Palo Alto schools not top-performing for Latino, low-income students | June 7, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 7, 2013

Palo Alto schools not top-performing for Latino, low-income students

New nonprofit ranks local schools on results with disadvantaged students

by Chris Kenrick

The Palo Alto Unified School District ranks behind nine other Silicon Valley districts in helping Latino students gain proficiency in algebra by eighth grade, according to a new report.

The nonprofit Innovate Public Schools, with offices at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, analyzed the performance of minority and low-income students in all 54 public-school districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

The new group says it will issue annual reports spotlighting the best- and worst-performing local schools with respect to their results with disadvantaged students.

In this year's "report card" — Innovate's first — Palo Alto came off as neither best nor worst.

"In Palo Alto Unified, only 28 percent of Latino children are proficient in algebra by eighth grade," said Innovate Public Schools Executive Director Matt Hammer.

"By that metric, Palo Alto ranks 10th out of 36 districts (containing middle schools) in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and is doing just 9 percent better than Ravenswood School District.

"The top public schools in the Valley are getting twice as many ... Latino kids to proficiency in algebra by eighth grade," Hammer said. One charter school, San Jose's KIPP Heartwood, was the best, with 81 percent of its Latino eighth-graders achieving algebra proficiency.

The top three public-school districts in Latino eighth-grade algebra achievement were Las Lomitas Elementary (67 percent), Los Altos Elementary (43 percent) and Gilroy Unified (38 percent).

On a different metric — preparing Latino students for eligibility for California's four-year public universities — Palo Alto was near the top, ranking second out of 16 local districts with high schools, according to the Innovate report titled "Broken Promises: The Children Left Behind in Silicon Valley Schools."

Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District ranked first among public-school districts, ensuring 61 percent of its Latino seniors graduated with the prerequisites for four-year colleges compared to Palo Alto's 48 percent.

An East Palo Alto charter school, Aspire Phoenix Academy, did even better: 62 percent of its Latino students took the classes required for entrance to a four-year-college.

Charter schools figured prominently among the top-performing schools highlighted in the Innovate report, with four charters among the top 10 elementary schools in Latino Academic Performance Index scores.

Rocketship Education, a charter organization co-founded by Palo Alto resident John Danner, operates many of the top-performing schools cited in the report.

Schools that do well with disadvantaged students tend to set consistently high expectations, Hammer said.

"From kindergarten up, these schools believe all their students can succeed in college and push their students hard. Aspire Phoenix requires students to take community college courses. Summit Prep (in Redwood City) requires at last six Advanced Placement courses.

"Effective schools organize to reach their goals. All focus intensely on tracking students' progress to make sure they get help when they need it — before they lose hope."

San Jose's Alum Rock School District had three of the five top-performing middle schools for Latino algebra proficiency, as well as one of the top-performing elementary schools. That district has launched three new schools in recent years and also has worked cooperatively with charter schools, Hammer said.

East Palo Alto's Ravenswood City School District was represented on two of the "worst-performing" lists.

Ravenswood's Ronald McNair Academy was the lowest-scoring middle school for Latino algebra proficiency in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, with only 3 percent of its eighth-graders proficient, according to the report.

Two other Ravenswood schools, Green Oaks Academy and Belle Haven Elementary School, were on the list of the 25 lowest-scoring elementary schools in the two counties in the state Academic Performance Index scores for Latino students.

Rocketship two years ago was turned away from opening a K-5 charter school in the Ravenswood district after a 3-2 vote by Ravenswood trustees. Voting in favor of Rocketship were trustees Ana Maria Pulido and Evelyn Barajas-Luis. Voting against Rocketship were Marcelino Lopez, Saree Mading and Sharifa Wilson, accepting the recommendation of Ravenswood Superintendent Maria De La Vega that Rocketship presented an "unsound educational program" that was unlikely to be implemented successfully.

Palo Alto has closely and publicly tracked the performance of its minority and low-income students in recent years, measuring progress against goals set in 2008. Last fall, district statistician Diana Wilmot reported some progress in narrowing the achievement gap.

Palo Alto had earned a "D" in service to minority and low-income students in a March 2012 report published by the Oakland-based Education Trust West, which evaluates how well California's largest school districts serve Latino, African-American and low-income students.

The district also has been sanctioned by the state for having an overrepresentation of minority students in special education. In 2011, Palo Alto was among 17 of California's 1,000 school districts labeled by the state Department of Education as having "significant disproportionality" in special ed.

The Board of Education voted last year to stiffen Palo Alto's high-school graduation requirements, aligning them with the four-year college-prep curriculum effective with the graduating Class of 2016. The move, supported by minority student and parent groups, was aimed at raising expectations for the roughly 20 percent of Palo Alto students who graduate without those prerequisites, with minority and low-income students overrepresented in that group.

Latinos make up 38 percent of enrollment in Santa Clara and San Mateo county public schools, with African-Americans and Pacific Islanders adding another 4 percent. Latinos make up 10.5 percent of enrollment in Palo Alto, with African-Americans adding another 3 percent. Pacific Islanders are not broken out in the district's published ethnicity data.

Innovate Public Schools was launched last October, with $200,000 from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and $750,000 from the Walton Family Foundation, managed by the family that started Wal-Mart.

Hammer and former San Jose Unified School District Superintendent Linda Murray, now associated with Innovate, said the new group wants to spark a sense of urgency for school reform.

Widespread, systemic change is particularly difficult because there are 54 separate school districts in the two counties, they said.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation Executive Director Emmett Carson has argued that the high number of separate school districts constitutes a "fundamentally flawed system," hampering accountability and change.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by Educator, a resident of Woodside
on Jun 6, 2013 at 9:59 am

Educator is a registered user.

If the Common Core standards are adopted by the State, Algebra I will be primarily taught in 9th grade.

Posted by weekly reader, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2013 at 11:00 am

Thank you Educator - right on the point. Weekly why are you using 8th grade algebra as an indicator since it was also just voted out as an unreasonable expectation.

More relevant is the focus on elementary schools instead of the high schools. By high school it is too late. Elementary schools are really responsible for these statistics.

Posted by Weekly can do better, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

Lazy reporting, I think. Of course, this seemingly more important stat was buried 9 paragraphs in: "On a different metric -- preparing Latino students for eligibility for California's four-year public universities -- Palo Alto was near the top, ranking second out of 16 local districts with high schools." Maybe are high-performing for Latino's after all?

Posted by Ralph, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 6, 2013 at 11:15 am

Surprised at PAUSD doing a terrible job for black/brown students? Not me or anyone with half a brain. These student are victims of covert racism on the part of white teachers. These well-intentioned educations and principals/VPs practice this not so subtle form of racism. There are dozens of ways to ignore these students. There are many ways to favor white students. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] They are missionaries with no sensitivity or training in reaching non-whites.

If you think that only the black/brown students are being hurt, the teachers of color don't fair much better. One blak male teacher has been passed over for the tenure track many times while less competent WHITE teachers have jumped ahead of him on the PAUSD tenure track. This discriminatory practice has gone on for SEVEN (7) years at one of the high schools. This month another African-American teacher is being forced to change grades of students who did not follow project requirements. About ninety percent (90%) of the students did the project correctly. But the school administrator retaliated by accusing the teacher of "bad faith" and sending the matter to the district office staff/school board.

Complaints have been filed with Office of Civil Rights. There are currently THREE complaints
against PAUSD for discrimination; now there will be a 4th and maybe a 5th complaint filed. We are talking about FOUR and possibly FIVE discrimination complaints filed against PAUSD in a 12 month period.

In good faith I award PAUSD an "F" for its treatment of black/brown students and staff.

Something smells rotten in the kingdom of PAUSD.

Posted by Sally, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 6, 2013 at 11:31 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Teacher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2013 at 11:45 am

Ralph's message will be rejected by the majority of Palo Altans. That PAUSD administrators and teachers could possibly treat students differently based on the color of their skin was unimaginable just a few months ago, except for many of us in the community who feel it on a daily basis. A teacher of color is treated differently than a white or Asian teacher in many instances, and certainly in my own experience. I expect nothing from Teri Baldwin, who is my union president, and that is what she has delivered in terms of fighting racism. Skelly is even worse. His [portion removed] comments about Latino parents were appealing but drew little outrage from the non-Latino community. Insert the term gay, Jew, female, or any term in place of Latino and one can see easier how offensive language can me.

This latest report is just a little more data that PAUSD is mostly smoke and mirrors. The students who do well here would do well just about anywhere. The real test is in our challenging kids, those who are poor and of color, and who feel the unwelcome from Skelly and the board everyday.

Posted by Julia, a resident of University South
on Jun 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Why doesn't all this take into account that Palo Alto has Tinsley children from Ravenswood, and that it's good that they're doing 9% better here than they would have in Ravenswood - but that their presence figures in the statistics in all kinds of ways. Generally, they do not come from academically-rich Latino homes.

Posted by XDM, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm

To Julia.

For your info. Las Lomitas Also has Tinsley transfer students from the Ravenswood school district and they are Ranked Number 1.

Posted by Buyers remorse, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Ken Dauber prepared a detailed analysis showing this a year ago, Skelly admitted it was accurate. Dauber argued that we should use data to find out where we can improve but the board did not act. The district pretended this data wasn't real spurred on by the muddle headedness of the trustees who can't understand the issue anyway. This is entirely fixable and at the same time completely unfixable due to serious dysfunction. Latino and African American children are in fact better off in other districts. That is the sad fact. Those people like Mandy Lowell a c Walt Hayes who engaged in a whispering campaign against Dauber should be given credit for the districts poor civil rights and equality record. Also please note that Linda Murray quoted in the story -- endorsed Dauber. It's too bad that its taking the Feds to knock sense around here but it takes what it takes.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

> Hammer and former San Jose Unified School District
> Superintendent Linda Murray, now associated with Innovate,
> said the new group wants to spark a sense of urgency for school reform.

Arguing for systemic school “reform” based on the performance of certain groups in certain schools is a bit over-reaching. At a minimum, putting a plan on the table that is guaranteed to produce “proficiency” in all students would seem to be something that would be a required first step in the public’s agreeing with such a claim.

> Widespread, systemic change is particularly difficult because there
> are 54 separate school districts in the two counties, they said.

The SCC Grand Jury has come to this conclusion a year, or so, ago. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much political will to conduct such a discussion at the moment. For one thing, the schools in SCC outperform most of the schools in the State of California. That point might not be obvious from this article, but the data is available for download on the CA Dept. of Education Web-site.

Moreover, the cost of education has become so expensive, that sooner or later people will begin to ask why some of the adjoining districts can not share resources, such as maintenance, or IT or HR. Schools are pretty much the same from district to district. No reason to not consolidate these redundancies, setting the stage for lower spending and other changes.

Posted by Marty, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm

The Latino students often don't get the kind of encouragement and support at HOME that other groups get. I had a young latina in my calculus class at Foothill college. She love the material and was doing very well. She came in crying one day because her family and neighbors were all asking her why she was wasting her time taking a math class and why did she want to go to college? The were all telling her to get a job to help support the family and get married and have babies. She wanted more but her family was holding her back! No school district, no teacher can fix that!!

Posted by Buyers remorse, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Oh and I would like to see what happens in palo alto of white and Asian children are not taught algebra in 8th grade. Those posters saying its "unrealistic" yes please do tell about what will happen. I can't wait for Jordan to announce no more algebra in 8th grade -- all students take it in 9th! Bahahaha. Get real.

Posted by XDM, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

To Marty.

So why are the latino students at Las Lomitas doing way better than the ones at PAUSD? It's all about the Teachers and administrators. One students experience is not a reflection of everyone as a whole.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

The State of California does an excellent job of making raw student performance data available on its Dept. of Education web-site. Most school districts don’t do much with this data, at least in terms of what might easily be called “in-depth” analysis.

After the PAUSD presented the 2012 STAR/API results to the Board in the fall of 2012, I was somewhat dissatisfied with the results of that presentation, and decided to look at the data from a somewhat different “slant”. The following paper was sent to the PAUSD Board not long after:

Another look at the 2012 PAUSD API Data:
Web Link

It’s been my observation that the schools have gone a long way to writing the parents out of the education “equation”. So, I spent some time trying to collect data from various sources, such as the US Census, to try to do a correlation between parent education and student performance. This is by no means the first time that this sort of relationship has been demonstrated, but routinely public school districts simply ignore the studies, and the data that is at their disposal.

It’s clear from the STAR/API data that student performance is tightly linked to parent educational attainment. Which leaves us with the question—how to teach students who come from families where education is not perceived to be of much value?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm

To Marty & XDM - I have seen a real mix of what you've both stated. The attitude that college is a waste of time & that a youth should focus on jobs, helping family & settling down is a working class trait that exists in many cultures. FWIW, I've seen the females have to fight it harder than the males in order to move forward academically, unless they come from a family that supports education.

After many years here in EPA, what I'd LOVE to see is educators of these cultures educating the families about how to help their kids succeed academically & what those routes are, how to navigate & how to get help. When one has academic dreams never realized it is very sad. A great example of this in the positive: a neighbor, a reformed former bad girl, had no husband but 2 kids & a grandkid living w/her. Oldest kid - young adult - was working & going to school. Youngest kid, intellectually gifted, was in special classes & able to get a scholarship to private high school AND university. This is because his mom, the former bad girl, *listened* to the educators & took direction from them. Her grown daughter, also inspired, went back to school. All together, they also raised the granddaughter. They also have been involved in church & choir, which offered a built in system of support & pride in community. These are hardworking people & grandma lacked a professional background but worked very hard. It's been a joy to see the family thrive & they were wonderful neighbors.

Sorry for the long story, but I believe that if educators can early on educate the parents, there will be more academic success for these kids. We have health navigators, why not educational navigators?

Posted by Notice anything new, dear?, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Has no one noticed what many, many Indian families have: San Ramon public schools out-score PAUSD, and you can buy a big, beautiful house on a huge lot for less than half the price !!!

Going' there, man!

Posted by Gunn Alum, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jun 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm

There is more to life than test scores. Maybe people don't understand what's happening in other school districts? Places like Ravenswood, Alum Rock, and others are teaching to the test. Music, art, and science are gone if not almost gone. As a native Palo Altan raising my children here, I'm happy to have a school district that knows the importance of a well-rounded education.

Ask the teachers who have been in Alum Rock for 20 years if they enjoy teaching anymore. It's a much different answer than you'll get in Palo Alto.

As for people who talk about moving to out-scoring districts like San Ramon? Go! Most of us would be very happy with fewer kids in this district.

Posted by Buyers remorse, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm

You heard "gunn alum" you minorities who aren't satisfied with second class device can "go". That's fine with "us." Don't get all uppity and expect equal treatment.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Before the finger pointing and district comparisons get out of hand, please note that Tinsley does not send children to the Las Lomitas School District.

"The Tinsley court-ordered desegregation program allows students of color living in the Ravenswood City School District attendance area who will be entering kindergarten, first or second grade in the following school year to apply for transfers to the following seven districts: Belmont-Redwood Shores, Las Lomitas, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Portola Valley, San Carlos and Woodside. Non-minority students in those seven districts and Redwood City may apply for transfers to Ravenswood."

Web Link

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Sorry, what I meant to say is that Tinsley sends to not only Las Lomitas, but the following. My bad.

Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

From what little experience I've had in the Palo Alto school district, where I have interacted with students, mostly at elementary school and high school levels (less so at middle school level) here is what I have noticed:

* At the elementary school level, not enough resources seem to go to helping the underperforming kids, who, sad to say, are often also the lower income children. So, they fall through the cracks and get promoted even though they are not at the same level as the other kids academically.

* At the high school level, those kids often end up with special accommodations and help, but by then they have fallen far behind, and what they get is this: infinite accommodations (such as no time limits on tests) and in a way too few expectations placed on them, maybe before they've come into the high school already so far behind.

I think it's a very complex problem that cannot be addressed at only one level. It starts from the very beginning. As a matter of fact, for starters, those kids may often come in with little experience with a quality preschool program which more affluent kids get. The bottom line is that they fall behind from day one.

These are my observations, as someone who's been in classrooms but is not a teacher.

Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm

... maybe *because they've come into the high school already so far behind...

Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm

In addition to what I posted above, I also think that gifted children don't get enough attention in elementary school. I've seen some be so bored there that they became disruptive or where definitely wasted their time and losing their love for learning.

The Palo Alto doctrine of differentiated learning for "special need" kids (on both end of the spectrum. both underperforming and gifted) within a single classroom setting does not work. Teachers can't pull it off and just don't do it.

Posted by Not Surprised , a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

These are not news at all; it has always been these way for Latinos and African Americans. They fall in the lower achievements category. My child and us parents had to fight so principal Likins would let my son out of a school service class and be admitted to the ones he had signed up for "Criminal and Civil Law". This took a lot of time, he was being ignored by the principal, Instructional Supervisors, and he was put into that class even though he asked for the other one. By the time we got him out the principal complained that there was no longer a spot for him in the law class. He was recommended to advanced Spanish class, by his middle school Spanish and English teacher, but even like that he was put in lower classes, they said that sometimes middle school teachers exaggerate the language skills and just wanted to make sure he was in the right spot. Meanwhile the district has formed a stupid Equity team formed of teacher and principal, all they do is encourage themselves to criticize colleges about their discriminatory practices, but they really do nothing about it, except that they themselves have a lot more chances of being promote to higher. This was started by Becky Chen-Vargas and Cathy, and many of the teachers who participated were in it were promoted to administration positions, and yes Ms. Likins was a member of these equity group. This group is biased and will not allow just any member to join. To me this is the most discriminatory group that only pretends to be bringing equity among staff and children. They have done presentations in the past for other staff members and parents, but they do not practice what they preach. An example of this is that one of their member's a principal would discipline students of color by giving them a trash bag and they have to go around the school and pick up garbage at lunch time while others played. I never got to see a white student doing this and they also have discipline issues. I guess they knew that white parents were going to protest about the humiliating ways of disciplining the student. Yes this still happens on daily basis. I wish parents of color would protest, but who knows perhaps their parents do not even know that this has happened to their children. I think is going to take many OCR investigations before PAUSD and their equity team realizes that what they are doing is illegal and should stop if they really want Latino students to succeed in all areas. The ones they discriminate the most special educations Latino students. Instead of finding ways for them to go to at lease community college, the IEP team sends them to find a job. So no, it is not only parents who send their kids to work. The IEP staff has no excuse their job is to provide students with an education that helps them with their pursuit of happiness. If if I had kids in EPA, I would send them to private or to the charter schools there. It does not make any sense to send them on the bus to be discriminated against. By the way sometimes the bus drivers drop the students in another city just because they are coughing. I am sure they would not do this to a white kids. When they do this they put the lives of their children in danger, but they do not care because they know that some Latino parents do not know that OCR exist or they will not even know that they can complain to someone higher than the school administrators, and those who do, are ignored.

Posted by Turns out, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm

File this under incomplete news: “Palo Alto had earned a 'D' in service to minority and low-income students in a March 2012 report published by the Oakland-based Education Trust West”

As posted in this forum many times, the Ed Trust West report mentions several ways to measure the “achievement gap.”

The one the Weekly refers to in this article is not the one commonly used because it has almost nothing to do with how well the student performs. Under that special definition, a minority student surrounded by LOW performing students ends up being in a district that earns an Ed Trust grade of A or B. The same minority student plopped in a district with HIGH performing students finds himself in a district with a D or F grade. Same student, same score, just measured against different peers.

Perhaps in a follow up article the Weekly can report the grade PAUSD earned when Ed Trust applied the definition of achievement gap that the State of California and the US Government uses - a B.

As much as schools would like to take credit for students’ successes, it turns out that wealthy families - and there are plenty of them in Palo Alto - have more money, and more money buys lots of out-of-school opportunities that help their children perform well in school (New York Times “No Rich Kid Left Behind”): Web Link (“much of our public conversation about education is focused on the wrong culprits: we blame failing schools and the behavior of the poor for trends that are really the result of deepening income inequality and the behavior of the rich”)

Posted by Turns out, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm

File this under old news: “In 2011, Palo Alto was among 17 of California's 1,000 school districts labeled by the state Department of Education as having 'significant disproportionality' in special ed.”

The district just reported that the state has determined that it will “not be considered significantly disproportionate in the coming school year.”
Web Link

Posted by Turns out, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Anyone know how Innovate determined that Las Lomitas had 67% of its Hispanic students score at least proficient in Algebra 1?

The scores the public sees show that Las Lomitas’ Algebra 1 numbers are too small to report – it shows an * instead of a number (“An asterisk (*) appears on the Internet reports to protect student privacy when 10 or fewer students had valid test scores.”)

Great if that percentage is accurate but even at that it is an outlier; the next clump are 12 districts with percentages ranging from 27 to 43 with PAUSD in the mix.

Posted by Teacher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Save your sob stories about racist treatment of our Latino kids. It may be a fact to many of us with Latino kids, but it's not a fact to many middle to upper class whites and Asians. Unless you can pull some 15,000 votes in 2014, or donate millions for a new gym, don't expect to be heard. The principals have no compelling reason to advocate for a Latino child because it is not the popular thing to do. Just read some of the posts above. Apparently, we all come from EPA and we don't value education as much as other races. Funny, but those posters didnt ask me or any of my friends or family. it seems obvious that we have a lot of mindreaders in Palo Alto who can tell us what Latinos are thinking.

From decades in the education business, I've never concluded that Latinos or any race or culture did not care about education. It's called racism, my fellow Palo Altans, it still exists, and it is a powerful force in educational institutions.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm

I will be very curious to know:
1. What % of high school students left PAUSD to graduate Alta Vista or other places?
2. Are those % from question 1 above, considered PAUSD students for statistics purposes?
3. What % of the students who left PAUSD to Alta Vista are Hispanics, African American or Pacific Islanders?
4.What other public district in the area use Alta Vista as out of district support?
My questions above bear absolutely no criticism of the efforts Alta Vista put into supporting the students.
@My 2 cents - I agree, the anecdotal input of 'Not surprised' adds a personal touch. Some additional data can not be computed for statistics. The Math teachers letter would be a good sample. The fact that the letter used the word - slackers - to describe some of the students diverted the attention from real issues the teachers are facing. Those issues start by far earlier as you mentioned. However - there is no way to underestimate the tone of the letter - it is very revealing and supports many above.
Interestingly, again - both this letter and the first OCR case share the same dynamics of the way that had them brought to the public attention. Both were hidden for about half a year, and were lighted only because of out of the district efforts. The following is a link to one of the threads that dealt with the math letter - Web Link

Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm

PAUSD is one of the few districts that doesn't have all of the 8th graders take Algebra 1. My guess is that our overall % of students (regardless of ethnicity etc..) is on the low side since we have a chunk that don't even take Algebra in the 8th grade, so how can they be proficient in Algebra? I think the CSU eligibility is a much better measure of success.

Posted by Justathought, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 6, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I went to a party. Too many snobs around. What did I do? LEFT. Do not be a wimp. It's a WELCOMING district with zillion opportunities for all kids. Tired of the nonsense of racism.

Posted by Teacher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Yes, enough of this racism stuff! Next thing we are going to see is someone claiming sexism in the valley. Marissa Meyer made it at Google and Yahoo, why can't all women?

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm

@Justathought - May I suggest to bless your good fortune for being able to leave when too many snobs are around? School students can not, especially elementary and middle school students. Nor can they choose any of the zillion opportunities offered - as you suggest. The students' track is set beyond their say. I wonder if a high school student can say - "I went to math class. I read the teacher think of me as a slacker, I never returned. Do not be a wimp, leave!"

Posted by Palo Alto Weekly Not Top at Writing Headlines, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm

"Palo Alto Schools Lag Behind Other Silicon Valley Districts in Algebra Proficiency for Latino, Poor Students"

What does "Not Top Performing" mean? It means "Low Performing." Can we have a headline about PAUSD that does not contain the words "top performing"? Evidently not even if it means having a headline you have to read three times before it makes sense. "PAUSD Doing Poor Job Educating Poor, Minority Students Compared with Many Area Districts." Try that.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2013 at 4:25 am

Unfortunately the instigators of this report want to infer some sort of racial bias on the school system. But it should be no surprise that lower income households do more poorly, and as some other posters have stated, it's the parents and the resources they provide (either through personal time or hiring of tutors), especially at the elementary school level which are the primary determinants of a child's educational success.

The district could reallocate resources to assume responsibilities that the lower income households don't perform. But would parents for example want to trade off reducing AP level classes at the high school level, to staff up elementary school resources for low income households? Or removing some elective type classes like High school art (as well as any associated graduation requirements) to put the resources at the elementary school level?

I find the reporting in this article lacking in that in mixes in ethnic/racial profiling with income level, and did not detail for the districts with "higher performing" Hispanic population, what their income levels were. For example, as pointed out by previous posters, Las Lomitas & Los Altos elementary ranked well with their Hispanic populations - what was the income profile? and what percent of the school population?

Posted by Turns out, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2013 at 8:58 am

Common Sense,

Here are the percentages of minorities who are economically disadvantaged:

Las Lomitas: 22%
Los Altos Elementary: 40%
PAUSD: 56%

African Americans:
Las Lomitas: 6%
Los Altos Elementary: 6%
PAUSD: 41%

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 7, 2013 at 10:06 am

> Here are the percentages of minorities who are
> economically disadvantaged:

Does anyone know how a student becomes tagged as "economically disadvantaged"? Certainly the schools don't demand the parents' income, or asset, statements to make this sort of assessment.

So, do the parents self-declare, or is there some other way the schools come to this determination?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2013 at 10:19 am

And now one of the good things this district provides that does help low income and poor performing students is summer school for those who underperform. Summer school in Palo Alto has no stigma attached to it that says "freebie for dumb kids", but it will have, if it continues.

Well done for taking away a useful tool for at risk students.

Posted by JennP, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hmmm of East Palo Alto is correct! You can't just drop your child off into a school district and expect them to do well without the parents help and support. Parents are half of the equation in making sure a child is successful. I feel it is a cultural thing and the parents of low income households don't support what their children are learning or doing in the classroom. It seems like they expect the school district to take care of the education completely. From my experience, the involvement of the parents from East Palo Alto is extremely low. From attending school functions and events, to volunteering, to making sure that their children have completed and turned in homework assignments, etc., this is not happening at the rate in which one would deem as truly supportive in a child's educational experience.

Posted by Rose Filicetti, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 7, 2013 at 11:03 am

Emmett Carson/SVCF/Innovate's fascination with school district consolidation is disputable given that PAUSD IS a unified K-12 district that appears not to be doing any better than districts that are not aligned as unified districts.

Posted by Raplh, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2013 at 11:24 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

I did algebra in fifth grade and geometry in sixth grade in India. Probably the norm in UK, Canada, China, etc.

Posted by Sally, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2013 at 11:35 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Paul, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 7, 2013 at 11:44 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Citizen, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

So sad to see the racism from all sides expressed here. As someone from a race that gets discriminated against plenty, I have to say that my parents were economically disadvantaged, though highly educated. They were not helpful to their children in becoming educated, or anything else, really. This meant I had to do it all myself. It was extremely difficult. This would be true for anyone from any race. If you want to have children, please set your family up for success before you do so. Realistically, when you send your children to a school where the deck is stacked against them, they will have to either work extra hard to catch up, or they will fail. You can blame all sorts of people along the way, but the fact is, they are your children and by setting up your family ahead of time for their best chance at success, you will be doing your best by them. If both parents will have to work two jobs in order to provide for the family, this means they did not prepare well for raising children. Blaming all the people along the way does not diminish the fact that you had the chance before choosing to have them, to give your kids a better start, and you did not.

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm

As a parent of two high school students who struggle academically (and they are both blond and blue-eyed), many middle and high school teachers write off the kids who struggle. Period. We are fortunate to have the resources to help them outside of school, but many parents don't.

So many of PAUSD kids are really easy to teach, therefore the teacher's don't need to make much of an effort. If you are a kid that needs more attention, good luck. If you get one of the great teachers, you are lucky. But you may be written off as a "slacker" pretty quickly.

Posted by Lost faith in these stats, a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm

@Turns out, I think you're onto something...

I have lost so much faith in these statistics that keep circulating in the PA weekly headlines and these discussion boards. There is one perfect statistic that we can use that I have never seen presented:

How are PA Tinsley kids doing compared to Tinsley kids who go to the other local school districts?

That statistic is the only apples-to-apples comparison and I have yet to see that presented. Comparing PA Tinsley low-income Hispanic students to Los Lomitas high-income Hispanic students is totally bogus. Similarly, comparing Tinsley low-income Hispanic students to low-income Asian students is similarly bogus. Why can't we just get the Tinsely numbers? It seems like a perfect measurement of how well our districts are serving those students.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Our (Caucasian) kids were given short-shift by some of their teachers at Duveneck.

Oldest was put in the "bottom" group by teachers from 1st through 4th grades. Now attends one of the top art universities in the country and receives high honors each semester.

Youngest was evaluated as "too slow" at elementary school. Selected and now attends one of the toughest admissions schools in the country (a military academy) and is on the dean's list each semester.

My point? The theory running is this thread that PAUSD teachers are solely categorizing low income kids as low achievers is BS.

Without parents getting involved in their children's education, being available to tutor/support homework activities, providing emotional support, mentorship, etc. You don't have to hire professional tutors. Kids will low achieve if allowed to fall through the cracks ---- by their parents!

Newsflash: Teachers are not perfect and certainly cannot predict the future for your children. Like it or not, the schools are not going to solve all of your problems, no matter your income or where your home is.

Sure - blame the teachers if you like. But if you're not sitting with your kids at night, volunteering in the classrooms to see what is going on, etc. - then you're not part of the solution.

Too many people think the schools should do everything for their child. Not going to happen, never will.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm

> How are PA Tinsley kids doing compared to Tinsley kids
> who go to the other local school districts?

For the most part, this kind of data is not available to the general public. We can infer "Tinsley" from the PAUSD data by recognizing that the "Latino" population in Palo Alto is low as represented in the latest Census, so the difference between the general popTulation and the PAUSD must be Tinsley. However, whatever numbers one comes up with is not guaranteed to be "Tinsley" (VTP) children.

Same with other districts.

It's conceivable that people doing "studies" might be able to convenience a school district to provide data about student performance that might not be accessible from the State (like performance of very small sub-groups), but generally its hard to find any on-going studies of "Tinsley"/VTP students that address these sorts of issues.

Posted by Failing Grades, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 8, 2013 at 6:10 am

Get in line behind 9 others for now. Work for improvement if you don't want to be such a failure in this arena.

Posted by I'm a Latino, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2013 at 9:07 am

Hopefully, my Name doesn't bother anyone, whether they are white, black, Asian, or Latino. I'd like to support the notion that teachers are not to blame, but neither are parents. I'd also like to ask all to refrain from generalizing about Latinos, who are an incredibly diverse group including European, African, and indigenous blood. In California, though, the majority of Latinos are either Mexican or Mexican-Americans, however, I cringe when posters here start focusing on the Latinos from East Palo Alto and imply that the answer to the low average achievement of PAUSD's Latinos is to send them back where they came from. I equally cringe when teachers post and declare half or all of a student's success is because of the parents. Most teachers in PAUSD are great but there are some awful ones, including some who do not treat Latinos as well as they treat whites and Asians, especially if they have a good level of income. I can only speak of the ones I have interacted with over the past two decades, I don't want to generalize too much. Check out research about the effect that a bad teacher can have on a child. It can have a multi-year effect. My children have encountered such teachers, only a couple of them, but much of the issue was the color of their skin, much of it was assumption and generalizations about their culture. We have great teachers (and administrators and parents) but we have had to confront racism and discrimination in Palo Alto often. One can overcome it and many do, but it is a formidable force. PAUSD has done very little with training their employees and this has been a small factor in the OCR violation and other troubles. They had equity training for new employees but they never got the whole district together. To state that PAUSD teachers would even need this type of training would be an insult to PAEA. Only the OCR violation has given Kevin Skelly the leadership weight that he should have had when he was hired in order to lead. His comments a few years ago which many interpreted as Latino children can't compete with others sent the message clear to the teachers and administrators. He should not have generalized.

Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 10, 2013 at 10:24 am

As a Latin-American immigrant myself, I would like people to think a bit deeper before applying those oversimplified race/ethnicity labels which are very common in the US.
I think PAUSD offers equal opportunities to everybody, regardless of race/cultural backgrounds. But as you probably know, equal opportunities don't translate into equal results, and that's just a fact of life. Stop blaming PAUSD whenever the results for certain 'groups' of students don't measure up.
I can guarantee you that many of these kids who are falling behind would also be falling behind in other school districts and/or countries (e.g. their countries of origin or their parents'). There are a lot of personal/cultural circumstances that families need to take responsibility for and address individually. Otherwise, they'll become part of a permanent under-class. That's just the plain and politically incorrect truth, either in Palo Alto or in Latin America.

Posted by paly alum parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm

those who know don't speak
those who speak don't know

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