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Palo Alto school board to consider divisive English Language Arts curriculum on Tuesday

Original post made on May 10, 2022

On Tuesday evening, the Palo Alto school board will vote on a new English Language Arts curriculum that a number of teachers who were on a district committee said should be scrapped.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 9:50 AM

Comments (19)

Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on May 10, 2022 at 11:40 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

How many dyslexic students make up the population of PAUSD students that the PAUSD is devoting such a huge budget of 2.5 million solely to dyslexic learners? Does Kimberly Eng Lee have a child who has dyslexia? Curious what percentage of parents sitting on that committee personally have dyslexia or children who have dyslexia? What was their agenda and motivations? Who picked these parents and how did those particular parents get onto that committee?

I'm all for meeting the needs of the learner. I am not okay with all the budget being hyper-focused into one singular disability group while we squash down the needs of all the other learners out there in PAUSD and dismantle programs and needs of other students.

Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 10, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

The 12th paragraph here packs a real jolt.

Our city's teachers have informed us that, this year, fully half of them have "low to very low morale."

Discouraged teachers in the classroom equals discouraged students.

For all I know, the school board may be feeling discouraged too!—as well as Palo Alto parents. But it is the community's job to look into this problem, think hard about it, and act.

Otherwise we will be adding to the record rates of American youth—as reported from the front page of the NY Times on May 9th—who are now crowding the emergency rooms of our hospitals.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2022 at 12:47 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Education is not a one size fits all situation. We cannot dumb down the curriculum for those with faster learning abilities so that the slower learners can keep up. That is not how life works. Every child should be able to reach their full potential but treating them all the same is only going to cause problems for those who are bored with such a slow progress.

Posted by panative
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2022 at 3:33 pm

panative is a registered user.

I'm a Palo Alto parent and I listened at the board meeting last week. It sounds like these new reading curriculum options would require classes to learn reading in a single group and all at the same speed. I don't think this works for kids below grade level or for kids above grade level. Certainly math would never be taught this way so I don't know why reading should be.

Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on May 10, 2022 at 4:18 pm

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Actually math is being taught this way. It is the new way the Dr. Austin has determined PAUSD will be teaching maths. Sounds like they are now including English.
At some point property value will go down as education curriculum at PAUSD gets progressively worse

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2022 at 4:40 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

Don't worry. Folks will just start doing ELA outside of their PAUSD schools, like they already do in droves for math. That means less to do for the district, so they'll consider it a win-win.

Seriously thought, it takes a LOT for teachers to speak out against what they are being asked to do. All of their incentives argue against it. When that happens, we should take it very seriously.

Posted by local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 10, 2022 at 4:48 pm

local gurl is a registered user.

The Palo Alto school district did a terrible job teaching language skills to my mildly learning disabled son. That failure has lifelong consequences. They initially refused to acknowledge that he was having difficulty as early as second grade, and then refused to test him until I forced the issue several years later. Whatever they can do to remedy this mess for future students would be welcomed.

Posted by Alice
a resident of College Terrace
on May 10, 2022 at 5:33 pm

Alice is a registered user.

The district is really clinging to the 4 teachers that wanted to vote but were intimidated. Interesting storyline…I have never met an elementary teacher that I found intimidating, they are usually the exact opposite of intimidating. Do you know what IS intimidating? Being called into the principals office at the bequest of the superintendent to ask why you didn’t vote, and then have that turned into “data”for a board document.

Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 10, 2022 at 7:34 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

This highlights the issue with this board. The story quotes Jennifer DiBrienza in the story regarding reopening schools, "They did what they were taught by Superintendent Don Austin: "stay in their lane" and defer to the experts."

Why is the Superintendent teaching the board? Don Austin works FOR the board. Why is a board member letting the Superintendent tell her how to do her job? Is she that weak-minded that she can't speak up for what she believes is right?

Get a backbone Jennifer!

Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 10, 2022 at 7:39 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

@Palo Alto Res - Yes, Don Austin needs to dumb down the curriculum so that he is able to understand it himself!

Ken Dauber says that the process wasn't perfect and the material isn't perfect, but let's go ahead anyway and see how it goes. Good thing he's not a pilot, or a doctor...

Dharap says that 20 teachers didn't vote so maybe they DID want to approve it. That's what I call high quality data analysis.

Posted by Amy
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2022 at 8:13 pm

Amy is a registered user.

Palo Alto Res:
Pausd did a study released in 2020 that found that 26% of kinders were at risk of dyslexia. You can Google “pausd dyslexia study” and find more information.

Posted by Forever Name
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2022 at 8:46 pm

Forever Name is a registered user.

Re: Jennifer DiBrienza " listened to the public health experts, who said it was OK to reopen the schools. In hindsight, it turned out to be a good decision, she said."

How intereseting that PAUSD School Board member Jennifer DiBrienza gives herself and the rest of the School Board credit for "listening to the public health experts" and "reopening schools" for in person learning even though teachers wanted to stay closed in Aug 2020. DiBrienza's statement is FALSE. DiBrienza and the ENTIRE School Board UNANIMOUSLY voted in Aug 2020 to keep the secondary schools 7-12th closed based on histrionics of the Teachers Unions!!! The School Board voted to keep secondary 7-12th fully online in Aug 2020 in spite of parents/students voicing they wanted to return in person, who spoke at endless zoom Board Meetings, who created an organization to advocate for 7-12 in person along with Stanford/UCSF doctors, and even a parent/student protest. Board dismissed relevant data!

Now there is clear data that the PA Board's decision, including DiBrienza, to keep 7-12th schools closed for in person learning in Aug 2020 was wrong, destructive, and created life long learning gaps especially for students of color. A travesty!

How can DiBrienza who was part of that Board vote in the fall of 2020 to keep 7-12th schools closed for in person learning for at least SIX months (which turned into EIGHT months!), now claim she ignored teachers and opened schools??? TOTALLY False. Secondary schools were closed for in person learning March 2020 until March 2021! ONE YEAR!!!

NYT, 5/5/2022, by David Leonhardt, Pulitzer Prize Winner
"New research is showing the high costs of long school closures"
Web Link
"Academic researchers have since been studying the subject, and they have come to a consistent conclusion: Remote learning was a failure."."A generational loss." "school closures widened both economic and racial inequality".

Posted by ML Kyle
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 11, 2022 at 8:48 am

ML Kyle is a registered user.

Horseshoe theory strikes again. Ultra left and ultra right both seem to agree that minorities are incapable of achievement. Black and hispanics are not allergic to being held to a high standard and it benefits everyone. Enough of this bigotry of low expectations from these liberal white saviors. Educate our kids.

Posted by AP
a resident of College Terrace
on May 11, 2022 at 5:59 pm

AP is a registered user.

Congrats JDB on voting on behalf of our students.
Mr. Dauber while
I whole heartedly disagree with your need to treat education like a Silicon Valley Company at least you are consistent. You also did a great job saving Ms. Ladomirak from the embarrassment of her self created double standard. She loves to follow the rules and be in compliance, except for when she doesn’t. Like suggesting we just adopt Benchmark Workshop since they’re “basically the same” no need for teachers to pilot. If that isn’t a position of privilege and arrogance I don’t know what is.
Congratulations to the high school reps that presented a well thought out perspective without being “emotional”.
Ms. Ladomirak tried to “teach” them that differentiation is not a curriculum thing, but a how you teach reading thing. She clearly doesn’t understand what Direct Instruction is, it doesn’t build in differentiation by it’s very design. She is not an educator and she should not be speaking as if she is.
Two groups spoke last night parents upset about an after school care decision Don Austin made, and teachers on a pilot committee. There was a clear and common theme.
This administration will do what he wants and how he wants. He is not interested in parents or teachers. But no one is surprised by this outcome. The board got exactly who they wanted. He was known in Palos Verdes for this leadership style.

Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2022 at 6:20 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

So true, @AP. This leadership style was well known to anyone doing a cursory look at Austin's history. We parents are the ones who can influence this the most. I urge you all to reach out to Board members and tell them what you think. If you think a leader with plummeting morale in his midst, a bullying style who is only interested in "good news" is a problem, the Board needs to know your opinion. If any of you have seen the video of his unguarded comments to that for-profit childcare provider where he savaged PACCC, and mocked their work; you should shudder because this is the way he talks in private about us parents, teachers and who knows, maybe even students. We can do better.

Posted by Roy M
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2022 at 9:38 am

Roy M is a registered user.

Sorry, but what was the result of the discussion at the School Board meeting? @AP references it, but I can't understand the comments without the context since I wasn't there. I was hoping that there would be a follow-up story reporting on the meeting.

It seems that since Elena left, Palo Alto Online doesn't regularly report on school board meetings. I miss that since I am interested, but I don't have the time or patience to sit through the meetings.

Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jul 28, 2022 at 10:44 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

Well, @Roy M, it's a little complicated. They voted to adopt the curriculum that Mr.Don and his administration were pushing - although one wonders if the decision was pre-ordained. Teachers made quite a few substantive comments about their misgivings with the adopted curriculum. They were summarily dismissed without adressing the substance of the comments. Mr.Don and his team put up some slides showing how everything will be amazing. Some of the trustees said some things- but Ms. Ladomirak's comments were particularly hectoring. All in all it was a demonstration of how a strong bureaucrat like Mr. Don can ram through whatever he wants. The trustees have bought the whole narrative. If this adoption is "successful" then it all redounds to the glory of Mr. Don. If the adoption is not "successful" then he has a ready excuse. All those pesky women teachers who complained. Either way, mr. don wins. Finally, in an incredibly rare moment (like this never happens) the trustees actually were not unanimous! Democracy! Trustee Jennifer voted against.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2022 at 6:28 am

S. Underwood is a registered user.

"Many teachers have told the Palo Alto Educators Association they will not serve on district committees in the future because they feel their input doesn't matter, [T Baldwin] said." Wow.

Imagine how parents feel, because teachers (collectively) have way more sway than individual parents. If teachers are ignored by this district management and leadership, just imagine the parents' experience.

Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 29, 2022 at 2:23 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

Quite right, @underwood. Parents and teachers have been put at arms length by this administration. This article is prime evidence that teachers do not hold the power you think they do. Mr.Don and his team were accidently contemptuous toward teachers at times in this process- they are usually more careful. Parents really hold all the cards here through the democratic process. Some of out trustees are more closed off than others. Many don't want to hear from us voters at all, except at election time. Evidence of that is the trustee debate over Zoom commenting. It's very clear that several trustees are walking a tightrope of wanting to end Zoom participation forever, while appearing to support it. This is an institution that needs to redouble its efforts toward positive, honest relationships with stakeholders - parents, voters, teachers and many more. We are all being "managed" using the crude tools of the stiff arm, the relentless positive spin, and the labelling of disagreement as something to be squelched, rather than engaging on the merits. We can do better.

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