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School board to discuss superintendent's long-term plan

Original post made on Mar 11, 2019

The Palo Alto school board will on Tuesday continue to review Superintendent Don Austin's proposed three-year plan for the district, focusing on sections related to teaching, learning and special education.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 11, 2019, 11:27 AM

Comments (16)

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2019 at 11:57 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I am so there.
Mark Weiss

Fremont Hills, Terman, Gunn
1974-1982


13 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 11, 2019 at 10:55 pm

And how is this plan so different from PAUSD's previous plan(s)? And what will PAUSD do to hold people accountable for making progress toward its goals?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2019 at 9:43 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2019 at 10:17 am

You would think that after the events of the last decade, school board members would have learned something about the districts legal obligation towards Special Ed students. (Not to mention moral obligation...)

>> Board member Melissa Baten Caswell also urged him to make sure the plan reflects all of the district's students, citing parents who are concerned that the plan's performance indicators focus mostly on improving outcomes for needy students.

e.g. It looks like about 50-60% of Gunn students go to selective colleges after graduation:

Web Link

But, Caswell/"parents" are concerned that the other 40% not get too much "focus"? Sheesh. Even in Palo Alto, not "all the children are above average."


9 people like this
Posted by Repeat
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:22 pm

I guess Board Member Melissa Baten Caswell has been asleep through the last two years of Board Meetings, and missed the fact that despite the money spent, PAUSD disabled students are at the bottom of Math and English. The Board demanded these children also be educated, like the law says. Like is fair and equal.

So yes, of course, following a plan to teach disabled students whom you previously tossed down the sewer is costing more. The Board told the Administration to spend time and funds to fix Special Education. Now that it agreed to a plan, the District's budget chief (who is not a teacher) and apparently Ms. Baten Caswell want to prevent it. They want to start something and don't finish it. Another waste of money and a recipe for failure.

Be cautious about giving Baten Caswell credibility. She was a primary source of the legal problems in past years. She criticized families of disabled and bullied students from the Board dias and fought for a resolution opposing the work of the Office of Civil Rights to investigate and require PAUSD to stop discriminating against disabled students, denying them an education due to bullying. She argues she is most experienced and knowledgeable board member, but was at the helm bringing all the sexual harassment and legal problems, not to mention the pain it has caused children.


8 people like this
Posted by Repeat
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Advanced plans to reduce aides and NPS attendance for disabled children is illegal. This discriminates against the disabled and disadvantaged students. That is why there are civil rights laws against it. That is why there has been such high legal fees in the past years.

Decisions on aides and NPS school attendance are made for each individual child by educators and informed by extensive educational data and evaluations. They are not made by budget chiefs.

The Board cannot conclude now, in advance of implementing Special Education program changes, that these changes will work. So the Board cannot decide now children will not need aides and NPS and cut those from the budget. Let's look at some of the changes: the District plans to hire only 2 more Special Education teachers. This is not going to make a massive change for most students.

Regarding Special Education costs increasing, it is true hiring two more Special Education teachers will cost more in salary. How much do regular education teachers cost? More teachers seems much cheaper than the legal fees, and teachers do more lifetime good.

For Aide costs, aides are part time, usually with no benefits. If an Aide makes, let's say $26 an hour, and an attorney charges $290-400 an hour, I prefer we spend the money on the aides. You get a lot more for your money.


5 people like this
Posted by Pa parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2019 at 8:30 pm

The equity plan wasn’t implemented.
The general education teachers have nit been trained for inclusion. They treat all Special needs the same and penalize students for behavior they are incapable of. Instead of thinking, “it doesn’t appear what i’m doing is working,” and try something different, they give the student an “F” or “D-“ for not being able to do the homework they assign”

The IEP goals are useless as the school does not write effective IEPs. PHP Organization reviewed a number of PAUSD IEPs and they found that 100% of the goals of most of the IEPs were invalid for various reasons and therefore evidence of IDEA law violations. If your child transfers in, the District changes the goals as well as the services based on what they have completely contrary to what is medically and professionally prescribed. The transition plan basically required the student to name 2 colleges. No research or education around the relevance was provided and the Colleges named were the two offered by the case manager. Yup, kid is ready for college!

So I don’t see measuring the goals achieved as a measure that will drive better education.

@parent
And what is your contribution besides criticism? I guess your student is getting what they need and you have no perspective or empathy that someone might be in a different situation with a suffering child.


2 people like this
Posted by Greene and Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 13, 2019 at 9:50 am

@Repeat
What you seem to be missing is that data and experience from our neighbors show that in order to support any one group of students, we need to think holistically about our program and have KPIs that are adequate to measure growth for all our children, including the 70% that are "above state standards" and the 10% that are below it.

In particular, the grade level standards and UC a-g are not adequate goal posts to measure growth for the vast majority of our PAUSD students. By under serving them, we help no one.

A close look at our middle school math program shows that we are underserving the 70% that exceed standards (by not providing them adequate placement at all (top 35%) or by providing highly imbalanced pathway that tripps many of those that can not afford expensive tutors (35%)) and at the same time we are underserving the struggling 10% (by not providing adequate school-time intervention and instead placing them in their primary learning time with already-proficient students).

Data comparing PAUSD middle school math with nearby districts (Los Altos and Menlo Park) shows we are doing worse for everyone despite higher budget (fraction of 6th and 8th graders exceeding standards adjusted for demographics white/Asian/Latino) and significantly worse for our white students. This despite our much higher spending, our more educated population, and goal posts that are most appropriate for the bulk of the white demographics.

The difference is that Los Altos and Menlo Park offer broader programs that can support all their students and data-driven continuous improvement of their pathways. They show us that it is not that supporting one group takes resources from another. On the contrary, supporting the needs of one group, including providing their stronger students with appropriate placement and pathways, and provifing 2-period targetted intervention for struggling students, allows for better results for everyone else. Our narrow pathways with placement of struggling students with already-proficient students in limited-curriculum middle school courses makes the courses ineffective for all -- including students for which the curriculum is appropriate.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2019 at 11:49 am

Posted by Greene and Paly parent, a resident of Professorville

>> What you seem to be missing is that data and experience from our neighbors show that in order to support any one group of students, we need to think holistically about our program and have KPIs that are adequate to measure growth for all our children, including the 70% that are "above state standards" and the 10% that are below it.

Are saying that PAUSD is not supporting above-average students? If that is what you are saying, well, "ROFLMAO". Many would say that PAUSD -only- supports above-average students. And, at the other end of the scale, as we have seen from what has gone public because of lawsuits and other controversies, special-needs students have been -at best- neglected during the last decade-- and worse.

OTOH, if you are criticizing PAUSD math, then, I would agree with you. But, it isn't easy to implement a program of deeper understanding in any subject when the educational tide is pushing for more and more memorization. Oh well. I hear that Sacred Heart and Menlo have deeper math programs than PAUSD.


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Posted by Greene and Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 13, 2019 at 2:27 pm

@Anon

Yes, I was specifically talking about our middle school math. And I was not comparing to Sacred Heart or Menlo that are private and more selective/resourced. I was comparing to Menlo Park (MPCSD) and Los Altos (LASD) public school districts that offer broader programs and data shows that their middle schoolers are doing better in math (per cohort) than PAUSD students.

Here is what I mean by PAUSD "not supporting" the 70%. It is all relative and compared to neighboring districts.

Our top 35% math students (in middle school) are already exceeding standards of the next grade level, so their placement in math6 to math7A is not suitable -- in Menlo Park or Los Altos they would be in a compacted accelerated pathway and a full grade level ahead. Many families respond by enrolling in after school programs that cost thousands of dollars per year (Russian math, Classic math, Mathnesium, CTY, Sequoia....). The students lose after school time and parents pay and shuttle students just to get to where they would be in Los Altos, Menlo Park, and other districts.

Our next 35% have (and should) Algebra in 8th grade as a goal post. But they have an imbalanced pathway that starts with ineffective 6th grade and ends with triple accelerated pacing at the end of 8th grade. Many of these students struggle at that point and need tutors (I hear Stanford students are making $100+ an hour!). But in districts with more balanced programs over 6-8th, they would do fine without external help.

My point is that we need to pay attention to these students as well (the 70%). The fact that their ability to follow their natural trajectory depends so heavily on family resources is not equitable and not fair. To support them better, we don't even need much more resources. We need to place them correctly and we need braoder pathways, similar to other school districts. To get there, we need to to have KPIs that are focused on growth for every student with respect to where they are, and looking at measures that are more relevant to our population: Fraction proficeint in Algebra or Geometry end of 8th grade rather than only looking at the fraction meeting minimum state standard.

I completely agree that it is critically important to support special ed students. But it is not one or the other. We can have KPIs for special ed and we can have KPIs for everyone else. All kids deserve a program that can meet them where they are and take them to their potential.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Posted by Greene and Paly parent, a resident of Professorville:

>> I completely agree that it is critically important to support special ed students. But it is not one or the other.

I agree with you on that. PAUSD is wasting a lot of money to not do the right thing.

>> All kids deserve a program that can meet them where they are and take them to their potential.

We agree on that, too. I mentioned those private schools because their math programs seem to be -deeper-. Apples and oranges I know, but, I'm not sure MPCSD/LASD because it could just be "test scores". Kids can be pushed to do better on standardized tests without significantly deepening their understanding. Memorization/calculation is half the picture; the other half is conceptual. Specifically, I mean something like this (in physics): Web Link I'm not interested in pushing the memorization/calculation side far beyond the conceptual understanding. I think it is pointless at best, and, probably even counterproductive.


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Posted by Greene and Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 13, 2019 at 6:47 pm

@Anon

PAUSD and MPCSD both use the "Big Ideas" curriculum. Los Altos might also use this or something similar. Yes, my comparison is based on SBAC CAASPP scores, which are the only ones available for such comparison. I looked at the fraction in "level4" (exceeding standard).

The comparison is valid with respect to the curriculum taught. You ask if it is "deep". I would not say that. My favourites for K-12 math are the Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) books that walk students through deriving everything themselves. It is really nice, but perhaps not suitable for all our students (only the top 50%+).

Our H lane (high school honors math) at PAUSD is very nice, with deep curriculum, everything is derived, and excellent teachers. It goes well beyond what is needed simply to do well in BC calc. Our middle school program has to fit too large a spectrum of students into very rigid limited courses. At this point I am advocating that as done in neighboring districts, our students should be able to move at suitable pacing through the offered CCSS aligned curriculum. Either by placement into most suitable course or compacted accelerated organic pathways (better). Ideally, they would be able to do deeper math as enrichment concurrently. Right now there is only one MS course, GeometryH, that very few students can access, that offers "deep" curriculum (much better than the HS GeometryH course, includes propositional logic and more).



3 people like this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2019 at 7:21 pm

Alum is a registered user.

I am curious where the dialogue on these issues between the community and the school district is happening. Special ed, math lanes, HUR performance, etc... the list goes on.

Right now it seems a large portion of the "conversation" is in the form of emails to board/cabinet members, 3 minute mini-speeches at board meetings, and comments on PAO. Are there other avenues for discussion being pursued?

I wonder if town hall style forums on some of these larger issues might help bring all involved parties together--teachers, parents, district staff, board members, and well... students.


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Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2019 at 8:05 pm

Alum is a registered user.

Ok I think my previous comment might get roasted so adding on before that happens. Not at all trying to imply that community advocates are solely complaining.

I really do mean "Are there other avenues for discussion being pursued?" as a serious question about the effectiveness of different interactions with the district. What has worked, what hasn't?

It really seems there are a lot of people that want to help the district be the best it can.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2019 at 10:59 am

Posted by Greene and Paly parent, a resident of Professorville

>> My favourites for K-12 math are the Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) books that walk students through deriving everything themselves. It is really nice, but perhaps not suitable for all our students (only the top 50%+).

Thanks for the pointer. This textbook series seems to have come along fairly recently and I am not familiar with it. It sounds excellent.


3 people like this
Posted by Greene and Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 15, 2019 at 5:41 pm

My experience is that dealing with PAUSD administration is frustrating even when the issue is as mandane as proper math placement (which does not require additional resources). There is a practice of secret deals, cover ups of malpractice (instead of using exposed issues to correct their process), lack of transparancy, data phobia, withholding data from families, and stonewalling. Our board members do listen, but seem to view their role as more limited compared with boards at neighboring districts. Sometimes it is mind boggling.

I can not even imagine what the district does to families of special ed students that are much more vulnerable, may have fewer options, and desperately need additional resources to thrive.


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