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Palo Alto schools soar on state rankings

Original post made on May 21, 2008

Palo Alto schools are some of the best in California, according to data released by the state Department of Education today. Yet not all stack up compared to similar schools, the department found.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008, 12:38 PM

Comments (36)

Posted by Jane
a resident of Professorville
on May 21, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Interesting statistics, Ohlone may have been given an unfair comparison school.

I know that Ohlone has different teaching philosophy, project based, two grades to a class room, non competitive.
All of which is fine up until middle school.Lord knows it good to enjoy your childhood before things get more mean and Darwinian.
The parents of Ohlone students are very involved and loyal

Interesting difference in demographics between Hoover and Ohlone. How is that going to change with the Mandarin Immersion Frankenstein Experiment?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 21, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Soar? I wouldn't say that Palo Alto schools are soaring. I think we are all riding on our laurels.

Posted by Jane Hates China
a resident of The Greenhouse
on May 21, 2008 at 10:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by the sole non-ohlone
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2008 at 11:15 pm

after having gone to duveneck and palo verde before my younger brothers BOTH attended ohlone (all within the past decade), i always got the feeling they weren't being as educationally pressured or fed as well as the other elementary schools. i am very against ohlone's teaching style and think they need to refresh their whole image beginning with the principal. ridiculously outdated, non-effective system.

Posted by CJ
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2008 at 12:44 pm

I am some what upset to hear that some children are not getting into their school districts. They are being shipped to other schools. As a Property Tax payer, I want some guarantee that my child will be going to the school that he is living in. Why in Gods name would I be paying over million for a shack!

Posted by sam
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2008 at 1:07 pm


700 places in PAUSD are taken by students from other districts under the VTP program.

That is why you cannot get your child near where you live.

The VTP should be ended

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2008 at 6:21 pm


When kvetching about how poor a school is, it helps if you don't make numerous grammatical mistakes in a short post. I had to read your first run-on sentence twice just to figure out what you were saying. Yikes. (And "fed"--fed what? Food or multiplication tables?)

Ohlone's scores slid this year. I'm not that surprised--two of the teachers were spending 20 percent of their time putting together the MI curriculum. (The K/1 teacher wouldn't be a factor in test scores, but a distracted 2/3 teacher could have been a factor.) This meant more subs for the kids in those classes. In general, the school administration was distracted this year by the MI mess.

Ohlone's scores can be expected to drop further the second year of MI when the first set of MI second-graders take the APIs. Immersion kids in the grades 2 and 3 historically score below their peers. The disparity disappears in grades 4 and 5--immersion proponents will tell you that's because immersion creates education miracles. What actually seems to be the case, however, is that underperformers drop the program and only the good students are left.

Ohlone will tell you that they don't teach the test, which is true. On the other hand, they've performed better in the past than they did this year. If you're at the school, it's painfully obvious that MI has distracted the administration from primary mission of teaching the kids at the school.

Oh, and what's a big negative when it comes to school performance? Overcrowding.

Posted by Ohlone Fan
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Both my kids attend Ohlone.
Because of it, they are curious children who simply find pleasure in learning. NO, I don't have to force them to read for 30 minutes before bed. I actually have to ask them to stop so they can get to bed on time.
Yes, MI has distracted administrators, who have coped unbelievable well, taking into account the challenges.

Posted by Non Ohlone parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2008 at 8:25 pm

My kids don't attend Ohlone, but they enjoy reading. I don't have to make them read 30 minutes a day, in fact I have to get them to stop reading so that they can go and play outside and get exercise and get to bed on time.

Ohlone is not the only good system, neither is Hoover. I am getting tired of both sets of parents trying to make me sound disadvantaged because my kids go to regular elementary school and beyond.

Posted by Commentator
a resident of Nixon School
on May 23, 2008 at 11:13 pm

Per usual, OhlonePar's facts are incorrect. Any testing slide at Ohlone, to the extent one would want to put weight on that, would have been on test taking prior to any time being spent by administrators working on a program to launch this coming fall. Of course, facts have never been the source of her complaints.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2008 at 11:21 pm

Non Ohlone,

Ohlone was slammed by the poster whose siblings went to Ohlone. I'm not sure why you'd construe a defense of Ohlone as an attack on the other schools.

I don't think education is one size fits all. My educational philosophy fits with Ohlone, but that's not true of, I think, the majority of parents in Palo Alto. Same way not every parent tries to get their kid into Hoover. When parents tell me they're happy with their neighborhood schools, I see no reason not to believe them.

I think there are misconceptions about Ohlone--one being that somehow Ohlone doesn't teach the curriculum and the kids at Ohlone aren't prepared for middle school. We Ohlone parents do end up, one on one, I think, having to explain and defend the educational approach. I think Ohlone Fan's comments were a response to that--i.e. our kids don't have regular homework, how do they learn without homework assignments? Sole's attitude, while not well expressed, is one I've seen before--kids don't learn unless forced to do so. To which I'd say, depends on the kid--too much force can kill a natural love of learning. Intrinsic v. external motivations--I'm more interested in my kid *wanting* to learn than I am in the fastest acceleration possible.

I think, also, that Ohlone parents feel very protective of our community. The school's taken a lot of heat--I mean I don't think people suggest shutting down your grade school on a regular basis on the forum.

Posted by SI Mom
a resident of Escondido School
on May 24, 2008 at 11:54 am

A note to all regarding the following Ohlonepar statement:

"The disparity disappears in grades 4 and 5--immersion proponents will tell you that's because immersion creates education miracles. What actually seems to be the case, however, is that underperformers drop the program and only the good students are left."

I have no idea where OP gets the facts for this statement, but this is simply not the case for the Palo Alto SI program. My son is a 5th grader in the SI program and in our K-5 experience, if I remember correctly, 4 children left the program over the 6 year period and 2 students were added - none of the 4 children who left did so because they were "underperformers". So, the population has remained fairly stable and the test scores for the group reflect the yearly performance of the students that started the program in kindergarten.

I don't know what the test scores are for the SI classes since I don't think they are reported separately from the traditional classes, but based on my experience with my son, his English/Reading scores followed the expected pattern of significant improvement in 3rd and 4th grade. And, I am certain this improvement was not unique to him.

While I can't speak from experience for all the SI grade levels, I am not aware of any attrition of "underperformers" from any of the grades that would significantly influence the test results.

In general, I would encourage folks reading OP's comments on immersion education to keep in mind that OP's statements are not based on facts relative to Palo Alto's SI program.

Posted by Moved On
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Her comments are not based on any facts. Her claims don't hold for SI, MI or any-I. She is bitter that MI is coming to Ohlone, so she makes up these claims about attrition, performance, etc.

SI Mom, I just skip her posts now and suggest anyone interested in facts do the same.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm

SI Mom,

Google immersion and attrition--and you'll see what the issue is. Your own numbers show 20 percent attrition--that's enough to affect test scores one way or another, particularly as the kids who replaced those who left would have been tested for proficiency before entering the program. (And how is it you know how each of those four kids were performing? I see a lot of my fellow parents and I work in the classroom, but I don't know the ins and outs of every kid's language development. Some, yes, but others, no.)

Attrition in immersion programs is a big concern for those administering the programs--thus, there's a fair amount of information on it. The Canadians, who have been running numerous French/English immersion programs since the 60s see attrition rates of 40 to 50 percent in their immersion programs.

Mandarin immersion programs are still few and far between, but the earliest--Potomac--had only three of its original 22 kids still studying Chinese in high school. Cupertino's MI program had six kids from the original 20 by seventh grade.

I do think Spanish has less of an attrition issue than does the more difficult language of Mandarin, but attrition is a very real phenomena in immersion language programs and there are studies that indicate that underperformers are disproportionaly more likely to drop out.

Not all attrition occurs because of poor performance, but because of the requirement for proficiency for late entrants, the average scores are affected--a poor student, one with reading problems, for example, will not be allowed into an upper grade of an immersion program.

There's also another self-selection issue in that if your preschooler shows possible learning issues, you're less likely to put them in an immersion program.

Basically, there are just a lot of things that delevel the playing field.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Moved On,

Such a shame, isn't it, that I've consistently backed up my claims.

Heck, the principal of Escondido *tells* prospective parents that there's a 2/3 grade score drop with immersion kids.

This isn't news.

Posted by SI Mom
a resident of Escondido School
on May 24, 2008 at 2:42 pm


I am not sure where you are getting the 20% attrition rate, perhaps you used a classroom count of 20. But the 4 students that left the program were out of the total 30 or so that started the SI program, so the actual attrition over 6 years was 13%-15%. This is for the 6 year period, not a rate for one year.

The children who left the program also left the school and PAUSD for a variety of reasons, and your right, I really don't know if they were "underperformers" or not, but my impression of them was that they were all very capable students.

Your reference to studies about attrition relative to immersion programs is all very interesting, but it is not reflective of the Palo Alto SI program.

Posted by SI Mom
a resident of Escondido School
on May 24, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Didn't catch my error before submitting, should be - "and you are right"

Posted by Seth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2008 at 4:16 pm

A few corrections to Ohlonepar's posts (in each case, she claimed the contrary):

1. Any "slide" in test scores at Ohlone cannot be blamed on MI, since the tests were taken prior to MI.

2. There is no general problem with attrition in immersion programs. In this country, I know of only one relevant study, which set out to prove problems with attrition and in fact found the opposite: immersion schools keep their kids better than surrounding schools.

3. There is no special problem of attrition for Mandarin programs.

4. The Mandarin immersion program in Cupertino has no problems with attrition (the attrition is tiny--less than the attrition in regular PAUSD classrooms).

5. There is no evidence that those who leave these programs are under-performers or that those who join these programs late are over-performers. For all we know, over-performers may be dropping out and under-performers may be joining late.

The context for all of Ohlonepar's cavils, of course, is that MI kids outperform their monolingual peers in English and math.

She keeps posting false and misleading information in order to spin the debate, but the spin is blatant and a little silly. Yawn. I, too, will skip her posts in the future.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2008 at 1:38 pm

SI Mom,

My comments weren't about the SI program, but some of the bigger issues about immersion programs. Yes, I was working from 20 students, but since you know it's 30, the adjustment's downward, accordingly, so thank you for the numbers.


Pay attention. Ohlone's administration *this year* has spent a lot of time putting together the MI program. Two of its *current* teachers are officially spending 20 percent of their time on creating the MI curriculum and hiring its teachers. One of those teachers is in the 2/3 cluster, which is tested. That means that teacher's class saw a lot of substitutes.

5. Sorry,dude, you need to actually read some of the studies on this. It's why the Canadians have been focusing on bringing in immersion after primary literacy established.

2. In this country? Well, that was careful--Canada's similar to us culturally and has done *numerous* studies on the matter. Just because you don't know doesn't mean the information's not there.

3. There are very few Mandarin programs, but the oldest in the country has had severe attrition. There were also problems in Portland. Both these programs, by the way, are being visited and used as models for Ohlone MI.

4. Wrong. The attrition's around 20 percent--as can be seen by the drop in the 2/3 numbers, which are then backfilled for the upper grades. Attrition hits again in middle school. Sorry, dude, the numbers--provided by PACE--were crunched here. I know you don't want to deal with it.

Posted by seth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Ohlonepar, sweetie, wipe your chin. You're foaming.

1. You still don't get it. Time spent on MI this year could not affect scores of tests taken previously. Causation cannot work backward in time. It's a science thing, hon.

2. Right, so you have no evidence. In that case, I guess it is true that there is no general problem with attrition in immersion programs.

3. Again, you have no evidence, so I guess it is correct that Mandarin programs have no special problems of attrition.

4. No, sorry, the Cupertino program has no problem with attrition in elementary or middle school. 4% is tiny--and is less than what you find in surrounding schools.

5. Again, you have no evidence for your claim. It may be that over-performers are dropping out and under-performers are joining late.

That was fun, but a little too easy. You make claim after claim but have no evidence. Get back to us when you find some.

It's hard to fathom why you so desperately want to spin this issue. Maybe you're bothered by the fact that MI kids outperform their monolingual peers in English and math. On the upside, at least the MI kids will raise scores at Ohlone.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2008 at 8:30 pm


1. You're still not paying attention. Ohlone's scores dropped from last year on this year's tests--the teachers and administrators were distracted *this* year with MI. I've pointed out how. I realize you're in denial about this, but try to follow, anyway.

2. I do have evidence--Canada's been dealing with this issue for 40 years and has studied it extensively. Educational issues don't stop at the border.

3. Potomac and Portland are both evidence--just because you're in denial, doesn't mean that Potomac--the oldest MI program in the country had a very poor outcome with its first class--I mean *three* kids prepping for the AP Mandarin exam after that big initial effort? Kids who went through the MI immersion program who weren't ready for high-school Mandarin. Don't believe me--it's online as reported by the Washington Post.

4. Four percent? No, 20 percent over the life of the program--not terrible turnover, but a problem in that you can't transfer kids into the program unless they're already proficient. It's the waste of space issue again.

The big drop in middle school actually *is* a problem because with kids if they don't use it, they lose it. Again, a waste of resources issues.

5. Again, you need to look at the studies on the issue. I've cited them before, so claiming I have no proof doesn't cut it.

One more thing--the bulk of U.S. immersion studies are focused on ESL learners. Canada's studies should matter to you because they're focused on teaching anglophone kids a second language that's not the dominant language.

As always, your own posts lack any information--just denial of things that you don't want to believe. Try thinking instead of feeling.

Posted by Facts
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 25, 2008 at 10:56 pm

The API and rankings that were just released reflect the standardized tests taken in spring 2007. Results from the tests just taken (spring 2008) won't be available until late this summer.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2008 at 11:08 pm


Oh dear, well in that case, apologies on my part. They were distracted last year as well, but not like this year.

Posted by sohill
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2008 at 4:09 pm

As a former Ohlone parent I have to jump in here. My son, who attended Ohlone, never ceases to talk about how wonderful it was. His Ohlone education was good enough to make him admitted to one of the top private schools in Cambridge , England ( which the author of "Good bye Mr. Chips" attended) . My son attended a top college in New England and is now a teacher in one of the best ranked schools in fairfax county, VA. When he mentioned he had attended Ohlone elementary he got this response from his (department) chair" that's why you are here" meaning that the good leadership and academic skills he learned at Ohlone served him well. I concur. If you don't want your child at Ohlone, don't send him but please
be fair to the school and many who are happy there.

Posted by Seth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2008 at 2:18 pm

"Oh dear, well in that case, apologies on my part. They were distracted last year as well, but not like this year." I suppose you'll happily eat your words yet again if scores go up.

As for the other points, you simply make unsupported claims. It's clear that neither immersion nor Mandarin immersion nor CLIP have attrition problems. And you clearly have no evidence that the kids who do drop out are under-achieving rather than over-achieving.

What we do know is that MI kids outperform their monolingual peers in English and math.

It's been a puzzle why you seek to spin this so much. Your other posts are beginning to make the reason clear.

Posted by Andrew
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 27, 2008 at 2:37 pm

what would be interesting is a comparison Nation wide, education in California hasn't been a strongpoint after (?)prop 13(not sure exactly what it was called) which had aimed to level schools of rich and poor to the same level

Posted by Andrew
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 28, 2008 at 8:47 am

srry, meant the supreme court ruling which did that, and prop 13 which limited tax increases.

Posted by Crescent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2008 at 8:22 am

What is the point if we can't get into the school districts that we are living in!

Posted by Jill
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 29, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Seth -

"It's clear that neither immersion nor Mandarin immersion nor CLIP have attrition problems."

Literally, this is true. Depending on your point of view, there is a problem with students leaving the program in CLIP. They are readily replaced, so there is technically no attrition problem. And for the power behind that program (real estate interests) this is the bottom line; there is no problem. It still attracts more people which drives more housing and higher-cost housing; that is the goal of the money behind that program.

However, there are related problems for others. The students who replace those who leave almost all are Chinese; this makes it in fact a racially preferential program.

And at least some of the students who leave leave because they are pushed out, sometimes shamed out, because they do not maintain high scores in all subjects.

Some people consider that a problem, others don't.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2008 at 11:00 pm


CLIP has about one quarter of its original class in middle school. There's consistently an attrition of 20 percent over the life of the program. These are PACE's figures from Cupertino.

The "outperforming" in MI--well, yeah, the 3 kids left of the original 20 in Potomac's program are probably pretty decent students.

Kids in immersion programs have lower than average scores in grades 2/3--Escondido's principal has said this and this is what the studies show. This is also when there's attrition at CLIP and other programs.

So, kids with reading problems drop out--the Canadian studies also show that the *main* reason kids drop out of French immersion programs is academic issues.

So, poor students drop and the good ones are left--of *course* the scores start to look better. It doesn't even take a high attrition rate for this effect to happen.

Also, the immersion kids don't outperform other selected groups--the highest scoring schools in Palo Alto and Cupertino aren't where the immersion programs are--they're the Direct Instruction schools.

Frankly, the numbers on this are so clear--as are the studies--that your need to deny this says a great deal about *you*. I mean, you're refusing to acknowledge that something that's right there in the numbers.

Jill, if you look at the upper grades, you'll find some vacancies--it's hard to find kids proficient enough to fill those spots. If you're a bilingual fourth-grader transferring into an immersion program is no problem at all.

Yeah, real-estate types are behind the mega-bond, too. No wonder--they push for developments and now we're overcrowded. It's a problem when you can't guarantee a spot at the name-brand neighborhood school.

Suspect some of that mega-bond is about building mega-school sites with two-story buildings.

Posted by Seth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2008 at 10:04 pm



Middle school enrollment is completely irrelevant. Many parents of immersion kids mainstream their kids at that stage for various reasons. The attrition runs about four percent. More generally, it's not clear who leaves immersion programs--it may be the high achievers getting out and low achievers getting in.

So, yeah, the stats on outperforming are pretty significant. It's why the academics go to study those programs.

You are right that kids in immersion programs have lower than average scores in grades 2/3, but the flip side is that those kids go on to outperform their monolingual peers in English and math.

Spin it how you like, the numbers are clear: no attrition problems, high achievement.


Wow, you're obsessed with race. Your problem, really.

Posted by ohlone graduate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2008 at 10:57 pm

I went to Ohlone, and I personally liked the teaching style there. Ohlone not only builds up your education, but it also builds up moral and friendship values. I have benefited from these values a lot as a current middle school student.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2008 at 12:09 am


Actually, middle school enrollment is completely relevant. With languages, it's a case of use it or lose it when it's learned in childhood. So if kids go through immersion in elementary and then drop the language, immersion becomes a big waste of effort. Which, I might add, makes the PAUSD deal of no MI middle school program a nonstarter--I guarantee that if MI stays around, we'll be seeing another round of the fight a few years down the line.

Glad to see you acknowledge the 2/3 score issue. Between that and your not even trying to make a case for no attrition at middle school, you're holding on to a narrow isthmus here. Unfortunately, for you, the attrition in these programs is high enough that they're quite capable of artificially boosting scores. And as I've noted, Canadian research, which includes extensive studies on the issue, shows that academic issues are the main reason for dropping an immersion programs.

You're also making another erroneous assumption--the U.S. studies that show immersion kids outperforming their peers focus on ESL kids learning English. In OTHER words, kids learn best in their native language. They can then take what they've learned in Spanish and translate that knowledge to English. They fall less behind academically than do ESL kids in an English-only environment.

*That* phenomenon is what interests American researchers. It's pretty much the focus of American immersion research--and one of the reasons I mention Canadian research. Unlike us, the Canadians have made a large and long effort to teach native English speakers in English-speaking areas a second language by immersion.

You're talking about apples when the subject is oranges.

Posted by Seth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2008 at 7:36 am


You're not making any sense. In your opinion, it would be a waste of effort to drop immersion after elementary. OK, but that statement is simply not supported by the evidence. In any case, whether it's a waste or not is irrelevant to the question of attrition. The elementary and middle school programs were designed independently so that parents who don't buy your hoodoo (and want to mainstream their kids in sixth) can. Mainstreaming in middle school is not attrition.

I do hope that you're right about MI middle school--it would be a great addition to the district.

So it again seems attrition is no problem for immersion programs.

"the U.S. studies that show immersion kids outperforming their peers focus on ESL kids learning English." This is simply false, and you are either uniformed or pushing propaganda. The U.S. studies do not focus on ESL kids. They cover all the kids. In other words, both native Chinese speakers and native English speakers in immersion programs outperform kids in monolingual programs. As an example, the Cupertino Mandarin program kids outperform PAUSD kids.

I can see it would be comforting to you, given that your kids are not in immersion, to think that the immersion kids are not outperforming. Jeesh, you'd even like to convince yourself the immersion kids underperform. You'll have to get yourself into that belief state with a mantra and without evidence, I'm afraid.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2008 at 1:00 am


My opinion is, in fact, supported by the evidence. You've already made it clear that you're not particularly familiar with the research, so your sweeping denial doesn't mean much.

And, yes, attrition is an issue--one of the reasons it was idiotic to put in the MI program is that you need a 12-year-program for the best results, but, at the same time, attrition issues mean these programs tend to peter out. So big investment for a poor, limited outcome.

Very different situation with the bulk of immersion instruction in this country--where kids are put in Spanish-to-English immersion and then mainstreamed into the English curriculum in the upper grades. That works.

Otherwise, we're back to your usual problems with denial with a new grasping at straws--kiddo, I'm an Ohlone parent, which means that I deliberately sought out a school that doesn't boast of stellar scores. As you can see from my location, my neighborhood school has higher APIs.

And, of course, if immersion does amazing things to scores how come schools with immersion programs don't perform better? You want guaranteed high scores, go direct instruction.

Posted by Seth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2008 at 10:41 am


Well, you're back to making unsupported claims informed by your bitterness that MI is coming to Ohlone. It is increasingly evident you lack even passing knowledge of these programs, their aims or their results, though that does not stand in the way, in your case, of having strongly held opinions.

The bottom line is that these programs do extremely well, have less attrition than surrounding schools, are cheap, and provide a much-needed option to families. If you want high scores, go immersion. If you want a well-rounded, open-minded educational approach that values diversity, go immersion. If you want a global-minded approach, go immersion. If you value language, go immersion.

Or you could just go....

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