News


Paly revising schedule to address instructional minutes deficit

Optional zero period does not count toward state requirement

Palo Alto High School's new bell schedule, set to roll out this fall, is being revised after the district realized the school was improperly counting its total instructional minutes.

Paly is required by the state to provide 64,800 minutes of instructional time in the academic year. The school was including zero period, a 50-minute, early morning, optional period during which only physical education is now offered, in its minutes count, interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks said Monday.

After parents, staff and school board members expressed concern, shared by Hendricks herself, about whether zero period should be included, Hendricks met with an external auditor in early May. Sheldon Chavan, partner at firm Chavan & Associates, told her then and again the following week that the new schedule was in compliance, Hendricks said. She asked him to verify this with the California Department of Education, which informed the district in late May that the optional period does not count as instructional time.

"If we didn't count zero period in minutes, which we're not, and if we retained existing minutes and block periods as they were originally slated we would be looking at running short on minutes," Hendricks said.

The Paly committee that developed and recommended the new schedule is now meeting again to make revisions to address the deficit.

Academic courses have not been offered during zero period since 2015, when former superintendent Max McGee decided to eliminate that option to protect student wellness.

Paly's new schedule also moved some instructional time to tutorial, a required period during which students can seek academic support or work on homework, and advisory, when students meet with their teacher advisers. The committee confirmed with the California Department of Education, attendance auditors and district administrators that this change would comply with state and district instructional minutes requirements, according to the group's final report.

The auditor is currently reviewing Paly's current and new schedule, with results expected sometime in the next week, Hendricks said. Schools' instructional minutes are audited annually, according to the district.

The state penalizes districts that don't meet the minutes requirement by taking away funding proportional to the number of affected students multiplied by the percentage of instructional time districts failed to offer, according to the California Department of Education website.

Though both Paly and Gunn High School had one day of school after graduation this year, that was "consistent with past practice" and not added to address a minutes shortage, Hendricks said.

Gunn, which rolled out a new bell schedule in August, was actually in excess of the instructional-minutes requirement this year, according to Hendricks.

This is not the first time, however, that Palo Alto Unified schools were out of compliance with the instructional-minutes requirement.

Last February, Gunn discovered its schedule was 23 hours short of the state requirement. The shortage was due to numerous special schedules, such as for standardized testing or finals, and a lack of accountability to the impact of those schedules on overall minutes, according to then-principal Denise Herrmann.

Paly was also short on instructional minutes by about 37 hours last year, according to then-principal Kim Diorio. At the time, the school was "given a directive by the superintendent's office based on the advice of counsel to change the bell schedule for the 2017-18 school year," the bell schedule committee wrote in its final report.

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Comments

29 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Another Charlie Foxtrot brought to you by Kim Diorio. She led this committee. Also note that she was also the one that developed the previous schedule that was short by 37 hours. That one had zero period, as well. Was the school short additional hours on top of that 37 due to counting zero period? How tough is it to get this cleared by the auditor BEFORE telling everyone that this will be the new schedule? How did the board let this get approved without even looking at it?

How does PAUSD find so many ways to try to skirt the laws?

Total incompetency!


23 people like this
Posted by Collareally Damaged
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2018 at 4:46 pm

The district deserves criticism in many areas, but this, meh. Ntpicking over instructional hours is so late 20th Century. The school was trying to address pretty serious problems by innovating with the schedule. They should be commended for it. The error wasn’t particularly huge, they caught it and fixed it.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2018 at 4:58 pm

Other countries have higher numbers of days in school and higher numbers of hours in the day at school.

We are sadly way behind.


30 people like this
Posted by Good
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 12, 2018 at 5:06 pm

Good is a registered user.

The error was pretty big -- something like 10% of instructional hours. I'm not even in the school business, and I could tell something was wrong with that. I'm glad they are fixing it, but what worries me is the mindset that instructional hours don't seem to matter much. They do. Some kids like to learn, and enjoy classes. Let's let them learn, in school, real subject matter, with real teachers. Please.


28 people like this
Posted by Good Job
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2018 at 5:49 pm

This was a big error, and good job by Hendricks chasing it down and forcing Paly to fix it. The Paly administration seems to have a limited ability to understand and follow the rules, and sadly seems to think they are so smart and accomplished that it really shouldn't matter. But it does.

For people who think instructional hours don't matter - tell that to the underachieving low-income and minority students. While the high-performing students are "getting their chill on," the low-performing are just falling further behind. Time in class matters a lot.


25 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@Good Job
Hendricks did not chase anything down. The article clearly reads, "An external auditor and the California Department of Education informed the district in late May that the optional period does not count as instructional time."

If anything, Hendricks rubber-stamped a non-conforming schedule.

Amazing how people want to give credit to people who fix their mistakes only after being forced to by an outside agency. How about trying to do the right thing from the start?


5 people like this
Posted by Good Job
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2018 at 7:14 pm

@Samuel, I expect the auditor doesn't usually review NEXT year's proposed schedule - audits are generally done in arrears. I'm guessing it happened because Hendricks made it happen. Why she approved it originally I don't know.


7 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2018 at 7:23 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by it's fundamental
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 12, 2018 at 7:36 pm

Maybe this could have been fixed before everyone left for the summer had Ken Dauber and Jennifer DiBrienza taken it more seriously and put the bell schedule on the board's agenda.

They considered doing that but then decided not to. "Unlike Gunn's new schedule, which required approval from the Board of Education, President Ken Dauber and Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza decided that Paly's does not. 'We certainly trust the site leadership to make a decision about a bell schedule that doesn't require board oversight,' Dauber said." Web Link

First clue that board oversight was badly needed? Kim Diorio told the board that Paly hadn’t offered enough instruction time before too.


20 people like this
Posted by Ugh
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:05 pm

How, how, how do some people in PAUSD manage to retain their jobs? I'm sure there will be no accountability on this. Maybe I should apply there and join the party. Would lower my stress level to know I can royally screw up and have no consequences.


2 people like this
Posted by Good Job
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:22 pm

@Samuel, I did work as an auditor early in my career (companies, not schools), so I am assuming. Audit firms generally spend their time looking in the rear view mirror. They could have looked at it for some other reason, I suppose, but not sure what.


16 people like this
Posted by sweet if you can get it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:25 pm

It would have been a very sweet deal for Paly teachers.

Due to the school board's oversight failure, on top of Paly teachers' "oops we forgot to cancel it" 3% raise they almost got Dauber and DiBrienza's "we certainly trust the site leadership" bell schedule's cut in the hours they needed to be at work too.


8 people like this
Posted by Collaterally Damaged
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:38 pm

@Good Job,
"For people who think instructional hours don't matter - tell that to the underachieving low-income and minority students. While the high-performing students are "getting their chill on," the low-performing are just falling further behind. Time in class matters a lot."

Time in class can matter a lot, or it can be counterproductive. The one area of education where there isn't an achievement gap or a gender gap in testing is homeschool, which makes sense that when you remove institutional biases while customizing education to the child, it has predictably positive results. Seat time isn't magic and it can be damaging, particularly to students who have trouble with that seat time and are more likely to be disciplined for having trouble with it. If time in class were the magic bullet, we wouldn't have an achievement gap, or we wouldn't have it at Gunn versus Paly, since the former met its instructional hours and the latter didn't. But that's just not what the data show.

Giving students agency and autonomy aren't related to (necessarily) to seat time.

While I do think we can do better, I agree with you there, I do not agree that the facts support doubling down on the Prussian model as the answer.


18 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2018 at 10:13 am

kids is a registered user.

I know this is old fashioned, but how about going to every class every day and leaving early one day. maybe a long time during the week set aside for science labs. Keeping the kids in one room every day for flex is a waste of time that could be used for direct instruction. Starting one day at 8:30 and the next at !0:00 is not great for sleep patterns.


2 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2018 at 10:15 am

kids is a registered user.

Good to fix it now to avoid having to attend few extra weeks in the summer or to be a senior missing 10 percent.


14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 13, 2018 at 4:29 pm

Students in PAUSD should have school hours that meet or exceed state standards. I strenuously object to differences between Paly and Gunn.


12 people like this
Posted by Arthut
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2018 at 11:02 am

Highly paid teachers, teaching high-performance students in an affluent area. Why are schools so focused on the minimum standards? They should be focused on maximum results, and maximum hours allowed.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2018 at 11:13 am

I highly agree with those that say we should be using maximum days and maximum hours, not the minimum. We should be concentrating on the students getting their education in the classroom and not having to do so much homework. Homework assignments, particularly if they are not graded and returned and then rechecked for improvements made, do nothing to help a student who struggles understanding the material. Feedback is necessary for homework to be helpful to learning. The education standards in other countries call for more time in the classroom being taught with less emphasis on homework. Our teachers spend so little time on our students homework that there is little point in it.

Palo Alto should be innovative in its academics, not so dependent on the fact that tutors are spending more time with students than teachers.


10 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Glad to see that they're fixing it. As I said on the previous thread announcing the new schedule, you can't just do whatever you want to do when there are laws governing what you are supposed to be doing. Don't agree with the laws? Vote and lobby your representatives!

I, for one, agree that high schools ought to start later, in accordance with research on teen sleep rhythms. However, you have to "pay" for that late start with a later end time. I'm not a math teacher, but I've done enough to know that if you alter one side of the equation, you have to alter the other to keep it equal.

Best of luck!


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

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