rather than the same students getting multiple offers and others getting rejected.

How does this make any sense? Of course the colleges want the best candidates and multiple colleges want the same top candidates. They typically make offers to more students than they can actually accept because they know many are receiving multiple offers.

I would like to add that if you have two equally academically qualified students, one from Palo Alto and the other from East Palo Alto, which should receive the offer? The EPA student is clearly superior and should reasonably be considered to get far more offers.


11 people like this
Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2016 at 12:09 am

I would have to strenuously disagree with the parent hating/bashing/bogeyman conjuring above. I have lived in different kinds of districts, and find the parents here some of the most thoughtful and caring anywhere. The parent community is one of the main reasons this area is so great - so much more welcoming and grounded than some of the wealthier areas around us. But, the parent bashing does seem to be a favorite activity of unaccountable district employees - the disdain of the teacher above was disturbingly unprofessional. It's far too easy to blame parents for everything. I winder how much taxpayer funded salary has been spent on employees bashing parents in order to avoid looking inward to improve our schools.

I think the huge interest in Ohlone and Connections, despite the district not really advertising the latter, demonstrate the huge interest among parents in alternatives. School is where the pressure comes in. At least in the past, the Connections contract used to promise no grades, but that never happens. Connections seems mostly a way to phase out project-based learning before high school.

Parents here want a good quality education for their kids. It's not too much to ask. Parent involvement is usually pretty important to that.




5 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2016 at 10:01 am

Another is a registered user.

"Options exist no": Yep, the hysterical descriptions often found here of rude, selfish, screaming people who allegedly dominate our town are completely at odds with my own experience. You sometimes wonder who the heck is writing this stuff.


5 people like this
Posted by What we get from current system
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 6, 2016 at 12:42 pm

I would ask all teachers...do you satisfy the "result" from your teaching??? See the reports below, US needs to reform its k-12 education! The way you teach currently is just not working well.

Web Link

Web Link

You all probably hear that Google and other tech companies are requesting to increase H1-B visa quota because they cannot find enough skilled workers....ok, does this mean that all US college graduates have jobs??? No, not at all! Many young college graduates do not have a good job or unable to find one. WHY....our education system failed our younger generation.

I respect many great teachers, but I don't satisfy their teaching "results"...not meeting the requirement of Google and other tech companies here.

There are many heated discussions about WGPA and stress and other things. Whatever they are, not teaching STEM from elementary school is a disaster for future generation.


9 people like this
Posted by Sadly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2016 at 2:44 pm

@teacher writes:" I have high remarks regarding teacher feedback. And the feedback is uniform for everybody and apparently I rock it consistently year after year."


Um, okay, good. So that leaves a rather large question: where does the student-reported stress for the following come from?

- test stacking
- homework overload
- projects over holidays
- putting material on the test that was not taught in class
- inconsistent grading between classes
- restricted allotments of A's in one class vs another
- too strict a late policy

Either it comes from you, your peers, or the students made this up.

For the students to make this stuff up, would require a significant coordination across hundreds of student on many surveys across a decade in time. So it's pretty safe to imagine they aren't making it up.

That leaves you or your peers. Which is it?




1 person likes this
Posted by What we get from current system
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 6, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Here is another article on Yahoo today. What is wrong with our own education system? Why it cannot educate more our own young kids for tech jobs??? The current education system fails our younger generation since 1st grade !!!

Web Link

This is so urgent and serious! Can teachers and the "experts" of education do something about it??? The quality of the "product" from your system is so lower that local tech companies just don't want it :-(


2 people like this
Posted by @Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2016 at 3:24 pm

LOL!

Single digit millionaires == middle class

I love it!


3 people like this
Posted by @local business owner
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2016 at 3:26 pm

Are you saying that you want to sell good and/or services to Palo Altoians, but not hire them?

How odd....


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Here's the real problem. It is all over the various news services today. US schools are falling behind the rest of the world in math, science and reading scores. Web Link This is all over the news agencies today, if you don't like this article then read some of the others.

Now we may be arguing or discussing about issues to do with student stress, getting into good colleges and the benefits of community service (as I mentioned above, community service which involves parents sending teens on expensive overseas community services when only for college application is not a benefit although shelving books at the local library or helping younger kids sports teams or even serving at a soup kitchen may be a benefit) are not getting our kids educated compared to other countries.

Our kids spend less hours per day and less days per year in the classroom and have more hours of homework than other countries. There is no evidence that we are making more "rounded" students, but there is plenty of evidence that we are providing a second class education to the bulk of our young people. The purpose of elementary education is not to prepare them for high school but to give kids the basics of the 3 Rs and how to use them. The purpose of high school education is not to prepare them for college but to teach them enough of the real world so that by the time they get into college they have some idea how the world works and how they might prepare themselves to fit into it as productive adults, not to prepare them for grad school. Most other countries teach all 3 stages much better so that grad school is not necessary. Most other countries prepare college grads for their future careers upon graduation, not grad school. Where are we going wrong? I would suggest that a complete overhaul of education in this country is overdue.

Let's educate our high school students while they are in high school. Let's put less emphasis on spending 4 years in high school as how to get into the best college!


4 people like this
Posted by stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2016 at 3:30 am

Dear Resident: "Our kids spend less hours per day and less days per year in the classroom" :
"Our kids spend FEWER hours per day and FEWER days per year in the classroom" .
BTW they also are not taught grammar either...


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2016 at 7:50 am

Stephen

Touche


2 people like this
Posted by former PALY parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 8, 2016 at 8:44 am

Complaints about "U.S. schools" falling behind those of other countries needs a sensible response, since our schools differ widely, as anyone who has moved from one state to another, let alone locally, knows! Meanwhile, there IS an entrenched educational bureaucracy which siphons off dollars all along the "process." Compound this with inviting in illegal immigrants and then not requiring them to speak English (as would be done in virtually any other country), and one has a real wish-mash. People not literate in their own language are expected to attain accomplishment in a new one? Meanwhile, this provides a lot of low-level labor, not terribly helpful to this country.
We all know there are pockets of educational excellence (teachers, students, teachers) plus many legal immigrants already have a high educational level - plus *some* legal immigrants and legal refugees make astounding progress while coming from a deprived life in a prior country. I have personally seen this, and I admire it.
Meanwhile, OVERALL, there is a lack of a coherent national curriculum, VERY watered-down standards nationally and at the state level, anyone remember the CAHSEE idiotic test that was crazy easy but removed because some minorities couldn't pass it after 4 tries?! --
and it is not surprising that this "shortage" or highly educated STEM people gives high-tech billionaires an excuse to demand more H1-B visas to bring in overseas tech employees, reducing opportunity for Americans (whether American-born or American-naturalized citizens). There is a future moving swiftly in "Tech" and I think the fundamentals of education are crucial ALONG with understanding of the future, and I don't particularly see the U.S. as mastering the situation at present, but some reason for this is political correctness. Look how Obama got Michelle Rhee fired (a Democrat who was running charter schools as President. of D.C. school system); the teacher's unions told Obama to fire her, and he did, setting back this useful experiment in D.C. that was getting some acclaim and documentation. Shut down for politics.


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Posted by Options exist now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2016 at 9:03 am

Interesting blog posts about two sisters who were homeschooled. Both went to community college in their mid teens then to good four year universities. This turns out to be the route preferred by the majority of homeschoolers.
Web Link


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