Officials grapple with dismal 'achievement gap' statistics | June 25, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 25, 2010

Officials grapple with dismal 'achievement gap' statistics

Forty-one percent of African-Americans, 25 percent of Hispanics, in special education

by Chris Kenrick

Despite years of efforts to combat it, a long-standing academic achievement gap persists in Palo Alto schools.

Forty-one percent of all Palo Alto's African-American students and nearly 25 percent of all Hispanic students are enrolled in special education, compared to a district-wide average of about 10 percent. A solid majority of those are Palo Alto residents, not East Palo Alto students who enroll in Palo Alto schools under the court-mandated Tinsley Voluntary Transfer Program.

African-American and Hispanic students enroll in fewer high-level classes and perform significantly worse than their Caucasian and Asian peers on standardized tests, according to a report this week from district staff.

Those minority groups also have higher rates of school suspension and other discipline issues.

This week, the Board of Education grappled with the dismal statistics and a plan to improve their performance.

Palo Alto has been tagged by both federal and state officials for having a "disproportionate" number of African-American and Hispanic children in special education, prompting investigations and reports about how to remedy the problem.

"It's a lemon for the federal government to have identified us (as "disproportionate"), but it's lemonade because it gives us a way to map out what we want to do, pull together groups working on this and make a cohesive plan," Assistant Superintendent Virginia Davis told the board.

Director of Student Services Carol Zepecki, who is retiring after 12 years of heading Palo Alto's special education programs, said officials have been keenly aware of the issue for years.

"Five years ago we had a study by the (federal) Office of Civil Rights," Zepecki said in a recent interview.

"They looked at our disproportionality and found that if we didn't support some of the students we would be discriminatory in the other direction.

"We were following all the rules and we need to support the kids. It's a very difficult balance. We're aware of it, and keep working on it."

Zepecki worked closely with Palo Alto's Parent Network for Students of Color and was given a farewell send-off by that organization last month that included testimonials from grateful parents.

Other Palo Alto groups have been formed specifically to address the achievement-gap issue, including IAASC (Increasing the Academic Achievement of Students of Color) and TACKLE (Taking a Closer Kid Look Early).

Of the district's 1,190 special-education students in 2007-08, 133 were African-American and 216 were Hispanic.

African-American students represented 3 percent of the total population of the district that year but comprised 11 percent of the special-education population.

Hispanic students represented 8.9 percent of the total population of students in the district, but 18 percent of the students in special education.

Of the 74 African-American students identified that year with a "specific learning disability" (roughly defined as a wide gap between IQ and actual performance), 55 of them were Palo Alto residents and 19 were East Palo Alto students enrolled in Palo Alto under Tinsley.

Of the 130 Hispanic students identified with a "specific learning disability" that year, 82 were Palo Alto residents. Forty-six of the 130 were categorized as "English Language Learners," and 48 of them were enrolled in Palo Alto under the Tinsley program.

Officials said they are focusing on mainstream classrooms, not special education, as the key to solving the achievement gap.

"We do find that our students who are in special education are very deserving of those services, yet we want to do more to help students prior to any designation or assessment," Davis said.

The district already has a wide range of special programs to address achievement gaps in the regular classroom, including the newly launched Springboard to Kindergarten, Barron Park School's College Bound program and others.

School board members thanked Davis for presenting the achievement-gap data and possible solutions in comprehensive form.

"This is one of the first times I've read something that puts it all together with a sense of commitment and candor, and I think that's really helpful," board President Barbara Klausner said.

"The issues raised in the plan really are about every aspect of our academic excellence goals in the strategic plan, and also very important in terms of the social and emotional health of our students.

"If we do a good job here, we're going to address a lot of the needs we're talking about in our strategic plan."

Board member Melissa Baten Caswell asked whether there is sufficient monitoring of the effectiveness of existing programs intended to address the achievement gap.

"We need to look at this from 25,000 feet up and be able to tell where investments are really helping, and where we've tried and tried and done good work but it's not the right program," Baten Caswell said.

Board member Camille Townsend wondered whether Palo Alto could borrow effective approaches from other school districts.

"We go to conventions and hear about other districts that do much better with disadvantaged students. To what degree are we searching for those programs?" Townsend asked.

"I'm wondering if maybe there's something out there, even real basic programs with no bells and whistles, but that work.

"There's a sense of urgency here, and we've got to try something different."

In a statement read by a friend, Duveneck parent Sara Woodham, whose children are not in special education, asked the board to "appreciate the real frustration of parents behind the statistics."

Though many programs "seem reasonable on paper," Woodham asked board members to focus on where such programs "break with reality" and to "understand why seemingly good programs fail to match expectations, leaving underperforming children in their wake. ...

"Please use parents' insights in these break points, and as critical partners," Woodham said, adding that special-education parents sometimes speak limited English.

"These are the parents who rely on the district the most, and often are the least able to articulate breaks when they occur," she said.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be reached at


Posted by Moses Brown, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2010 at 10:31 am

I am an Afro-American senior, and even though what I have to say will brand me as an "Uncle Tom," what I relate is the truth. The fault of my people and the Hispanic youth not to advance academically is not due to racism, poverty, or the school system. It is the fault of the Black and Hispanic families and culture not to elevate their efforts and importance of education and civilty in the modern world. Listen to Bill Cosby, everything he says is true. Just look at Oakland and the daily killings of Blacks by Blacks in gang warfare. We are our own worst enemy, and until the Black and Hispanic communities step up and except the fact that until we place a higher importance on education, stay away from drugs, gangs, and the high percentage of crime that we cause in society, the status quo will stay the same no matter how hard the school systems try to help.

Posted by Barren Park Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2010 at 11:13 am

Our neighborhood school has a "College Bound Program" that focuses on those students who likely come from families where neither parent had the opportunity to attend college. Principal Cathy has championed the effort to foster those students who need the extra help. Hopefully, the "College Bound Program" will make a positive difference that will be noticed as these elementary students transition to middle- and high- schools. If so, then maybe all Palo Alto Elementary Schools could consider using the "College Bound Program" to help students become the first ones in their families to attend college.

Posted by D. Lai, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 22, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Moses is very valid in his observation and being truthful about some deep underlying problems. Yet, it is also not doing a service to these two groups of students to label them as "underachievers", which the achievement gap statistics obvioiusly define them as such. There are differences in the value for scholarly pursuit and concept of accomplishment among different ethinic and cultural groups. If we are a society that truly honors diversity, then academic excellence should not be the only measuring scale for achievment. So what if these student groups are not well represented in the AP classes, the honor tracks, and the college bound paths? They can still be good citizens in applying themseleves in other meaningful activities and productive occupations. The key is to help them arrive at the best possible level of knowledge and skill set that they are capable of, and to use those toward works that can lead to independence and fulfillment in life. What they need is perhaps more good vocational training options, and not just being treated as problem learners inconveinently contributing to a slight blemish in a very high achieving school district. It is time to look at alternative viable solutions rather than keep beating the same drum and hoping that things will improve some how.

Posted by Teacher Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

There are also Caucasian kids who struggle too. I am a teacher and a first generation college graduate. All three of my kids struggle in Palo Alto schools. Interesting research would be to look at the underachieving Caucasian kids and the Latino/African-American population to see if there are any correlating factors. The gap may have nothing to do with ethnicity, but education of the parents, socioeconomic upbringing, and history of learning disabilities in the family.

Posted by John Straubel, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm

What an excellent exchange of comments this article inspired! As a director and tutor in the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula where programs like College Bound and many others function with the participation of schools and parents, we identify the problem as the "Opportunity Gap" because we see how well kids in the Hispanic and African American neighborhoods respond when they have strong and sensitive adult support. We are always amazed how the Achievement Gap shrinks among those kids who receive the opportunity resources available in our Belle Haven, Redwood City and East Palo Alto clubhouses and the school campuses upon which the club has after-school programs.
I wish we could attract the parents and kids of thousands more! We prove that by closing the Opportunity Gap, the achievement gap is no longer inevitable.

Posted by MENLO, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Ditto @ D.Lai!

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I agree with the teacher mom that there would be value in studying all the students with an "achievement gap" not just those who are hispanic and african american. I'm sure there are many factors, some the school district can help with and some they can't.

For example, of the 12 adopted kids I know of, 8 of them have learning issues, 67%. Why? These are kids financially comfortable families, successful, college educated parents that value and support PAUSD schools. And many of these kids struggle in PAUSD even with lots of parental support and outside tutoring.

And I am also curious if the gap gets larger as the students get older. Do they get the same support in middle and high school as elementary school?

The unfortunate thing about high school is that it really does not prepare you for anything except attending college, so if traditional education is not your thing, you are stuck.

Posted by Echoing Skelly, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Remember what Skelly said to San Jose Mercury News, "minority students could never compete with American children of professional parents. This as the words he said to San Jose Mercury news reporter:

"it isn't possible to expect that average children who come to the United States without speaking English and whose parents have little formal education to match achievement levels of youngsters whose mothers have advanced degrees in English and can afford to stay home and supplement their children's educations.
Here is the link to one of the articles, but there are more to it.
Skelly earlier said it isn't possible to expect that average children who come to the United States without speaking English and whose parents have little formal education to match achievement levels of youngsters whose mothers have advanced degrees in English and can afford to stay home and supplement their children's educations.
Web Link
My kids, lost respect for him the moment he said that. And yes, they are matching achievement levels of children whose parents are professionals. He was wrong when he said this, unfortunately some students who look up to Skelly believed him and think that there is no point on trying to match same level of education.

Posted by former barron park parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm

The comment above about College Bound is not completely accurate. Principal Cathy did some good with the program in terms of advancing at-risk minority kids. however, she also placed into the program children who could not under any stretchopf the imagination be considered underprivileged. She has a reputation for rewarding parents he sees as "allies" with special classroom placement and such, and this program is not exception. Before the College Bound program is imported into the rest of the district, the Board needs to look very carefully at the way it was run, the composition of the program, and the way it was handled. It is worth noting that Barron Park kids are notoriously less prepared, emotionally and socially, for middle school than kids from other schools. This notwithstanding the hoopla surrounding their "Steps to Respect" program. Perhaps if more attention were paid to academics throughout the school at all levels the at risk kid would have more chance of success. By the way, rumor has it that Cathy also dumped the Home-School liaison for budgetary reasons, even though it was well known in the school community that the help of that person did more to help the disadvantaged minority kids than any other factor. Finally, Principal Cathy stated in front of many parents that she would not provide special ed services to minorities whose parents requested evaluation because "special ed is the dumping ground of minorities" and she was notoriously recalcitrant about even authorizing testing for non-minority kids, whose parents would then have to pay for testig on their own to confirm what they suspected and what testing by competent district personnel would have shown.

Please, please PLEASE before the district exports another supposedly successful programs from Barron Park, look deep at the reality of the programs and initiatives to ensure that they are viable and actually consist of and deliver what they claim.

Posted by One Gunn Mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Palo Alto Mom,

Your comment about adopted kids is an interesting observation. The research is amazing on learning disabilitiesand adoption--ADD in the normal population is 2-3%. But in adpoted kids it is 20-30%. WHY? No one really knows what "causes" ADD but there are believed to be some genetic links. Some believe the connection may be: that women with ADD may be more likely to get pregnant and give up the child for adoption, not a lot of these women seek prenatal care at all or early enough (not a planned pregnancy so not "aware" it is really happening--in a state of denial); possible drug and/or alcohol abuse during the pregnancy. Whatever the reasons, the evidence appears to be real. Early intervention in learmning disabilities is critical. If the child was adopted into a highly educated household, the parents may be told by the school that the problems they perceive with their child is "normal" development, because the parents don't have these issues, the kids shouldn't have them--almost a reverse discrimination. Always trust your instinct and pressure the school to get them tested. The district doesn't want to test kids--it becomes very expensive (about $5000/kid when done privately).

If the child gets past middle school with a learning disability, there is very little if any support for them in PAUSD high schools. And high school is where marginal difficulties become obvious (and kids crash and burn).

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

A local columnist and author, Joanne Jacobs, wrote the book cited below, of an experiment in educating at risk children.
"Once a San Jose Mercury News columnist, I am a freelance writer and author of Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds, which is available in hardcover or paperback. I am on Twitter as joanneleejacobs."
I commend Mr.Brown and wish him success.

Posted by mom & grandma, a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Having raised 3 African-American children in PAUSD, and during that time a PA resident, I know from experience that African-American kids are targeted, and expected to have and be problems. How many times can you be told to 'go home where you belong' and not feel bad? My son was spied upon in the rest room by staff, and both my son and a daughter were physically assaulted by teachers. One of the few members of the police department that had no issues - and he was Caucasian, and finally quit - told us flat-out we should move because our son was being targeted by the principal and he was being pressured by the department to write up things that didn't happen. With the targeting, overt and subtle, school & academic learning slipped to a low priority. We moved as soon as the youngest graduated - from adult school - he couldn't stand high school - and are now helping raise the grandkids in the east bay, a much more vibrantly diverse culture. Good luck folks! PA has a very long way to go to truly celebrate & benefit from its diversity. In retrospect PA feels like an iceberg - blindingly white, cold and isolated.

Posted by Kit, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm

This is off topic, but re Barron Park parent's posting about Cathy, the principal of Barron Park, Cathy was also the person who forced the committee to approve Everyday Math. She must have thought it would help her underprivileged students learn math easier (and thus bring up the scores) since it teaches several different ways to multiply. She didn't care that the average student in Palo Alto has no problems with traditional multiplying.

Posted by Kit, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 22, 2010 at 5:40 pm

@One Gunn Mom: PAUSD is not the place to raise a child with learning disabilities. I wouldn't raise my children here if they had learning disabilities - I'd go private, with smaller classes, better teacher ratios.

@Moses Brown: great posting.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

"it isn't possible to expect that average children who come to the United States without speaking English and whose parents have little formal education to match achievement levels of youngsters whose mothers have advanced degrees in English and can afford to stay home and supplement their children's educations."

Sorry, but the children of the Vietnamese "boat people" disprove this statement. They are more educated and more successful than other minority groups of similar disadvantage.

Posted by You are right, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2010 at 7:17 pm

You are right former Barron park Parent. Yes the college bound program is not necessarily there to help underprivileged, they also have children of professionals. This means they take the spots of someone who really needs it. Even worst they only take students who they know they are going to succeed, if they think the child is too behind in academics, they do not take them, they put them in a waiting list and are never called. Also once they are in the program, the students get put under a lot of pressure to succeed because they want to show the district that the program works. This means, students and parents get threat a lot of being drop from the program if they do not meet expectations. I know a girls who work hard all year on the program, and at the end, she was under so much stress she could not finish projects and everyone else participated in a College Bound Program Party, but not her, she was punished by not taking her to the party. It was sad for her and the family, but the principal said she did back up the teacher (who was also stress out from working overtime). Sad ending

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2010 at 7:24 pm

While I think kids can and do become successful despite the odds, if you take 50 children "who come to the United States without speaking English and whose parents have little formal education" and 50 children whose "parents have advanced degrees and can afford to stay home and supplement their children's educations" you will find the odds are definitely in favor of the kids who start out school speaking the language their classes are being taught in, who go home to a place with plenty of books and parents who read to them etc.

PAUSD is generally a place where it is cool to be a nerd - aka good at school. In many immigrant communities school is valued above all else and the kids receive not only family support for academic success, but also peer support. That is what we need to share with all the kids - that doing well in school is a cool thing.

Posted by Charles, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2010 at 8:07 pm

To be successful one does not have to have a college degree. Not everyone is a classical student. Our society needs people with practical skills, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, operators of machinery, etc., who can earn more than many with a liberal arts background. Encourage kids to find out what they are good at and develop any talent that shows.

It's a shame that kids avoid the hard sciences which require more study than English, Social Studies or Economics courses. Yet the job earnings payoff is greater for scientists than for those with liberal arts skills.

Palo Alto is fixated on high level academics to the detriment of many students. Good English and math skills are usually enough to earn an excellent living if one learns a trade. Pride in achievement is a wonderful motivator.

Posted by another high school parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm

When kids enter kindergarten having not attended preschool or nursery school, they are at a disadvantage. And if they are not read to at home, they are at further disadvantage, especially given the current kindergarten curriculum. It's difficult for some kids to catch up and stay on track with the K-1-2 curriculum.

The question is if these kids should end up in special ed just because they are behind the other kids in their classroom - in order to get special help? Should they be encouraged to start in young 5s instead of kindergarten? Should they have to repeat kindergarten if they are not up to speed at the end of their 1st year of school? But what if they are just late bloomers?

Is there something else going on when even the African American and Hispanic kids from well educated families are not excelling at the same levels as their white and Asian peers from similar socio-economic. Are these kids achieving down to expectations set by school, community & media?

Posted by CurrentBarronParkElemMom, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2010 at 8:51 pm

I am saddened by the vitriol that has been heaped upon Barron Park Elementary School in this forum. As a current Barron Park Elementary School parent, I would like to say a few things.

First, Barron Park Elementary School is a wonderfully diverse community of student learners and parents. And while I don't always agree with the administration, the teachers at Barron Park, for the most part, are stellar. They spend many hours outside of the classroom working with both "gifted" students and with those students who must work harder.

With regards to College Bound -- in it's original form, it was intended for students who would be the first in their family to go to college. It's emphasis changed somewhat after parents of all kinds of students lobbied for it to be open to all students at the school. And yes, students may be chosen if they seems geared to succeed. My child is not part of this program so I don't know many of the nitty gritty details but I do know children who participate and they seem happy. With regards to pressure on students, I am sure that some may feel pressure due to the requirements of the program -- it is trying to instill high standards in many children who may not have been held to high standards before.

With regards to Barron Park children being less prepared socially and emotionally for middle school -- please come visit the classrooms of Mrs. McD and Mr. Wong and see for yourself the wonderful work that is being done here. And having a student who just finished middle school (beautifully, I might add), I can attest to the academic preparedness here. Now of course, there will always be some children that will be unprepared for middle school, but they will come from all schools in Palo Alto, not just Barron.

With regards to Everyday Math -- I can't speak to that at all other than it seems to work for my highly motivated, mathematically minded child. I am sure there was politics involved but I don't know the parties.

Finally, Barron Park Elementary has problems just like any other school has problems. If you tell me your school doesn't have problems I would be very surprised. But please note that Barron Park has a higher percentage of Title 1 kids than any other school in Palo Alto - 29%. The next highest percentage goes to Juana Briones at 10%. And every other school in Palo Alto hovers at around 7%. So don't speak ill of the school that takes all comers --all the kids from overseas, all the overflows, everybody and embraces them all. I invite you to our Heritage Potluck so you can see we have far more successes than problems (and great food too).

So instead of bashing our kids and our parents, why don't you come volunteer here and make Barron Park Elementary an even better place than it is. We need you. Join us for success. For all the kids at Barron Park.

Posted by Yes But..., a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2010 at 9:34 pm

@Current, I agree there are good things that go on at BP school and the bad things are often exaggerated. But one consistent complaint, that you mention obliquely, is Principal Cathy's style, approach, tactics, etc. As I'm sure you know, she has driven many an active parent away from the school and in some cases out of the district altogether and has been a divisive force among those who stay. It is a shame, but there is no way around that elephant in the room.

Posted by a mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2010 at 12:57 am

There is research on high school size and how very large school size negatively affects the achievement gap, even for high socioeconomic status regions. The problems of large schools are amplified for traditionally disadvantaged students. Our high schools have never been so large, and the numbers are at the edge of what research says is too large, at least if we care about the achievement gap (and bullying, and violence, and social interconnectedness... and academic outcomes).

The board should revisit how enlarging the schools further still, as is currently in the works, is likely to affect the achievement gap (negatively). If they think it's a priority.

Posted by Thank you Moses, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 23, 2010 at 5:52 am

Moses...I am voting for you as President of the USA if you ever decide to run. That kind of hard hitting honesty and reflection has earned you a place in my book of honor for bravery beyond most people's ( because of the labeling you mention of "Uncle Tom'd"), beside the great ones of Thomas Sowell ( seem like you would enjoy his social economics books like Black Rednecks and White Liberals, and Myths) Clarence Thomas, Bill Cosby, Larry Elder, ..the list is long..but you get my point.

Related to education, you may enjoy Juan Williams' book "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure that are Undermining Black America–and What We Can Do About It. Juan Williams. Crown, New York. 2006."

And for really heavy but super fascinating research by a sociologist who came from another country ( forget which one) and who was black ( I think he has since died) here is another good one. He was asked by a District in..was it Chicago?..that had a pretty equal mix of affluent black and white families, but the black kids STILL had a heck of an "achievement" gap..though socioeconomics and schools were the same. The study of attitudes and social pressures that connived to reward non-academic success and punish academic success is amazing.

"Black American Students in An Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement"(Sociocultural, Political, and Historical Studies in Education) [Paperback]
John U. Ogbu (Author), With the Assist Davis (Author)

Good luck Moses, you have posted here before, and I wish you every luck. You are very brave, and it will take this kind of courage to save us from the destructive attitudes that are gripping this country.

Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2010 at 10:56 am

The rules for admitting children of underrepresented ethnic backgrounds to special ed are not the same as for "white/asian" children. It is illegal to administer the IQ test to minority children to confirms a discrepancy and therefore a placement in special ed. I don't know how it is handled by PAUSD, but maybe educators err on the side of caution, thus placing kids who seem to meet the criteria into special ed. While such children would get some needed extra help, it might also result in kids who don't need the specialized services crowding out kids who truly qualify. No good deed goes unpunished.

Posted by One Parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2010 at 11:13 am

Thank you Moses! Well said. Another problem in this school district is the lack of teaching. Although we have some wonderful teachers, many of the successful students in this district are being tutored in a number of subjects in order to bridge the gap left by teachers who don't cover the material in class. Unfortunately, this ends up making the teachers look good when these students do well on achievement tests. The students who do best in our district tend to be the ones whose parents pay a lot for outside help, thus raising the bar for everyone else, creating a false sense of our 'excellent' schools, and protecting some very crummy teachers from exposure and accountability. Just try complaining about a teacher. Your student will be blamed. If your child does not have tutors or is spending any extra time learning English as a second language or doing a sport, or heaven forbid, having some down time, he or she will be left in the dust no matter the ethnic background.

Posted by One Parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2010 at 11:34 am

To add to my post, in Palo Alto, special ed and the other programs dedicated to closing the gap are really charged with the job of catching non tutored students up with the tutored ones. A good tutor is a minimum of fifty bucks an hour, one on one, while the district can't afford this for everyone who can't pay on their own. What would be more efficient is to fire bad teachers, make the ones that remain accountable for teaching the material, and letting all the kids have some down time outside of school. As it is, school time is often wasted in a classroom with a non functioning teacher. Other than the problems Moses outlined, our district can only solve this problem by looking, not at special ed, but at the teaching quality.

Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2010 at 11:45 am

One Parent, the special ed program is not dedicated, intended or in any way proposed to close the achievment gap. It is specifically for children with definable handicaps who qualify under federal and state regulations. Administrators sometimes do attempt to use the program to close the achievement gap by admitting unqualified children, but that is essentially fraud. IDEA and achievement gap are two different state and federal requirements, both underfunded, but designed to address two different issues.

Posted by One Parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

Parent, that is my point. Just because that is its purpose does not mean that is what it is used for.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm

It seems strange to me that educators are so focused on race. If Latinos are not in the AP's porportionately, maybe there are other factors at work and it's not race. The families who can afford to move here tend to be very high achievers and are concentrated in this area. That maybe why there appears to be a gap when really it's the exceptionally talented people moving here from all over the world. But the students who don't achieve may not come from families and cultures that put so much emphasis on academics. Frankly, academics aren't everything. We should stop focusing on race and focus on helping children according to ability.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The academic rigor of apprenticeships for Electricians, Plumbers and other construction trades exceeds in rigor the average LibArt program

Posted by Student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 25, 2010 at 7:50 am

Perhaps it's the fact that AP classes are so expensive?

I know that it is 100 dollars or so per AP test. For some families that's a lot, and applying for scholarships is a hassle. On top of the fact that generally families from such backgrounds don't place as much emphasis on education (this is a generalization) equates to discouragement of taking such classes.

I was surprised that I had to pay for AP tests when I signed up this year. I think that is ridiculous and I used to go to an expensive private school.

This is public school where no matter what economic status you are you should be able to participate.

Another thing is sports, which you also have to pay for... ridiculous in my opinion. But that's another topic...

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2010 at 8:32 am


"It seems strange to me that educators are so focused on race. If Latinos are not in the AP's porportionately, maybe there are other factors at work and it's not race."

You missed the point entirely. No one says that Latinos are underachieving because of their race or because they lack "ability."

The schools pay attention to the underachievement by Blacks and Latinos because federal law tells them to. Federal law tells them to because minorities face discrimination in schools. There is nothing "strange" or mysterious about this.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2010 at 9:34 am

PAdad -- It's hard for me to believe that "minorities face discrimintion in schools" especially here in the Bay Area or in California. Many minorities succeed very well and some minorities believe they suffer from reverse discrimination, i.e., higher test scores, higher GPA needed in order to get into public universities such as the UC's. I just can't see our teachers having lower expectations for some students due to narrow-minded prejudices.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2010 at 9:43 am

PA Mom says "Many minorities succeed very well and some minorities believe they suffer from reverse discrimination, i.e., higher test scores, higher GPA needed in order to get into public universities such as the UC's".

I think white males find it hardest to get into UCs, as any minority with exactly the same test scores and GPAs as a white male will be chosen first in order to show that there is no prejudice being shown. The same can be said in the work force. This is what is now called reverse discrimination.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2010 at 10:30 am


"It's hard for me to believe that "minorities face discrimintion in schools" especially here in the Bay Area or in California.... I just can't see our teachers having lower expectations for some students due to narrow-minded prejudices."

Your argument seems to be you can't believe these things happen, so they do not happen. If you listen to your brothers and sisters of color, they can give you a different picture, and low expectations are just part of the problem.

"Many minorities succeed very well"

This, of course, is irrelevant to the discussion.

"I think white males find it hardest to get into UCs..." Er, I'd guess it's harder for Asian males.

Posted by Clueless, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm

padad - right on!

So here's a UC model for fixing the achievement gap problem in PAUSD - limit the # of White and Asian males who are qualified for AP classes and admit anyone from the under-achieving groups who want to get in. We know how that'll end up - half of the class will drop out, and meanwhile the gap is still there, just like the UCs. Guess we are not the only ones without a clue.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2010 at 7:03 pm

PA Dad you say that my comment "many minorities succeed very well" is in your words "irrelevant to the discussion." But you insist it is "low expectations" and "minorities face discrimination in schools" which are causing the gap. But why would schools/teachers favor some minorities and not other minorities? Schools are trying very hard to make sure discrimination is not going on. That's why it's hard for me to believe there is wide-spread discrimination in our PA schools or in the Bay Area or in California for that matter.

Posted by CrunchyCookie, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 25, 2010 at 9:12 pm

"Parent" from 4 comments above, get your facts straight. First, the reverse discrimination you speak of hits Asians hardest, not whites, and second, this only happens at private schools, as the UC system has been race-blind since the entering class of 1998.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm


Ah, now I get your coded drift. You are pitting Asians against black and Latinos.

"But why would schools/teachers favor some minorities and not other minorities?"

Your seem to have two points. The first is that you personally cannot imagine a rational reason for teachers/schools to discriminate, hence discrimination does not exist. The error in logic is pretty clear.

Your second seems to be that: Asians succeed academically but blacks and Latinos do not--thus, discrimination does not exist and blacks and Latinos are solely to blame for their academic problems.

This is a transparent attempt to pit minorities against each other, and it also does not follow logically.


It's hard to know what your point is, if indeed you have a point.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2010 at 10:40 pm

As a country of immigrants, willing and unwilling-- the Irish were brought here as slaves initially.

Destitute Asians, Europeans, etc have come to the US and thrived, we have a president whose father came from Kenya-- unfortunately he drank himself to death later-- but that was back in Kenya while he lived off UN money.

The achievement gap is one of culture, values and drive
Useless but well meaning programs perpetuate the problem and have created a permanent underclass

Posted by pamom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2010 at 9:45 am

PA Dad -- Now you are saying I've got hidden motives because you can't explain why some minorities achieve and others don't. I'm not pitting any group against any other. I abhor discrimination. You are trying to make this all out to be racist why some minorities don't achieve. I don't believe that is the case today here in California,and I don't see any evidence that schools/teachers favor one group and not others.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2010 at 11:05 am


In one breath, you say discrimination cannot exist because you cannot imagine it, and in the next, you say you "abhor" discrimination.

I would suggest to you that if you truly abhor discrimination, you would be willing to listen to people of color when they tell you that discrimination continues. There is a lot of research indicating this is true.

Posted by Moira, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I am empathetic, but also logical about the achievement gap for black and latino students. There are indeed racist people in our society, but in 2010, racism doesn't explain this academic gap.

Taking the race out of it. if your parents (mother being of primary importance as she is one raising kids if there is no dad present) are not educated, not literate in their primary language, and don't have books, stimulating toys, take kids to parks and libraries and/or find appropriate daycare for children, kids will have a VERY hard time keeping up academically with Palo Alto students. Read the studies, mother's educational level the highest correlation for student achievement. Most Asians and Indians in our area come here with both parents being well-educated in their home countries, not speaking English at home isn't relevant to how their children do in school, kids can learn English, but chance of academic success comes from your family. We think it is from schools, but schools can't fix the problem. Many latino kids have parents from rural areas who weren't educated in their home countries and may not even read or write Spanish fluently. They may be be hard-working and loving parents, but that is a huge barrier for their kids to overcome. As for black students, same goes as far as mom's education level and home environment for learning.

I agree with Walter for the point that we're deluded in thinking all kids, Palo Altans or not, need to go to college-we need to counsel students for other careers. An honest job is the best future for any person, plumber, waitress or physicist.

When we talk of US History, we must remember that the European immigrants didn't face actual legal discrimination (not talking about housing, Country club discrimination, or academic quotas for Catholics and Jews) as did the blacks and Asians. We've also left out the Jews from this, albeit a small minority, they were discriminated against in housing, employment and education for decades, yet founded their own schools and universities and they and the Irish have the highest percentage of college-graduates. My grandparents were first generation Irish factory workers and my dad, his brother and their male cousins graduated from college and many from graduate school (in the 1920s) and the women went to college and became nurses, teachers, etc. They were lucky in that there was strength in numbers and they organized, founded schools, started scholarship programs through their churches and union groups. My dad couldn't get a job after law school in the WASP New York firms, he did fine on his own. I do want to stress however, the Irish, although very poor when they arrived in the US, could read and write English, had a strong love of academics from Irish culture, and they were still "white" so that they assimilated easily.

I thus have no answer, and don't believe anyone does other than to provide a good school system and hope people benefit from it.

Posted by my pov, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 26, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Gets back to expecting equal opportunity, not equal outcome.

I like Sharon's post: the values, culture and drive of a child's family make or break a kid.

We can't fix kids who are growing up on the dole, whether it be with a single mom or 2 parents, who have many kids in order to "make a living" off our government system. The values and culture of that family are inherently at odds with academic achievement. This culture is destructive to any child, regardless of "color".

We can't fix kids who grow up in 2 parent families who are not on the dole, but who praise and value sports above academics.

We can't fix kids who look to rap, TV or movie star models, or peer groups on the street, who disparage work and school.

All these kids are born, through horrible luck,into a family or culture that does all they can to hold the kid back. It is very sad.

All we can do is offer them the best education we can, and volunteer our time to after school homework programs, or other programs, that help support them.

Conversely, I know kids who are thriving in school, and I was one, growing up with an uneducated Mom and an uneducated Dad, but who understand, support and pass on the values of education; going to school, doing your homework, studying, getting good grades,looking forward with goals and dreams for their children and passing these dreams on to their children. These parents work hard to move to a safe and supportive neighborhood, and work hard to "be there" for their kids. And so, the children succeed, "even though" they come here, perhaps, speaking no English and speak no English in the home. This culture is useful for their children, regardless of "color".

The only gripe I have is the "racism" of soft expectations..I think we tend to give a pass to kids for not handing in their work if we know they come from a bad family situation..this does not help the kid at all.

Posted by Anony Mouse, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

my pov:

You're missing an important mission of public education. We need to educate every child. We take them as they come (I'm an educator). We can't give up on students. We need to find a way to reach them. We need to find a way to bring these students up to the highest level. I don't think this is the racism of soft expectations. Your post indicates a level of hopelessness that I cannot abide. Our democracy and our economy depend on each student reaching their full potential. Part of that means that we need to search for explanations and diagnoses for persistent achievement gaps. There may be some blind alleys along the way. We can't give up. (I commend you to the work of Paolo Friere if you are interested)

I love it when we here in Palo Alto presume to know that values of others. I love all the sweeping generalizations too. I have known some lazy Asian students in my day. I have known some highly involved Latino parents too. What do I do with this information? I can only work with the student I have in front of me, whatever his or her values are.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2010 at 12:58 am

PA Dad,
I believe that PA Mom truly believes that Latino and African American students don't experience racism in Palo Alto schools. I've come across many white parents and teachers who can't imagine that it still exists in Palo Alto and the Bay Area. While I agree with you that they need to talk with more students and parents of color to find out what their experiences have been, I also think these conversations across race and cultural groups don't usually just happen. If our school district seriously wants things to change instead of blaming the achievement gap on semi-literate parents and lack of English fluency in the home, they will facilitate discussions so that those who have experienced racism in the schools first-hand can offer suggestions for what needs to change.
Having lived in this community for quite some time, I've grown accustomed to the fact that most Palo Altans make the assumption automatically that African Americans and Latinos are "underprivileged," so they view the real problem as socio-economic--not enough books in the home, too many people crowded into a small house, etc. While this obviously applies to some students, there are many to whom it doesn't apply. Yet students like my daughter often find that incorrect assumptions are made about them, and they frequently feel underestimated and somewhat invisible. The effect gradually is that they start to doubt their own worth and to lose self-confidence, even in areas in which they've always done well. In my opinion, this contributes as much as any other factor to the achievement gap and must be addressed.
My daughter has had so many experiences, beginning in kindergarten and on up through high school, that I would love to share with others, not to bash the schools, but to make people understand the experience of many students and parents of color here. Sometimes it's overt, like a high school counselor telling us, based on my daughter's grades fall semester of her sophomore year, that she would have no chance of attending a UC, so we shouldn't even consider it a possibility.(I plan to write that counselor a message letting her know that my daughter will be attending a U.C. this fall.) Other times, it's subtle. My daughter has always excelled in English, but two teachers questioned whether she belonged in the higher track, in spite of the fact that she made As and Bs in English all the way through. She was sometimes the only student who was not Asian or white in these classes. Her friends who weren't doing as well as she in the class were never advised to consider an easier class.
I definitely agree with the parent in the article who said we need to take a look at what other districts who have been more successful at lessening their achievement gaps are doing. This is not only an issue in this district, but some other districts are making much more of an effort to address it through programs like AVID, more free after-school tutorials staffed by teachers and experienced volunteers, recruitment of qualified teachers of color, etc.
Hopefully, PAUSD will get serious about analyzing this very complex issue and will quit giving itself excuses not to address it.

Posted by POV, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 27, 2010 at 5:44 am

anonyMouse..who said anything about hard working Asian vs lazy Asian?

You missed the point: it is about the culture/values of the family, neighborhood and role models of the kids, regardless of color.

It is our job to try to reach all students, yes, but it is not our job to bring them to the highest level, any more than it is our job to bring every adult to the highest paying level. The old saying about bringing a horse to water but you can't make it drink? Out job is to offer the same water trough to all, the same great educational choices to all our kids, regardless of background, color, family setting etc, and hope that more drink than turn away.

Best chance for the kids who have no home, neighborhood, church, or "Hollywood" role models? If one is "of color" and a professional, get out and volunteer where you can be seen and heard by kids. Give them someone who "overcame"...

With any luck, these same kids will have a teacher at some point, like I did, who shows them that it matters not if they are male, female, or purple, what matters is work and drive.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2010 at 6:44 am

Most of these comments say a lot more about the poster than about the issue. When I read that black and latino parents are to blame for the gap and the schools are blameless, then I know a lot about the poster's views about other races.

Paly mom,

I agree that dialogue might help, but my observation is that many PA parents arrive at the discussion with strongly held preconceived notions (semi-literate and non native English speaker parents are to blame).


"It is our job to try to reach all students, yes, but it is not our job to bring them to the highest level" Well, this is exactly wrong. It is the educators job to bring every kid to the highest level, to get them all to drink.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2010 at 8:12 am

"Most of these comments say a lot more about the poster than about the issue. When I read that black and latino parents are to blame for the gap and the schools are blameless, then I know a lot about the poster's views about other races."

And PADad wants to blame racism for the achievement gab, which shows both a distinct lack of understanding of the problem.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2010 at 8:13 am

...and a desire to paint everyone who doesn't agree with him into a very ugly corner.

Posted by PAImmigrantView, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 27, 2010 at 4:52 pm

We are first generation immigrants with poor English (as you'll see from my post). Our daughter attends elementary school in PA. Started speaking English in 1st grade. Never had a problem in PA school. Always challenged and supported. Tested high on STAR tests. I tried helping her with the homework, but she choose to do it herself. Atmosphere in the classroom is so that she feels "cool" to do well and happy to progress.

We have another not-native speakers in the classroom, who DON'T want to take an opportunity of an excellent school, distract teachers/kids, never participate, never return projects on time, etc. They are not necessary color kids. Who may force them to study?
As a matter of fact, we learned that kids who want to study are victimized by this "cover the gap" approach. Teachers are trying to work more on trouble kids, leaving the good kids behind, assuming they have an advantage of home education. That is not beneficial for either group - holding the advanced kids and trying to push kids who are showing no interest.

After all, as an adults we are not all Nobel winners either...

Posted by POV, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm

PA immigrant view...yup...full agreement...

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2010 at 6:05 pm

A lot of good points raised here.

Many parents judge success, not by the college or future career of their kids, but by the type of people they become. If they leave school, get a job nearby, live at home for a couple of years bringing money into the home while helping with family and chores, that is the type of success they want for their kids. If they go off to college, that is losing them, and if they spend time doing the community college route, then that is keeping them away from contributing to the family coffers. If they stay away from gangs, crime, and are a credit to the family, then that is success.

Should we condemn families with these values for not aspiring higher for their kids?

Academic success may be of secondary value to a family who are living paycheck to paycheck on multiple jobs. The parents themselves have succeeded through hard work and hope that their children do the same with perhaps a few advantages that would mean they only need to have one job instead of working evenings and weekends as the parents do.

Many of the people we meet, cleaning our homes, cutting our hair, cooking/serving our food and selling us groceries and household items, do not see their children wanting to do more except perhaps to be the managers and supervisors of the future.

If they have kids in our schools they may imagine that we are looking down on them if we say that we expect them to want more for their kids. As to the kids, they are probably getting a mixed message.

If we really want the kids of these type of families to outdo their parents, then we are going to have to change the mindset of the parents, and this is probably the biggest part of the problem. If the kids want to do better than the parents then their biggest obstacle is their parents, not anything going on in school. If these kids want to be just like Mom and Dad, then we don't have a chance.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2010 at 6:47 am

Great, the trifecta. Now we hear the notion that those who clean our homes do not have high aspirations for their children, hence their kids cannot do well. Simultaneous scorn and blame for the working poor. Way to go Palo Alto.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

An interesting review of research and evidence based solutions to the achievement gap in a review of this book Web Link

Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation
by Stuart Buck

Yale University Press, 261 pp., $27.50

"In 2000, in a book called Losing the Race, I argued that much of the reason for the gap between the grades and test scores of black students and white students was that black teens often equated doing well in school with “acting white.”
I knew that a book which did not focus on racism’s role in this problem would attract bitter criticism."........

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 28, 2010 at 8:31 am

"I knew that a book which did not focus on racism�s role in this problem would attract bitter criticism."........"

Oh, how ironic in light of padad's posts!

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 28, 2010 at 9:19 am

I agree with Parent. Not all parents expect their children to attend a four-year college or enroll in honors and AP classes. Many of the minorities are seeking good schools without gangs for their children. Simply graduating from high school is enough for them. Why do their children need to rise to the expectations of college grad parents?

Re grandma's statements about AA's being targeted, my son had two AAs in his class this year, both from loving families with college grad parents. However, both children were disruptive, didn't care to learn, couldn't sit still, and one of them said "I HATE SCHOOL." This is how stereotypes are formed. However, there are other AAs at the school who are perfectly well-adjusted. However, people tend to remember the stereotypes.

Posted by Gunnhsstudent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm

post from the other topic:

I'm sorry, but I think our school offers a lot of services for every single one of us who wants it.

If I'm having trouble in math or science, I go to Tutorial on Tuesdays, and as long as I have specific questions, it really helps. Some of us go because we really need those extra minutes with the teacher to go over stuff; others think it's time to get private tutoring from the teacher.

If I need help on a research project, I go to the Library and talk to the Librarian. There are a lot of databases and online stuff that helps out. Did you know there's an online Librarian where you can ask questions and they'll help you? My sister was a freshman, and last month she went to the writing lab in the library to get help with her essay. I didn't even know we had one. But it's there.

If I need a tutor, I go to the AC and get assigned either a student tutor or an adult tutor--for FREE. But you have to be ready for the tutor. I was in there and my friend was there to tutor this sophomore boy, but he just wanted to play on the computer. My friend got reassigned.

If I have questions about colleges and S.A.T., I go to the college center or see my counselor. They give me lots of information, tell me about websites to go to, and tell me I can email them with any questions any time.

Some of my classmates couldn't pass the exit exam. When they retook it, well before they took it, they went to the prep classes that the school had. FREE.

History and gov't classes? Guess what? Most of those classes don't have homework! You pay attention in class, do the essays and stuff, and take notes and you get an 'A' in the class. But you have to do SOMETHING. some kids in the class don't take notes, don't read the chapters. It's not that they can't read or write, and the information is easy, it's just that they don't want to. Well guess what, they fail the quizzes and tests. Should we feel sorry for them? Blame their parents income?

All I'm saying is that it seems the school provides a lot for us students. But we have to meet the school half way. Sure, a lot of the Asian kids do really well. But guess what? They actually want to. Kids that do well are the ones that put school first. It doesn't mean they automatically do well easily, but it means if they really want help they seek it out at school and use the help.

Some of my friends don't do well in science and math. But I ask them how much time they spend on each subject every night. They say like 15 minutes, 30, sometimes none at all. Schools can't force us to want to study and do our homework, read the chapters in the text to get ready for a quiz. WE have to want to do that.

I think all these resources the school gives us might be hurting a lot of students in some ways because, what if they go to college or get a job, they're going to get used to people always being there for them and expect that all the time.

Sorry, we talk about 'closing the achievement gap.' No! Because they can also mean taking away stuff that helps us to bring us closer to the students that don't want to try.

So, show me a student that fails Geometry and I'll show you a student who doesn't do all his homework every night, who doesn't show up for tutorial, and who probably has a messy binder or backpack with all his notes scattered.

Show me a student who fails an english test and I'll show you a student who probably didn't read the book, who didn't take his thesis to his teacher before the essay due date, and who doesn't listen in class.

And don't blame teachers. I had a math teacher freshman year who made no sense to me and I didn't have time to go to Tutorial for math. So I just went online and watched Youtube videoes. Aced the test. There's so much information out there to help us.

But does every student put school first?

Does every student go to tutorial with good questions?

Does every student at least do the minimum expected of them: read stuff assigned; do the math problems; don't cheat;

You can't just go by the numbers and say, oh, these groups of students aren't doing well let's blame the school.

The free lemonade stand is up, you just have to want to go up and ask for some.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2010 at 9:12 pm

A quote from the book review I linked to above argues for community schools in EPA rather than busing kids from EPA to PAUSD as the solution.
In fact the research suggests that such busing does EPA much more harm than good.--

"But in the increasing numbers of all-black charter schools, as well as public ones turned around by dynamic principals, students calling one another “white” for liking schools is as unheard of as it was in the black schools of yesteryear.
Our visceral recoil today at any conception of an all-black school as reminiscent of shabby one-room schoolhouses in the segregated Deep South must be discontinued."

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2010 at 7:24 pm

You bring up some valid points. However, I don't hear anyone blaming the school. The fact is that in many California high schools the black and brown students aren't doing as well academically as white and Asian students, according to a number of indicators. If it's the school's responsibility to educate every student at the highest level possible, it's important to analyze why the achievement gap exists and to come up with a plan to address it.
You seem to be saying, "Services exist and if people don't take advantage of them, that's their problem."
Suppose for a minute that white or Asian students started doing very badly, getting Cs and Ds and suddenly doing poorly on STAR and SAT. (Hard to imagine, isn't it?) Wouldn't we try to figure out the reasons and come up with a plan? If almost all their teachers were Latino, African American and Tongan, we might wonder if having more Asian and white role models might make a difference. And if we opened the yearbook and saw that almost all the students in leadership roles in the school were black or brown, we might begin to wonder if this had anything to do with the comfort level and achievement of whites and Asians in the school. If a number of the whites and Asians classified themselves as "ghetto" and hung out on the sidelines, we would try to understand this phenomenon, wouldn't we? If there were so few of them in AP classes that those who did sign up felt isolated, wouldn't we think something was wrong?

Posted by Gunnhsstudent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm

If Asian and white students started doing poorly, I would look at the homelife and economic status of the white and Asian community after polling the students.

A teacher told me that, on average, student success can be predicted based on two factors:
1. Academic level of the parents
2. Family income.

Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Jun 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm

To Paly Mom - Many Asians are "brown".

Posted by Christopher Chiang, a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2010 at 9:31 pm

If one looks, there are so many schools that prove that language and social economic status do not prevent success. Check out any of the following and you'll find that any of our traditional school districts around here can do more, much more:

Yes Prep:
Web Link
UnCommon Schools:
Web Link
Achievement First:
Web Link

Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 2, 2010 at 9:07 am

Paly Mom, Mike's comment that many Asians are brown is true, and the point is it's not racism. (You're not saying its the schools, but some of the posters believe it is the schools fault.) What strikes me as problematic is your focus on "groups". It would be much better to focus on skills from the early grades. 1st, 2nd, 3rd grades who is falling behind? Who needs more intervention? The educators like progressive programs which don't always work. If students were helped from early grades, this would go a long way in helping them to do well in high school.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 12:01 pm

It is the job of districts and the teachers to bring every kid to the highest level.

This district and its teachers are failing two races: blacks and latinos. Additionally, the district tags a disproportionate number as special ed. The district needs to get its act together.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Exactly! We should not be putting kids into special ed classes just because they need it. What is this district thinking?!

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm


You are naive and uninformed. Historically, black kids have been waaaay over-classified as special ed. By overclassified, I mean classified when they DON'T need it. Do a little research.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2010 at 1:34 pm

You can't win.

Either you let Latinos and AAs perform low or you put them in special classes with special help so that they peform better.

It seems that whichever you do, someone will complain that they are not being treated fairly.

If a child needs help, surely the best thing for that child is to give them the extra help. Complaining that too many are being labled special ed. while getting the help that they need means that either way, the schools can't win. Be damned if you do and be damned if you don't.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm


"Either you let Latinos and AAs perform low or you put them in special classes with special help so that they peform better."

What about a third option: doing a good job of teaching them in appropriate classrooms. It's racist to assume that Latinos and blacks need special ed to perform well and it's racist to assume they need special ed more than others.

You seem to have missed the point entirely which is NOT that minorities are being placed in special ed but that they are being INAPPROPRIATELY labeled in disproportionate numbers.

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 1:50 pm

This is a complicated issue, and as much as we'd like easy answers, there aren't any. While it's important to realize that parental education and socio-economics are factors in the achievement gap, it's also crucial that we not throw up our hands and say, "The schools can't do much because any educator knows that student achievement can be predicted by family income and parental education." As Mr. Chiang pointed out, some schools have been very successful. Having taught in Title One schools for many years, I can also attest to the fact that the attitude and expectations of teachers and administrators and the programs they put in place really matter. If a lot of the energy is going into finding excuses for the achievement gap instead of trying to find ways to address it, nothing will change.

Posted by Educate yourselves, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm

If an African American or Latino student is classified as a special education student it does not mean that he or she is going to perform academically better. It only means that the school has a reason and an excuse for not teaching the child. The child will not lean more just because he or she was classified as special ed. He will either be sent to a special ed class, (which goes very easy and they teach only the basics) or he will be taken out of the class and be teach the basics, while his peers are teach the appropriate grade curriculum. When he or she comes back, he is lost and tries very hard to catch, but it is impossible. I know this because I work in the schools and I see it every day. Special students get behind instead or learning more. It is sad, but their parents trust the system and do not question the placement or the services. Now rich white people get great services when they are identify, such as their own aid (which sometimes is a teacher)to help them in the regular classroom so, they do not have to be in a special ed classroom even if the student has bad behaviors; they will get extra help and services even at home, and in one case this girl even got an aide paid by the district to go and help her at Foothill College. Would the school do that for a Latino or an African American special ed. student? No, of course not, but they will get the label that will follow him for the rest of their life, and their parents will get a lots of promises that's all. This is one of the reasons why our Latino and African American youth are staying behind.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Ah, I see now. Rather than placing kids in special ed classes based on their need, I should exclude some children based on their race and introduce a quota system regardless of need.
"Sorry, your quota's full, you'll need to get by without help"
I now understand where you're coming from.

Posted by lifetime resident of EPA, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I agree with the young Black student. If the parent/s of the children do not do their part, the student comes to school unprepared to excel. There are many programs and churches in East Palo Alto that should address this issue. The school can only do so much. Many students come to school angry, disrespectful and uncaring. Whose fault is that? I could go on but it is a waste of my time. East Palo Alto agencies and churches need to step up and care for their own!

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm


Scroll up. Reread. Think.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm

PAdad, I did, I saw, I responded. You're requesting a quota system. Kids that need help should get it regardless of race.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 5:37 pm

You clearly read without comprehension. No one used the word "quota." No one suggested a system that resembles quotas. No one was thinking about quotas as they typed. It is a mystery how you arrived at quotas.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I understand completely. You use the term "overclassified" and what you mean is "quota".
Help should be given based on need. The red-haired, brown-eyed girl is just as deserving of help as every other child.
We should not be apportioning help based on some abstract model and excluding people because their "group" goes beyond your quota.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 9:01 pm


[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Overclassified means misclassified. Mistakenly classified. Inaccurately. Goof. Mistake-o. Ungood.

So yes, we SHOULD be apportioning help based on need and not on what race they belong to.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2010 at 10:54 pm

I understand perfectly the definition of overclassified. If you'd actually read the report, they found no evidence that this was the case in Palo Alto. The closest they came was to disproportionality.
Without any evidence that overclassification is occurring, and unless you can enlighten us further, all we're left with is your prejudice and desire for special ed to reflect your quotas. Both of which reflect your underlying agenda as opposed to reality.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 11:27 pm


You're still confused about overclassification and quotas.

If you actually read the article, you'd notice that the feds have dinged us for "significant disproportionality" in PAUSD, and that the district is "keenly aware" (scared). Barring a statistical blip (41 percent of all black kids are classified--seriously), this is simply overclassification.

Now, you may think overclassification is no big deal, but the feds don't agree. That's why PAUSD is tiptoeing around.

I'm simply pointing to facts: We're not doing a sufficient job of teaching black and latino kids. You're the one with the agenda.

Posted by confused, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 3, 2010 at 1:03 am


what do you suggest the District do differently? Huh? Being classified as Special Ed just means that the student has an IEP, which looks at the classes the student is taking and tries to lay out a plan to help the student succeed.

But the fact remains that the school provides a lot of choices, programs and services to ANYONE who needs help. I don't know what you want the school to do more ... should they assign someone to sit by them all throughout the day and make sure they take notes in class? To do their homework? I don't think the school should have to provide that much micromanagement when parents should be doing that.

Schools should not have to do tasks that are inherently the parents' responsibility.

I suggest, padad, that you visit the high schools and look for yourself. Sit in on a class. If a student is in Algebra I/Geometry, English, World History, P.E., Biology and Spanish I, they shouldn't have difficulty. There is tutorial and tutoring available for math; you can pass freshman English pretty easily if you read the material assigned and listen in class, even if you are bad at writing. World History is pure reading and taking notes; most of the tests are open notes. Biology? Worksheets mostly and reading. Spanish I? Vocabulary. Use notecards. It's not like these students who are falling behind are in Calculus or Physics AP.


"We're not doing a sufficient job of teaching black and latino kids" is what you wrote.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 3, 2010 at 5:31 am

Paly Mom wrote:

"Suppose for a minute that white or Asian students started doing very badly, getting Cs and Ds and suddenly doing poorly on STAR and SAT. (Hard to imagine, isn't it?)"

Wow, such breathtaking racism, and no rebellion from the thread? Imagine the following sentence " Suppose for a minute that a brown or black student started doing very well, getting As and Bs, and suddenly doing great on the STAR and SAT( Hard to imagine, isn't it?)"...what is your reaction?


Taking a deep breath: will repeat for about the millionth time, true liberals, which I am, treat each person as an individual, not as part of a group, and offer each individual the choice of how to pursue his or her own happiness.

I prefer to address students doing poorly on the basis of who they are, not what color they are.

Biggest indicator of doing poorly or well in school, even higher than education level of "parents"....whether or not there is both a Mom and a Dad in the home, or just a Mom.

Single moms raising kids have the highest risk (of all "groups", regardless of "color") of poverty, failed kids, and kids ending up in jails.

93% of all under 18s in jail for violent crime, male or female, were raised by "single moms"...

Dedicated, married, moms and dads, at least one of whom is working at job, both working to raise kids the best the can, instilling values in their kids about education and work, regardless of their own education level, have a much better chance of raising kids who do well.

I wonder when we will finally let go of our racism and focus on individuals and non-color analysis of success factors? To continue the focus on "race" implies that somehow some races are less capable than others, and I simply do not believe that.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 3, 2010 at 5:54 am

To Educate Yourselves: What do you propose to do with kids who can not keep up in the regular classrooms by middle school, after having been fully mainstreamed and every chance given with after school programming and in-school psychologists and resource teacher support for 6 years, kindergarten through 5th grade?

Without Special Ed, do you propose to keep them as failures in the regular classrooms? If a kid is still reading at 3rd grade level, still cannot do basic math, and is in 7th grade..what, exactly, do you propose to do?

Stay and continue to fail, or give them a chance to succeed in a different environment, and get a chance to move forward in a different path?

How or why they got there is a different question, but their individual needs must be addressed or they will simply drop out and join gangs.

I know special ed extremely well...I, too, have noted that high preponderance of not just "colors", but boys, in special ed classes and with special ed support. Go check out the remedial classes this summer in the middle school. You won't be shocked. On the other hand, the rest of us are not surprised at the appalling lack of respect for the teachers and the anti-academic behaviors that are showing in the classroom. As others have said, the kids have to have many components to be able to learn..not only must they have the intelligence, which frankly most DO have that I have seen, they have to have the BEHAVIORS and ATTITUDES to go along with the intelligence to succeed in school.

Lots of reasons for poor behaviors, from medical like ADHD to cultural, like home/neighborhood environment, but the bottom line is if the kid can't or won't drink the water he is led to, nobody can force it down his throat and it lays the groundwork for ..special ed by middle school.

I have one of those kids...we as parents have been married his whole life, well educated, wealthy, highly involved in his life, done everything we can to support him and get him to drink from the water trough, but he was born fighting it from day one from his ADHD and basic rebellious personality, and regardless of what we have done, from school support to private support to meds to psych,..he still fails ( academically) in spite of being very intelligent.

Genetics? Certainly not environment. And in his class I see many with similar attitudes and behaviors, and also see that most of his class is comprised of non-white kids. All genetics? A higher percentage of "genetics" in some "colors" over others? Or do some environments produce these behaviors more than other environments?

I wonder if there will ever be anyone brave enough to study the offspring of single moms and see if there is higher preponderance of, for example, ADHD etc which leads to so many single mom kids( and adopted kids) being in special ed/resource by the time they are 10 and failing school.

At some point, we have to accept people for who they are, and stop trying to change them into some idea of what we want them to be.

So, off onto a different path we are heading for my son. No shame in it, simply trying to get him on a path of success..not everyone is meant to succeed academically. As my mother raised me to believe, an expert roofer or plumber who loves his job is as valuable and important as an expert doctor,..who do you call when your roof leaks or sink explodes in the middle of the night? Not a physicist.

As long as my son can choose something he loves to do and can do well, doing the best he can at it, and I can help him get there by whatever route it takes, I will be very happy for him.

And if non-college bound, special ed ( what we used to call "Vocational Ed" when I was growing up) is the route he be it.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2010 at 7:37 am

Oh, dear PADad, you don't know the difference between overclassification and disproportionality!
If overclassification were occurring it would, indeed, be a big deal. Unfortunately you've been unable to show that to be the case. In fact, the report you quote specifically looked into this and found no evidence of it.
Simply put, your arguments have run out of gas. Unless you can provide some evidence, you should avoid casting aspersions based on your prejudices. PAUSD will continue to provide help based on need and not based on your desire for a quota based system.

Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Jul 3, 2010 at 9:05 am

Perspective, I truly believe that our boys are labeled as slow because the teachers and curriculum in the early grades are geared toward communication - something girls are "better" at. Most teachers are women.

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2010 at 11:41 am

How is it racism to acknowledge that certain groups aren't doing as well academically and to try to figure out why? You and many others like to think that racism has nothing to do with it and that analyzing the progress of different ethnic groups is racist. We just aren't there yet, as much as we'd like to think we are.
I think you missed the point when you reacted so strongly to my suggestion that we'd be very concerned if white and Asian students suddenly started doing poorly. What I meant was that parents and educators would want to know why and would ask questions to try to fix the problem. If the problem persisted, many parents would put their children in private schools. The reason why so little has been done to try to address the achievement gap for Latinos and African Americans in the district is that almost everyone takes it for granted. Many blame the parents and lack of family resources and preparation, so they don't expect the situation to change. As I pointed out in a previous post, some other districts are taking a different approach and are having more success at diminishing the achievement gap. Why not look at what these districts are doing differently?
A previous poster brought up the fact that boys are overrepresented in Special Ed. also, which brings up an interesting issue. Many universities these days are having trouble finding enough qualified young men to keep their classes balanced. As a result, many universities are admitting 60% of the young women and 40% of the young women who apply. As a high school teacher, I've talked with other educators about this trend. We find it alarming, but not surprising, given our day-to-day experience in the classroom. Is it sexist to focus on the difference in the overall achievement of young men and women in our society? If we are concerned about the males, we need to understand what's happening, just as we need to understand the experience of Latinos and African Americans in order to know what to do differently.

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2010 at 11:43 am

Correction: I meant "60% of the young women and 40% of the young men that apply."

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm

As a parent of both genders, I can attest that boys do learn differently from girls and learn differently as they get older. From volunteering in classrooms and and seeing my kids go through high school, I can see that my boys change their learning styles as they age. In K - 2nd grade, there isn't very much difference, but by late 2nd grade and into 3rd grade, the boys don't ask as many questions, don't have a desire to read (unless it is about sport or other factual subjects) and prefer to work on their own rather than in a group. Girls on the other hand, still ask a plethora of questions, give their opinions whether they are asked for it or not and love working with others. As they go into the middle and high school ages, boys tend to do better in lecture style lessons with plenty of graphics and examples given - good videos teach them a lot - and girls still want to interact with their teachers and peers, communicate what they know and don't know and are not afraid to look silly by asking an obvious question.

Our education system tends to be particularly well suited to girls at the older elementary level and then various teachers tend to do better with one gender or the other depending on their style (and perhaps their own gender).

I have generalized a great deal in this post I know, but my own experience volunteering in classrooms and helping my own kids and often their friends has lead me to this conclusion. I have no idea if any studies have been done on this, but the days of single gender schools often produced very good results, as do places like Castelleja.

Posted by Exams for boys, exams for girls, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 3, 2010 at 4:40 pm

"Coursework was dropped from GCSE maths last year, immediately prompting boys to surge ahead of girls in the subject for the first time in more than a decade." Web Link

Posted by thought experiment, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 3, 2010 at 8:25 pm


"we'd be very concerned if white and Asian students suddenly started doing poorly."

Actually, we would probably not be concerned if results overall (i.e. among all students as a single group) did not drop. We'd probably have awards and celebrations for reducing the achievement gap.

This is a clear example of racism, but it's currently legal.

Posted by question, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 3, 2010 at 9:14 pm

how many of the above posters work for PAUSD?

because if you don't, you're just spittin' into the wind right now.

posting on a message board isn't going to fix the problem. volunteer in the counselor center, the library, the homework club.

become a mentor to one of the struggling students.

stop blaming everyone; stop talking about it; go do something.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 4, 2010 at 6:12 am

Parent..yup..if I could have, I would have put my boys into all boys schools..then maybe they would have had to read "boy books" instead of "girl books" in elementary school, and would have been more engaged.

And, for math, it leaves them in the dust to use language based math so early, instead of "'rithmatic" style math in elementary school for the. School does, indeed, play to all that is the weakest in boys, in general.

I suspect, as far as "race" goes, those who believe it is race based, not culturally based, will never agree with those of us who suspect culture/choices that reinforce non-academic behaviors.

Blacks who move here from other countries as teens and older do every bit as well or better than their white contemporaries...if "race" were the issue, then they wouldn't. I submit the focus on colors, not behaviors, does a huge disservice to and brown folks hear excuses and victimization based on something none of us can control, our skin color, not useful help for controllable factors, like our choices.

If nothing else, think about history. In the 1950s, the "proportion" of "colors", for example, in jails was the same as the proportion in the community.

By the 70s, this started flipping upside now it is fully flipped.

What changed? Many things..but all of them were "liberal" policies meant to "help", and resulting in the destruction of the family unit, and victimization of "colors".

40 years of "helping" has actually destroyed so many people. It is time to rethink our policies, and try to do what works, not enable poor behaviors and choices.

Reference: Thomas Sowell, "White Liberals and Black Rednecks", and excellent source with many other sources noted. Or, if you want a quick read, try a link to an essay by him Web Link

Bottom line: We hurt children/adults of color by treating "them" differently from "whites and asians". Our very assumptions of incapability impair abilities..we tend to live up or down to the assumptions of others. I still prefer to teach to the individual, what works for them, and stop enabling poor choices in children AND adults that have lead to the destruction of the black, and rapidly catching up, brown family.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2010 at 10:24 am


"what do you suggest the District do differently?" A good suggestion has been made by state and federal authorities: close the achievement gap. With regard to special ed, they would make a good start by not over-classifying so many students of color.


You are deeply confused about race and racism.

No one is suggesting that students of color do poorly "because of their race." It is quite clear, however, that the schools treat them differently from how they treat whites, and this is partly why they do poorly. To name one PAUSD example, you have heard directly from Paly mom above (and they are plenty of others in the community, if you care to make their acquaintance) about the low expectations from teachers, the invisibility, false assumptions, under-estimation. Put more simply, racism in this district holds back students of color.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm

"With regard to special ed, they would make a good start by not over-classifying so many students of color."

Of course! Why it's brilliant! All we need to do is re-classify all special-ed students along racial lines aligned with the racial percentages of all students in the district.
Why should the district care about actually helping students when they can solve all the students' problems simply by re-classifying them!
Why has no-one thought of this before?! We don't need to wait, start those quotas in August!

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm

PA dad , well, ..the only thing clear to me after all my years helpin in the schools in special ed is that nowadays SOME school personnel are getting tired of the R word being tossed at them when they offer help to kids who aren't white they have started being more careful about WHICH kids they offer help to..if it is a kid with a parent with a chip on his or her shoulder, ready to fling the R word at them if they dare to offer help to their kid, guess what? Few dare tread there any more.

So, win...the only losers in the whole game are the kids.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

BTW, PA Dad, your assumption that my family is not "in the community" ( of color, I assume), is ..well...a highly racist assumption. I suppose you are going to make similar assumptions about Thomas Sowell and Juan Williams, with whom I agree about the state of our education of "minorities"?

Oh well..let us know how your 'tude works out for you!

Posted by PAdad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2010 at 4:40 pm

"All we need to do is re-classify all special-ed students along racial lines aligned with the racial percentages of all students in the district."

Scroll up, reread, think.


Well, if the wounded sensibilities were the highest thing on our priority list you might be right, but they're not. Getting the schools to correctly classify kids would make winners out of them, not losers.

I'm not sure why you assume that I assumed you were not "in the community." But it is clear you don't have contact with people in the community because you are unaware of the evidence.

Posted by confused, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Um, yeah, Padad, you didn't answer the question. "close the achievement gap" is not an adequate answer to what you want the District to do to close the achievement gap.

What specifically do you want the District to do to close the gap?
Not over-classify people of color? All classifying students as special ed does is grant them an IEP. They are still in regular classrooms, they just meet with counselors more often.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm


Right, I'll just come up with a thorough-going reform of the entire district and post it here on paonline. Hardy har.

Seriously? As far as you're concerned you could classify all minorities as special ed and that wouldn't be a problem? Wow, you really need to read up.

Posted by confused, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 4, 2010 at 7:07 pm


Unlike you, I know a lot of people who are in Special Ed. And, for the most part, they do need that extra attention. It's not like all students can be in Focus on Success, which has limited capacity and is only one period a day. Your suggestion is to pull those minorities who have been classified as needing to be in special ed. and reclassify them as students who can be left alone in traditional classrooms without any extra support. The achievement gap would probably widen under your directive.

I'll give you a suggestion since you can't think of any ...

The school needs to realize that traditional classrooms don't work for everyone. While many students, such as myself and a lot of my friends, like going to class for 60 minutes, hearing lectures, doing homework and taking tests, other students don't like that whole approach. Rather, there needs to be a program on campus--and not Alta Vista in Mountain View--where students can work all day in small groups and do a lot of independent study. Some students classified as special ed. simply don't like the whole orchestrated school day. They have the intelligence to learn and to express their ideas, but they aren't motivated to express those ideas in traditional classrooms. It's too big and impersonal for them, and as you'll find out in research, those in Hispanic and AA families are used to very personal surroundings.

I imagine a future where a group of 28-30 students come into a classroom with a teacher and a good aide. It would be the same group of students for the entire day. It really works well at Alta Vista and there's no reason why it can't work at Gunn and Paly, especially if it leads to closing the gap. The curriculum won't be dumbed down ... but rather works at a pace that's better for the students, and a lot of times that can mean faster and quicker at some stuff and a bit slower for others.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Confused @ Gunn

I don't think you are confused at all - you make a lot of sense.

My boys are good examples of how the system isn't working for them. At elementary school and to some extent in middle school they were expected to learn to work in groups. This did not work for them, although girls tend to do well in this. In high school they work much better with the lecture type approach for math and science classes and discussion type lessons in social studies and English. They would rather write an essay for homework than some of the projects they have to do. If they don't understand, they won't ask for help as they feel they look dumb. They try to find the answers in text books or online if they feel motivated to, but often give up when they can't understand something everyone else seems to have grasped first time, even if everyone else only gets it because they have been tutored. Getting them to go to meet with counselors or teachers doesn't work. It isn't because they can't be bothered but because they don't want to look dumb.

Girls ask for help, chat to their friends about the problems they don't understand and thrive on group projects.

If this doesn't make sense, look at adults. Men get lost while driving because they don't look at a map beforehand or want to ask for directions. Women tend to have their route worked out and will ask several times for directions just to make sure. Men leave at the last possible minute and expect to find their way without problems or heavy traffic. Women give themselves longer to get somewhere than necessary.

Men expect to be able to do things (or learn things) straight away while women realise that they may need help or it may take longer. Men don't like to admit they are lost or can't do something, women have no problems with it. Kids in the classroom are exactly the same.

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2010 at 8:36 pm


You're not really following the thread of this conversation. No one here suggested that we do away with special ed. Reread the thread and try to make a more coherent contribution.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 4, 2010 at 9:07 pm

You see, Confused, PADad just wants special ed. to reflect the racial percentages of students in the district.
You see, as PADad notes above, as soon as we do this, it removes the disproportionality and the achievement gap will disappear.
It's quite ingenious and surprising the district hasn't already introduced this.

Posted by confused, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 4, 2010 at 9:08 pm

I've been following it. A government report says that the District has an special education program over-represented with minority students. You, Padad, assert that the District overclassifies minority students as special ed. You want the District to not "overclassify" minority students as special ed. and to "close the achievement gap" between minority students and non-minority students.

I'm arguing that the District properly classifies its students, even if minority students are over-represented BECAUSE those minority students DO need an IEP.

You would like the District to properly classify students, and you believe that many minority students shouldn't be in Special Ed.

You are incorrect.

Second, you would like the district to close the achievement gap. I asked you for specific ways the district could do that and didn't want to provide one on this forum. I suggested a comprehensive independent study program where students can finish coursework and learn the curriculum that's provided in a traditional classroom but in a different manner. I assert that many students in the special ed program would benefit from different classroom environments because: 1) They have the capacity to learn 2) They would like to learn 3) They are unmotivated in traditional classrooms

The above is an AWESOME and coherent contribution.

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2010 at 1:03 am

Dear Confused,
There's no reason to reinvent the wheel. If you look at Paly's last WASC report at (I'm sure Gunn has one also), you'll see that the staff has come up with their own recommendations for addressing the achievement gap. In addition, each department has come up with specific goals towards the same end.
In the report you'll see that "Latino and African American students at Paly are 2 to 3 times less likely to qualify for University of California than white or Asian students." STAR scores reflect the same differences in achievement.
Some of the school's goals are:
1) to hire more "underrepresented minority teachers who serve as
role models" (a fine idea, but I don't see that they're making
as much headway as they claimed in the WASC report)
2) to explore more formalized systems of assistance for at-risk
3) training for teachers (apparently there's already been some) to
help them create emotionally safe learning environments for all
students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, etc.
4) better communication among teachers, advisors and counselors
when students aren't doing well (excellent idea)

Two suggestions I'd like to add:
1) Expand the AVID program, which now serves few students. AVID
has been successful in many other districts at getting less
than highly motivated students of color to strive and believe
they can go to college. From what I've seen, it's very impor-
tant to have well-trained, caring teachers working with AVID
that students can connect with.
2) Set up group discussions with Latino and African American
students who are recent graduates to find out about their
classroom experiences, positive and negative. Ask them
what the school could do differently. This was done at the
school where I teach and videotaped, then shown to staff.
The comment that struck me the most was one made by
several male students who felt that teachers usually under-
estimated them and that they always had to prove themselves to
teachers in the beginning in order to be seen as serious

I think it might surprise teachers in PAUSD to hear
about the experiences of Latino and African American students
students. Maybe it would make them more aware of their as-
sumptions and students' perceptions. At the very least, it
would stimulate some much-needed discussion about these

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2010 at 8:55 am


You seem to be less wild now.

Your ideas are both neato and awesome, by which I mean enthusiastic but uninformed, and I think we can safely set aside your insistence that minorities are not over-represented as bluster.

I think you need to read up on the history of how special ed has been used to discriminate against minorities, blacks in particular.

Any solution to this problem and the wider one of the achievement gap will not start with IEPs, mix-and-match classes for demotivated/special ed kids. By the time you've over-classified, it is too late. The solution will start in every single classroom and particularly at the elementary level. It will have to change teacher by teacher. Clearly, hiring more underrepresented minority teachers would help in this regard.

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2010 at 10:28 am

"and I think we can safely set aside your insistence that minorities are not over-represented as bluster."

Of course we can! Just look at what PADad has for proof? There was...well...hmmm....ok they must have been some....
Oh, wait, he doesn't have any. He believes that all he needs to do is re-label disproportionality as overclassification and he's done.
Just ignore the fact that there was no evidence of overclassification occurring during a district study by people far more capable of making the call than PADad.
I better stop here - his post are, after-all, very amusing.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Could desegregation have caused the culture of academic under performance?--from Slate todayWeb Link

"Some black students in the 1990s had a derisive name for their peers who spent a lot of time studying in the library: incog-negro.
The larger phenomenon is all too well-known.
Many blacks—especially black young men—have come to the ruinous conclusion that academic excellence is somehow inconsistent with their racial identities, and they ridicule peers for "acting white" if they hit the books instead of the streets after school.
The usual explanations for this self-destructive attitude focus on the influence of dysfunctional cultural norms in poor minority neighborhoods: macho and "cool" posturing and gangster rap.

The usual prescriptions emphasize exposing poor black kids to better peer influences in integrated schools. Indeed, the implicit promise of improved attitudes through peer association accounts for much of the allure of public-school integration.
But suppose integration doesn't change the culture of under performance?
What if integration inadvertently created that culture in the first place?
This is the startling hypothesis of Stuart Buck's Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation. Buck argues that the culture of academic underachievement among black students was unknown before the late 1960s"-------

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2010 at 7:41 pm


Proof? Yeah, you and the tobacco companies are up to the same game. Looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck. (Unless YOU have evidence otherwise. No? Didn't think so.)


The whole "acting white" thing was invented by conservatives bent on blaming minorities and has been debunked many times.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2010 at 8:01 pm

The "acting white" study I linked to was published today in Slate which is a liberal news channel --- if you have evidence re"debunked many times" then please provide three references preferably from peer reviewed journals---- we are waiting-- thanks

Posted by observer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm

What, PADad, you've finally caved? You *really* don't have anything at all? From the beginning of this thread you have been casting aspersions and it turns out you don't have anything. What a joke!

Posted by padad, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2010 at 11:18 pm


I've provided a large sample of data to support my point. You have nothing on your side except a willingness to heckle. If you really believe what you say, give some evidence.

Of course, you can't because it doesn't exist.

Posted by 2cents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2010 at 9:15 am

If racism is the problem, something can be done about it. You can go to the principal if a teacher or counselor has done anything that you consider harmful and/or racist. The last thirty years the schools have been trying to eliminate racism through sensitivity training and curriculum changes. If the principal doesn't respond, go to the district office, and if they don't help, go to the state department of education. The achievement gap is not due to racism.

Posted by concerned, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jul 6, 2010 at 9:40 am

Lets also work on white and Asian kids gap closure, Peter Oppenheimer and my salary differences... Why not? Could be nice.

I agree with student and many others that the opportunities are THERE for ALL kids. It's up to them to use or ignore it. Race differences (that I personally didn't see in decades), role models, cultural emphasis on education, family interference and support of students shouldn't be taken lightly and requires a community support. But that should be taken out of the classroom, and not implemented on the expense of other students.

We have 2 kids in the classroom this year from EPA - one studying, participating, engaged, very much involved, great kid eager to learn and use the opportunity of our excellent PA schools. Other - pity to see, aggressive, disrespectful, ignorant, disruptive, not participating, not progressing. Same teacher, same environment, same program. If anything, the second child has more attention than anybody in the class. How do you suggest to close the gap??? Put the whole class on his/her level? Create a separate class on the expense of other 22 students? Cut the music/art teacher from PiE and hire a personal ed? What is the solution other than look at the environment and try to work on the larger problem as a community, other than blaming the school and "close the gap"?

Posted by HelpUsIn94303, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Sorry to hear about the achievement gap in Palo Alto schools, but believe it or not there are worse things happening on the other side of the tracks in East Palo Alto at the Ravenswood City School District. By the media ignoring what is happening there, the Board and Superintendent are not being held accountable for their continuous failure to educate students. Most community members, parents and students don't know that nearly all of the principals (of Cesar Chavez, Flood, Green Oaks, McNair, Willow, etc.) have either been fired or quit. Teacher turnover is at least 40% annually (yes 4 in 10 leave each year). One school has lost all but three of the teachers it had when school ended in June. Many teachers have classes with 30% - 50% of the students requiring Special Education services, but the teachers have little to no additional adult support in the room. So, neither the Special Education students or those without special needs are being properly educated. 70% of Ravenswood students that go on to high school dropout (check Sequoyah Union data). What is the State of CA waiting on before placing a State Administrator at Ravenswood, a 100% dropout rate?

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