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Choice vs. peer streaming trade-off??

Original post made by ADL, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2007

I've seen/heard a lot of discussions about the important of peer streaming and choice programs. The peer streaming camp appears to be pro-neighborhood school while the choice-program camp is, well ..., don't mind if their kids don't go to the same school as their neighbor's kids. I've seen some parents from Ohlone posted on other related topics saying that peer streaming is not as big of a deal as some of the pro-neighborhood parents made it out to be. So I'm speculating that peer streaming is not at the top of concern for the pro- choice-program parents.

As the district is now facing the challenge of placing kids from 3 middle schools into two high school, how about having all the choice-program kids go to the same high school (regardless which middle school they're attending) so that the neighborhood school kids can have priority to stream with their peers from elementary to middle to high school:

Option 1: JLS & Terman to Gunn while Jordan + choice-program kids to Paly
Option 2: JLS + choice-program kids to Gunn while Jordan + Terman to Paly?

Is this a fair trade-off?

Comments (25)

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2007 at 8:49 pm

I heard that some choice program parents like peer streaming, in that keeping their kids together thru middle and high schools would be beneficial from a social standpoint. Those choice program parents care a lot about peer streaming, just not neighborhood or geographic streaming.

Posted by AAAG Rep
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2007 at 10:26 pm

Tried that idea (sending choice students to the same middle school) but unless it was to stay in the choice program, then it is against state law to send a student deliberately away from their neighborhood school for any reason other than overflow. Apparently it was tried before for some reason and some parent threatened law suits. Pity.

Posted by ADL
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 7:54 am

Is it legal then, to ask the choice parents to sign an agreement, as part of the requirements to be in the choice program, to give up the right to be their neighborhood's middle and/or high school? After all, it's their CHOICE not sending their kids to the neighborhood elementary school anyway ...

Some compromise and fair trade-off have to be made here, no one group can have everything

Posted by more choice
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 26, 2007 at 8:49 am

Maybe they can be given the option of staying together in this way. They would be given a choice to be overflowed with other kids from the chioce programs but not have to take it up if they want to re-integrate with the neighborhood kids.

Posted by AAAG Rep
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:54 am

This still won't work. Connections at JLS, DI (Direct Instruction) at Terman and SI at Jordan are not full. This means that parents who value choice programs at elementary don't always value the choice at middle school. They obviously value their "neighborhood" middle/high schools more. To try and get them to agree to do otherwise may in fact reduce the numbers entering the choice program lotteries.

Posted by neighborhood schooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 10:18 am

Well, obviously the choice program parents abdicated their peer streaming rights when they signed up for commuter programs. They voted with their actions on how much value they placed on peer streaming (zero). They realize the commuter school is populated by kids from all different locations, and know very well those kids will end up in all different secondary schools.

Peer streaming is a very big deal for most, particularly those who favor the neighborhood schools. It should be given priority for any who value it.

I vote that "perfect" peer streaming should be applied to all neighborhood school kids first. Choice program kids are filled in wherever the capacity remains. They had no expecations of peer streaming in the first place, so they lose nothing by being slotted in secondary schools based on capacity filling.

Posted by ADL
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 2:06 pm

I second neighborhood schooler ...

Assumed for a moment that the overall PA community supports this idea, the next task is to figure out where to draw the boundary lines for middle school and high school.

If I'm not mistaken, the biggest 'split-up' neighborhood areas are El Carmelo & Palo Verde, where kids from these elementaries currently attend JLS but they get split up to Gunn and Paly.

Personally, I don't favor which high school or middle school they will go, as long as they can all stay together from K-12.

Posted by Parent too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 2:22 pm

I agree. So

How about El Carmelo 100% Jordan...Paly and
Palo Verde 100% JLS...Gunn.

(Or Vice versa, it doesn't even matter.)

Instead of splitting them both.

And to resolve the peer streaming rights of choice schoolers, it seems like all they have to do is make a statement on the lottery sign up sheet that says by signing up for choice programs you take yourself out of the K-12 neighborhood school boundary determinations.

I see no issue whatsoever in creating a perfect peer streaming solution for all our neighborhood schools.

There is afterall a cloud behind every silver lining. Perhaps choice schools 'winners' should be held accountable for some of the complexity the choice schools create.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2007 at 4:37 pm


And what purpose, precisely, is served by depriving "choice" kids of the equal right to attend their middle school? Even if there's no continuation of their "choice" program? This seems more punitive than practical to me.

Look, all of us pay taxes (or have landlords who do) to have our kids in the PAUSD. I have issues with anyone having to drive (or have their kids drive) to the farther-away school unless it *is* a choice.

I like the idea of making in-district transfers a lot easier for the "split" schools like Palo Verde and El Carmelo. The JLS/Paly track should be optional. It's true some kids are less affected by peer streaming/nonstreaming than others. I don't, for instance, since I have a social kid who knows kids all over the district, but I know it's a huge deal and a critical thing for others.

So why not something that's a bit more flexible for the 100 or so kids really affected by this?

Posted by AAAG Rep
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Once again, tried all these ideas. The problem here is that at present we need to have all El Carmelo and Palo Verde students in JLS to balance JLS and Jordan. We are stuck because Terman cannot be increased in numbers to the same extent as J and J because it is a smaller campus. To take a whole elementary school of kids out of JLS and put them into Jordan would completely outbalance the middle schools. Then there would be problems about offering the same number of electives, etc. etc.

This is a ridiculously big problem. I don't think any of us on the AAAG had any idea what was involved when we started out. We have been given so much data it is mind boggling. Yes, we think we come up with some good ideas, and then someone throws a wrench in. We have breakdowns of numbers from every mini-neighborhood. We are beginning to get a handle on it, but really need time to do a lot more work on this.

However, please keep up the ideas. There must be a solution out there somewhere, we just need time (and help) to find it.

Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:41 pm

I agree also with Neighborhood Schooler

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2007 at 12:48 am

So the idea is to keep a certain number of kids on the inconvenient JLS/Paly track. Seems like there ought to be some sort of incentive to make that palatable to a select set of kids and parents, six years of glassblowing, digital film-making, ummm, what about Mandarin?

. . . never mind . . .

Posted by Not understanding the AAAG
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2007 at 1:01 pm

So the imbalance you're talking about is actually just moving one elementary school over to Jordan from JLS. That's a shift of about 120-180 kids (~three strands (approx 60 students x 6th, 7th, 8th?) into Jordan. that's only 9 classrooms worth of kids.

Jordan doesn't have space for 9 classrooms?

Relief of nine classrooms worth of space at JLS would make space for the Fairmeadow and/or Hoover expansion besides.

Besides, the 'balancing' you talk about can and should be done with the kids coming in from the choice programs. They are coming from schools where they had no expectation of moving with their peers into the middle schools anyway. Every silver lining has its cloud, this should be one of the 'prices' of winning the lottery; a K-12 committment to being placed in your school sites based on district capacity.

For example, has anyone actually tried to look at the scenario using Hoover and/or Ohlone sites as neighborhood schools? Where is the 'real' capacity, and overflow in our system if we had these available as neighborhood schools? I find it amazing that the hoover and ohlone sites are not being considered as available site to fill neighborhood school capacity.

The choice schools should be placed wherever expedient for the district, wherever capacity lies after neighborhood boundaries are drawn using all twelve sites.

AAAG Rep: Has this been lookedat? If yes, what were the results? Where is the resulting elementary capacity? If not, why not?

Posted by AAAG rep
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2007 at 1:55 pm

I suggest you look at the AAAG minutes, they are available on the PAUSD website. All the meetings we have had were open to the public and some of the Board members attended most of them and I know were chatting to the audience. Many local residents have written to the AAAG and their letters have been read and passed out with all the other data. Many of the ideas aforementioned have been looked into, including moving Ohlone to the Garland site. Hoover used to be in Barron Park but moved some years ago. This did change some of the demographics of where Hoover students come from, showing that the local neighborhood often choose the local school rather than the program. There is no reason to think that this move could not be possible again. Some of these things have not been ruled out.

There was a mention of a possible law suit many years ago when a parent found a loophole in th law which meant that he could sue the District if his child did not go to the neighborhood school. This means that there cannot be any type of disclaimer or waiver into the lottery programs.

Moving one elementary school's worth of children into another changes the numbers not by 120 but 240. This will inbalance the numbers considerably when it comes to the number of electives offered. Yes, there were more classrooms at both JLS and Jordan before Terman opened, but these have been used to make the classes smaller.

The majority of Hoover and Ohlone children live in the JLS Boundary. The Connections class at JLS is the natural progression from Ohlone, but not all ex-Ohlone want it. Direct Instruction at Terman is the natural progression from Hoover and the same thing happens. Spanish Immersion from Escondido does follow into Jordan, but once again, not that many take it. This shows that the choice programs at the middle school level are not as popular as at the elementary level. Having one choice program at each middle school should help to alleviate the problems of peer streaming. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2007 at 3:18 pm

Not Understanding,

Converting Ohlone and Hoover into neighborhood schools would not change the overcrowding situation, except to possibly worsten it where it's already most severe--in north Palo Alto. Right now, some north PA kids go to choice programs, Convert Hoover and Ohlone and those schools get even more jammed.

Also, the Hoover and Ohlone kids have to go somewhere, whether it's a choice school or a neighborhood school.

Since there's demand for it and room, I'd think an Ohlone expansion would work. I suspect as a second neighborhood school, though, Ohlone would be less full than it is now.

Posted by ADL
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2007 at 4:36 pm

"...There was a mention of a possible law suit many years ago when a parent found a loophole in th law which meant that he could sue the District if his child did not go to the neighborhood school. This means that there cannot be any type of disclaimer or waiver into the lottery programs ..."

Like you were saying, this was many years ago and was it also involved 'choice' program? we should have the district's lawyer evaluation this option further before the committee dismiss it.

So you have no problem with continuing to shift the overcrowding situation to the South to lessen that problem for the North? And as for demand ... there's a 'demand' for giving back these schools to their neighborhood. And if that causes more overflow to the North (or wherever), these kids could still be overflowed to Ohlone and/or Hoover "neighborhood" schools.

If 'choice' is so important to some parents, I don't understand why they wouldn't want to 'share' some of the burden that facing the district right now? I can't imagine why the waiver would not work...

Posted by AAAG Rep
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2007 at 5:21 pm


I believe it was Marilyn Cooke who spoke to the District's lawyers and sorted out the facts here.

Secondly, and possibly more importantly, it is not just the North cluster of elementary schools that are over-crowded, but the South is over-crowded too. The only schools with space are the West cluster, particularly Barron Park and Briones. We have figures that show that if you could add the numbers of Ohlone children who live in the Palo Verde neighborhood to the numbers in Palo Verde (without even using those who have been overflowed out to the West)then this would be the biggest elementary school number in Palo Alto. Ohlone and Hoover (and to some extent SI) are the only reason that Palo Verde is able to stay relatively small. It is a small campus and not able to take even 3 classrooms to make it a 3 1/2 strand school.

For this reason, the number of children going into JLS from this area makes a huge difference. True, if we could send the Ohlone students elsewhere we might be able to do perfect peer streaming to JLS and Gunn, but we can't do this. Therefore, we are trying hard to work out a way that this can be done.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2007 at 6:16 pm


I think the overcrowding is *everybody's* problem. The problem last year, at least, was worst in the north cluster. The district has to put those kids somewhere. Ohlone, as it is, takes a big chunk of PV kids (mine was in that set.)--both it and Hoover offset local school crowding in the south, even more than in the north. As choice schools, they can do both. I think, though, rather than the choice schools being the cause of overcrowding, they're simply not enough to actually help *enough* with the overcrowding.

That said, while Ohlone's space is excellent for the school, I can see that there are arguments for moving the choice schools in some situations. In that sense, while I don't think I should have to give up my right to send my child to the local middle school, I do think I've signed up to make the drive across Palo Alto if need be whereas someone who wants a neighborhood school shouldn't have to.

Posted by PA resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2007 at 7:19 pm

What about all kids from El Carmelo going to JLS > Paly and Palo Verde going JLS > Gunn? At least our kids would have many familiar faces and friends from elementary school. I don't see why the peer streaming idea has to be defined as middle school-High School peer streaming. Why not elementary > high school?

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2007 at 9:43 pm

Not only that, but the suggestion is not to disband the choice programs, but to relocate them. The north relief from the choice programs would still occur to the extent they occur today if Hoover and/or Ohlone were used as neighborhood schools.

What it would do is relieve overload in the South, which is about to feel the majority of the heat from all the new development.

Plus moving Hoover from Ohlone X number of year ago?? What does that tell us? Nothing.

The boundaries with all twelve sites drawn as neighborhood schools need to be shown to the public so we can see where the real capacity lies in the system. Based on todays map, and the actual AAAG projection data that is in use in THIS process.

Why has that not been done yet? When will we see that?

Posted by JLS Mom
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 27, 2007 at 11:46 pm

Here's the link to the AAAG meeting minutes, actually they are summary minutes, (I believe that was a district staff decision rather than AAAG's not to publish full minutes) but they show a map of the current boundaries (p. 32 of the document) and lots of charts and other data along with scenarios for redrawing the attendance areas.
Web Link
Skimming the minutes gives you a pretty good idea of how hard this group has worked and how difficult the problems are. This link is also available from PAUSD's home page.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I've looked at all those published materials, and attended both board presentations of those materials. And I notice very distinctly (via the fine print footnotes and the live conversations) that the Hoover and Ohlone student counts were removed from the dot maps, and also that there are no boundary map scenarios provided for the Hoover or Ohlone campuses, showing what the attendance would look like at all our 12 school campuses, if those two were made available as neighborhood campuses.

Even if 50% of each of Hoover and Ohlone were to stay put on those campuses if the choice programs were moved, that would show several things:

1. The resulting capacity/boundary lines would show an acurate and complete picture of where students reside by neighborhood and where the district has physical site resources to house them... A true full picture of capacity, rather than a limited picture by holding Hoover/Ohlone artificially out of the analysis.

2. The resulting choice programs to be located would be much smaller than they appear to be today - smaller programs would more easily find a fit in new potential open capacity spots. Its a misnomer to say we need to place two entire schools worth of choice programs if you argue that some stay in the neighborhood.

At the same time they stay, they would reduce the size of the choice program, and they also have made an entire campus worth of capacity available.

3. More people than the district is recognizing today are actually favoring neighborhood boundaries, and they'd see just how true this actually is, if they finally just asked. The truthful demand picture should define the districts prioritization of resources.

4. The result of having Hoover and/or Ohlone open as neighborhood schools would be no overcrowding in the South, (would fix Palo Verde overflow problem), perhaps would leave even some remaining capacity in the South to house choice programs or to house overflow from the North.

4. It may save the district as much as $2.4M, from adding expensive modulars to the south (ie: Fairmeadow and Ohlone modulars will be $2.4M), where they would not be needed. If modulars are still needed ~somewhere~ after converting Hoover/Ohlone, the district can make an informed decision about where best to place them. Perhaps the choice programs need to be placed in modulars somewhere...

We need the whole picture. Why is the AAAG still resisting showing us this picture? how can they jump to conclusions that the info is not needed, or won't open up more alternatives, or point to different answers?

It seems fishy that the questions are not being answered. No, they are definitely NOT answered by the published AAAG minutes, or the published AAAG reports.

So what's the holdup?

AAAG Rep - is this being discussed in the AAAG meetings since this surfaced? What is the response?

Posted by JLS Mom
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 29, 2007 at 11:22 pm

I'm sorry, I'm having trouble following your argument that returning choice schools to neighborhood status would alleviate overcrowding in the South.

This year, elementary enrollment is 4,865 students. Our current capacity is 4,940. That's just 75 free seats across the district, which, depending on whether you believe the high, medium or low enrollment forecast, will be used up sometime in the next three years.

Eliminating choice schools would redistribute the students somewhat, but they'll all have to be accommodated one way or the other.

Posted by AAAG Rep
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2007 at 1:07 pm


I also am a little confused about what you are saying in your post.

The Hoover and Ohlone would still have to go to school somewhere if these campuses were somehow returned to neighborhood schools. The overcrowding in the south is as real as it is in the north, so this in itself would not really make a very big difference to the overcrowding problems, just slightly change things.

Secondly, if you have attended any of the AAAG meetings, not just the presentations, you would understand how the Group works. The minutes do not clearly explain what happens, but minutes the discussion. The Group is presented with a scenario or set of scenarios by the demographers and then the large group is broken down into smaller discussion groups to discuss the pros and cons of each scenario. Then the small groups report back to the large group as a whole. We have previously been given mountains of data to look at and many members have spent many hours on their own going through this. We can request more information or ask for specific scenarios to be worked through and presented by the demographers, but this sometimes happens and sometimes does not. We can put forward ideas and suggestions for the whole group to discuss, but time for this is very limited.

The idea that as a group we are meeting regularly and able to magic up the specifics of anything we want is just not on. We as a group are a guided tool to bounce off ideas and get feedback presented to us. We are not doing the work ourselves or to some extent, have much control over where we are going.

We are doing what has been asked of us, but we have not met as a group since December and unless the Board asks us to reconvene to continue, there is no set agenda for us to do so. Maybe at tonight's Board meeting some mention may be made of what we are going to do next, but as yet, we have not been told officially that there is more for us to do. We think there probably is, but our hands are tied.

Posted by Your neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2007 at 2:02 pm

How spoilt we Palo Altans are. When I was a kid, I had to take a 90 minute bus ride each way to get to a good school - for me, you are my neighbor if you live next door, or anywhere else in Palo Alto.

Comments in earlier postings such as "don't mind if their kids don't go to the same school as their neighbor's kids" and "on how much value they placed on peer streaming (zero)" and that dig on mandarin are really short-sighted and show that success and money don't change personality - if at all it worsens it.

We're going to have this generation flip flop - the Palo Alto kids of successful parents will be too wimpy to get anywhere except with their inheritance from parents... Think bigger please! For the sake of your kids...

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