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Is the drive for success making kids ill?

Original post made by Sunday NYT reader, College Terrace, on Jan 2, 2016

Interesting article from Sunday's NYT:
Web Link

Comments (35)

Posted by NYT reader
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2016 at 2:20 pm

From the article:
"Nearly one in three teenagers told the American Psychological Association that stress drove them to sadness or depression — and their single biggest source of stress was school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a vast majority of American teenagers get at least two hours less sleep each night than recommended — and research shows the more homework they do, the fewer hours they sleep. At the university level, 94 percent of college counseling directors in a survey from last year said they were seeing rising numbers of students with severe psychological problems."

Posted by Sure of It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Children have lost childhood, especially the pre-teen and teen years. They have zero downtime, and they are being told, in this district at least, that by age 12 they should start focusing on a career path! very few kids know what career path they want at that age! Many who "think" they do go on to change majors many times in college.

If kids survive all this, they usually will feel very angry and pent-up, even trapped later in life. Such people will then try to reclaim their adolescence at a time in their life when it is extremely inappropriate, such as when they have a family of their own.

While all this pressure seems like a small thing now, it goes on to fester and ruin lives when it all bursts like an abscess, either now or later. It isn' t just the child's life, either, it's the lives of whole families as well.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 2, 2016 at 8:15 pm

@Sure of It, for 50 years we've been calling that "mid-life crisis".

Posted by Sure of It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2016 at 8:27 pm

@musical: except that it happens in the early to mid-thirties in these cases. I lived in Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore long enough to see a LOT of this. I also lived in a predominantly Chinese/Korean immigrant neighborhood in another county for eight years, where this happened far more often than not.

Posted by Accountability
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 2, 2016 at 10:36 pm

There is a well established link between excessive homework, school-induced stress, anxiety depression and suicide. Can't get more obvious than this article and the research they quote.

Max has ordered the homework policy as mandatory; which many teachers are ignoring.

What is clear is the teacher and school culpability in the suicides.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Thinking cap needed before reading NYT's piece
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2016 at 9:34 am


Some students thrive in Palo Alto's high schools, handling multiple APs and homework with time to spare for activities, friends, fun and sleep and graduate thankful for the experience. Some don't.

The question is what schools can do to reach everyone while not hurting anyone.

Abeles blames the high schools and proposes one-size fits all policies regulating academics.

Be careful with her take-aways. Her livelihood making for-profit movies and books critical of schools is reason for caution, but her lack of scholarly-ness is more problematic.

In this January 2016 New York Times opinion piece, Abeles repeats her 2011 message that students across the US have too much homework.

1. She cites Duke for "research [which] supports limits on homework."

Click the link she provides and you find this instead: Duke research that IDs time on homework as a place where there are gaps in our knowledge, suggesting more research be done to determine the optimal amount of homework assigned.

2. All will agree with Abeles' conclusion that homework is stressful for some.

But that is a far cry from her conclusion that immediately follows - that homework-induced stress "could similarly act as a prescription for sickness" based on research she cites about multiple severe traumas "including violence, abuse or a parent’s struggle with mental illness" that can lead to "heart disease, lung disease, cancer and shortened life spans."

To Abeles, neither a doctor nor medical researcher, you just add the two together and you get something that is New York Times opinion piece worthy, all based on something that even she says just "suggests" to her, meaning not supported by research, that less severe stressors like several hours of homework a night may be bad for students' health.

This jump in logic is pretty bold, so I sleuthed around Google to see if others had similar problems with her work, and here is some of what I found.

Washington Post long-time education reporter on Abeles:

"I panned [Abeles'] 'Race to Nowhere' for leaving the impression that all high schools were grinding our youth into sausage. The film ignored the fact that the average teenager, according to University of Michigan research, spends less daily time on homework than it takes to watch one episode of 'Glee.'"

"How much academic stress do students feel? Hart Research Associates ... 69 percent said the requirements for graduating, including tests and courses, were 'easy' or 'very easy.'... 82 percent said [AP/IB] courses were more worthwhile than their other courses, and 73 percent said they were more interesting." Web Link

Abeles' "message is exaggerated [which] suggests that she doesn’t know what she is talking about...amazed [for example] at Abeles’s insistence that schoolwork is ruling children’s lives 'across all economic and cultural groups'...the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 15- to 19-year-olds have an average of 5.69 leisure hours a day. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 8- to 18-year-olds spend 7.5 hours a day with entertainment media." Web Link

Posted by Independence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2016 at 10:08 am

@Thinking cap,
Equally suspect are those who wield the research justifying the value of homework in the first place. Last year at this time, in a thread on the legality of homework, a district administrator repeatedly quoted one person's research - a researcher who is most often cited as the most influential source for justifying homework - when that researcher is now questioning those conclusions himself. The reason for giving homework only ever had to do with test scores anyway, when that's a pretty narrow and demonstrably poor overall measure of "success". No measure of opportunity cost for time and focus spent on homework seems to get included.

I agree with you that some students thrive in Palo Alto schools. I was that kind of student. But looking back, I can see the cost I never could have realized as a young person, which was that the overly structured challenges that are fed on a plate to students in schools like these cost them autonomy. I have more than once sat with Silicon Valley employers who quietly refuse to hire straight A students anymore because of too many bad experiences with ones who don't know how to be independent. In high school, I went to a school where a strict academic program was not possibly (more than once I literally had great classics torn from my hands in class but was never bothered if I put my head down to sleep at my desk) and boredom seemed a curse at the time.

I don't think the answer is to take away learning opportunities and challenges, but to rethink the program. Some students have it pretty good but might need some less-structured challenges. Others might thrive for the first time if given control of their time. If early grades really are pass/fail, for example, students learn to focus on what's important: learning. Grades should only be an aid for learning, not a way to constantly judge and sort the students. (Of course students who do well with this don't want to lose it.)

Posted by Accountability
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2016 at 10:49 am

Sure. I would let a judge decide...

In my view the collective behavior is criminal, and done with intent. We need lawyers and judges to decide HOW criminal.

As for the educational benefit - I simply don't believe any supporters. There is little benefit in most homework other than a bit of math practice and reading. This means the last 25% of homework has no value and enormous emotional and safety costs.

Keep in mind that there are effective alternatives to teach without homework. It is not the only tool in the toolbox.

So I just don't get it at all: there is NO tradeoff between learning and safety. We could have both. We are not threading the needle here where it's okay to have a little more homework if the risk of loss is only doubled...

What remains then is that the incremental homework is of no value and is robbing our kids of sleep. This dramatically increases risks, AND is well known by the teachers doing it. One can only conclude malice at this point in a long running ridiculous conversation.

Sounds criminal to me.

Posted by balance
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2016 at 4:42 pm

I think calling the teachers culpable for student suicides is going way too far. OTOH, I think it would be helpful for the district to consider research into adolescent mental health to try to mitigate some of the toxic effects on vulnerable adolescents of our affluent, high-achieving culture.

Posted by Accountability
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2016 at 7:22 pm

@balance wants to thread the needle:

Okay, where is the tradeoff for you? This is a value judgment call. Let's start be realizing that the statistics are rare events far out on the probability curve. So let's go far out on the homework curve. The last survey showed some kids 21+ hrs/week homework. Do you think this is not enough? Should we have more homework?

How much is enough?

Somewhere is a limit that breaks kids. For our own kids the current amount was too much - thank god we were able to spot the signs and prevent the worst.

So you seem to think the current hw load is okay. I think it is too much. Should it be 25 hrs? You could learn more in those extra hours...

I don't want ANY chance of further harm, so I think the limit should be much less - say 15hrs/wk for the extreme. That would put the avg around 10-12 hrs, right where Max's letter dictates.

I really want to know, if we are going to thread the needle between safety and learning, is the extra learning worth the risks to safety? What is that learning/safety ratio you are comfortable with?

In my view, given what we know, any suicide attempts show the wrong level. Outcomes are criminal for making such a tradeoff.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 4, 2016 at 1:25 am

How are we defining "homework"? Is it problem sets, studying, reading, writing an essay, working on a project, or all of the above? Does the time to write an essay include the two hours spent staring at a blank sheet of paper? That was often my case, work expanded to fill the time allotted, or just plain procrastination until panic set in. On the other hand were subjects I enjoyed so much I could spend six straight hours puzzling things out or exploring the intricacies. Nobody could tear me away with a two-hour limit. If you like broccoli, you'll eat the whole pot.

The point is there will always be kids running away with the A grades while others struggle or just don't have the interest. Some may focus on sciences, some on humanities. What's an hour of math homework to one student is four hours to another student. Same with a reading or writing assignment. Is it the teaching? The student's background? Tutoring over the summer? Or just innate talent? Could also be whether the environment at home is conducive to productivity.

Posted by Accountability
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 4, 2016 at 7:57 am

I would count anything assigned by schools.

This way of measuring doesn't prevent kids from spending their own time studying a subject more deeply. I did that in H.S. - probably because I had time once my homework was done. Today's kids rarely have that time...

Posted by unnecssary homework hours
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2016 at 8:59 am


You make a good point, I can share one experience if this helps put the HW efficiency issue into perspective.

It's not appropriate to say this about one's own, but my student is extremely talented, capable, and her teachers maintained glowing comments about her multi-talents in PAUSD. True to the potential she always has had, she is doing great in college in a demanding school.

Elementary school was bliss. No grades. Did her class work and occasional home assignment fast and with perfection, was/is always super efficient with anything she did; used to play a ton of games on the playground during breaks.

The mental and physical bliss she left elementary school with got killed from day 1 in Middle School (Jordan). She was good (almost perfect) at everything but the sheer amount of TASKS was ridiculous. Among the worst were the COLORING (GRADED) assignments in multiple classes. I used to feel bad for the kids who were not artistic. On the same day,every single day of the school year, ALL subjects had MULTIPLE (graded) tasks for home. She happens to be a talented writer, very strong at Math, but it was always one or two classes (the one with the worst teacher) that added something dreadful to the homework list and it all took TIME to do. Not to mention that there was the fear of not getting a good grade because if you don't make certain grades (on homework) you are doomed for high school.

The number of hours of middle school homework were always over 3 hours EVERY DAY. I don't think she ever got to find something she could spend "hours" doing for fun. After school she managed a sport but she was exhausted by 8th grade from the pace of school and one activity after school.

She came out glowingly (academically) but pooped, wanting to flee the system. SHE thought it was ridiculous.

I have always understood why there are awful cases with kids being left behind in PAUSD. I saw my super capable kid worn out, and it was ARDUOUS and unnecessary amounts of homework from middle school on. Most of it busy work. She could easily have learned more (and enjoyed learning more) with 3/4 of the HW cut out completely.

Easily 3/4 of homework in middle and high school could be cut off and everything would be better.

When you have a bright kid in all areas, the unnecessary rote assignments are torture. It has to be plain punishment for anyone who is even one notch less "efficient" or capable.

I don't need to tell you the story about High School- it was the same and more.

Bright spots?

The teachers who managed to teach without the busy stuff and who did not run the class by fear or threats of points on nonsensical HW tasks. The classes where the homework was relevant and she could feel a sense of REWARD from doing it. That was very rare.

My student made it out, spending "hours" on homework for teachers and their fiefdoms. It never seem coordinated to give kids a break. Homework always seemed more like a cancer, out of control.

You'll ask if she is doing well because of all the work? She could have done as well without it. A lot of lost hours in PAUSD where her youthful times and even famly time were arrested by the school chores for home. That was unnecessary.

Posted by Independence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2016 at 10:30 am

Add to your list : redshirting. The practice of holding kids back so they will be older and developmentally more advanced compared to their peers in the same grade. This was encouraged by the district when the cutoff date for starting school was in December. The lottery nature of the young five's program, rather than preference for those who needed it as identified by teachers, only made things worse. But the district never tracked or even considered the cumulative impact on students who weren't held back,especially once the boys hit puberty. Imagine having opportunities and even the level of instruction throughout school determined by precocious boys who are up to two years older than yours in the same grade.

Thank you for posting. Then imagine what it might be like for a kid who doesn't do well in the system, or maybe has a special need with the district people actively trying to undermine the relationships at school because of it or even retaliate when they don't like someone. I know of situations that got so bad, kids were afraid to tell teachers about depression lest it be USED by the school against the student or family, intentionally to hurt them worse.

I think a lot of people have the experience your daughter did. The opportunity cost of homework is that your daughter never had the chance to sit around and read, make things out of shear boredom, take advantage of all the enriching experiences outside of school, be in charge of her life and time, take part in extracurriculars outside of school. When I was a kid, such low levels of offerings and participation were because of POVERTY. What are the kids getting out of the system versus what is the system getting out of doing this to our kids? (Perhaps we should also be rethinking the exorbitant salaries and professional ambitions they foster that run counter to our kids' needs.)

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 4, 2016 at 10:55 am

@unnecessary, thank you for the response. I've heard the same from so many that I'm beginning to wonder what some teachers are thinking. Or why they were hired in the first place. I'm from an earlier era and am mostly detached from school issues now, but obviously these are serious concerns for much of the community.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 4, 2016 at 11:32 am

"Sure of it" and "unnecssary homework hours" nail it!

I think that the teachers are trying to justify their 6-figure income because if they make the class too easy, they feel like they aren't doing their job. They are overenthusiastic about their subject and expect the kids to feel the same. But then, there are some who simply don't teach, then kids get zapped by the tests. The teacher inconsistency is insane. It would be great to have more that teach well but grade easier. It's the fighting for "A"s that is so stressful. Why can't teachers teach difficult material but grade easier (thus, preparing them for college due to the advanced material). They could still have difficult tests but have a large curve and allow students points for corrections. The teachers are hurting our college admissions because of their rigorous grading. My son said his AP Calc class prepared him for college due to the rigorous material, but most were confused in the class and his grade was a "C" even with a tutor. He's the only teacher my son has real hatred for. How is a "C" good for college applications?

I agree that students are missing their childhood and it's important for parents to realize that middle school grades are not considered in college admissions. We had rough 6 grade teachers a decade ago - projects on top of homework, quizzes, more projects - easily at least 4 hours of homework each night with me by his side. Sure, he got the As but I decided to drop the stress of middle school grades because I didn't want him being burnt-out by high school and this was a good decision.

Re "Independent"s posting on red-shirting, there isn't much of it in PAUSD. Young Fives has how many classes per year vs. a grade level of 500 students?

Yes, I would love to see McGee enforce the homework rules of 15 hours M-F, none on weekends, 10 minutes per grade level for regular lanes, but I am extremely doubtful it's possible.

Posted by Accountability
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 4, 2016 at 4:19 pm

"I would love to see McGee enforce the homework rules of 15 hours M-F, none on weekends, 10 minutes per grade level for regular lanes, but I am extremely doubtful it's possible."

Why is this not possible?

Does he not run the school?

Is he unwilling to fulfill his responsibility to manage staff?

That would be a disastrous failing of public faith...

Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm


The redshirting was my first exposure to the lengths parents will go to, in order for their child to dominate. My son
has a fall birthday, so after two years of preschool i registered him for kindergarten. When he started kindergarten at
4 (was 5 within 2 months), he was with some 6 year olds. I was so surprised. Thereafter, when they changed the cut
off date to September, I have been told that now summer birthdays are held back. When will it stop......

Such craziness, and as it turns out, the kids that are held don't continue to dominate. Must be a big shock to
the poor kids when they find out there "edge" is short lived.

Posted by Independence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2016 at 8:01 pm

@palo alto,
That's just it, though, I'm not sure it is short lived. Studies show trachers favor developmentally advanced students. Have you read "Outliers"? There's that issue, too, of cumulative favoratism. PAUSD has never been willing to deal with this issue.

Posted by Independence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2016 at 8:10 pm

The question you should be asking is why you have no mechanism to hold anyone in PAUSD accountable for monumental failures, dishonesty, incompetence, poor performnce, overcompensation, etc. Board policies are allegedly "binding" but what does that even mean when anyone misbehaving can give parents the finger and go back to doing whatever they want? All the rules are intended to give local control, but what good is it when that means someone locally can abuse their power same as anyone else?

You car about accountability - please organize a movement to introduce mechanisms of accountability. The board is legally the entity that has the power to adopt such rules. If that's not possible, I think it's statewide referendum. The other possibility is to see what can be inserted legally in our City charter.

Posted by Accountability
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 4, 2016 at 9:53 pm

What is not clear is whether the Super lacks the authority to manage staff, lacks the desire to manage staff, or lacks the stones to deal with the conflict.

If he lacks legal authority, we should Recharter all schools immediately in a form that has the authority. I believe charter schools have that authority.

If he lacks desire or will, he should step up, or stand down. He should not let his orders be publicly ignored; it undermines his credibility and leadership. The accountability limbo state is a violation of the public trust he has been granted.

Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 4, 2016 at 10:14 pm

Charter schools are accountable to the instantaneous vector sum of the whims of whatever parents happen to be the most vociferous at any given moment. They succeed to the extent that the students shield themselves from the storm raging above them. Savvy charter school students prosper by following their native inclination to ignore parents and authority.

Posted by Independence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2016 at 11:10 pm

That's an interesting parent-hating interpretation if charter school success. Or perhaps success from involved parents is why Governor Brown has a big initiative acknowledging the importance of involved parents.

I find this parent-hating perspective a real unicorn - something everyone recognizes, has heard great tales of, and seems to think is everywhere, but no one I know has ever seen. The Stanford pusher for example - never ever seen the creature in all my years here. Even parents I don't like. (The overpaid administrator willing to put their backside above children's wellbeing, all too real.)

McGee surrounded himself by people ready to circle the wagons once he was in among them. He embraced the insularity from the start. Since there are no mechanisms as you seem aware for accountability, he really had no reason to even care about anyone trying to bring wrongs to his attention. No mystery.

Posted by @Commentator
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2016 at 8:01 am


Trying to make sense of your descriptions of charter schools.

There are many misperceptions about charter schools, and they're often confused with the school voucher system. Charter schools are public, non-religious schools. The charters vary for each school, so there can be a huge difference between the nature and goals of one charter school compared to the next.

For some families in this area, a charter school might offer some relief from the issues that people mention as problems in the district: no homework; a more flexible and individualized curriculum; the ability to sleep longer in the mornings; a bit of freedom from the test-driven academic environment (though charters, being public schools, must have their students take standardized/Common Core tests).

Not claiming public charter schools to be perfect solutions but alternatives to "regular" public schools.

Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Kids aren't fragile little angels. Youth has the remarkable ability to find a second wind. Hard work and studying is a GOOD thing, but it has to be worthwhile.

The problem is NOT the workload or hours spent sleeping.

It's the fact that vaunted "education" is about credentials over actual experience. Students aren't dumb, they know they're being lied to, but they figure that it's prudent to go to college so they grudgingly do the work (instead of finding a passion) as a means to an end. To make money. To get a degree to make money.

It's based in fear of future financial security.
The focus should be to develop a particular skillset in order to to find work.

If kids focused on acquiring new skills instead of acquiring credentials, they would be more excited about learning... rather than rushing to get it out of the way so wethey can go find much needed relief in PARTYING.

It's not the amount of work. It's the MEANINGLESSNESS of the work.

Posted by Accountability
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 5, 2016 at 7:08 pm

I disagree with the above post in some respects:

Students don't set the curriculum, classwork or goals. They also want to be respected, treated fairly, and try to ease their parents and role models.

SOooo, if they ignore school, and focus in skills only, they will be pressured by teachers, and peers. Judged a failure. Called names, bullied by staff, cajoled, ridiculed and shamed.

It is not a system that tolerates individuals pursuing their own goals.

So, while it is a nice sentiment, in practice that student would lead a lonely, isolated and persecuted existence.

Not a healthy place to be a kid.

Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2016 at 7:28 pm

Well then its a system that is not tolerable. I certaintly didn't tolerate Gunn. And your post actually describes exactly what I went though. For daring to not do school and pursue my passions, I was definitely ostracized at Gunn. What you describe above is exactly what happened! I am living proof.

So the conclusion: an individual in school pursuing passions and gaining skills is wrong. This makes him isolated. It is right to accept meaningless work and conform so one can fit in the high school atmosphere which badly misrepresents the real world to the youth who are herded in there every day.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 5, 2016 at 10:09 pm

High school atmosphere badly misrepresents the real world?? Jobs and careers in the real world are full of meaningless work. Conform or be isolated. Good luck trying to be a maverick rock star out there. Even people who join the Peace Corps often return disillusioned.

Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2016 at 6:35 am

Musical, I find your post so offensive I don't even know where to begin.

1. The job I have today is definitely not meaningless.

2. The real problem is Common Core and teaching to the test. When I took AP English at Gunn the teacher was obsessed with formatting college essays. She had no insight into the literature itself. I dropped the class because I was learning nothing at an "AP" class.

3. Believe it or not there are kids at school suffering right now because no one speaks for them. I am here to speak for them.

4. Mocking ambition is the last thing you should be doing to anyone. We need more entrepreneurs and less consumers.

5. I wonder if posting here is a waste of time... I ought to be out there setting an example. I think I can make a better point outside of being a keyboard warrior at "paloaltoonline" for Chrissake.

Posted by Careful
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 6, 2016 at 1:14 pm

@ Independence - thank you for defending parents as a whole in your above post and sharing what your experience tells you is the true norm among Palo Alto parents. I agree with you.

And I would suggest that, in that same spirit, you reconsider your earlier post and use of the term, "redshirting" for what it suggests about PA parents. Given what this article is all about, it is much more likely that the Kindergarten of today (and its "curriculum") is no longer developmentally appropriate for "old fours" (understated), that today's engaged and loving parents are keenly aware of this and that this new state of affairs is the real driver for parents seeking programs like Young Fives, etc.

Like you, I haven't seen the kind of parents so often described in the pejorative as "the typical Palo Alto parent". Nor have I experienced "redshirting" as you describe it in your post (holding kids back specifically "so they will be developmentally advanced compared to their peers"). It is (to me) consistent with your other comments that local school practices are so out-of-synch and out-of-control, that parent decision-making is driven in large part by THESE realities, made in the best interest of their child's long-term health and well-being - and not out of parent-to-parent or child-to-child hyper-competitiveness.

Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2016 at 8:57 pm

No, teachers not giving instruction or following state guidelines for simple a-g credit is making them sick.

Instead of following a syllabus, teachers have total freedom to stack tests or give silly 3 page rubrics for a one page essay.

Students have to get outside tutoring to fill in missing instruction only to find out the teachers put stuff on tests that are not in texts, lectures or curriculum. ap tests questions on general chem classes force students to overstudy and still just get 80 percent ( actually a pretty good ap test grade but still a B at PALY)

Our brightest kids are just getting dim.

Posted by Independence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2016 at 10:01 pm

I'm not sure I understand your post. Redshirting was a much worse issue when the cutoff date was December. But the kids hurt by those practices - which the district encouraged - are still in the system.

I don't think it's possible to conclude anything about the parents except that they care about doing what's best for their kids. What are they supposed to do in a system that penalizes creative energy and where they might be sending a child with kids up to two years older in the same class? They didn't create the situation, but have to make choices for their children's best interests. The district has a young fives program but chooses to enroll by lottery and sibling preference (huh?) rather than by recommendations of teachers once school starts. By that alone the district is arbitrarily picking winners and losers since they don't even acknowledge much less deal with the consequences down the line. The difference between a mature 14-year-old and a young 12-year-old is huge, especially for boys.

Thank you for defending parents, too.

Posted by Careful
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 7, 2016 at 9:25 am

@ Independence - in my post I was asking you to reflect on your characterization of parents by your use of language - the very term, "redshirting" - and description of it, that implicates parents as hyper-competitive, suggesting their motivation to delay their child's entry to Kindergarten is a strategy based in competitiveness with other children (something you later tell others is a unicorn story).

Your words - "Add to your list : redshirting. The practice of holding kids back so they will be older and developmentally more advanced compared to their peers in the same grade. ...Imagine having opportunities and even the level of instruction throughout school determined by precocious boys who are up to two years older than yours in the same grade."

I have always found the term, "redshirting" (in reference to families choosing a developmentally-based program and timing of Kindergarten entry) offensive. Perhaps it implies different things to different people - I took it as critical of parents not schools. If that was not your intent, I'm glad we had this exchange.

Posted by Independence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2016 at 9:48 am

The trouble is that what happened here was something else entirely. Redshirting also implies just a few people are doing something to make their child stand out. PAUSD administrators have contributed to creating a situation in which large swaths of classes are developmentally further along than even a few students sometimes, but where the teachers have no ability to refer the lagging students (for whatever reason) to young fives. They certainly have little recourse as the differences become differences in opportunity and self-esteem. By the time kids hit middle school, the administration thinks nothing of it at all. Differences in maturity become discipline problems. Kids get laned with no regard to differences in background (as opposed to aptitude, which can level things out fast idpf teaching is good). The situation can even backfire on those redshirted in late high school as they find it isn't so easy to stand out. Our administration did nothing to look at this or any other potential aspect of the crisis where they didn't want light shone. The result is that problems go unsolved and our students remain vulnerable.

Posted by pamom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2016 at 11:11 am

Another problem to consider, Paly is touting streaming all students, including those with learning disabilities, in just one English class -- one lane for all. There is an excellent editorial in today's (Jan. 10th) San Jose Mercury News by Esther Cepeda, titled "Special education training is lacking for our schools." Apparently, this practice is nation wide. Maybe it's done to save money, but it's not good for the students. A student who can't read is mixed in with the ablest students. How can that be good? Excellent editorial

This is just another way our students can be stressed and not get the support they need.

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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.