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Challenge success: Are we setting the right goals for our kids?

Original post made on Dec 6, 2008

As a Palo Alto mom of a third grader and sixth grader, I admit I sometimes feel uneasy about the future. These anxious moments come when more experienced moms talk about the path ahead.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 5, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (82)

Posted by To Each His/Her Own
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 6, 2008 at 9:48 am

My reply to Ms. Manley's piece that our schools should stop stressing out our students is the same I have to anyone who tells me that an entire school should change what it does because some students have been adversely affected by it - I respect the choices parents make for their own children, but please don't push for universal changes when the issue is not a problem for all.

This cry for universal change in our schools because of stress starts almost as soon as kids enter elementary school. In my children's elementary school parents screamed about hours of homework stressing their children and called, pointing to Clark Pope's group, for the total elimination of homework even though other children enjoyed the extra work and found it easy to finish.

Stats are interesting but without context are not too helpful. Maybe homework has increased over the years, but stats also show that kids academic performance has decreased over the same period of time. Should we work kids less at school knowing that they are getting less? And are kids busier these days? Look and see how many hours kids worked at jobs in the 1980s v. now. Is there really a net difference in out-of-school time commitments? Perhaps lack of sleep is not because of soccer or homework, but because kids these are spending 45 hours a week in front of a screen (TV, Facebook, video games, instant messaging).

Many students in our schools can manage a "heavy" school workload and several after school activities just fine and "thrive" on the stimulation. Parents of children who can't can follow Ms. Manley's lead and remove the stressors from their children's lives by encouraging them to take easier classes, limiting extra curricular activities, or both.

Please, don't seek universal changes for issues that are not shared by all.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2008 at 11:13 am

Every child is different, but there are many studies which show that homework, particularly at the elementary level, has little or no impact on learning. In our own district, the Ohlone students don't get assigned homework and they all seem to do fine in middle and high school.

Homework has its place, but as a district I would like the teachers to examine why they assign a particular project, what actual learning is occurring. Is it just a poster to decorate the classroom or is it a research project with knowledge gained, math problems reinforcing what was actually learned that day. Yes, some kids complete busy work easily, but what could they be doing instead?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2008 at 1:36 pm

This is not just about homework, but about the stresses put on all of our children.

When my daughter wanted to start Taw Kwon Do and dancing a few years ago, I imagined a nice once a week class for each. As I signed up for each class, I was put on a great deal of pressure for her to do multiple classes each week of each. I held my resolve and stuck to the once a week regime, but discovered that she became the only one in her class to not advance levels and was soon the youngest in her class level. The pressures were there to do multiple classes and have more success as a consequence. When my son started sport, I pictured perhaps a once a week practice and the ocassional game. I soon discovered that once again just one sport could take up all his afternoons and a great portion of his weekend.

Now many may say that to improve this type of regime is necessary, and that is right. But, for many kids, all they want to do is to have fun with a hobby and still have time to play. None of these activities seemed to allow for that. It was either all or nothing.

So on top of schoolwork, there are pressures for our kids to enter an activity not just to enjoy it, but to compete and be challenged in a way that was just not their original plan.

Homework, even at the elementary level, just puts extra pressures on a child. From weekly homework packets that take up too much busy time and not enough academic benefit, to science fairs and book reports that have become a competition among parents as to who can produce the best visual computerized demonstration of the project, we are sending the wrong message to our kids. Who cares about which bubble gum flavor lasts the longest or which battery brand lights up a flashlight for the longest time? But, to our kids we get the message that the end result has to look good but the educational value is not really relevant from their perception.

Many families do think that their kids are managing the stresses of homework, extra curricula activities and enjoying it. But, have those families actually asked the kids what they think?

Teens nowaday have no more distraction in their lives than we did, just different ones. Many have after school jobs, join clubs and committeess, do sports and other activities, just as we did. They may have the distractions of the computer age, but we had ours too, they were just different. (We used to run to our rooms after school to speak on the phone for hours with friends we had just seen, we had tvs, stereos, records, phones in our rooms and used them while we were studying).

Ms Manley's point is not that it is all wrong, but just perhaps that we should ask ourselves again what it is that we actually want in our kids' lives and what it is they value. We know from experience that childhood is fleeting, they don't. We should just every now and then be reminded to ask a few of these types of questions and give our kids time to air their views and do some of the things they want to do, not just to be challenged and have good activities for college applications, but to do some things sometimes just for the fun of it.

Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2008 at 2:42 pm

So what is the problem? Parents who not want their kids to get into the college of their choice, or any college at all, or even to get a high school diploma, can just tell little Johnny that they love him, and it doesn't matter what his grades or test scores are. Suddenly, he doesn't need to do his homework, or engage in relatively intensive activities after school (e.g. three karate classes per week). It gets even better, becasue he will not qualify to play sports in high school.

Every parent can relieve Johnny from his pressure by taking the above approach. Why do we need the PTA moms to try to take away more intesnive training from our kids who thrive on the challenge? You know, the ones that actually want to work hard to get into the college of their, or their parents', choice?

The best way to alleviate time stress from Johnny is to eliminate television and computers and ipods, etc., from your home. Then Johnny will get bored with his idle time, and seek out healthy activities, like reading a book or going to karate class...and still get plenty of sleep, then get up refreshed the next morning so that he can feel good about going into class to flunk yet another test that he refused to study for. Johnny's mommy will have plenty of quality time to take him on long walks, and to discuss everything he feels.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2008 at 6:05 pm

As long as parents value competitiveness life will not change for our children. So if you want to take back the children, teach them that just being in a karate class or on a soccer team is worthy and that you don't have to be the best. Success is not measured by your child's grades or athletic abilities or musical talent and certainly not in the name of the college he attends. If you think of your children and the word success, what other words do you equate with success? Think about it for a second. Are those words things like, loving, caring, honest, fair, admirable and loyal or are they Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Cornell?

Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 6, 2008 at 8:31 pm

The most stress during my kids past two years of high school has been from teachers who do not teach the material, but give difficult tests ( science and math). Most teachers don't provide the correct answers to homework, so kids don't know when they have made errors. The homework is not graded, just gets a useless stamp. Tests are not returned, so the kids don't have a chance to learn from their errors. (teachers don't want to change the tests each year, so they don't want old test circulating?)

When my first kid went through the system I thought they were not taking the correct notes and not bringing home tests. When my second student had the same experience I realized the source of the problem was the teachers not teaching and the lack of test feedback. The teachers were making basic subjects more difficult, do they not know the material well enough to present an organized lecture? The remedy for me has been teaching the material myself when I am able, and getting tutors when I don't have time.

Its a solution I do not like, but it reduces the family stress in High School. My kids seem to appreciate the clear explanations provided outside of school. I expect my kids to learn the material they are presented, but I don't expect them to be up late studying. If the teachers present the material in a logical, clear manner kids should not need excessive study time.

This year we have experienced one exceptional math teacher who posts all math answers clearly and quickly. All class notes are posted and the presentations are easy to follow. It has helped increase learning and reduce stress in this class.

Gunn has been challenging with regards to figuring out why the teachers don't like to explain the subjects in an organized, clear manner. I don't know if its a weeding out process and they try to weed kids out before proceeding with AP courses? and/or they lack experience to present material clearly?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2008 at 1:25 am

To Each His/Her Own,

I admit I find your attitude a bit curious. If a large portion of kids are suffering extreme stress, then, yes, you need to look at what's going on--even if not every child is affected.

Homework can actually be counterproductive. If you have a smart kid, too much repetition of something he or she already knows makes them bored and frustrated. If I'd like to see anything in the elementary schools, it's more differentiated instruction. Kids really do learn at very different rates. One kid can look at word and remember the spelling, another will need to repeat it over and over. And so it goes.

I've noticed a couple of benefits to the no-homework policy at Ohlone. One, the work done by the kids is really done by the kids. A lot of the "homework" such as it is, is about encouraging good habits--such as reading. Because the bulk of the work is done in school, it's more of an even playing field.

Second, it does make the overscheduling stuff a lot less of an issue and it becomes much more a family choice. Kids who grasp the material quickly aren't dragging around homework and it's easy to schedule afterschool activities. Kids who need extra time with their schoolwork, do less outside of school and bring home the homework that they actually *need* to do.

Third, the lack of official homework doesn't mean kids quit thinking and learning outside of school. I know of one kid who wrote down his own math drills for the fun of it, another who wrote pages and pages of stories from first grade on and another who cannot be dragged away from a book.

Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2008 at 6:19 am

The "stress" is a function of 2 things: Expectations ( everyone has to score the best, be the best, and get into the best schools), the type of work we give to "help" them achieve these goals ( much of it "busy" work), and the lack of rest.

There is no problem with expecting each child to do and be his best, I expect that of my kids. It is in the definition of "best". OUR definition ( IVEY LEAGUE), or the one that plays to the child's passions and strengths? Remember "Follow your bliss?" If one of my kids wants to run a ranch when he grows up and the other spend his life doing Physics research..I say to each his own "bliss" and support each fully.

There is no problem with working to achieve your goals, but why do we expect more of our kids in high school than most of us had to tolerate in University? How many of you had to get excellent grades on a full load AND volunteer AND work AND be in clubs? How many of you had to do massive amounts of "cut and paste" or "group projects" in college classes, versus simply be responsible for knowing the material and bringing it up during exams and in class?

There is no problem with working hard and a lot, as long as it is balanced by real rest. How many of you worked for an entire school year in college with no more than a 3 day week end off from all expectations and activities? How many of you work NOW at least 60 hours per week for 10 months in a row, with only one 3 day weekend off? Granted, there are some of us who do this, but if this is what floats our boats and we are happy, that is different from being forced to live up to such an expectation and getting exhausted trying to fit it all in AND be kids.

I think our school district is great, I just think we need to put in the opportunity for a little balance, some respect for vocations that are not "Ivy League" level, and some understanding that mixing high school activities and expectations with a College level academic load result in tremendous stress.

Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2008 at 6:19 am

The "stress" is a function of 3 things, not 2!!

More coffee!!

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2008 at 12:50 pm

There's an interesting article in the NY Times today about Scarsdale dropping its AP courses and swapping in "Advanced Topic" courses that teach less to the test, but are considered a little more in-depth. Wonder if that's an option in Palo Alto.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2008 at 2:35 pm

OhlonePar, thanks for your background info from time to time about Ohlone. We are way past the time of being able to consider this option for our children, indeed did not live in PA at the time when it could have been possible, YET I am still interested in your comments and increasingly appreciative of Ohlone.

I hope further information dissemination - publicity - will serve to alert thoughtful parents who care about development of their child's character as to some real pluses you have pointed out in that school/program.
In particular, your statement above that "...the work done by the kids is really done by the kids..." is especially appealing. It is honorable and correct to do your own work, and a system that encourages that IS a plus to me! Unfortunately, too often that is not the case at other schools around here, where some teens have done the curriculum in advance, especially in Math, and then take it for a grade, to the detriment of the student who does his/her own work in the normal course of taking a course.
I have been increasingly annoyed during my time in Palo Alto at the poor ethics of win at any cost that so many parents here have transmitted to their kids/teens - the costly tutoring, adults writing teens' essays, services preparing college-entrance essays, the obviously parent-arranged community service which is for college apps (just read past newspaper issues for some ridiculous projects)! Sure, it is a disservice to the child in question at some point, yet the utter smugness of those using this "system" serves to make some of their young teen peers dispirited and worried as the prior constantly crow about how they are the "winners" in grades, competitions. How about integrity and ethics?? How about good taste, too, like not bragging publicly about your scores. Not everyone has taken that SAT as a child in order to prep for when it "counts" and has that pay-off so carefully planned by overinvolved parents who pressure their kids. A short-term win at a cost of losing your character and soul is...sad...but pays off big according to some "Palo Alto ethics."
You don't have to look far. Two Paly students - "leaders" - plagiarized their grad speeches last June. At least one went on to Stanford! I think the other one to Brown...See "The deeply personal price of plagiarism," Palo Alto Weekly, July 9, 2008, page 12 editorial.
I think some aspects of the Ohlone method/style could be transferred to an older age group and this would be beneficial to those who were interested.

Posted by Confused by the objections
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 8, 2008 at 7:54 pm

To anonymous, I say:

How exactly is doing the work in advance a "detriment" to others? The school district encourages it in math - telling many 8th graders to retake Algebra 1 in 9th grade to solidify their mastery of it. Extra work in a subject, even if review, can be good for learning.

And while tutoring may give some kids a competitive edge over others who have not had any, the tutoring I've seen has been by families whose student either finds the class easy and uses it to add additional depth to their child's learning or by families whose child is not connecting with the teacher's teaching style and use it so their child can better understand the material, all in the name of learning. Is that bad?

I agree that "crowing" is objectionable. But is it common or just really annoying when you see it? I also agree that adults doing student work and students plagarizing other's work is disturbing. I'm just not sure how pervasive those practices are either.

Posted by Crayola conspiracy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Experienced mom,

"How many of you had to do massive amounts of "cut and paste" or "group projects" in college classes, versus simply be responsible for knowing the material and bringing it up during exams and in class?"

I don't remember having to do any, but it's driving me nuts to see all this presentation work in my child's Middle School. Are they trying to make them into advertising executives?

To me, presentation stuff is almost the equivalent of testing, and that equals no depth, all show.

The talk is mostly about what we parents need to do to reduce stress, and what the students need to do to reduce stress, but what about PAUSD?

What is the theory behind all the cut and paste and draw and color, for every subject, even MAth? and group projects??? This is very busy tedious work.

If a student is so busy doing busy work, how are they supposed to think? If I had to scrapbook every day, I would be crazy.

Posted by Zenta
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Good article and I agree that schools, parents, after-school programs all have lost touch with reality and are just putting pressure on children to be "Renaissance Children".

Posted by ExPaly
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2008 at 12:20 am

The high-stress issue only applies to a minority of students -- who are either overacheivers themselves or whose parents are. Most average students don't have that much homework and can easily coast through high school. The system channels them into second or third tier classes, where the teachers have already essentially written them off and don't care. Yes, I'm talking about the vaunted Paly. What happens to these kids? Well, they don't get into Harvard or Stanford, but if they try half hard they get into perfectly good schools and the rest of their life is either normal and happy or it isn't, but no thanks or blame to the Palo Alto education system.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2008 at 12:23 am


I think it's an issue of an even playing field. With kids who retake Algebra I in ninth grade, you're looking at something that's above-board and on the record. I think anonymous is talking about situations where the student has taken a class at the community college over the summer and then repeats it for an easy A. Same sort of thing when parents do their kids projects and homework. Enough of that and the expectations start to get very skewed. It's actually bad for the kids longterm--it sends a message to them that their own efforts are inadequate.


Thank you for your comments. Originally, I didn't give a lot of thought to the no-homework policy except that I figured it would probably reduce busywork, but as time has gone on and I talk to other parents at other schools, I've started to see unexpected benefits. Honestly, though, it makes me worry about middle school . . . not because my child won't be academically prepared, but because of the overcrowding and the attitudes toward competition.

Posted by Jon
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 9, 2008 at 1:50 am

Ok as a "survivor" of Paly and now a collegiate at UCSD (we all jokingly say we all were rejected by Stanford), I would be lying if I said it isn't a stressful place, yet "mountains of homework" and "all-nighters" are usually the result of our inability (lack of guidance perhaps?) in time management. Somehow I pulled off The Campanile (newspaper), student government, band, clubs, etc. I know a few people like me and others thought we were nuts, but time management was incredibly crucial. I only pulled one all-nighters in my four years there, but trust me, squeaking in four hours of sleep during that time makes one much more productive in the time in which one is actually awake.

Many of our teachers weren't oblivious of other classes/our lives, and their flexibility in rescheduling a few assignments earned them much appreciation.

A lot of it appeared to have been more mentally based than in actuality. If your children plan things right and work on what you can ahead of time, then they should be stressed, but not to the point of concern.

Posted by URCompetitive2
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 9, 2008 at 6:00 am

The only competition I see in our schools is on the sports field where children are boxed out of team sports at a very early age. Kid athletics is a highly evolved system here in America, including Palo Alto, which includes for the most competitive of parents private athletic coaches for their child starting in 3rd grade. That leaves the less competitive families without much athletic outlet for their children beyond the 5th. It is curious surely, but to each his/her own I suppose.

But the academic competition posters mention I just do not see. My child has been in the PAUSD from K to 8th grade doing quite well academically with classmates who are friendly and cooperative - not climbing over each other for better grades as has been suggested.

Yes there has been the parent-aided presentation or two - but teachers have welcomed the parent involvement in their child's education, it has freed their time to spend with students whose parents are not able to help, and teachers seldom confuse a family-aided project for one a child did alone. All children who completed the projects on time according to directions got good marks; there is no bell curve here, at least through 8th grade.

So I don't see where the rub is.

If a parent and child think it is good to take extra math over the summer, so be it. Will it make for an easier A during the school year? Perhaps. But maybe that investment over the summer will free up time during the school year when the work load can get heavy (read "relieve stress"), allow the child extra time to take a role in the school play (a huge time commitment no matter what academic track the child is on), or allow the child to get an extra hour of sleep at night or read a few extra pleasure books during the school year. It's just a question of time management.

Parents posting above whose children don't do the extra _____ (fill-in-the-blank with tutors, summer school, extra curriculars) resent those who do, that is clear. If I may say so, that resentment seems to come from the "stop stress" parents' competitiveness rather than a deep seated concern for unknown children's health and welfare, i.e., not liking that those kids may have an advantage over their child at college admissions time.

Leveling the playing field to less intensity so all our kids have the same chances at college admissions does no child much good.

1. For the child who can handle more without being wigged out, doing so is the definition of low expectations that encourage underachievement.

2. For the child who can't handle more without too much stress, remember colleges accept the child who best meets their profile. If you want your child to go to Stanford and be healthy and successful there, you need to figure out if Stanford is a good match for him/her.

If you do not subscribe to your child spending extra time outside of school to learn a subject better or to free up time for his/her passion, then schools like Stanford which seek kids like that probably shouldn't be on your child's list.

It's not that your child would not get a good education there, but that its student body is full of kids naturally inclined that way and grades there ARE based on a curve. Many kids whose parents have managed their child's high school careers and resumes who matriculate at Stanford find out quickly how stressful a place Stanford can be and just how quickly the child's grades (read graduate school/job ops) are adversely affected. Not to mention that dropping out or doing college on the 5-7 year plan can be quite expensive too.

Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 9, 2008 at 8:01 pm

My kids went to Palo Alto schools and experienced the stress in a different way. There was a dark cloud of doom that formed over their sense of their futures every time their friends pointed out the extra work, tutors, coaches their parents could pay for. The kids would brag on their achievements and denigrate the efforts of others. (I work in the schools now and kids are still doing that to one another. We try to nip it but they are sneaky.) Furthermore, the parents of their friends were not above pointing out the weaknesses and failures in other children's "training" to those children, themselves.

Our job was the herculean task of keeping their spirits up concerning the efforts that they made, and that we thought were adequate and balanced.

Posted by don't like bragging or preaching
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2008 at 6:49 am

Perhaps then efforts should be directed to teaching kids good manners rather than ratcheting down opportunities for our children or denegrading families because of the choices they make.

I've heard Pope speak a few years ago. Pope is cited by the author in the Weekly article leading this discussion.

She energizes people to take her message to the streets and to the schools demanding schools offer no (K-5) or less (6-12) homework and telling parents to pressure other parents on the playground to limit their child's activities after school to 2 or so hours a week, including religious school she said, in the name of less childhood stress.

That is not an approach or style I am comfortable with for many reasons. One, it does not respect individual child and family priorities.

It sells books though.

An ironic note I subsequently learned about Pope's message and one of her biggest messengers. Pope had shared that her message caused MIT's admissions department to re-write its application procedures to de-emphasize grades and extra-curricular activities. The MIT Admissions Director who made these changes was later fired for lying about her credentials on her MIT employment application.

Posted by To Each His/Her Own
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 10, 2008 at 7:32 am

To Ohlone Parent

I don't object at "looking at what is going on," I object to universal solutions imposed on all to a problem that is not shared by all. The answer is not to have blanket policies but to push for more differentiation in the schools, as you suggest, so each student is challenged the right amount - more work for some, less for others.

As for homework, maybe it would help to define it. You share that Ohlone kids have homework, it is just that they are given time at school to do it. They get the opportunity to practice what they learned and work alone.

My children's school does not do it that way and without homework brought home students would be denied the opportunity to practice and work independently. Could our teachers have kids do homework at school like at Ohlone? Yes, I guess, but they made a professional decision that students are better off with them teaching during those hours instead of working alone since they can do that at home. Different approaches, both valid.

Many happen to like my school's approach to this. Others who prefer Ohlone's approach send their children to Ohlone or talk to their teachers. Teachers are quite understanding on this point and often set time limits for homework, even if not all the work is completed. Did limiting the time their child did homework affect their child's grade in class? There is no line on the PAUSD report card for homework, but it may have affected how well they learned the material. For those students, parents have to make choices.

This is all assuming that homework is as I mentioned differentiated and not busy work and that kids are completing it, not their parents.

Tell me though, when you say "a large portion of kids are suffering extreme stress" is that antecdotal or do you have hard data to point to?

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 10, 2008 at 8:32 am

To Each His/Her Own - If homework were differentiated and not busy work, you'd hear a lot less parental complaints. I have have 2 in HS and 1 in MS - none of my kids have ever had th differentiated homework (class work yes). Even math was the same across the board, although there may have been 2 or 3 math "levels" in certain classrooms. Even in HS homework is often busy work, they are still coloring and drawing, for some reason particularly in language classes.

don't like bragging or preaching- You stated that Pope does not respect individual family and child priorities - I believe she is saying that the families who push homework, tutors, and many hours of after school activities are wrong in what they are doing. The child may do well in the short run, but not in the long run (aka a happy successful balanced adult).

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:08 am

Ohlone: 881
Hoover: 978

Just a stat for those that think homework in elementary schools is "busy" work.

Posted by don't like bragging or preaching
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:27 am

paly parent -

Maybe I heard Pope speak during her more strident years.

When she spoke she was quite animated, telling parents to take to the streets to protest any homework in their elementary schools and to take to the playgrounds to tell parents they meet that more than 2 hours a week of outside activities for their child is too much.

I suspect that while Pope's tone riled up many and increased book sales, it put off many others.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2008 at 10:07 am

This really is not a case of either or, but a case of finding what suits your child and your family best.

Some children do love to read for hours on end, while others hate to pick up a book. Some will write, others won't. Some love the challenge of maths and producing science projects, others hate it.

Compromise over what is busy and what is not busy homework, what fits into family schedule and style, and make sure that your kids are doing well and are getting enough sleep, relaxation and stimulus.

In elementary school, we had math homework that involved a great deal of coloring. I discovered that my math genius worked out the equations and put the right colored star in the coloring page and then "paid" his younger sibling who loved to color with candy or pennies to do his coloring part of the homework. It taught the two of them how to co-operate and got the work done. I did not complain.

In other words, some children love the busy work aspect and actually spend a lot of time getting this done because they are enjoying it. Others will find ways to get through it as quickly as possible. My math genius now in high school has to produce posters and such like for language class. The presentation of this work shows minimal effort compared to the other posters on the classroom wall, but the language end is fully completed. Having spoken with the teacher, I know that the grade suffered as a consequence, and this is what is the annoying part. Because my child did not put the effort into the artwork, but did put effort into the language aspect, the grade suffered. I know that the rationale behind this is to give the students who find the language difficult a chance to get an excellent grade through effort even if the language is poor. This to me is the wrong emphasis.

It is the same with extra-curricula activities. My kids' friends from our Church are more important to them than their school friends. Consequently, my kids want to spend time at all Church functions which happen 3 or more times a week at least and for at least 2 hours at a time, and this is their hangout and down time. They do not look on their Church activities the same as school, so provided they are happy with this arrangement, then once again this is fine.

I have one who loves sport and doing a couple of sports sessions each week as well as at weekends is fine by him. Preventing him from doing this would be wrong.

So, what I am saying, is that you find the right balance. Unfortunately, busy work exists in homework and that should be addressed. Other than that, if a parent knows their child is happy with the outside school activities and they are able to get their homework done and get to sleep at a reasonable time, then you will know that you are doing it right. Generalizing with rules which don't suit every child just because a so called expert describes that as being the ideal, is not doing it right.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2008 at 11:04 am

Parent, I totally agree. There appeared to be a leaning towards the concept of no homework being the better option in this thread that needed a reality check.
I'm sure Ohlone students do just as well as Hoover students in middle and high school. The same is true for children who went to a play-based preschool vs. a Montessori one. Both groups will end up doing equally well but one group will be catching up.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 10, 2008 at 11:26 am

I have found there to be no "catching up" needed for the Ohlone kids. My son has a number of friends who went to Ohlone (he did not) the only "catching up" they needed to do in middle school was getting used to having to do assigned homework. Academically they were on par with all the other kids, creatively they were ahead of many of the kids. They also did well in the "emotional intelligence" areas, getting along with other kids, working as group, being a leader, etc.

Homework in elementary school for many kids merely teaches you time management and often causes resentment.

Posted by Evidence?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2008 at 11:51 am

To each,

"push for more differentiation in the schools, as you suggest, so each student is challenged the right amount - more work for some, less for others."

Differentiation has nothing to do with the amount of work.

"My children's school does not do it that way and without homework brought home students would be denied the opportunity to practice and work independently."

They can get that in school with the right teaching. I appreciate that you (and perhaps your kids teachers) prefer that homework be assigned in elementary, but the issue is not preference. It is what works. Any evidence that homework in elementary makes better students? Please cite it.

"This is all assuming that homework is as I mentioned differentiated" It's not in PAUSD.

Don't like,

It's not Pope who fails to respect individual child and family priorities, it's the backers of homework (for elementary kids) who have pushed their agenda on others. Respecting all families would mean no assigned homework--after all, you can always get optional homework for your kid or make busywork for them at home yourself. Or even send them to drill camp/kumon.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2008 at 11:54 am

Paly Parent, that was the response I expected. The API scores tell a different story. On average, Ohlone students are 100 points behind Hoover students. It would be useful to see some objective results that show otherwise.
Of course, this averages out across all schools as the choice program students go mainstream and the neighborhood students all merge. Also, Ohlone isn't at the bottom of the list but they are a long way behind Hoover. You need to compare these two sets of students since they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to homework.

Posted by Susan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2008 at 12:06 pm

To Evidence?

"it's the backers of homework (for elementary kids) who have pushed their agenda on others."

What's your evidence on this statement? I've rarely heard parents push for more homework; however, I've seen more parents very vocal for no homework. I guess if people are not comfortable with the homework assignments, they should just talk to the teachers, so that teachers can balance their own teaching philosophy vs. parents'/students' desire.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 10, 2008 at 3:57 pm

As far as I am concerned all of this talk about elem. school is peanuts compared to high school.

Posted by Some homework data
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 10, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Check out the Duke report which reviewed the last 25 years of research on homework and concluded that teachers, including elementary, should assign 10 minutes of homework per grade so young students can learn time management and study skills and said, yes, it is OK for homework to occasionally involve parents. Web Link

Apparently a majority of teachers and parents agree with the Duke researchers too:
- 86% of teachers most frequently use homework to help students practice skills or prepare for tests and 80% to help students develop good work habits
- 83% of teachers and 81% of parents think that doing homework is important, half believe it is very important, and those percentages differ little when comparing elementary and secondary parents
- and that is when 37% of elementary students spend at least one hour a day on homework including 9% who spend two hours or more and 50% of secondary school students spend at least one hour a day on homework, including 21% who spend two hours or more doing homework

On homework as busywork:
- 24% of teachers believe that a great deal (4%) or some (19%) of the homework assigned at their school is just busywork and not related to what students are learning.
- 40% of parents say that a great deal (9%) or some (31%) of the homework assigned at their child’s school is just busywork

On homework, stress and family life:
- 28% of elementary students feel stressed by homework and 38% of secondary students do
- Despite conflicting demands and busy schedules, three-quarters of students (75%) agree that they have enough time to do all of their homework, including a majority of elementary school students (84%) and a smaller, but still sizable, majority of secondary school students (69%)
- 78% of parents do not feel that homework gets in the way of family time
- 71% do not say homework is a major source of stress (55% of parents who believe that homework is not important or only somewhat important say that homework is a major source of stress and disagreement in their family and 51% say that the time their child spends doing homework gets in the way of their family spending time together)

Teachers and homework:
- 83% of teachers report that they provide students with a grade or comment on their homework most or all of the time
- 94% of teachers assign homework at least once a week, 56% 4 to 5 days a week
- Teachers report that they spend an average of 8.5 hours each week doing work related to students’ homework (15.4% of the total number of hours teachers spend on school-related responsibilities). More for secondary teachers, less for elementary

Web Link

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Here is an example of one week's stress for our family for my 4th grader last year.

For the week of the science fair, my child had to get his project to school with my help by 7.30 on Wednesday morning. Even though he had been preparing and typing the project for over a week, the Tuesday evening homework time slot was taken up with printing out the project and sticking these sheets on the presentation board with some last minute titles and coloring needed to be done. This probably took up about an hour of both of our time and no homework was done. Having arrived at school on Wednesday early, that evening we had to visit the science fair which meant that once again we had no time to do homework. During this week, his weekly homework packet was the same size as normal and on top of that he had to finish the book he was reading and get a book report done for the following Monday.

The stress came because the homework was on top of two projects that took extra time plus a school evening function which meant that homework did not get done. For a 4th grader, this week was extremely stressful even though he normally got through his homework relatively easily.

I can't imagine how this week would have been impacted if there was say a family birthday or visit from grandparents during this week.

The point about stress in elementary school is not just the fact that there is homework, but that the extras make homework a stressful issue. The teachers do not seem to realise that putting the extra pressure of a science fair project and an evening commitment mean that there is less time for homework and on top of that there is the need to spend time reading to get the book report finished in time for the next week which makes life incredibly difficult, not only for the 4th grader, but the parents who have to help. In middle school this should not be such an issue when the kids can do the work on their own, but when they need parents' help this is a big issue.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:55 pm

API Scores,

A couple of things,

First, Ohlone's scores were low last year. I have my opinions as to why--but that was an unusually low set--in previous years, the school has been middle of the pack and between 900 and 928. Same homework policy.

Second, you're omitting a couple of factors--self-selection. Hoover attracts families who focus on test scores, among other things.

Third, different schools teach to the test. Ohlone specifically does not teach to the test, though it does teach the agreed-upon curriculum in the district.

One thing that makes the Ohlone curriculum a bit different though is that because all years are mixed, there's a two-year cycle in several subjects. This will affect, for example, when certain areas of science are learned.

I don't think the Ohlone way is an educational panacea. It's best for kids who have a certain level of self-motivation. I think it's great for gifted kids, frankly--the ones who absorb like sponges and can do three weeks worth of learning overnight or who have the desire and focus to delve into a subject.

I think it's less ideal for kids who need more external structure and, frankly, I don't think it's an ideal situation for kids who come from backgrounds where the parents are not well educated. I think direct instruction can be the better way to go in that case and why DI charters have done well in underprivileged areas in some cases.

And, in fact, that's my suspicion as to why Ohlone's scores fluctuate and why Hoover does consistently well. I think DI can be a better way for pulling up kids on the bottom. I think Ohlone, though, is wonderful for kids who pick up the basics pretty easily because it really nourishes a love of learning and it deeply encourages self-directed learning.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2008 at 8:41 am

OhlonePar, re-read your post. You're making excuses for Ohlone's relatively poor performance. When you can show that the no-homework approach is better, you're welcome to start pushing for it but the numbers don't support you at present.
The results of MI will be a good validation point for Ohlone's no-homework approach.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2008 at 10:12 am

API Scores -

Test scores are only one small indication of how a school is performing and even at 881 Ohlone is doing just fine. Hoover is much more likely to teach to the test and to teach test taking skills, both will affect test grades, but not the students long term success. While I'm interested in my local elementary schools test scores, I'm much more interested in how these kids will do in college and beyond.

I am curious how you think the MI results will be a validation for Ohlone's no-homework approach.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2008 at 10:28 am

Paly Parent, Mainly because other MI programs I'm aware of in schools that give homework, give even more homework to those in the MI stream. eg: Web Link

"What is the homework like?
Although Mandarin Immersion students are generally assigned more homework than the General Education students, it is a reasonable amount of work. For example, four worksheets of Simplified Chinese characters are assigned every week in addition to homework in English assigned for the core curriculum. The goal is for our kindergartners to be able to write 50 characters by the end of their school year, although they will recognize many others."

If homework has no impact on a student's performance, that should be shown in Ohlone's MI results.

I find it interesting that you keep disparaging Hoover's results as "Oh, they teach to the test" and implying that Ohlone students will do better in college and beyond. However, you provide no proof for either assertion. Some objective results to support your case for no homework would help here.

Posted by carrie manley
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Hi All,
Wow, lots of comments, thanks to each one of you for taking the time to read my guest editorial, and thanks to the Weekly, for giving me the chance to think about this issue and how it affects my family.
For anyone who might be free tonight, and is interested, I want to let you know we are having our second district-wide event "Helping Our Children Thrive!" The point of this event is not to point fingers at what parents and/or schools might be doing wrong. Instead it is an opportunity for everyone, parents, teachers, interested community members to come together to hear from some leading child and adolescent development experts... and then to share and learn from our own experiences.
That said, I have to admit, it was a little intimidating at first to share my own feelings about the topic of student stress, especially in print, going to all of you. I know we won't agree on everything, and I completely respect that there will be different views. I guess, in the end, I am just glad we are talking about it, and that each parent has the chance to reflect on what is right and true within their own home.

A reminder, we have our second district-wide event tonight at El Carmelo Elementary school, 6:30pm-9pm. El Carmelo principal Chuck Merritt is hosting a potluck at 6:30pm. The program starts at 6:45pm, featuring video highlights from Stanford's recent "SOS Stressed Out Students" conference, organized by the pioneering intervention and research non-profit, Challenge Success. Any and all of you are warmly welcome to join the conversation, for all or part of the event. (Don't worry about bringing food!) Free childcare and other details at

If you didn't make the Oct. 15 JLS event, and you can't make it to El Carmelo tonight, you are welcome to attend any of the other scheduled "Helping Our Kids Thrive" programs, including

2/1/09 Nixon Elementary School

2/26/09 Fairmeadow Elementary School

All open to our entire PAUSD community and the community.

More schools signing up, so check for details. More info on the issue of student stress at

Again, thanks for reading and for your many thoughtful comments.
Take care,
Carrie Manley
(Palo Alto PTA Council co-chair Parent Ed with Wendy Kandasamy)

Posted by Edmundo
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2008 at 4:40 pm

High schools is particular have become what many college football and basketball programs have become, an industry designed to produce future millioners. Higher education should be considered as an environment in which young people acquire knowledge, some wisdom and meet other young people with inquiring minds. Parents shouldn't look at college and college preparatory schools as economic tools. The competitiveness of the parents is what creates the vicious cycle of overachieving and the loss of common sense which creates unnecessary pressure on youngsters. College, along with activities such as reading, volunteer work and travel should be considered as a fountain of knowledge, not as facilitators of upper bracket future earnings.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Edmundo, that's an idealistic view, and you are welcome to it. But for many, a primary purpose of college - with four+ years of foregone earnings and stiff tuition - is economic advancement later. Some parents, as well as students, see it that way, and here's nothing wrong with that.

Posted by serendipity
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2008 at 11:26 am

Hi Ms. Manley,

Thank you for your courage and willingness to share your thoughts on this tough/controversial topic. I agree there is a tremendous pressure placed on our teens today. To be fair, I believe it comes from peers, teachers, parents, the community and most of all, our teens themselves. As a parent, I try to encourage and guide my kids so that they feel loved and accepted. Every child is different and what a wonderful blessing it is to help them grow into a responsible and mature adult. Yes, getting into a good college is important. What price are you willing to pay for an Ivy university? Honesty? happiness? I encourage everyone to read the book, "Ahead of the curve" by Philip Broughton. It highlights the lack of morality in today's high achieving students. Is this what we want for our children?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2008 at 1:45 am

API Scores,

Ohlone's performance isn't poor--that's a mistatement of the situation. It performs above schools that do assign homework, in fact. It, like other schools, in Palo Alto, performs well above the state average.

So, no, I'm not making excuses, I'm offering some insight into the issue. You can't escape the self-selection bias issue. Hoover attracts families that care about quantitatively measured academic achievement.

The MI/Ohlone mash-up is an experiment--it's too singular to tell us much, frankly. I don't see it working well because of the rote memorization involved.

And, also, of course, immersion students perform relatively poorly on API tests--particularly in grades 2/3. After that, their scores climb to approximately average--thanks, though, in part to underperforming kids dropping out.

As for studies on homework v. no homework--they're out there. You seem unfamiliar with them or you'd know that the case *for* homework is for homework from middle school on. (Cooper, Robinson and Patel, 2006) And the pro-homework case applies to meaningful homework--not busywork.

Here's a nice little article on the no-homework side:

Web Link

Sorry, it's not just Ohlone that's no on homework around here--note the AP history teacher at Gunn who doesn't assign it.

Finland, with its high scores assigns little homework. Part of that is possible because the Finns have longer school days. *However* that doing work *in* class under a teacher's supervision is a more effective learning strategy.

Among other things the article points out is that countries that pile on homework perform worse on standardized tests than countries where the homework load is relatively light.

In other words, bad homework is worse than no homework.

Do a little of your own homework and you'll see why this is the case.

Posted by Confused by OP
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2008 at 8:00 am

Ohlone Parent-

I'm confused.

Do you or don't you recommend elementary school homework?

Cooper from Duke who, according to the Chronicle article you posted, did the "most widely regarded analysis of the effect of homework" supports the 10 minutes a grade rule, starting in elementary school so citing him on the point that the "*for* homework [advice] is for homework from middle school on [not earlier]" is inaccurate. That Chronicle piece isn't an anti-homework article at all, just an overview of various homework practices and the debate.

You do seem to admit that homework done AT elementary school is fine. [For readers who may have missed the nuance, Ohlone is not a no homework school. It assigns homework, but gives kids a "study hall" of sorts to complete work independently at school. Students who do not complete their work at school take it home aka have homework.]

OK. But it does not follow that kids at schools that don't do it that way are better off without homework at home than with it, especially in a community like ours where parents often serve as surrogate teachers.

As for Finland, how did you conclude that doing homework during a longer school day is responsible for Finland's high international test scores?

According to a 56 page 2007 McKinsey report, Finland's success is because Finland:
- gets the best teachers
- gets the best out of its teachers, and
- intervenes when pupils start to lag behind.
I suspect that an economically homogeneous population doesn't hurt test scores either. The report does not mention homework.

Web Link

As for your claim that "countries that pile on homework perform worse on standardized tests than countries where the homework load is relatively light" doesn't seem to be quite accurate either.

While Finland may be low on the homework scale, top scorer Korea is quite high in its out-of-school academic work rates. Just for math, 19% of Korean students have 2+ hours/week of math homework and 20% spend 4+ hours/week in after school math classes. (US is 14% and 6%, respectively.)

Interestingly, in class time doesn't seem to explain it either. 4+ hours in school math classes a week: Korea (74%), US (53%), Finland (31%). Based on your homework comparison logic, you could conclude that if Palo Alto teacher devote less class time to math too their students would do better on standardized tests.

Web Link

Anyway, perhaps Finland is not doing so well after all. Stanford's math prof Jim Milgram doesn't happen to think that the PISA test in which Finland scored so highly is that good a measure.

Web Link

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2008 at 8:45 am

The idea that homework does/doesn't matter for kids with high performing parents in general is a red herring. The vast majority of these kids will do well regardless - you could put them in Summerhill (remember that?) type surroundings, then send them to middle school and in a year or two they'd be at or ahead the others (if they weren't already). So we can twiddle those dials from Hoover to Ohlone and we'll end up with about the same outcome.

For kids without support/supplement/pushing from home, more work may or may not be better. My guess is it probably doesn't matter much either way (as above), though building "do your homework" routines at home may be helpful for families who don't easily come by them.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2008 at 12:59 pm

OhlonePar, I said you were making excuses for Ohlone's *relatively* poor performance. I didn't say that Ohlone's performance was poor but it is 100 points behind Hoover. Imagine if those were SAT results.
You also can't simply blame this on "self selection". Ohlone's scores habitually come in under Addision and Duveneck as well, both of which give homework and you can't claim they get their scores through "self selection". I would expect Ohlone to come in above these schools since you do have the "self selection" in Ohlone whereas the neighborhood schools get whoever is within their boundaries.
The comparison with Hoover is more appropriate since they are both choice schools following different teaching philosophies and extremes in the homework debate. One school can point to quantifiable results, the other can't. To claim that homework has nothing to do with the better results seems...
This doesn't mean the children won't catch up. They will. Those used to being top of the class suddenly see new challenges as they change schools. Nothing wrong with that but you do need to recognize it so you can help your children.
On the Ohlone/MI topic, you seem to be saying that homework doesn't matter except where it does. Confusing.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2008 at 2:40 pm

API Scores,

But they're *not* SAT scores. They're not individual scores--since Ohlone's average fluctuates a lot--it's worth looking at specifics instead of overall policy differences year to year. Last year, there seems to have been a group of fourth graders who did poorly on math.

I'm hardly making excuses when I say the school isn't right for every student. It's not. Kids should come in with some basic cognitive and critical-thinking skills.

"Blame"--no, reality. Self-selection is a factor. Among other things. I pointed out some of the other factors. I don't think project-based learning is ideal for underachievers. It's the preferable approach for gifted kids who want to think through ideas and don't need tons of rote work.

Different children need different amounts of scaffolding.

Interestingly, Direct Instruction was developed to help disadvantaged schools. Because the approach and curriculum is more cut-and-dried, it requires less teaching skill to be effective than does project-based learning.

Sounds like you don't want to do your homework on the homework debate, instead you're falling back on two numbers at two schools--you're not even looking past one year. In other words, a cursory snapshot approach accompanied by the classic logical fallacy of correlation is causation.

So do you have any evidence that Ohlone students need to "catch up"?
Because if your kid's way ahead on every subject--as numerous Ohlone kids are, I don't see a catch-up issue.

As for your last bit of confusion, Mandarin requires rote learning--most subjects do not. Science, math, lit. all require *understanding*. Also, since Ohlone kids work in groups and teach one another, the fact that MI is not a 50/50 English/Mandarin speaker split is a problem in a way that it wouldn't be in a traditional immersion setting.

Posted by Whatever
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 13, 2008 at 3:21 pm

"Because if your kid's way ahead on every subject--as numerous Ohlone kids are, I don't see a catch-up issue. "

OP, you've lost this one. Suddenly Ohlone students are way ahead of everyone else. Yeah, right - self-delusion gone wild.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2008 at 2:00 am


No, some Ohlone students are way ahead. Project-based instruction works well with gifted kids--so gifted kids flourish in that kind of environment. This isn't news.

DI offers more external structure so lower-performing kids seem a bit less likely to fall through the cracks. After all, that's what it was originally designed for.

In other words, wider range of performance with project-based learning. If you have a kid who picks up concepts quickly and doesn't need a lot of repetition, the do-it-yourself aspect works very well. It's excellent for kids with an extra dose of imagination.

As for the APIs, please remember that they don't test basic things like writing. They're a limited assessment tool.

Posted by Ohlone. Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2008 at 7:15 am

Ohlone Parent

I see that you are not a fan of standardized tests, but even you have to admit that Ohlone's STAR test results last year suggest that something not quite right is going on at your school.

1/4 of Ohlone 4th graders could not demonstrate proficiency in math or English. That's 3 or 4 times as many poor scoring 4th graders as Addison had even though both schools have similiar demographics. How can that be? Addison is not a school that obsesses over "quantitatively measured academic achievement" so, as API Scores points out, self-selection is not at work there.

Maybe it is that project-based learning only works for advanced students. The problem though is that Ohlone doesn't only have advanced students and has to work with all students enrolled there.

Maybe the solution is for Ohlone to add some direct instruction. I am not alone thinking this apparently since many Ohlone parents supplement after school so their children can get the "direct instruction" that other Palo Alto schools provide, gifted and otherwise.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2008 at 9:26 am

OhlonePar, What are you trying to prove here? Do look at the API scores over the years. Ohlone's results generally come in the 900-910 range. If you claim that 881 was an anomaly then then the "high" of 928 (actually 929) you claim is one as well. Ohlone's still a long way behind hoover, do look at the averages across the years.
Maybe if you did set your kids some homework you would see an improvement in those results.
I don't know how can you say that the kids don't need to catch up when they are averaging so much lower than that of Hoover. The minimum you have is your children competing against others that have effectively done the curriculum in advance. You might not call it "catch up" but they do need to work harder to achieve the same results.

Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 15, 2008 at 10:20 am

A former neighbor who sent 3 kids to Hoover (and was Asian) said that Hoover was full of parents, with a strong Asian population, who sent their kids to affter-school Kumon and other academic enrichment classes. She said it really skewed the test scores. So consider the possibility that it is not homework but the primary focus on academics by Hoover families that causes the difference in test scores. My understanding of Ohlone is that parents are interested in other things like curiosity, emotional intelligence, creativeity etc., which would cut against their sending their kids to academic enrichment classes after school unless they were having trouble with the material.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:05 am


Of course, Ohlone scores below Hoover, but it covers a range--as I noted. Good, you finally admitted that.

Now,try paying attention--again--to what I've actually said. I think the limitation of the Ohlone approach is that it's not great for kids who are underachievers. DI is good for that and was developed for that.

In other words, if you have a child with academic difficulties who lacks self-discipline, project-based learning may not be ideal for them.

If you have a child who does have good cognitive skills, that child can soar at Ohlone.

So greater range of scores *within* a given class.

None of the PAUSD schools have such low scores that "catching up" is a given simply because a child comes from a given school. That's idiotic given where the schools rank.

Ohlone Really,

The fourth grade issue is worth looking at and seems to be responsible for the score drop. So it's a question of what's happening with that particular group of kids. Since the no-homework policy didn't seem to have affected other groups of kids or other years, that's not evidence of a systemic failure.

I don't mind standardized tests, I simply recognize their limitations.
Anyone who knows how to ace those tests can tell you that. There's no writing even though literacy is a primary skill and the multiple choice format and time restraints are extremely limiting as to what can be assessed.

And you know many Ohlone parents supplement afterschool because? I'm just asking because I don't. I know some kids who meet with the reading specialist, I know some who went to reading camp on the advice of some teachers--but afterschool tutoring? 'Fraid not.

It's funny, I have no problem with recognizing what's good and bad with the Direct Instruction approach and why it's a good choice in some cases. You guys, though, seem a little nervous about freewheeling Ohlone.

As for "your kids"--my kids read several years above grade level and like to play with mathematical concepts that aren't on the curriculum for another couple of years. Learning is a real delight--and while mastering some concepts can be a bit frustrating, I see a real sense of ownership--a drive to learn for learning's sake that is apart from grades, test scores or pleasing one's parents.

But Seriously,

Yes, of course--and in Asia, test scores mean everything, so a lot of the families choose Hoover *because* of the APIs--so that's how they're measuring educational value.

And, yes, you're right about the focus of Ohlone parents--creativity and thinking outside the box are highly valued there as well as a very hands-on approach to learning.

Posted by Ohlone. Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2008 at 7:01 am

Ohlone Parent -

You admit that Ohlone's 1 out of 4 not proficient 4th grade STAR test results are troublesome, so what do you say about its even worse 1 out of 3 nonproficient 2nd grade results? Are poor test results for half the students tested just an anomaly?

And how is it you are OK with a school you admit does not well serve students who struggle academically? Kick out all the nongifted students or move to a more directed instruction approach seem to be the two choices you pose. While Ohlone may be formed around a project-based philosophy it is not a gifted magnet school, so which do you think the school board and superintendent would select?

Maybe your solution is that parents self select before entering kindergarten, but how many parents of 4 year olds know or are willing to label their child as not gifted or not well-behaved relative to peers at that age? None. Perhaps you think then that once a child struggles academically at Ohlone the principal should ask he leave the school. You probably are in a 1 person line for that one.

My guess is that some parents at your school are not surprised by Ohlone's middling test results (we are in Palo Alto after all) and want their children to have both project learning and a more standardized education, and that is why even bright Ohlone kids supplement after school. Ohlone is a good school, but it does not have a lock on perfection.

Nor does Ohlone have a lock on gifted children as your posts seem to imply. I know many kids at other elementary schools who read well above grade level and are math geniuses just because that is who they are, not because of external motivators like grades or tests scores. Their parents may have something to do with it by encouraging and supporting them, but that is good isn't it?

My observation is that your posts rile readers not because they have problems with project based learning but because your posts come off as elitist when you say that Ohlone students are brighter than others, when you say without flinching that Ohlone's philosophy doesn't serve its students who struggle, and when you say that other schools' approaches to teaching is not just different but wrong.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2008 at 8:50 am

OhlonePar, You say: So greater range of scores *within* a given class.

You're guessing, you don't know this since no individual results are published. We do know that Ohlone averages *far* below Hoover.

You are in denial if you don't believe this difference translates to Ohlone students having to work harder than Hoover students when they meet in middle school. You are right to be concerned for your children with your current attitude.

When my children entered Kindergarten at Addison other children were already reading chapter books. This wasn't an anomaly, there were consistently a few children way ahead each year. Of course my children needed to catch up. That's part of life and they will re-experience that as they move schools. You need to recognize it so that you can talk to your children and set expectations.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2008 at 11:56 pm

Ohlone, Really,

I'm not a one-size-fits-all parent. I think kids should be in the educational environment that works best for them. There are options here.

As for my concerns about last year's test scores--I've actually been quite vocal about it. I think the MI issue has been a huge distraction for the school and its administration. Project-based learning takes work and focus on the part of the teacher (It's more dependent on teaching skills than is DI.) When meetings are spent figuring out how to do the MI/Ohlone mash-up instead of focusing on the kids at hand, you've got issues.

What *doesn't* play is your notion that a long-term policy suddenly created a steep drop in test scores one year. There was a drop last year and it was clear that the administration and the teachers were distracted.

And your proof that Ohlone parents are supplementing with afterschool programs in any number is? I asked you before and you haven't backed up your claim. A parent did start an EPGY program (Stanford's online curricula for gifted kids) at Ohlone this year--but that's designed for kids in the top one percent--not as something to bring kids up to speed with the district median.

That said, I never said that Ohlone students were brighter than others, I did point out that project-based learning does work well for bright students--so it's absurd to talk about all of Ohlone students needing to "catch up."

And this came up, of course, because you implied that Ohlone kids needed to catch up and were in afterschool programs. Now, you're upset when I point out that Ohlone has some accelerated kids who do well.

I'll just say your fussing about my seeming "elitist" is pretty funny given that this discussion stems from yours and API scores need to disparage the school. (And, of course, my original point about Ohlone's homework policy stands--you know the kids are doing their own work.)

API Scores,

No, I'm not simply guessing, I volunteer in the classrooms, so I get a good look at groups of the kids. I've also read a fair amount about the educational approach and am friends with a couple of educators who are well-versed about project-based, DI and other educational approaches.

Yes, Addison has some kids entering kindergarten reading chapter books. So does Ohlone. It's Palo Alto, it's normal to see that.

Your kids, by the way, didn't need to "catch up"--they needed to learn how to read. Different task. Different emphasis. How early a child learns to read isn't that important--by second grade early and late starts sort themselves out. (Thus, the highest rates of literacy being found in countries that start formal instruction late and issue lower amounts of homework.)

I know kids and families all over the district--I hate to break it to you, but ALL the PAUSD schools share the same curriculum. There's no huge variation here.

To me, you seem anxious and overly concerned with a limited form of assessing educational quality. You don't get that not all children have to be forced to learn--those "way ahead" kids are kids who like learning. They don't have to made to "work hard"--they need to be engaged and challenged at their level.

I'm looking much farther down the line than middle school--who needs
another burnt-out college freshman who doesn't really know what he or she wants to do and lives in utter fear of failure? Nor do I need my kid to be one of those who's worried that he or she isn't ever good enough.

And, frankly, I don't need my kid to be at a school where the science fair was canceled because the parents were too competitive. Do you, in your concerns about your kindergarteners "catching up" and your fixation with API scores, even recognize the insanity of that kind of situation?

Posted by Ohlone. Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2008 at 7:04 am

Ohlone Parent

One more round and then I'm bowing out of this discussion.

I actually am not disparaging your school. I see lots of good things about Ohlone and even thought about sending my child to it. I just think it is important that you not dilude yourself. Your postings sound like Ohlone is the only school which has it right and Ohlone is perfect for the gifted, struggling students be da*ned.

My Ohlone friends' kids who are in afterschool programs are advanced students whose every need is not being met by Ohlone's project learning focus. Your point that Ohlone students, who ostensibly go to Ohlone because it does not have homework, work at home on EPGY is further support for it. How can you think that Ohlone meets these advanced kids' needs and that their families do not believe in the value of homework when they pay for their children to do, at home, challenging academic work of their own creation? Because they do see the value in homework and because Ohlone isn't perfect for accelerated students.

You are right that I don't know the exact number of students who do academic work outside of school. There is no way I could. But the same goes for you. Those I know to me = many. I read your post to imply that none did, and that is why I raised it.

My mention about struggling students has to do with the large number of students at Ohlone who cannot demonstrate proficiency on grade level standardized tests. We're talking basic things like recognizing which words rhyme, knowing letter sounds, and reading comprehension of very short stories. You say not true, that last year's Ohlone's STAR scores were a "suddenly created" steep drop. Go over your notes. If my memory is correct, over the last 5 years 1/3 to 1/4 of Ohlone's early elementary students taking the STAR tests tested nonproficient. I don't call that "suddenly created" nor do I think 5 years of it can be explained away by the recent MI discussions.

You say that "kids should be in the educational environment that works best for them. There are options here." Since you didn't answer my direct questions on this point, I take that to mean you think underperforming students should transfer out of Ohlone rather than Ohlone tweaking its teaching methods so its nonproficient students can learn the same things that others in town are learning. I have a lot of trouble with that "elitist" attitude (it works for my kid, too bad for yours). Most others would too.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2008 at 9:41 am

OhlonePar, you're response is similar to a previous one. You are simply stating the children that don't need homework, don't need homework but those that do need homework, do need homework. You have not produced a convincing argument against homework.
And, yes, my children did need to "learn to read", while other kids had already "learned to read". Yes, they had to catch up.

We'll have to agree to disagree on this. In the end we both seem happy with our choices for our children and nothing else really matters.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Not trying to throw a wrench into the works and spoil this discussion, but I would like to know how at 4 years' old you are supposed to know what style learning approach your child, and subsequent children, is better suited for. It seems to me when I applied for kindergarten for my first child when she was barely turned 4 due to her late birthday, whether regular, Ohlone or Hoover would be more suited to her. She was happy in preschool and the teachers there had no advice to offer.

Consequently, I feel that Hoover v Ohlone debates are really a debate as to which method suits the parents not the child. It would really be nice if at say 2nd grade a teacher could say that the regular method was not the best option for this particular child and they would be better suited to stye X, and the arrangements made for the child to switch. Unfortunately, that system is not available due to waiting lists and other logistics, so really we are stuck with the option of what style suits the parents and the kids really are stuck with their parents ideals. Changing elementary schools during the school year half way through a middling grade, just does not happen except in very rare circumstances, and when it does happen, it is usually because a child is having serious problems and emergency action is being taken.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Ohlone Really,

I'm not deluding myself. You, however, are being inconsistent.

Homework, by definition, is assigned, not voluntarily. An afterschool enrichment program is kind of the opposite of "catching up". By your reasoning, every time my kid opens up a book, s/he is really doing homework.

Part of the reason the no-assigned-homework policy is appealing is so that kids have time to pursue their own interests at their own pace.

The number of kids at Ohlone not performing at grade level is around the district average--sometimes lower, sometimes higher. The issue is more of one in the middle grades, the levels go up by fifth grade--yes, just in time for middle school. Which goes with the reputation of the clusters within the school--K/1 and 4/5 are strong, 2/3 is relatively weak.

You need to go over your own notes--better yet, a Web site--and look at your stats again.

API Scores,

In other words, you're not answering my questions. You're missing my point though--which is that you, as a parent, need to focus on your child and not the "competition". Kids develop at different rates--it's "normal" for perfectly bright kids to not read well until second grade.


Susan Charles would say that a child can learn under any system so that, yes, it is a question about the parents. So you and Ohlone's principal are in agreement.

That said, I did have a good grasp of my child's personality and learning style at four. And I did get advice from the preschool teacher. By four, you can get an idea of how self-directed a child is and how well s/he can maintain focus on a task and how well s/he can handle frustration. You also begin to get an idea of how independent s/he is compared to classmates. And a good preschool teacher should be able to give you the scoop on this.

Early signs of learning disabilities were also diagnosed at the preschool level.

I think, too, the parent issue shouldn't be dismissed out-of-hand. If your child possesses a similar temperment and abilities as his or her parents, then knowing what kind of educational approaches worked for you and the child's other parent can be useful in determining what kind of approach will work for your child.

I mean, yes, kids are stuck with their parents' ideals--that's kind of a given, is it not? I mean, whose ideals should they be stuck with?

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Parent from another neighborhood (sounds like that old movie "Brother from Another Planet") makes a great point - it's mostly about the parents, and less about learning styles, what works best, etc.

I used to think that choice schools were just silly until someone pointed out that if we didn't have Hoover and Ohlone, we'd have Hoover parents and Ohlone parents in every school and classroom, promoting their equally strongly held views ("more homework!", "no homework!", "projects!", "lectures!") to the teachers, the PTA, and the principals, and making themselves and everyone else crazy. This way they get to congregate with like-minded families and leave the middle of the road folks to their own devices.

If you accept that elementary teaching methods don't really make much difference, so long as kids are exposed to the material and the weakest ones helped, then this is a good way to accomplish civic harmony and giving active parents the sense they are doing something different. And that seems like a fine accomplishment.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2008 at 1:09 am

Me Too,

You may be more right than you know. After all this back-and-forth, I thought about whether I knew any recent high school graduates who had gone to Ohlone or to Hoover. I then realized I could think of two--and not only had both done fine in high school--they'd both ended up at Davis . . .

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2008 at 9:54 am

Ohlonepar, Please do re-read your posts. You start out saying that homework is not required and then go on to say that no homework is actually beneficial. You then proceed to add caveats, provisos, "what ifs" and spin to try and back up your assertion. Just apply Occam's razor, you'll get there in the end.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2008 at 10:01 am

API Scores -

If you define "homework" as work to be completed at home assigned by a teacher, then OhlonePar makes perfect sense. Ohlone students who do not have homework assigned, are free to use their time to pursue an interest in say, volcanos. Without spelling words, math worksheets, and pretty posters to color, they can pursue other things.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2008 at 12:11 pm

API Scores,

Occam's razor applies here in that your assumption that a bad year for API scores in some grades must be due to a longstanding policy that affects *all* the grades. Your error, not mine.

The no-homework policy does have some benefits. I pointed out what some of them were. I said nothing about outside academic enrichment. *You*, not me, have attempted to put such things in the category of assigned homework.

They're not. They're optional and, in many cases, self-selected.

I'll give a simple real-life example. A friend and I both had our kids in kindergarten. Her child was assigned to "write" six pages of a story a day. Now the kid couldn't write or read, so drawing was fine, but it was assigned.

My kid was encouraged to bring home books from the class. But if they were unread it was a non-issue. My child wrote/drew stories at home because that's what was being done in class and my kid loved that kind of thing. So the learning continued at home, but it is self-directed learning--it's not homework, the teacher never saw the bulk of it.

At the same time, the kids are assigned numerous tasks *in* class--by first grade, my child had a folder with a week's worth of assignments to be completed independently during class (aside from group projects). This teaches a planning skill similar to the one achieved from homework. And, yes, if the work doesn't get it done during class time, the child brings it home.

You might see from this why this approach might work better with some kids than with others--which has always been my point. You are making the child responsible for his or her progress at a pretty early age.

So, there are spelling lists and math sheets, but there are opportunities to do them in class. An entire math chapter will be handed out and the child given a couple of weeks to work through it. instead of being doled out a couple of pages at a time.

And, by the way, both my kid and my friend's kid are doing fine.

Paly Parent,

Thank you for understanding. I'm amazed by the busywork people describe at the high-school level. I mean, I always loved doing posters and what have you, but given the non-busy work expected of these kids, I don't get it.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Ohlonepar, Paly Parent, I neglected to mention that I spent my last three years of elementary school in an Ohlone like environment. We were assigned work at the beginning of the week that we were expected to have completed by the end of the week.
Guess what happened? A few friends and I finished the work at the start of the week. Sometimes we even worked Monday evenings to get it all done before Tuesday. The rest of the week we played games apart from the few scheduled group sessions.
That "pursuing other things" turned into having free time at school to play board games and at home to play computer games, watch TV, hang out at the pool. Nice, huh? It all came to a halt in middle school.
As a child I really enjoyed it. As a parent, you can see I wouldn't recommend it.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2008 at 11:54 pm

API Scores,

So, your school was not an optimum environment for *you*. The same set-up can be an optimum environment for other kids.

Which is the point I've been making over and over. I was a kid who used to read the encyclopedia for the fun of it. It's not one size fits all.

You're making the same kind of mistake over and over here, by the way. You take one small set of data--one year's API score or your memories of three years in another school--and then make pronouncements that aren't really merited by your small set of data.

Quit jumping to conclusions.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2008 at 9:10 am


>So, your school was not an optimum environment for *you*.
>The same set-up can be an optimum environment for other kids.

Funny you should say. A few years later I had a conversation with my mother about the school. She opened my eyes to what I wasn't seeing. Apparently a lot of other parents were complaining that their children weren't learning.
My mother was also an elementary school teacher and we talked about the teaching methodology. She stated that the school had pointed to students such as myself to show how successful it was. Though, my mother also noted that the previous DI school had done the same thing!

I wasn't surprised when I saw the API scores for Ohlone. I've experienced how they work. If, as a parent, you want your child to simply enjoy school, Ohlone's perfectly suited for you. If you want to challenge your child, you probably want to think again.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2008 at 3:56 pm

API Scores,

Okay, so let me get this straight. You're talking about a school that you attended 30 years ago and using that as your data point to determine Ohlone's merits?

Hello???? Different schools.

And *again* Ohlone's scores vary--50 points within the last five years. The range is well within the normal range for this district.

And, again, standardized tests are very limited in what they can test. The current federal tests are very fact instead of reasoning oriented.

Do you even understand why your post comes off as just sort of dingy?
You seem to not actually know anything about Ohlone, so you're just drawing from some random grade school you once attended. Look, I attended a traditional grade school--doesn't mean that it tells me much about Addison.


Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2008 at 1:57 pm

OhlonePar, let me get this straight. You promote the homework model of one of the lowest performing schools in the district. You denigrate the results of the most successful elementary school in the district. You openly admit that Ohlone fails half it's pupils. And you then have the gall to claim that other people's posts come of as sort of dingy?

When you can provide some objective results showing the success of Ohlone's model then people might take it seriously. Until then I, as most other parents in this district, want my children challenged when they are at school and to learn more than how to muck out stables.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 21, 2008 at 2:50 pm

API Scores,

I think there are advantages to Ohlone's methodology, yes. And the school has, until this year, performed in the middle of the pack.

As I said, you have an issue with drawing large conclusions from small data points. Since you seem to think the only measure of an education is the score on a fill-in-the-bubble test then you're not a good prospect for Ohlone.

I haven't denigrated Hoover's results. Very much the opposite. I don't, however, think there's one educational solution. Hoover would have bored me to death--but highly structured environments work well for some kids.

And, yes, your posts come off as sort of dingy. You don't even analyze the API/STAR test results well. You have made it clear that you have a long-held bias against project-based learning and then you only retain data that supports your bias.

So, again, how do you explain large score swings (anywhere from 881 to 928 over the past five years) on something that hasn't changed during the entire time?

Now, there's a real example of Occam's Razor in action. Not only do you not have a matter of cause-and-effect, you don't even have a decent set of correlations.

Your insistence that this year's lower scores are because of the no-homework policy, but the higher scores of a couple of years ago were not is, as I say, dingy. It's poorly reasoned--you need a consistent pattern for your thesis to hold.

So, yes, you need to think this little problem through and address it convincingly--and, no, recounting what Mom-the-teacher once said doesn't cut it.

Critical, independent thinking, by the way, is not something well assessed by standardized tests, but *is* highly valuable in college and work.

Ohlone doesn't have stables, by the way. Wrong animals. Parent volunteers muck out the barn. The kids do do a fair amount of hands-on science at the Farm. What better way to learn about the life cycle of plants? Or how about growing some of the foods eaten by Ohlone Indians?

See, you're just wrapped up in all sorts of prejudices. Not sure *why* you care so much--attendance at Ohlone is voluntary. I don't think you're really concerned about the performance of my kids in middle school.

Honestly, it almost comes off as a sort of puritanism. Ohlone kids aren't suffering enough in the pursuit of learning or something.

Posted by Hard to Follow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2008 at 7:47 am

Ohlone Parent -

This strand has been an interesting but frustrating read with so many accusations that others do not know what they are typing when your posts jump to conclusions and, when pushed, you ignore the counterpoint and don't seem to ever acknowledge that you may have been misinformed.

Here are some:

"a large portion of [Palo Alto] kids are suffering extreme stress"

"but afterschool tutoring [at Ohlone]? 'Fraid not."

[Ohlone] "performs above schools that do assign homework"

"you'd know that the case *for* homework is for homework from middle school on"

"countries that pile on homework perform worse on standardized tests than countries where the homework load is relatively light"

I also don't see that you ever answered the questions about what Ohlone should do with its students who struggle academically there beyond an oblique reference to "options"?

Care to clarify?

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2008 at 9:20 am

Ohlonepar, Why does it not surprise me that Ohlone children can't apply what they learned about mucking out barns to mucking out stables? You know, how most children (apart from those at Ohlone) would have learned how to apply their experience working out the volume of a cube to working out the volume of a cylinder?
What does surprise me is how wrapped up in cotton wool your children are that you won't even let them get their hands dirty mucking out the barn. No wonder they aren't learning!

Oh, and btw, before you start waxing lyrical about Ohlone's "farm" my middle school was part of an agricultural college. Yes, I've had a many and varied education in a number of countries. There's more to understanding how a plant grows than simply watching it. As there is more to farm animals than looking after Ohlone's pets.

Come on, you haven't even been able to provide any evidence that Ohlone's style of education provides any advantage to its students. The only objective results we have show Ohlone doing very badly. You choose to ignore those results since they don't fit with your argument, then fine. Just don't preach to the rest of the district about the "advantages" of the Ohlone way when you can't show any. You can imagine the outcry if the whole district fell to Ohlone's level.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2008 at 1:19 am

Hard to Follow,

Sorry, I'm not really interesting in going back through the thread, putting the quotes back in their original contexts and then answering you. I'll keep it short--but if you're truly interested in these things, do some research. The school does allow visitors, by the way. If you're really interested, you could probably arrange to visit a class.

Students stressed? Look at the threads here--you'll see posts on it.

Afterschool tutoring at Ohlone? That's for the opposition to prove--they never have.

Case for homework middle school--Google it. It's pretty easy to find. I gave a link some time ago, you can go on from there if you're interested. Even research that supports homework doesn't support bad homework.

Thailand has high amounts of homework, Finland has light amounts of homework--Finland way outperforms Thailand. There's more, but you can Google with that.

Struggling students--the school has learning specialists on staff for fields such as reading. But I suggest you contact Ohlone if you're interested.

I am giving you short shrift here--but this has been a long thread. I think it's worth doing the research and finding your own answers.

API Scores,

Again, you're kind of going off into the deep end. While it's funny to see you get upset over the barn/stable difference, that kind of flinging random insults in hopes that something will stick gets old. Though I've always wanted to be told I was waxing lyrical.

And, you know, you really don't seem to know anything about the school. Seriously--I mean, you really don't seem to know what is and what is not taught there.

It's a public school. It teaches the same curriculum as every other public school in Palo Alto.

So, let's try this again:

"How do you explain large score swings (anywhere from 881 to 928 over the past five years) on something that hasn't changed during the entire time?"

Remember? Take a deep breath, try to stay focused and don't share your childhood. Remember--you were making a claim about the no-homework policy.

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2008 at 8:22 am

Ohlonepar, You are the one making the claims about the no homework policy - I didn't bring it up. I did point out that you have no data to back up your claim.
Come on, last chance, show us how superior Ohlone's results are that we would want to adopt it at other schools in the district.
You just keep trying to avoid the issue. It looks like you've painted yourself into a corner.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2008 at 2:21 pm

API Scores,

And what claims did I make about the no-homework policy? That kids do their own work. You've said nothing to discount that. That it's easier to avoid overscheduling. Again, you've said nothing to discount that. Third, that kids think outside of school. You've said nothing to discount that except that you, personally, didn't think outside of school.

You, on the other hand, claimed Ohlone students would be catching up because of the no-homework policy. We're still waiting for proof of that. Your claim really founders because Ohlone's fifth-grade scores are higher than the scores in its lower grades. This would indicate that they're already "catching up" before they reach middle school.

So, yes, you made a claim specifically about the no-homework policy and used API scores as the foundation for the claim. I've pointed out the scores swing too much for a constant to be the cause.

So--you made the unsupported claims. Support them. Again:

"How do you explain large score swings (anywhere from 881 to 928 over the past five years) on something that hasn't changed during the entire time?"

You can't back someone into a corner when you leave a gaping hole like that. (Won't even get into some of the other gaping holes, just stick to this one.)

Posted by API Scores
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Ok, that was your last chance. You can't show any superior results from Ohlone's no homework policy. We all know what the objective results tell us.

I look forward to next year's scores. I think I can guess where Ohlone will end up.

Happy Holidays.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 23, 2008 at 3:57 pm

I'm less concerned with an elementary school scores then how these student do in high school and college.

Posted by Another parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Paly Parent -

I agree. Is there any data available to the public on performance of Ohlone School's students in high school and beyond?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2008 at 8:50 pm

API Scores,

My last chance? On what planet, my dear?

But I'll give you another chance:

"How do you explain large score swings (anywhere from 881 to 928 over the past five years) on something that hasn't changed during the entire time?"

You can't answer it, can you? Thus your big exit statement. See you in a bit.

Paly and Another,

I haven't seen that kind of info, but I agree that it would be interesting. The Ohlone graduates I know have done fine, but that's too small and nonrandom a pool from which to draw conclusions.

Posted by Hard to Follow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2008 at 7:53 pm

Ohlone Parent

Maybe I wasn't clear about what you were not clear about.

Your 1st comment: "a large portion of [Palo Alto] kids are suffering extreme stress".
I realize some kids are stressed, but how do you know "a large portion" are?

You said: "but afterschool tutoring [at Ohlone]? 'Fraid not."
Then you said: "That's for the opposition to prove."
Huh? I thought the comment was made because the poster actually knew several Ohlone children who get after school academic help. Proof enough for me.

You said: [Ohlone] "performs above schools that do assign homework".
When asked abput this, you had no response.

You said: "you'd know that the case *for* homework is for homework from middle school on" and so your post suggests that research only supports homework middle school on.
The reply was that the case for homework starts in elementary school and the link to the researcher you mention supports that.

You said: "countries that pile on homework perform worse on standardized tests than countries where the homework load is relatively light".
Then you said that "Thailand has high amounts of homework, Finland has light amounts of homework--Finland way outperforms Thailand." Huh again? The poster posted that Korea with lots of homework outperforms almost all other countries too, so pointing to Finland's no homework policy as the determining factor just doesn't follow logically.

As for Ohlone's students who struggle academically, you answered that "the school has learning specialists on staff." Since Ohlone has a disproportionately large number of students performing poorly on the STAR tests and you say several times that Ohlone's project based learning is not the best method for struggling students, the specialist road doesn't seem to be enough.

No need to go another round on this with you. It just would be helpful if you posted replies that are fully responsive to the questions asked.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 28, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Hard to Follow,

I wrote "if a large portion"--I didn't make a declarative statement. Simply that if A were the case, then B would follow. Why did you ignore the first word of my sentence?

No, the poster made a claim about afterschool tutoring but couldn't support any of it--not even anecdotal evidence.

Since it's clear to me that the poster does not, in fact, know much about the school, I find the claim dubious--and it doesn't jibe with my knowledge.

And, of course, Ohlone performs above schools that assign homework. It out performs most schools in the state--and presumably most of them assign homework.

Finland outperforms Korea--so, logically, homework is not the deciding factor in terms of performance. Yes, exactly. The other poster, not I, blames the lack of homework for Ohlone's scores relative to Hoover.

Ohlone's scores fluctuate and its fifth graders score well--that would indicate that, yes, indeed, the learning specialists on staff do their job by the time the kids are ready for middle school.

Again, you're looking at a small data point and extrapolating more than is warranted.

Posted by why not?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 28, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Here's an idea.

Instead of going back and forth, why not just stop by Ohlone and speak with Susan Charles? I'm sure she'll address your concerns about the Ohlone process and learning community.

Going back and forth on this message board is quite childish. You're not going to change either other's minds.

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Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.