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Deep divisions, further delay for California's math guidelines

Original post made on Jul 29, 2022

The debate over new state math guidelines is a reminder that divisions remain deep over approaches to instruction, the pacing of algebra in middle school and the offerings at high school.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 29, 2022, 9:35 AM

Comments (37)

Posted by John
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 29, 2022 at 10:13 am

John is a registered user.

I grow frustrated that a site which flogged the “anti-Asian hate” up and down over the past year doesn’t hesitate to pretend they don’t exist in order to maintain a narrative about “students of color.” Yes African American and Hispanic kids under perform in math. If we truly care about helping them and not just repeating the word equity ad nauseam (Ma Bernadette Andres-Salgarino‘s quote) , we’ve got to be honest about who is succeeding and why. Lowering performance standards or pushing algebra to 9th grade might let educators pretend they’ve solved the achievement gap, but these kids will suffer down the line so educators can check a box today.


Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2022 at 10:49 am

S. Underwood is a registered user.

The PA Online editors can do whatever they want, but I don't support repasting EdSource articles here. It's not local news, nor without its own support-network and slant, and anyone who wants to read EdSource can do so there.

Take this analogy. If I (an individual) were copy-pasting comments from broader news outlets into this comment section, you'd have qualms. And rightly so. Let's keep local news local.


Posted by Bob Shackleford
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2022 at 10:55 am

Bob Shackleford is a registered user.

"pushing algebra to 9th grade..."

Those of us old enough to remember will recall when Algebra I was a 9th grade/high school freshman course.

Why force it upon grammar/middle school kids? Basic arithmetic skills should suffice.

Lily Tomlin said it best..."Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat".


Posted by John
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 29, 2022 at 11:49 am

John is a registered user.

“Basic arithmetic skills should suffice.” Well, doing the minimum didn’t make me successful, but you do you.

Perhaps PAUSD could put the Tomlin quote over the main entrance of every high school. It would help remind the kids not to try too hard


Posted by Harold Washington
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2022 at 1:21 pm

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"Basic arithmetic skills should suffice."

Not everyone needs Algebraic proficiency.

It depends on one's career objectives and the prerequisites pursuent to those goals.

Who cares when two trains travelling from opposite directions at different speeds while making stops of varying times along the way will pass each other?

All that matters is that both trains are on different tracks.


Posted by Donya
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 29, 2022 at 2:27 pm

Donya is a registered user.

Thank you for publishing this article. I had no idea about this and I am concerned about watering down math standards.
What we really need are better math teachers, starting at grade 1, who will do a good job of teaching and instilling a love of the subject in the kids.
If we weaken math standards for the sake of equity the trajectory of our country will be less competitive in the STEM fields.


Posted by Ethel Wynn
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2022 at 2:47 pm

Ethel Wynn is a registered user.

Advanced math isn't for everyone. It depends on one's career aspirations.

Proficiency in the 3Rs is far more important.

Not everyone is destined to be a rocket scientist or an engineer but everyone needs to know how to balance a checkbook and read a newspaper (print or online).

By lowering the bar, everyone will have an opportunity to co-exist in the everyday world.


Posted by Anita Lewis
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2022 at 2:29 pm

Anita Lewis is a registered user.

"Who cares when two trains travelling from opposite directions at different speeds while making stops of varying times along the way will pass each other?

All that matters is that both trains are on different tracks."

^ Algebra is absolutely useless for most people unless it is part of their college breadth requirements.


Posted by Rosalinda Amaro
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2022 at 8:18 am

Rosalinda Amaro is a registered user.

My sons are training to become automotive technicians at De Anza College. Where does a proficiency in algebra enter the picture?

Fortunately algebra is not part of their curriculum as it is not needed to repair an automobile.

My other son is a heavy equipment operator and earns $135,000.00 per year as a construction site supervisor...again no need for computing silly train arrival equations.

All in all, they have a viable trade and in many instances, they will be making far more money than those forced to demonstrate proficiency in algebra.

Basic math skills are more practical in everyday life.


Posted by Hakim Moussad
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2022 at 9:13 am

Hakim Moussad is a registered user.

I agree that algebra proficiency is only important if one is going to college and planning a career where algebra is a prerequisite for acceptance to upper division coursework.

The average person will never need algebra to successfully conduct their everyday life.

It is more important to have a basic understanding of accounting (for both personal and business necessities) than solving meaningless equations to avoid train collisions and airplane arrivals.

Algebra is not for everyone nor should it be forced upon unwilling students who will never have a need for it.

Language and good communication skills are far more important.


Posted by David Johnstone
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 31, 2022 at 11:04 am

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College students majoring in 'soft majors' such as the humanities and liberal arts should not be required to demonstrate a proficiency in algebra.

A lack of mathematical proficiency is a primary reason why many of them chose easy majors in the first place.


Posted by Roberta Prescott
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 1, 2022 at 7:40 am

Roberta Prescott is a registered user.

Concurring with those questioning the practicality of algebraic proficiency.

Both matrix and linear algebra are best reserved for those going into engineering or science.

The average person will never use algebra during the course of their daily lives.

So why bother?


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2022 at 8:52 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Personally speaking, I was not good at math at school but I am pleased to have a basic understanding of Algebra, Trig and Calculus, even though they did not help me in my future career.

What would have helped me was business math. Fully understanding interest, bookkeeping, credit and debit and other terms such as economists use as jargon, converting fractions to decimals, etc.

I recently read about the time that MacDonalds first brought out the quarter pounder burger. One of the rivals decided on a 1/3 pound burger, a thirdpounder, but it flopped because the public thought it was smaller than the quarter pounder.

This type of thing shows the importance of basic math. Who needs Algebra if they can't "see" the difference between 1/4 and 1/3 in real terms?


Posted by Ariel Stein
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 1, 2022 at 9:57 am

Ariel Stein is a registered user.

> ...our country will be less competitive in the STEM fields.

>>Advanced math isn't for everyone. It depends on one's career aspirations.

>>> Algebra is absolutely useless for most people unless it is part of their college breadth requirements.

>>>> Basic math skills are more practical in everyday life.

>>>>> Language and good communication skills are far more important.

^ All excellent points as proficiency in advanced math is not a necessary prerequisite for success in life.


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2022 at 11:58 am

Citizen is a registered user.

The draft framework proposals have already led to declining math achievement at SFUSD. They put these proposals into place in fall 2014 at SFUSD (see CAASPP results).

They've also led to increased inequity at SFUSD, as students with resources go outside the decelerated SFUSD math program, so they can complete calculus in grade 12 and compete to be admitted to STEM majors in college.


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2022 at 12:00 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

The folks arguing for less math requirements above seem to think some students can't learn math - even just Algebra!


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2022 at 12:14 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

1). I do not understand why rigor and lessons based in real life application have to be mutually exclusive. Why is this even an argument when BOTH can be accomplished by any competent teacher?

2). I agree with the student above. Meaningful lessons that teach kids how to use math for practical applications: make a budget, double a recipe, construct a table, choose a better value on a hamburger, decide on a credit card deal or a mortgage offer engage them. This can be done with algebra, trig, geometry, too. These things are NOT mutually exclusive. In math, it is possible for good teachers to flexibly meet students where they are and step up rigor based on their interest and ability at every grade level.

Please stop yelling at each other and start looking for areas of consensus. By inflexibly taking hard sides. These "adults" are setting a bad example for children with their behavior, and they are failing to make progress toward decisions that will help our children. Neither is good.

Learn how to collaborate with others in problem-solving. That sometimes requires making compromises. Model good negotiation which includes being open to fully understanding alternative viewpoints. No human is infallible. Your own viewpoint may have flaws. Be open to considering that there may be flaws in your viewpoint. Be open to learning and adapting your viewpoint as you learn through the process of negotiating.

If adults no longer know how to do this, democracy is doomed. This is fundamental to how it works.


Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 1, 2022 at 8:05 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Preventing students from learning certain math subjects at an earlier age because of their race or ethnicity seems like a disservice to all students rather than "equity". Other countries are not caught up with such social constructs and work hard to educate their students better than we do.

This may be a major reason why it's disproportionately wealthier parents taking their children out of "equity"-obsessed districts like Seattle's, in favor of the true equity of a good education.


Posted by Ming Zhao
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 2, 2022 at 8:27 am

Ming Zhao is a registered user.

Excellence in mathematics is encouraged by many Asian parents because proficiency in linear algebra is important if one wishes to pursue a career in any of the STEM fields.

The humanities are considered 'filler' curriculum...best served as electives but not as a major concentration.

Anyone can excel in the humanities. All it takes is reading books and there are many non-college graduates who are very well educated from this standpoint.

Another common misconception is that Asians are naturally good at math. For some students (of any ethnicity) this may be true but after school private tutoring is emphasized by many Chinese parents who want to see their children excel in the fields of medicine, science, and technology.

High test scores and GPAs are also important towards getting into an elite college as a college diploma from an Ivy League university or UC Berkeley/Davis carries a lot of weight.

Though our children have sacrificed some aspects of youthful endeavors, they will thank us later when they are well settled and making an above average salary.






Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2022 at 11:18 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Sadly in the end it's Palo Alto property values that will drop as we continue to go down this path of academic weakening of Palo Alto education system compared to Cupertino or areas such as Los Altos.

Why not have multiple streams where the kids who want to go into STEM get to accelerate and the kids who are not thinking of STEM programs after high school go a slower route in math?

Why are we pushing all the kids into the slow route in math? Ask the STEM professors at the Colleges and Universities and see what they think of this new California Math Framework.

Realtors and homeowners should worry about who gets elected into PAUSD Board with it's 2 empty seats. Vote for weaker STEM and math programming candidates if you want weaker housing prices.


Posted by Tim Miller
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2022 at 11:55 am

Tim Miller is a registered user.

Forcing proficiency in math is reminiscent of attending high school in the mid 1960s when the late JFK's physical fitness mandates were still in play.

The harsh guidelines forced many physically unfit boys to endure brutal physical fitness regimens in high school as an ostensible prelude to potentially getting drafted and having to serve in the military during the Viet Nam War.

Physical fitness and proficiency in math should come from within...not by school administrators.


Posted by Tim Miller
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Tim Miller is a registered user.

Basing residential real estate values on academic proficiency is a superficial mindset that should be dismissed as irrelevant.

I grew up in an exclusive neighborhood (Beverly Hills) and most of my classmates were more concerned with goofing off than academic achievement.

Palo Alto is a far cry from 90210 both in residential property values and pedigree.


Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 2, 2022 at 3:36 pm

cmarg is a registered user.

I am surprised at the comment by Ming Zhao: "Excellence in mathematics is encouraged by many Asian parents because proficiency in linear algebra is important if one wishes to pursue a career in any of the STEM fields.
The humanities are considered 'filler' curriculum...best served as electives but not as a major concentration.
Anyone can excel in the humanities. All it takes is reading books and there are many non-college graduates who are very well educated from this standpoint."

Well, as a parent of a child now at Princeton, I would have to say that humanities is critical. Actually to graduate from Princeton, you write a 100 page paper in your senior year. Knowing math only is not the ticket here. The paper may be about mathematical concepts however it still requires the skills of writing and communicating. You don't gain those skills by reading a book on your own in my opinion.

The world needs people who are able to communicate with one another. Yes, STEM is important - I was a math & computer science major in college. Personally, I wish I had many more classes on writing, analyzing research and having discussions about various topics.

In my opinion, math on its own does not make a person successful. Schools and businesses want people who are well rounded. People can have an amazing 'resume' but it is the in-person interviews that matter and that is where human behavior and communication skills are key to success, in my opinion.


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2022 at 6:51 pm

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

@Tim Miller
The article is not about forcing kids to be proficient in math. It's about the New California Math Framework forcing all the kids to go super slow in Math especially compared the the rest of America.

If you liken it to the JFK physical mandates, it is saying, since there are a set of boys who are unfit, no one is allowed to run, jump or skip but everyone will be forced to walk for physical education for grades 6, 7, 8 and 9. Then the ones who are interested in physical education can only go running perhaps around grades 11 or 12.

That way the boys who are unfit won't feel bad they feel unfit. Everyone will just walk for physical education for about 4 years starting in middle school


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2022 at 6:51 pm

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

@ Tim Miller
The article is not about forcing kids to be proficient in math. It's about the New California Math Framework forcing all the kids to go super slow in Math especially compared the the rest of America.

If you liken it to the JFK physical mandates, it is saying, since there are a set of boys who are unfit, no one is allowed to run, jump or skip but everyone will be forced to walk for physical education for grades 6, 7, 8 and 9. Then the ones who are interested in physical education can only go running perhaps around grades 11 or 12.

That way the boys who are unfit won't feel bad they feel unfit. Everyone will just walk for physical education for about 4 years starting in middle school


Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 2, 2022 at 7:12 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

@cmarg I tend to think of the humanities as being more along the lines of poetry, creative writing and art history, rather than writing and communications skills. I suspect that's what Ming Zhao was referring to.

I think it's great that Princeton requires such a written project (yay!), but think that much of the writing skill for something like that does come from extensive reading of others' writing. Didn't Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin famously educate themselves through voracious reading of any books they could find? Editing and feedback are certainly necessary as well.

In our techno world, if one doesn't have the math/statistics/science background to quickly evaluate the plausibility of others' statements, one is always forced to depend on others for such evaluations -- not a good situation in life, nor when voting.


Posted by Sharon Parker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 3, 2022 at 8:26 am

Sharon Parker is a registered user.

@cmarg...
One of the reasons student loan debt has become a major issue is because far too many students borrowed money to major in the humanities and now have no viable employment options in which to repay these loans.

It is very difficult to make good on a $100K+ student loan working as a college educated barrista or food server.

Those who focused on STEM related coursework have the best chance and opportunities to repay college related debts because their degrees have a prospective vocational value.

Ming Zhao is correct. One can become proficient in the liberal arts by simply reading books.

This avenue does not require a college education unless one aspires to become a schoolteacher or just another college-educated flunkee.

As for the undergraduate Princeton 'thesis', the ability to write concisely should be mastered by the time one graduates high school.

If one cannot craft a basic thesis sentence and subsequent supporting material + conclusion by the 12th grade, they do not belong in a major college or university.

We have JCs for those who may or may not be 'college material' and for testing these waters.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Wow. The ignorance about the value of Humanities studies here is appalling (says the English major who has enjoyed a very lucrative and rewarding career).

I learned critical reasoning. I learned how to write and speak persuasively and how to form and communicate a reasoned argument to a specific audience. These are just a few of many skills I have in spades that my STEM-focused counterparts do not. They can engineer something, but I am the leader who persuades others of the value of the product they created. I am the person who motivates and mobilizes and organizes people through communications. Great leaders are creative, ethical, thoughtful, gifted communicators, versatile thinkers (all of which requires ability to work across disciplines. STEM is very important, but no moreso than Humanities. I would argue that balance is needed. Good gracious. This conversation says so much about the underpinnings of the social/ethical failures of today's tech leaders.

Finally, great teachers meet students where they are. Math is a subject that is well-suited to this approach. Every child should be offered the opportunity to reach his or her potential in every area when they are ready. Cognitive development happens at different paces for different individuals. One of my daughters struggled with Algebra in middle school, but a light bulb went off for her in high school. She got it and became an A student. I'm convinced it had more to do with her developmental readiness and maturity than anything else. Other daughter was gifted in math. She was fortunate to have a middle school teacher who offered math challenges that met her needs and engaged her in helping fellow students learn. She learned great communications and teaching skills AND advanced her math skills. Kudos to that creative teacher! BTW. That STEM-gifted child just graduated from college w/ triple-major liberal arts degree. She is doing just fine in the job market.


Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 3, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Sunshine is a registered user.

What they really need is to teach long division in a manner that the parents can understand. I finally reverted to my original lessons in long division to help my daughter get through 6th grade math. I could not figure out what they wanted the students to do to get the answer.
When she got to algebra she sailed through it. For her it was a breeze.
In case you are wondering she graduated from a UC university phi Beta Kappa.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2022 at 12:30 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Highly educated STEM major students tend to leave college with great textbook knowledge but often with no ability to adapt the knowledge into real world adaptions in their field. Their knowledge of the subject is excellent, but quite often their knowledge prevents them from the becoming proficient as a team member in a work environment.

Additionally, their real life experience is often limited. They may have very poor social skills, very poor writing and vocabulary skills, and often unable to work as part of a team or take on management roles.

Education is much more than academics. Even the ability to play a musical instrument doesn't round out a person's character.

We do need "humanities", but we also need debate, work experience, team work, travel, social skills, ability to learn how to fail and learn from it and to overcome mistakes and overcome them. These things are part of high school education that do not cover academics. Life skills is a requirement in PAUSD, but common sense is not. Sadly there are many students graduating from PAUSD and many colleges who have not mastered the art of common sense. Sometimes that can't be taught but comes from experience in the school of life.


Posted by Roger Williams
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 3, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Roger Williams is a registered user.

My clueless Millennial child/former college student (23) majored in Russian Literature at UC and is now back living at home.

Her current job is as a DoorDash delivery person...using our car.

What a waste of $175K as a college level knowledge of Russian literature is of no extrinsic value unless one elects to go into academics which also requires a Ph.D. in the same useless subject.

Who cares about Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky ramblings in the real world?

Pardon my misspelling of the latter as I could care less about 'Crime and Punishment' or the sufferings of some fictional sociopath called Raskolnikov.


Posted by Byron Tate
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 4, 2022 at 8:42 am

Byron Tate is a registered user.

Given all of the economic peaks and valleys, the key is to be practical while in college.

Major in STEM and minor in the humanities (if so desired) OR vice versa.

To major in the humanities with no apparent career goal is both a waste of financial resources and one's time.

No sympathy here for those who racked up major college student loan debt while majoring in potentially useless subject matter.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2022 at 9:29 am

Bystander is a registered user.

I recently watched an episode of Intelligence Squared on YouTube. It was a debate on the topic of Greece or Rome, the clash of civilizations. It was intelligent, entertaining, humorous and thought provoking. The speakers were Boris Johnson for Greece and Mary Beard for Rome (in case someone wants to spend some time watching it) and the audience voted before and after the speakers debated as to who they felt were the society which had contributed most.

Now I suppose most STEM supporters would not have had the desire to spend an evening watching the live debate, or the 2 hours to watch the YouTube, or the education to understand the concept of why each civilization was important to us today. Yet, both speakers who were well educated on their topics made their case in an excellent manner. It is important to note that Mary Beard is a classics professor and leader in her field and Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister of the UK.

Education is far more than being prepared for a career. It is a preparation for life. A person's career should not be the thing that defines them, but is the means to how they earn their living.

It is sad when a college graduate is unable to get a job in their field. But it is an extremely intelligent and well educated individual who can make any job including flipping burgers or pouring coffee a stepping stone to a future path of enlightened prosperity. We all know that people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were college dropouts and yet have changed the world without needing a college degree. Likewise it can be said that the most important door a college education brings is the ability to think for oneself and spend time with peers who may be the network to future achievements.

Education may be less about what you know, but who you spend time with, and the views you carry in life. Make the best of the degree, but ultimately educate your character and allow that character to define your life choices. That can't be done by reading books.


Posted by Balance
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2022 at 10:17 pm

Balance is a registered user.

Humanities, STEM skillsets contribute to our society as a whole. There may be some disagreements but that's not what the issue is here. I have a real problem with government and segments of society attacking people for achievement. It's surreal that we are injecting race into teaching a subject like math. We are attacking parents that send children to off campus classes because its not "fair". We are denying students the opportunity to excel because other students are underperforming. It's even more surreal that somehow we think it is okay to negatively impact newcomers that have no hand in past wrongs.
This is the United States of America. Let's take a look at how we can raise and encourage performance, to help our children achieve to their potential, not holding back everyone else.


Posted by Miss M. Davis
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2022 at 7:46 am

Miss M. Davis is a registered user.

When I taught math during the 1960s, I encouraged my students to to view it as an abstraction.

In other words…math is a concept with no right or wrong answers, just a consensus as to what is perceived as the correct answer.

Algebra is merely creating an equation to solve an abstract hypothesis and in the end, there is no actual answer.

DeCarte was both a philosopher and a mathematician. His classic quote “I think, therefore I am” reaffirms that we create our own realities and mathematic concepts are not etched in stone.

In ancient times, examining the stars introduced us to mathematics and mathematics in turn, will take us to the stars.

The key to excelling in mathematics is too look beyond what is generally perceived as the correct answers while making the seemingly incorrect ones more plausible.

Mathematics is a ‘humanities’ subject.











Posted by Monte Jackson
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2022 at 8:06 am

Monte Jackson is a registered user.

"...a debate on the topic of Greece or Rome...the society which had contributed most...The speakers were Boris Johnson for Greece and Mary Beard for Rome..."

^ If these ancient societies were so great, why did their civilizations (along with that of Egypt) come to an eventual end?

In the case of Greece, was it because of too much overthinking?

The Romans overexpanded their empire as did the British and BTW...Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister due to a lack of confidence in his leadership.

Outside of actual dates, the study of history is merely one of mixed opinions and many opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2022 at 9:19 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Monte.

Perhaps you should watch the debate as it covers the points you mention in great detail. Web Link Not only is it educational, it is also very entertaining.
And it could be argued that Boris was forced to resign due mainly to media interference and not letting sleeping dogs lie. The media kept rehashing the same old same old, and in the end resignations in his cabinet forced the issue. If the media hadn't kept rehashing old news, this would not have had the resignation circus effect. You may be interested to note that there are many in the Tory party who would prefer Johnson to remain as opposed to the 2 choices left in the race.


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