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Are Choice Schools Creating Ethnic Segration? Shouldn't We Care?

Original post made by Fred, Barron Park, on Mar 25, 2007

An sensitive topic, not much discussed I think, is the impact of "choice" schools on ethnic self-segration.

Compare elementary school averages (no weighting for enrollment, sorry, just mean average of each schools %'s):

PAUSD: 24% Asian, 10% Hispanic, 59% White, 16% other/NR
Hoover: 57% Asian, 4% Hispanic, 22% White, 17% other/NR
Ohlone: 13% Asian, 4% Hispanic, 59% White, 25% other/NR
Escondido: 18% Asian, 15% Hispanic, 48% White, 19% other/NR

Source for all are school SARCs, available on the PAUSD web site here: Web Link
Palo Alto Unified School District - Community - About PAUSD - School Accountability Report Cards (SARC)

The Ohlone numbers are a little hard to interpret, since they have more in the "multiple or no response" category - but it appears they have materially fewer Asians and Hispanics (17% vs. 34% or about half the average). The Hoover numbers show 2.4x the number of Asians, with less than half the average of Whites or Hispanics.

Escondido is harder to guage - others may know the pure SI composition already. Compared to the average, though, it has 1.5x the number of Hispanics (15% vs. 10%) and somewhat fewer Whites and Asians. Compared to its neighbor, Nixon, it has 3x the Hispanics (15% vs. 5%).

So it appears that given "choice," parents self-select into more ethically segregated schools. This concerns me. One of the things I like most about the US, California, Palo Alto, and Barron Park's own Briones school, is the level of ethnic (and other) diversity they achieve. When we look at the benefits of public education, this mixing is one of our great public goods. A very happy moment for me was attending Briones graduation a couple years ago and being welcomed in each of the 17 languages spoken by the students there.

So if choice erodes this good, that's a concern. Especially since the erosion is both for those who chose a special program, and for those who stay behind. If groups congregate at choice schools, by definition, those left behind have a less diverse school class as well. And of course, once established, this segregation can be self-reinforcing (a la neighborhood tipping points).

Paradoxically, at least some of the history of "choice" or "magnet" programs was to achieve DE-segragation. I attended such a elementary school myself. And I believe the SI program was created, in part, to attract students to a school with excess capacity. But in fact, we are now allowing parents to choose a more segregated environment.

This of course may reflect on the Mandarin Immersion program, perhaps again under consideration. Would such a program disproportionately attract Asians? Does it require Mandarin speaking students, almost all of whom I would presume would be Asian? (I'm not baiting here, please speak up if you know the answers on those.) If the applicants to the school (and hence the students) were in fact disproportionately Asian, would that be ok?

I don't know how important the teaching differences are at the choice schools, to parents or the community. I'm sure they each have their strong advocates. But enabling K-5 ethnic segregation, feeding into the clique-ishness of middle school and high school, seems like an important factor to weigh against those preferences, both for existing and any proposed choice programs. Note that even a charter school must show "its means for achieving racial and ethnic balance reflective of the general population residing in the district" (source: Charter School FAQs, CA Dept. of Education). Don't we want at least that from our regular public schools?

Comments (45)

Posted by AAAG Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Very good points that at least one member of the AAAG has put forward to the Board.

Two further comments.

The 4% Hispanic at both Ohlone and Hoover may (or may not but worth noting for consideration) are more than likely only there because they have to take in students from EPA

The figures for Escondido although may be interpreted as slanted due to SI are probably more affected by the demographics of the Stanford grad students from Escondido village and I believe it is not possible to get Escondido's make up divided by SI and non SI.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2007 at 5:05 pm

Thank you AAAG Member, for those insights. The Escondido number seems hard to intepret, but maybe somebody with direct experience with the SI program can comment on its composition. The Ohlone and Hoover numbers seem clear, though, and generally consistent with community impressions of those schools.

Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Fred -

A dual immersion program typically requires 30-50% of its students to be native speaking. PACE's proprosal Web Link requires 30% of student be native Mandarin speakers. I don't think there are too many non-Chinese/Asian native Mandarin speakers, therefore by a MI choice or charter program would be at least 30% asian. Assuming a that starting in 2nd grade there would be a language fluency requirement, th ratio would be even higher in later grades.

I have enjoyed the ethnic mix at all of my children's schools. I think it contributes to the real world aspect of their educations. I find the statistics you posted some what sad, perhaps the choice schools should also be required to reflect more closely the ethnic mix of the PAUSD when choosing their students.

Posted by AAAG Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2007 at 5:27 pm

At least one of the MI proponents, Nico, claims no Chinese background but has ensured that her children are native Mandarin speakers because she has paid for a Mandarin speaking Nanny to teach them Mandarin since they were babies.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2007 at 6:04 pm

Oops - well, two bad typos in my original post. PAUSD white average is 50% (not 59%). Doesn't impact the argument, but anybody checking the math would realize the numbers don't add up! Also, my wife laughed out loud when she saw me posting about "Ethic Segregation" (instead of ETHNIC). All Kantians to the right, Aristotelians the left please!

Posted by Nico
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2007 at 7:12 pm

to AAAG member,
As a point of clarification, if you work you have to get help with your kids. Since I am pretty passionate about foreign language, when I went back to work part-time, I decided to hire a Mandarin speaking babysitter and found a Mandarin speaking daycare.
I also never said my kids WOULD "test as native speakers", I said they MIGHT.

Posted by AAAG member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2007 at 8:52 pm


Thanks for your clarification. I was working from memory and couldn't remember the details, but I think I got the gist of it. Sorry if it came across wrong.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2007 at 9:51 pm

Ohlone gets more mixed in the lower grades--which follows the general trend of the district. It's my impression that there's a relatively high proportion of "mixed" kids, such as Eurasian compared to the district in general and a somewhat lower rate of first-gen. Asian kids. Seems like a fairly high percentage of European parents, where people are familiar with educational approaches like Waldorf.

In contrast, Hoover's direct instruction, relatively hierarchical approach seems somewhat more akin to educational approaches in East Asia.

Posted by Euro Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Not sure if it is exactly the same as Hoover, but the DI classrooms I have seen in the middle schools here are the exact formula for my own education i.e. rows of seats, teacher standing at the front beside a desk with a board and if I was lucky an overhead projector. Maps or charts on the walls at the front with little or nothing on the side or back walls, and writing lines if I was caught looking out the window!!

Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 25, 2007 at 10:48 pm

Euro Parent -

You don't mention your age - and don't have to if you don't want to - but your post rings true for me as well. I grew up in the 1980s, at a time when I think a transition was underway towards more creative and collaborative work. I still had my share of classes that were mostly lecture and note taking with some full-class discussion, and then a few where we were starting to mix that up a bit.

I'd be curious to know what you know about "Euro" education today.

Posted by Blah blah blah
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 25, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Looking at the district ethnicity report, you'll also see that

Addison: 15.5% Asian, 7.7% Hispanic, 67.1% White, 4.9% Decline to State
Hays: 18.5% Asian, 5.6% Hispanic, 66.1% White, 2.7% Decline to State

So, should we bus kids to be better mixed? At least in the neighborhood schools, where there's no choice in the curriculum, kids be interchanged easily, no?

No double standards here!

Posted by Unhuh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2007 at 11:33 pm

I'm with blah, blah. Diversity's great, but let's not make this ridiculous. There is no issue of segregation within PA.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 12:13 am

Thanks Unhuh and Blah Blah - two pretty good names you have ;-) I agree that there is a range of ethnicities at the schools - you could add the Barron Park and Briones are more heavily Hispanic, Fairmeadow more Asian, etc.

But these differences are caused primarily by housing patterns - where people live. This is a hard problem and a couple of decades of bussing didn't solve it (I was a kid who was bussed 35 years ago). So I'm not trying to crack that one; not sure how.

But choice schools make the situation worse than it needs to be by creating even more concentration. I would say having one choice school that has 2.5x one ethnic group and less than half of the other two; and another that has very few of the minority groups, but more of the majority - that's not great. What if Hoover became 70% Asian? 80%? 90%? Would that become a problem? What if MI came out, just by choosing randomly from the applicant pool, with 80% Asian kids - would that become a problem?

And things can be changed. At my college, the system for assigning freshman to upper-class dorm originally was preference based. But the self-selection weighed heavy on it - we ended up with black, Asian, and gay dorms, as well as the usual nerds, jocks, and preps. Eventually, the administration just did away with self-selection and assigned students randomly. Some hue and cry over that? Sure. But the judgment was that diversity in dorm-mates was worth losing some "choice." Maybe that is the case here too.

(I am of course not suggesting that PA assign kids to school randomly across town; neighborhood schools have their own importance.)

There is, in fact, segregation-by-choice in the choice programs to today. You may feel it is not an issue, but I do, especially since there is at least one more likely segregated program is in the pipeline.

Posted by Blah blah blah
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Mar 26, 2007 at 12:22 am

Thanks, Fred, for the basic question, slightly paraphrased:

Is Hoover's high Asian population a problem?

I ask the corollary:

Is Addison's high Caucasian population a problem?

Please answer both questions and then we can have a fair conversation.

Then, the next thing is

What is the problem? What in specific terms is wrong with some higher concentrations in some schools? Are the kids "taught" to be different, or by their environment subject to prejudice or develop prejudices?

I like to think of it like restaurants.

Typically, more Asians go to Chinese restaurants. But the restaurants are open to everyone. People can choose to go whichever restaurant they want. Some people make racist remarks or biased comments about the Chinese restaurant or its customers, but that's a human nature thing. Not the fault of the restaurant.

And so it goes with "American" restaurants. Those may have a cross-section of customers like the local demographics, but they may have more Caucasians. Is that a problem?

Think about it. You are what you eat!

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 2:24 am

BBB - I like the clarity of your questions. I'll try to give clarity in my resonse.

I do think your first two questions are different, in that we can easily impact Hoover but not easily Addison. If Hoover and Addison were both neigborhood schools, I would not have started this thread. To impact Addison (short of redrawing boundary lines), we'd have to send people away from their local school; to impact Hoover, we could send people BACK TO their local schools! If you substituted Ohlone for Addison, I would say they are both a problem, and the same problem.

To answer your question directly, I'd prefer that Addison and Hoover were both more representative of the city; in that sense, both are a "problem." But my focus is not just on "is there a problem"; it is also on "is there something we can practically do?"

With Addison, the options are limited. Assigning kids away from their local school is challenging for many reasons. There may be a chance to re-draw boundary lines, in which case setting the lines to try to achieve school diversity would be a good thing and I would support it.

With Hoover, the answers are somewhat more direct. I am not sure you could implement ethnic quotas or preferences - my sense is that it may not be legal (I am sure someone out there knows - please tell us). If you could, then that would be good. We could also choose to do away with the program, on the basis that it was creating a segregated student body.

In terms of "what is the problem" - I believe we learn to get along with different people through practice - running up against those darn annoying different people and figuring them out and how to get along with them. Public school is the place where this happens. If we segregate our schools, our kids don't get the benefit of experience, and society suffers. The fact that it happens by "choice" doesn't make it ok; the harm of the segregation has to be weighed against the value of the choice. On the other hand, if we all go to different restaurants, society is about the same.

I did a college admissions interview earlier in the year for a kid from Paly, the child of Chinese immigrants. He said one thing that upset him in high school was the pressure to stick with your own group (in his case, Asian math nerds) and how he was proud of himself for staying close with some of his non-Asian friends he had made in elementary school. Imagine if you were Asian and went to Hoover (or white and went to Ohlone) - you may well not even have those those other-ethnic friends to stick with. (No different at Addison, of course; just a harder problem to solve.)

Posted by Warm cockles
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2007 at 8:23 am


Interesting thread. Four responses:

--It seems to me practical to solve the "segregation" at Addison and other neighborhood schools. We wouldn't have to bus that many.

--If there is an underlying moral imperative, then that applies equally to neighborhood and choice schools. If we SHOULD "desegregate" choice schools, then we SHOULD do it for neighborhood schools, too.

--The neighborhood and choice concepts are important to many people, so "desegregating" takes something away from them. It would be unfair to apply this to one set of families and not another. In other words, if it is a problem, it's not fair to solve in on the back of one set of families.

--I also get a warm feeling seeing my kids romp with children of many ethnicities and agree that having them educated in a multi-racial, multi-cultural environment is good for them. However, we as a country didn't go to the trouble of desegregating schools so that white folk could have that warm feeling. The reason was that kids from minorities, which suffered from the accumulated disadvantage of years of oppression, were not getting a fair shot at good schools. That is clearly not happening here in Palo Alto. As a legal matter, I think that shutting down Hoover because it has too many Asians would run into trouble because it turns the rationale for desegregation on its head.

Posted by Euro Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:03 am


Yes, sadly you are right, my school days are long behind me, 50s 60s and into 70s and my experience with euro schools now is sadly anecdotal. I know that there is still the high emphasis on exams to the extent that these are now being re-introduced at younger ages (like 7 and 11) where they had been phased out. I know that there is a lot of talk in Britain that the standards for A levels (basically the exit exams) have such good pass rates now that the question exists as to whether these have been softened or teaching has improved. In Ireland there is now a soft year at age 15 or so, where the emphasis is put into broadening the spectrum so to speak getting the students involved in community service, learning something outside the norm academically, or other various projects, before the strenuous two last years of school are thrown on them.

However, actual classroom procedures are something I know very little about.

One thing that is very strong though is dress codes. The problem is nothing to do with gang identification, rather that it brings everyone down to the same level and takes away those who can afford to shop at the best and those who don't. A pair of navy trousers (not jeans) or navy skirt and sweatshirt over a polo type shirt with sensible shoes tends to be the norm for most schools, public or private.

Posted by speller
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:32 am


Kudos for getting one spelling mistake on this thread title corrected from ethic to ethnic, but shouldn't you have changed segration to segregatation also?

Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:46 am

Blah Blah Blah - Addison and Hays makeups are still within a reasonable range of being representative of the overall community. I believe some cases on the ACLU website have the courts saying that a range of +/-20% of the makeup of the community was considered representative.

So by that measure, Hoover is off the charts and if it were challenged, PAUSD would probably have a problem.

MI will be the same way. Particularly if they institute Mandarin testing for entrance, which would be more than just accidental self-segregation, it would be blatent discrimination.

There's a logic problem here that people want to avoid - if you build schools based on neighborhood boundaries you are not (intentionally) differentiating on race. (And PAUSD further attempts to mitigate this by voluntarily bringing in Tinsley to correct imbalances created by PAUSD socioeconcomic imbalances.)

If you build schools based on choice, or on language proficiencies, and you end up with racially segregated schools by intention, you are building self-segregated schools - by choice.

The moral question is - is it OK to intentionally build racial segregation by choice (choice of a few) - and what about the part of the population that remains out. What if we had three schools, and started a program that was preferred by 100% caucasian kids, which coincidentally left all the non-caucasian out, so we ended up with two all caucasian schools, and the other school was all non-caucasian 'by accident'. Would that right? (Please refer to Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia circa 1960.)

If its a question of right and wrong - a moral question - its wrong.

Boundary based schools are probably the best we can do to ensure representative diversity in our schools.

Its a slippery slope. Today it seems harmless, 5-10 years from now, we'll be looking at ethic violence, disparity in performance results, funding inequities, and be asking ourselves how we let it get out of hand. The question is - where's the line? Have we crossed it?

The Board of education has the responsibility to protect PAUSD from this ugly slide to segregated schools.

The board has the responsibility to protect diversity in this district - and by diversity I mean everyone works, plays, eats, learns together.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2007 at 1:59 pm

I think the other thing to look at is whether a school is becoming more or less diverse. I think you'll find that Addison and Ohlone are more diverse than they were five years ago. Hoover, less so. And as Observer points out, Addison, Walter Hays (and Ohlone) are within 20 points of matching the diversity of the district's student body. Hoover is really off in its own sector. It would be interesting to know why a school that was in line with the overall student population five years ago has become increasingly segregated. Has there been any outreach to maintain some sort of balance at the school?

Euro Parent, I wsn't talking about European schools in general, simply that there are some alternative educational approaches that developed in Europe--I know Waldorf is not mainstream in Germany, let alone England.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 5:05 pm

I think one of the reasons that we are discussing this is that at some stage Palo Alto can get a reputation for having a particular school dominated by a certain ethnic group which will possibly attract more people of that ethnic group into that catchment area. As an example, PAUSD honors jewish holidays because of the number of jewish staff and students here. As a result, Palo Alto attracts those jews to whom having jewish holidays honored is important. Therefore we end up with more jews. Having many jews in our schools is not a problem, having jewish people move to Palo Alto is not a problem.

In other words, doing things to attract one ethnic group attracts more of that group. If we had a completely vegetarian school lunch menu, we would attract more vegetarians. If we have excellent sports programs, we get people who want sport.

If we get MI as a choice or a charter, there is no doubt that we will attract Mandarin speaking families to move to Palo Alto. If that is the case, then our schools will start to reflect that right across the board.

Posted by speller
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 5:26 pm

oops now I did one too. Of course I meant segregation. It must be contagious.

Posted by SRS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2007 at 5:26 pm


In constructing your argument, you make an important but unacknowledged assumption: schools based on choice segregate intentionally.

Obviously, this is false. Your argument falls apart.

Families opt in to choice programs, and it may turn out that choice schools do not reflect the ethnic makeup of the city. Not a problem.

The fact that Ohlone is disproportionately white is not a problem; neither is the unbalanced enrollment at neighborhood schools.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 8:31 pm

First, so sorry about the typos in the title. Where's the spell checker when you need it?

SRS - Thanks for the comment. But how do we know intention of choosers? How do we know, for instance, that white families don't choose Ohlone because they like its ethnic composition? Or that Asian families don't choose Hoover for the same reason? If they did, would that be a problem?

I continue to believe that a severe case like Hoover poses a real challenge to the community - esp if the school has reached a "tipping point" where non-Asians feel unwelcome. I know a couple families that felt this way. MI would, I expect, create the same challenge of ethnic "clustering."

None of this requires malice on the part of anybody, btw - but by setting up the choice program, we allow it to happen much more easily than with boundary based schools.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2007 at 8:49 pm


Choice schools don't have to segregate intentionally for it to become an issue.

I think there's an issue with Hoover because it's becoming more segregated at a time when every other school in Palo Alto is becoming more diverse.

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:07 pm

I hope you will consider going to the school board meeting tomorrow night, where the board will once again be talking about MI. You have been such a level voice in a tough forum, you could be a wonderfully mediating force. You also have intelligent things to say, whether I agree with them or not.

Posted by Ted M
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 6:42 am

Hello, everyone.
This is really a fascinating series of posts, and I am impressed by how respectful and measured the discussion has been. I know I’m coming late to the party, but I wanted to raise an issue that I think “BBB” touched upon (and to which Fred partially responded): “what is the problem?”

Or, perhaps phrased differently: why is it that we feel we need to rely on the public school system to provide our children with exposure to different ethnicities, origins, incomes? I’m probably being naive here, but I thought entrusting schools with the charge of teaching our children to read, write, and analyze was burden enough. Add to that list the daunting task of “properly” socializing them, and I’m afraid you are both setting the schools up to fail (“how can my son be so mean to other children when he attended public schools!”) and foisting a responsibility that I (perhaps others, as well) think should belong to the parents.

My geometry and calculus are a bit rusty, and I’m looking forward to “outsourcing” that task to our fine Palo Alto schools. But when it comes to teaching respect for other people, cultures, and viewpoints...that’s something I’m on the hook for.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 6:54 am

Ted, good to see Barron Park in the house ;-) And I'm glad you like the tone - everyone is working hard to be respectful and on point and I think we all find it a welcome change.

A lot of people in PA feel like you, I think. My office poll on this topic yesterday received a lot of shrugs - who cares about Hoover's or Ohlone's ethnic composition?

It may be a second order concern in fact - esp, as one poster above pointed out, since separate does not mean un-equal in our current context. Most de-segregation was meant to address in-equality.

But I'm not sure I agree. The melting pot is important, I would actually argue key, to the American experience. And if we have de-facto segregated public institutions, that's a problem to talk about and address. I think a discussion about how Hoover can recruit a more diverse mix of students is important and overdue (would love to hear from some Hoover-ites on that).

Note that this concept is enshrined in a lot of law and regulation (which you may not agree with). For instance, as noted above, a charter school MUST show "its means for achieving racial and ethnic balance reflective of the general population residing in the district" (source: Charter School FAQs, CA Dept. of Education).

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 27, 2007 at 7:01 am

Fred, so on your last comment on responsibility, who is really held responsible -- the district or the charter?

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 7:06 am

Anon - really don't no the answer - it is not clear that EITHER is responsible for the result. The document I read simply said that the charter had to show how it would achieve the goal. Actually achieving the goal (and the consequences for not) is another topic that I didn't see addressed. Any charter school experts out there that can address?

Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2007 at 8:44 am

Parent says the issue with segregation is that it will attract more of the same (ie: vegetarians). I don't believe that's the issue at all. The issue is that whoever is here, no matter who they are, needs to understand that we all live, work, educate together, not separately. As soon as you start separating vegetarians from meatatarians in the cafeteria, then the next thing you know, they are separated in the playground, then in the classrooms, and then we separate them by schools, and then every group is its own special unique unit - and then the lack of culteral awareness, misunderstanding, fights, mistrust, and general stupidity breaks out.

The point is - walk the walk - keep the schools diversified. To whatever extent Palo Alto has diversity (and it does), then our schools should be relective of that so the kids learn that difference are no big deal - in fact differences fade in to the woodwork and everyone learns to get along naturally. On the other hand, create segregated schools, and see what kind of fighting breaks out. Take a look at some neighboring cities if you have any question about how that works.

By the way - the idea that it matters whether its intentional, by choice, by accident - bulloney! The end result is EXACTLY the same.

Those who think creating segregated schools by 'accident' makes it OK are just kidding themselves - because they want it that way probably.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 9:01 am

Observers - thanks for the thoughtful post. The one I am unsure of though, is the that people who don't object to segration have different motivations than anyone else. That's not my experience - as I mentioned, in my informal office poll, many sensible people, with no dog in this fight, thought self-segratation at Hoover was no big deal. I accept that reasonable people can disagree on this one.

Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 9:08 am

One other issue at the Choice schools is that they give first preference to siblings, so it is not just an issue of "recruiting" a more diverse group, its the having space for them. Its the same as the kindergarten overflow - all the siblings get places, the Tinsley kids, not sure where teacher's kids fall in the mix, then the rest of the spaces are chosen by lottery if the school is over enrolled.

I don't think the segragation issue has been challenged, most Immersion school seem to be spanish and either reflect the composition of their district, or are not challenged because they are providing an opportunity for less advantaged kids - one of the original purposes of charter schools.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 10:00 am

Actually PA Mom, you raise a good point - we could look at other Mandarin Immersion programs, both in private schools around here, and charters in other communities, to see how their composition sorts itself out. Should give us a clue on how ours will look.

Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2007 at 10:01 am

Yes, Palo Alto mom, I also have the impression that charters are often set up with the idea of taking a stab at helping some disadvanted students in a district with a great deal of hopelessness in the local public schools owing to poverty and low achievement. That is clearly not the case here. I also believe charters have a mixed record of results. They do appear to be difficult to manage/operate. I also think it is unfortunate that some want to limit diversity in our schools.

Posted by SRS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2007 at 11:06 am

"By the way - the idea that it matters whether its intentional, by choice, by accident - bulloney! The end result is EXACTLY the same."

Good, Observer, then you've given up your previous position. Since intention is irrelevant, you'll agree that having segregation in choice schools is no worse than having it in neighborhood schools. If you want "desegregation," then you'll have to undertake it on a district-wide basis, and not try to achieve it at the expense of choice families.

I agree that mixing kids is a good thing, but the world is messy and benefits don't come in isolation. In this case, the good of having integration is in conflict with the good of having choice. It is simplistic to suggest that integration trumps choice; you need to look at the circumstances.

As Cockles points out, the purpose of desegregation is to help minorities overcome historical oppression. If you could point out how restricting Asians from attending Hoover--and lets be honest, that is what you're suggesting--would further that goal, you would have a point.

But whites do not have an oppression to overcome, and the white kids do pretty well in this district, so I don't think your argument gets much traction.

Parent is dead on here: The real reason this issue agitates some people is because our Asian population is increasing.

Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 11:35 am

The issue of implementing MI? Or the ethnic segregation issue?

If the former, no, it is not racism that motivates many opponents, it is a whole bundle of reasons, mine being that it's not fair to put MI at the head of the line for attention and consideration when the district has published other priorities than language, based on a survey of the entire district (anyone who would contribute opinions on what should be the district's priorities). I'm not a racist, but I am a very strong believer in the democratic process and I will go to the mat any day to defend it. As far as I'm concerned, if the District had put developing choice programs, or even language programs, as a top priority, then I would have supported the implementation. That is not the case. The district has a long list of priorities and I think it should stick to them.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2007 at 8:43 pm

The NBC Today show has been filming at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco all day Thursday, including the Spring Performance of the K-2 grades at the Herbst Auditorium. When this segment airs on the Today Show please take a close look at the ethnicity of the students.

Perhaps Fred and OP could look at the ethnic diversity of other Mandarin Immersion programs rather than pretending to know the future distribution within a PAUSD program.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2007 at 9:22 pm


I haven't made specific predictions about the MI program. However, since you seem to think I should have some input--

if an MI program requires 30 percent native Mandarin speakers, the percentage of Asian kids is not going to go below 30 percent.

The one PACE survey I saw ages ago showed that the majority of people interested in MI for their kids at that time were of Chinese descent.

Do I think the program will be 100 percent Chinese? No. Do I think it will be under 50 percent? Only if Chinese-American kids are discriminated against in the English-speaker lottery process. Proportions close to those of Hoover? Well, those would jibe with those old PACE numbers.

I see one of the local Chinese-language academies on a weekly basis--the Asian/possibly non-Asian ratio is about 10 to 1. I'd think a PAUSD MI program wouldn't be as severely skewed.

But in line with the current demographics of the district? You're right, I'm skeptical. I don't think everybody's equally interested in MI and I think that will affect the program's demographics.

The real question is will anybody care? I haven't noticed any Hoover outreach programs to underrepresented groups. Fred mentioned "a tipping point" there. I think he's right. And I've seen the change in attitude from only five years ago.

I read an interesting stat a while ago--even as the country becomes more diversified, different areas are becoming less and less so. It's not all that easy keeping a balance.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2007 at 10:49 pm

Compare the demographics of a Mandarin Immersion program with another MI program, not with an after school or weekend "local Chinese-language academies." Are you comparing the ethnicity of the parents or the students? (There are many adopted Chinese girls.) If less than 50% of the parents are Asian, is this really outside the 20% rule as applied to Addison and Walter Hays?

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 30, 2007 at 4:35 am

Anon, you make a fair point, we really don't know what MI will look like and thank you for gathering at least one data point.

If you agree that ethnic clustering is a problem (not clear if you do - though pointing out that other programs are diverse seems to acknowledge that you might be concerned), then we can agree that having choice programs aggressively outreach and promote ethnic integration in their workings is important, for all of the choice programs we might have. That's my primary point, not so much about MI in particular.

Posted by Parent of a prek
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2007 at 8:45 am

Fred, if a program self segregates, what happens to diversity in the rest of the schools? Is the impact on the ones who didn't choose to segregate, but are now segregated by 'accident' OK?

Hypothetically, if we had only two ethnic groups, and one decided to self segregate, the other group would be segregated by default. Not their choice. So the 'choice' of one, is a violation of rights for the other.

Now say, the first group was 'white' and the second group was 'black'. Is it starting to ring a bell? (Think US history)

Segregation by 'choice' is a trampling of rights for someone - maybe of no concern to the group that wants it that way - but the rest are harmed. Yes, we are harmed if the Asian, Indian, Black, White, (any!) decide to opt out of our diverse neighborhood schools. Our school's diversity is harmed and our children's (and parents) abilities to learn to live together, understand each other, and get along is harmed.

We now have a representative on the Santa Clara County school board who I'm sure will deal with issues of racial divide and the true meaning and value of diversity.

I sincerely hope and pray it helps her understand the impact and unintended consequences of what she is suggesting here.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2007 at 2:21 pm

I hate this posting system--anything that takes longer than ten minutes to write gets chewed up.



I've never seen a non-Asian parent at the program

, but I don't see all the parents. I think the adopted-Chinese-girl thing is probably less of a factor than the biracial kid thing. Kids who look "non-Asian" to me from a distance could easily be biracial.

It's funny, we talk as if biracial kids didn't exist in any number. In my kid's class a third of the kids are mixed-race. Check the demographics at any school in Palo Alto and you'll see a reasonably sized missing chunk. Some of that may be "Decline to state" but I'm guessing that a lot of it is that these kids don't fit into one box. (Some Hawaiian friends of mine, where multiracial is more of a norm, used to write in "cosmopolitan".)

I'm with Parent of a prek on the self-segregation issue, but I don't think there's an easy answer. Balancing acts are tough and coercion (forced busing) had some bad repercussions. In my experience, you need local support and money (for the programs the keep people committed to a particular school.) I think the Menlo-Atherton principal does admirably with a tough job--class divides marked by racial divisions is a *tough* one to handle, though I think the rewards for the kids are deep and lifelong when it works.

I think Hoover could benefit from some outreach, However, I wonder if part of the issue at Hoover is that it's seen as a school for academic overachievers. A friend of mine once remarked that direct instruction might be just the thing for some kids who aren't seen as academic stars, but respond well to the structure. I think Hoover might be a better school for the community if it had a greater range of academic abilities. (Is there a place for a special needs program there? How does DI work for some learning issues? It seems like it would be a good fit for some?)

However, it would scrape off a few points off its sky-high API scores if it did that? How willing, as a community, to make that kind of sacrifice?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2007 at 11:41 am

Choice schools should be based on educational philosophy and not racial categorization. Hoover offers a structured, highly academic style of instruction and some cultures prefer that approach to education over normal tract in Palo Alto. Regardless of what students are recruited to attend the school, a choice school should stick with its advertised educational philosophy. Since choice schools are filled by lottery, one has to presume that the student population reflects the racial distribution of the applicants. Since these programs are available to all children in PAUSD, only a random draw discriminates the against an applicant.

On the other hand, neighbor schools are based on geography so it is possible to buy into a neighborhood school just as it is possible to buy into a PAUSD school by living within its district boundaries. If the opponents of choice schools were serious about ending segregation, they would consider the entire region of neighbooring school districts. Then PAUSD itself might appear to be a segregated school district.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2007 at 2:35 pm


You can't force out-of-district busing. Palo Alto has tried, however, to increase diversity, voluntarily, through Tinsley.

Segregation within a district, particularly one that seems unrelated to who bought a home where is, I think, an issue.

Right now, Palo Alto *is* a reasonably diverse district. It's a bit more white and more Asian than the state as a whole, but it's hardly what anyone would call segregated. Except by class.

I'm not suggesting Hoover change its educational philosophy, but that philosophy should be the emphasis instead of the extreme high achievement focus. I think there are kids that would benefit from Direct Instruction whose families would never apply to Hoover because of the school's ultra-competitive reputation.

There have been charter schools using direct instruction in some very marginalized, poor areas and they've been effective.

The Hoover lottery isn't random as it gives sibling preference like all the choice programs. If the numbers get skewed enough, sibling preference alone will create an unbalanced student body.

But I'm not suggesting quotas. They have their own problems. I would like to see some recognition for the value *for our kids* of diversity in schools and a conscious outreach effort made by the schools and the district to attract kids who would benefit from the educational philosophy but don't fall into a self-selected group.

In other words, if an applicant pools getting more and more one-sided, you need to so something about the applicant pool, not the selection process within the applicant pool.

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