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Some all-year 'summer' classes being planned

Original post made on Nov 3, 2009

Some Palo Alto students may be attending full-year classes next summer. The school board later this month will consider extending some summer-school classes to six weeks in order for students to cover a full year's worth of work. Summer school is proposed to begin June 21.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 10:20 AM

Comments (36)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I don't know, but I am asking if this is not another example of adding to teen stress in Palo Alto. On the one hand, there are a group of parents who want finals brought before winter break so that students can get a "real break" between semester. On the other hand we have a system which is trying to provide a 6 week summer school to enable students get through a whole year of work.

Is this something to help our students who are needing extra help, or is it something to raise the bar yet again? If a student can spend their summer getting another AP class ...

How about providing some fun classes for our teens? How about letting them learn car maintenance, glass blowing, basket weaving, cooking, or something that is basically fun rather than academic?

I am very wary of this, it just might not be what is good for the high achieving Palo Alto students.

Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm

I think this is a wonderful opportunity, but each family and student will have to make the decision if it is right for them. If we want to provide opportunities for all students to thrive academically, different options work for each students. For some kids, taking a difficult class over the summer may be less stressful than taking it along with the rest of their academic load. Or they may need to make up a class they had to drop - in which case how nice they don't have to go to St Francis or one of the other high schools offering summer classes. Or if they participate in extra curriculars only offered during the school year, a summer class can lighten their school-year load to a manageable level. Many different scenarios. It's up to parents to monitor.

I can't imagine an AP class being taught over the summer unless Foothill stops taking high school kids. I'm not aware of other high schools offering APs over the summer? Does anyone else know?

At the same time, I strongly support finals moving before winter break! We just have to convince the elementary parents and teachers.

Posted by Teacher Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 3, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I don't know about other families, but I know that this type of program would help ours. We are strong believers in natural consequences, which has meant that our kids will occasionally get a D or an F in a class. We have been Paying for Summer school at St. Francis, so our kids could replace the poor grade. We also have a son with a learning disability and it would be helpful if he could take one of his challenging classes in the summer so he can concentrate all of his energy on the one class instead of 7. I'm not a fan of using summer school as enrichment, but I'm sure we're not alone in needing a program to help kids correct prior mistakes. It's an opportunity to catch up....

Posted by Natural Consequence?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2009 at 5:51 pm

"We are strong believers in natural consequences"

Let's see. Your child doesn't study hard enough, or blows off assignments or homework. He then learns that the "natural consequence" of such behavior is that he receives a grade of D or F in the class. Next the child learns that the "natural consequence" of earning a D or F in class is that his parents will bail him out by paying for St. Francis summer school so that he can "replace the poor grade".

In the adult world one is rarely afforded the opportunity of a do-over.

Would it not be more appropriate to teach the child that he must apply himself appropriately when taking the class in the first place, and that the "natural consequence" of the failure to do so will in fact be a low grade, that will in fact remain on his record? Hopefully, the "natural consequence" of THIS would be that the child would work harder in future classes in order to bring up his GPA to make up for the whammy he dealt himself with the D or F.

Posted by Yet another Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 3, 2009 at 11:43 pm

When I was in High School, I took summer school each year to get specific credits out of the way (Bio, Chem, Physics.) These were not remedial; these were regular-year-equivalent classes with a choice of in-class and homework tracks for a Regular, Honors and AP-level grade. I then had more time in my regular year schedule for fun electives that were only available in the school year (Photography, for example...)

As I see my hardworking and motivated Gunn Freshman still struggling with mountains of homework every night that often last beyond a reasonable bedtime, I think being able to ease the horrendous workload by being able to take one of the required college prep classes over the summer would be a very helpful thing. FWIW, we can't afford private school summer tuitions.

(Note: this is a child with learning delays who is yet trying to maintain A's, some in Honors-level classes. This often means working much harder than other bright students without learning delays, but like I said, this kid is motivated. We parents are not doing the pushing here; we sometimes have to INSIST that homework be put down for the night, in the interest of basic health.)

Posted by Agree YAG
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 4, 2009 at 6:02 am

YAG parent: My experience and thoughts exactly. A lot of folks assume that the pressure to "get As" is coming from parents all the time, yet in our family the pressure to "get As" and take as many honors and APs as possible was internal to our child. At some point, a parent can't stop it. In 9th grade you still had a little input into how many and what kind of classes the child takes. By Junior year, you are figthing a huge battle, and being told by your child "if you don't let me take these classes it will be your fault I get denied into x, y, z university of my dreams". Good grief.

I, too, would have preferred a way to "strike a deal". Take the hardest, most work intensive class of your year in the summer, take one less during the school year. Would have been a good way to "balance" the load. Along with a FULL BREAK over winter break, no finals or projects awaiting completion on their return. Working their fannies off for 4 months, then a full break for 2 weeks, 4 months on, 2 weeks off, 6 weeks on, 2 weeks off, would go a long way to having a community help parents balance out these high achievers.

As for the other end of the spectrum, those with learning disabilities struggling along, who have to work twice as hard to "get those grades", having a way to spread it out would be great, too.

And the thing is, it is all a choice for each family and each child, nobody is forcing anyone to take summer classes,nobody would be forcing any kid or family to do nothing over Winter break if they prefer to stay busy.

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 4, 2009 at 9:41 am

So much for summer vacation.

Posted by Agree with YAG
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 4, 2009 at 10:29 am

PA Parent:

No, it is a choice for the family and the kid. If they want a full summer off, nothing is stopping them, no "punishment" for not taking summer school. It becomes a choice suited to each kid, as long as there are full breaks between semesters and between the summer school times, it can work to relieve a lot of the constant stress and anxiety some of our kids labor under.

Posted by gunn mom of a senior
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

I love the natural consequences philosophy. This not only applies to students who do not do the work and flunk a course. It also is great for students who *do* work hard and reap their hard work with learning and good grades.

No student should be struggling at Gunn. There are TONS of classes on many different levels that kids of all acheivement levels can take. I am really tired of parents complaining how hard the schoolwork is. Support your kids to find the classes that best fit your child's capabilities.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I fully support finals before winter break. I remember applying to college, and I didn't consider applying to any colleges with finals after xmas (that included Harvard).

Why don't they change this? Is it about having most of August off? So, they get all of June off instead of all of August, what is the problem?

Can this be revisited?

Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Does the school district have an idea which programs will be at the different elementary locations? What will be offered at Palo Verde, what at Addison, and what at Barron Park?


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Having most of June off instead of most of August off, might be fine for the kids, but many working parents can't do this. June is the end of the first 6 months of the year, many company deadlines make employees very busy in June so family vacations have to be taken later. Also, August is generally the dead month, particularly for businesses that operate worldwide, especially Europe. It tends to be much easier for working parents to take time off in August, even than July as that month is often busy with overseas deadlines so that they can get ahead of the worldwide dead month of August.

It is a global thing, not necessarily a Palo Alto, California or US thing.

Posted by Former Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2009 at 1:47 pm

When my two boys were at JLS and Gunn, they made good use of summer-school options. My older son has learning disabilities, and for him a normal "full load" of classes was just too much. Taking one class during summer school helped lighten the load the rest of the year. My younger son took enrichment classes while at JLS, which, while fun, I could see being dropped from the curriculum if necessary for budgetary reasons.

During the summer we also made use of another option — online classes. There are a lot of options out there for online classes (we went through the University of Nebraska High School). Our older son made use of online classes to take English classes needed to satisfy Gunn's core requirements, when the reading list for the required classes at Gunn was inappropriate for him (for both academic and emotional reasons). Our younger son also took an online History class to atone for a D his freshman year at Gunn.

However, I can see that online classes are less suitable in three situations: (1) lab classes, as in the sciences, where hands-on experiences are vital; (2) remedial classes, where students need lots of interaction with instructors to master the material, and (3) classes that are necessary to meet certain specific school requirements (such as Living Skills at Gunn, a class transfer students might need to take over the summer). I think those three areas are the ones that summer school should prioritize when deciding which classes to offer.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Thanks Resident.

As a working mom at a global company, no time is easy to take off, and I definitely do NOT have a month off any time, August or June. If I am going to take time off, I personally would rather have it off in the first week of June, when fewer folks are off. August is a nightmare to make reservations, particularly in Europe.

I don't think having August off is substantial enough to make finals come after xmas. Only some people have the resources to take a three week trip in August. We really should revisit it again, and not let the vocal minority (e.g. the folks who summer on Martha's Vineyard or Europe) make this decision.

Posted by Agree with YAG
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 4, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Wow!!! Online classes that are accepted at Gunn???!!! I am going to check this out for my kid. What a relief that would be for a kid who learns BEST through Computer use. He does so much better without the auditory processing part, especially in the heavily language based English/History classes.

Good tip! Thanks Former Gunn Parent. Brilliant.

As for the comment about Martha's Vineyard or Europe crowd, I am not sure that is what this is about ( an "us versus them" thing is what I mean). I think this is really an issue of what we, as adults, think is best for giving our kids of all sorts the best choices they can have for managing their lives. From choosing to take a full break, or not, at Winter Break to choosing to unload a class from the regular year onto the summer, or not, I believe we would best de-stress our kids by offering them the ability to manage their lives in the same we, as adults, have the choice to do.

As adults, some of us prefer to work our tails off for 11 months, then take a full stop break for one month..and others of us have learned that we need to come to a full break more often, but not for as long, maybe a week every 4 months, or a 4 day week-end every 2 months ..whatever... in order to function at our best. I would like to give our kids the chance to take a full break every 4 months also, instead of never stopping for 10 months in a row as they do now.

I don't think too many of us could have managed that as high schoolers in a high achieving place like Gunn and Paly, so I don't know why we expect our kids to do it.

Even in university, even those of us who had finals after Winter Break...even THEN we had at the very least a full week off to decompress between quarters or semesters. I have heard of no University which gives only a 3 day weekend between quarters or semesters. So why do we do it to our kids? We give them ONE 3 day weekend off in a 10 month period..ONE....Not only do they have a harder work schedule than University students, they have the additional burden of "proving" themselves through volunteer work and extracurricular activities unlike most University students.

No wonder our kids get to college and tell us how easy it is compared to Gunn. We have it all backwards.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 5, 2009 at 11:37 am

1 Yr Summer School - our son did that at SF this year. Got a whole year of a language (level 2) finished in 6 weeks. He went to school from 8-12 - no big deal. In fact, he found it easier than going to Paly. And the thing is that he wanted to do this so he could be in the 3rd level this fall ---- so he could take the class with his friends.

Starting school in early August. Sorry - not me. Best weather of the summer is August. Worst weather of summer is June. Plus if your kid is involved in any sort of club sport, then their summer will be the sport and no down time before school. Most club sports culminate with regional and national events the last week of July or crossing over into the first week of August.

The other reason why we won't switch to early August is Stanford. They are on the quarter system and those families cannot take any sort of extended vacation until at least mid-June, if not later. Stanford families attend all of our schools --- big impact.

Posted by Agree with YAG
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Well, if Stanford families are so huge of an impact, then since Stanford doesn't start until the 3rd week of September WE can start September 21 also, have our finalsmid January, take a full 2 weeks to let the high schoolers chill who need to recharge, then send them off to HS for another intense 4 months, ending when Stanford does in June.

There, everybody wins....

Posted by Agree with YAG
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 5, 2009 at 2:03 pm

I guess I was a little abrupt which may have looked flippant..the main point was that we really need to try to figure out a way to give the High Schoolers a real time off, not just a 3 day weekend in January between semesters which is often passed lying in bed for 3 days with a cold or we keep pretending that the Winter Break is actually a break for any of the students. If it won't work to give 'em a real break over winter break, then give it to them another time. I am certain if we keep our focus on what is best way to give our High School kids the choices they need to manage their lives better, we can figure out a way to help them out.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I know we try to balance the semesters at about 90 days each, but I think if we only took Labor Day and Thanksgiving and the day after off, we'd have 85 school days in the 1st semester. Since 2nd semester has STAR testing and AP exams, its actually pretty balanced. Hold the Staff Days before school starts.

Is there are rule which says we have to start winter break on a Friday? What if we went til the 20th or 21st?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2009 at 3:30 pm

As the one who started this discussion, I am still wary about these summer classes. I have had kids use summer school to get better grades, but the system at present is four weeks. It looks to me that they want to change the system to 6 weeks with less hours per day. The system this past summer was for the students to be at school for four weeks from 8.15 to 1.15 (I think). The proposed system was for 6 weeks from 8.15 to 12.15 (once again, I think). This takes up 6 weeks of summer break and if a family is involved in school activities that start early, like sport or choir or many other things, there is only about a 2 or 3 week window to get away.

I had also forgotten that spring sports also invade summer, so for sports orientated families, they get it at both ends.

Once again, I think that summer break should be a break and that summer school should not be all about catching up with poor grades (or it is nice for those who need to) or about taking a tough class to enable more tough classes taken during the school year. Why can't we have some fun classes, like car maintenance, photography or cooking. Must it be so academic?

Posted by Agree with YAG
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 5, 2009 at 4:42 pm

oops, you are right, we got off topic, related all to giving our kids the choice of how to balance out their year and get real rests between class times..

BAck to the summer school topic!

Posted by Yet another Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 5, 2009 at 11:48 pm

May I reiterate, for a child with learning disabilities / delays, the ability to take Summer School to ameliorate the pressure would be a Godsend.

For some kids, even if they are getting decent grades, it's not about time for sports or fun extracurricular activities, it's about survival and not cracking under the stress of having to work a lot harder than some others to keep at the same level.

Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2009 at 9:52 am

Summer school is optional for most students. If it doesn't work for your student, don't sign up!

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2009 at 10:34 am

I think the longer weeks are to allow 2 semester for a class, right now you can only take one semester, usually the first one.

Posted by observer
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

I hope the school board will be weighing the advantages of instructional minutes, processing time for students on conceptually difficult subjects, etc. so these courses do not deprive students of a solid background in a subject that builds.

But the St. Francis summer machine sure looks lucrative. PAUSD could use the money that our parents are shelling out over there.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Get a job!

Posted by Yet another Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 7, 2009 at 4:38 am

@ Paul: What on Earth are you talking about?!?

I (thankfully and gratefully, given this horrible economy that has harmed so many) do currently have - for the moment and God-willing for many years hence - a very busy full-time job...

Posted by Yet another Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 7, 2009 at 4:49 am

(Continued from "a very busy full-time job"): that is vital to support my family, learning-delayed child (who is not my only child) included. Despite your conjecture, not everyone living in Palo Alto is wealthy enough to be capable of not working hard for a living.

Posted by Agree with YAG
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 7, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Yet AGP: Ignore posts that are inflammatory and not contributing to the conversation. They are "flame" posts meant to stir the pot and, like a child acting out, the more you ignore the inciteful behavior and engage the child when he behaves appropriately, the more likely you are to extinguish the aberrant behavior.

Just a friendly word because I see you doing what I used to do, which is to react to posts that were red herrings.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 7, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Students might benefit from getting summer jobs instead of going to summer school. They're good for self esteem and learning to become independent. To interact with people who are worried about issues other than AP classes and early admissions. Plus, experience from even the most menial position is useful in that first job/intern/special program interview, where conveying a mature outlook on life is important.

Sorry to be inflammatory, but I think students in Palo Alto need to relax a little (but still work hard) and remember that peaking as college senior has a bigger payoff than peaking in high school.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 7, 2009 at 7:55 pm

There's a movement right now to curtail summer vacation. It's based on research that shows disadvantaged kids lose ground over the summer. Curious thing is that kids from advantaged backgrounds not only don't lose ground, but may even gain during the summer break.

While I'm not going to argue against summer school--it has its pluses--and I've long favored a summer language-immersion program--I do think Paul's point about getting a job has merit. Jobs teach a certain real-life sense of independence and responsibility. One of the things they've found with highly successful entrepreneurs is that they worked often and early in many cases.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2009 at 9:24 pm

What we need is some bench mark evidence about what works.

In the UK an undergraduate degree takes 3 years because the equivalent of high school offers advanced education.

In Germany non academic kids in high shchool are taught trades and over the long term they earn much more than university graduates in liberal arts ,we need to have the same choice here.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2009 at 9:25 pm

What we need is some bench mark evidence about what works.

In the UK an undergraduate degree takes 3 years because the equivalent of high school offers advanced education.

In Germany non academic kids in high shchool are taught trades and over the long term they earn much more than university graduates in liberal arts ,we need to have the same choice here.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2009 at 1:07 am

We're not Europe. That English equivalent of an advanced education has been offered to a much lower percentage of students than in the United States.

Having an educated workforce and readily available college education has been a huge advantage for the United States.

You want a benchmark? Take a look at U.S. economic growth post-WWII when the G.I. bill made college available for an unprecedented number of people.

Great Britain has been trying to emulate the U.S. and send a greater percentage of its population on to university.

Posted by more to it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 9, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Share of population with tertiary education by age: Web Link

On a side note, England != UK != GB. Some people can get offended.

Allgemeine hochschulreife, A/AS levels & IB are different but similar. Germany goes straight for 4 (or more) year Masters degrees and doesn't have the 3-year UK Bachelors. It isn't because the equivalent Gymnasium offers less advanced education.
IB is fairly common in the US today. Lots of schools in the bay area offer it. It would probably be over-subscribed if offered by PAUSD.

Posted by Former Gunn Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm

@ Agree with YAG: If you want your child to take online classes and have them count for Gunn credit, you are going to have to get the school's signoff on it first. In our case, Noreen Likins authorized it for both kids, and authorized the University of Nebraska High School, which we liked because it didn't have rigid, timed "semesters" (a lot of online schools do), and although there were multiple papers assigned for each class, there was also evaluation through multiple-choice tests (which our sons had to arrange to take at Gunn with a proctor).

@ Crescent Park Dad: More like the HOTTEST weather of the summer is in August, which means that our kids have to sit in sweltering heat in classrooms that are often un- or under-air-conditioned. Another reason to have classes start, and end, later in the year. (Not to mention that we had a perpetual Labor Day Weekend conflict, an event held in a different city every year, which usually involved extra days for travel. We could have the kids start the school year a day or two late when they were little, but by high school this was not doable, and we missed several of these events.)

@ Yet Another Gunn Parent: Yes, the ability to take summer-school classes is so helpful for a kid with learning disabilities, especially when they include both low processing speed and frequently getting "stuck" on homework due to anxiety issues (both of which are problems for one of my sons).

@ Everyone: Please keep in mind that summer school is an OPTION (except for those needing to meet requirements). For some kids, it is a perfect solution. Some kids would be better off working (although, Paul, our son with anxiety and other disabilities could probably still not work today, and he's almost 22). Of course, the job market makes that less possible for the time being. Some kids are better off doing sports, or taking long breaks. The more options are available, the better off EVERYONE is.

The main issue really is, what can the school district afford to offer for summer school? My druthers would be as much as possible, even if it's necessary to raise tuition fees (with financial aid available for the truly needy), for all classes except those that are absolutely required to graduate, and/or are remedial and needed to reach the next level in a core subject. If raising tuition fees for classes that are AP or enrichment makes it possible to offer more of them, then I would support that, since no student HAS to take these.

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