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District: Advanced math class will earn college, but not high school, credit

Original post made on May 24, 2023

Responding to complaints swirling about an advanced math class, Palo Alto Unified School District issued a definitively worded letter on May 19 stating what it would and wouldn't offer with respect to multivariable calculus.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 24, 2023, 11:26 AM

Comments (21)

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2023 at 1:00 pm

Silver Linings is a registered user.

This is another example of process over students. And an example--rife in this town--of people making technical, detailed arguments that sound good but may be factually wrong or inapplicable to the issue at hand, to excuse not working with people to solve problems.

Austin is being too inflexible and not honoring these students' goals.

First of all, when a high school teacher teaches a college course at the high school, it's called "concurrent enrollment”, not “dual enrollment”. (NACEP defines concurrent enrollment as the "subset of dual enrollment courses taught by college-approved high school teachers in a secondary environment.”)

Dual enrollment courses give high school AND college credit and don't have to be taken at high schools; MOST in CA are taken at colleges. Those instructors do NOT need high school credentials and this does not mean students can’t get HS credit.

But PAUSD may get lower ADA (attendance) reimbursement for such students. If that’s Austin’s issue, he should be more transparent, this is a well-funded district and we do not have to stunt these students’ education over this.

Students in dual enrollment courses do not have to meet the same minimum daily instructional hours as other students, at least in grades 11-12. I think it’s only 180 minutes.

So technically, one solution here is for students to enroll online asynchronously, and for the district to either enroll them in independent study or allow them a space on campus to work together two or threw times a week to get a collaborative experience. There is no real reason they have to do this after school except that the district wants to be controlling and do DE only as concurrent, so that students have max ADA.

The drawback is that dual enrollment students are typically last in line to register for college classes, which means it can be hard to get a course when you need it. The high school gets around this through concurrent enrollment.

Posted by alum2548
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2023 at 1:14 pm

alum2548 is a registered user.

"By the same token, that Foothill instructor doesn't have a California teaching credential, a requirement by the California Department of Education for allowing students to earn high school credit."

The school district has offered no coherent explanation of this interpretation, nor have they been able to produce any communication with the CDE despite multiple inquiries and a formal public records request.

Ed Code 48800(c) states:
"(c) A pupil shall receive credit for community college courses that the pupil completes at the level determined appropriate by the governing boards of the school district and community college district."

All evidences points to the fact that PAUSD made a local decision not to assign high school credit for community college courses. This decision is viewed unfavorably by some members of the community so it seems that PAUSD is using "credentialing issues" as a smokescreen rather than standing behind their decisions.

This decision not to assign high school credit is now being used to justify why MATH 1C/1D/2B cannot occur during the school day:

"The school district doesn't have single-credit courses in any subject within its bell schedule at either high school taught by a non-school district employee"

Nothing has changed about the multivariable calculus and linear algebra courses themselves. The only thing that has changed is that PAUSD has chosen to no longer award high school credit. That does not preclude continuing to offer the course at a time that is convenient for students. There is plenty of precedent in PAUSD for offering multivariable calculus, linear algebra and other community college courses (Foothill NANO 10) during the school day, taught by a community college instructor.

A series of decisions and fabricated confusion by PAUSD conveniently makes it look like students and parents are being unreasonable.

Posted by alum2548
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2023 at 1:22 pm

alum2548 is a registered user.

I ran out of time to edit the previous comment...

"First of all, when a high school teacher teaches a college course at the high school, it's called "concurrent enrollment”, not “dual enrollment”. (NACEP defines concurrent enrollment as the "subset of dual enrollment courses taught by college-approved high school teachers in a secondary environment.”)"

@Silver Linings — I agree with many of your sentiments but I think it's important to clarify that this is not how "concurrent enrollment" is typically used in California. In fact, in California, "concurrent enrollment" is actually an outdated term for the opposite — when students take courses taught by community college instructors. Many years ago, well before CCAP, this used to be the most common way dual enrollment was implemented. Now that "dual enrollment" has been identified to refer to "special part time students" (EDC 76004), it is the preferred umbrella term for whenever any high schoolers are enrolled in college courses (CCAP, non-CCAP, high school teacher, or college instructor). "Concurrent enrollment" has fallen out of favor. It is confusing.

Posted by Down the yellow brick road
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2023 at 1:25 pm

Down the yellow brick road is a registered user.

This is nearly copied directly from Don Austin‘s superintendent update. It is very factually incorrect.

The public open letter debunks the main assertions.
Web Link
There is no confusion about the CDE code. The CDE was contacted and verified the parents’ interpretation as being correct.

The district has redefined “dual enrollment” to be at odds with the way the CDE defines it. Essentially, they are saying that dual enrollment is not dual enrollment when it comes to advanced classes like Multivariable Calculus.

An email exchange with assistant superintendent Jeong Choe resulted in an admission that the parents’ interpretation was correct. However, Don Austin didn’t like that outcome, took back the narrative, and doubled down on his initial lies. Ms. Choe was designated as the district expert on this issue, and to whom all questions should be directed on this issue, but is now silent.

The real reason, as clearly outlined by the Gunn math leadership last night at the board meeting, is that having a MVC in the course catalog raises the bar on the maximum amount of math a student should take, because some colleges look to see if you have taken all available math at a school. If calculus is the highest math, then that is the yardstick by which the students are measured. If it is a Multivariable Calculus, the yardstick gets longer. Given that end of the argument for “wellness“, Multivariable Calculus it should be canceled. Indeed, it is no longer in the course catalog, and not in the books.

It is an inaccuracy to say that in PAUSD is now offering it. It is essentially a Foothill College class where they are offered space on campus at Paly after school between 4:45 and 7 PM. This is a really horrible time to have it because it collides with athletics and other extracurriculars. Many students will not be able to take it, and that is the desired outcome.

Posted by Starry Night
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2023 at 3:08 pm

Starry Night is a registered user.

Without context, one might assume that the district's reasons are genuine. And perhaps they are.

However, with context, a pattern arises wherein the district is making a repeated and concerted effort to hold kids back:

- In middle school, students have to pass 3 separate tests to place ahead, each with exceptionally high standards. (Result? Only 10% of PAUSD's students are accelerated vs. around 40% in similar districts. Are Palo Alto kids less into math?) One of these tests is believed to ask irrelevant math olympiad questions. The district does not provide sample tests or information about what the test is. Kids are routinely left in *tears* due to this test.

- The district removed honors math classes in middle school. So the *only* way to accelerate or seek more challenging math is to study outside of school.

- In 9th grade, the district is not giving the LEGALLY REQUIRED math placement test. They lost a lawsuit over this -- and are still trying to refuse compliance.

- Some of the honors math classes in high school are exceptionally and unreasonably challenging. These are "weeder classes" and many families feel the district wants them to drop.

- If a student is accelerated (due to passing the district's math placement test), the district only offers them 3 years of math in high school. After that, they need to apparently choose between extracurriculars and math.

Of course, last night several of the math teachers made it clear: they asked to NOT offer multi-variable calculus during the day to these kids. Yes, they explicitly asked this. Their reason is that, for the 90% of kids who aren't accelerated (a number which is so high BECAUSE of the district's other actions), it makes them look worse for college if they aren't in the highest level of math. How sad that our teachers are arguing to withhold learning from kids?

Math is not evil, and math-loving kids shouldn't be sacrificed for their greater good.

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2023 at 5:27 pm

Silver Linings is a registered user.

@ alum2548
I gave the NACEP (professional organization) definition precisely because of the different and inexact ways people are using the terms. As an independent education parent, we only ever used “dual enrollment”. I made the technical/professional distinction because Austin made the nonsensical claim that community college instructors had to be accredited as high school teachers.

The letter provided by link from @Yellow Brick Road is excellent, from the families who want the district to offer MVC, anyone concerned with this issue should read it.

I can see zero reason that the district cannot offer MVC. No reason. If delays have caused trouble scheduling an instructor, in the short term at least, use the instructors identified by the students, offer them a classroom, and given them independent study credit for the same multivariable calculus class for now. I think it’s ridiculous for busy students to be asked to take this after school in direct conflict with other activities including exercise and clubs.

Don Austin seems very against supporting student achievement; Education majors unfortunately tend not to have strong STEM backgrounds, sometimes even seem resentful because they weren't good at math themselves. I’d give Austin the benefit of the doubt if I hadn’t seen such a relentless anti-math attitude in this district that just defies sense. It is true that some lucky students get good math but it’s like a lottery.

Parents and students: Please consider demanding the district create an independent study program that gives students more freedom to take advanced and nontraditional courses. This would help students for a wide range of reasons, including those who want to “travel school.” This controversy simply wouldn’t have happened if we had such a program, which would be MUCH more respectful of your time and talents, and acknowledge the opportunity costs of a rigid Prussian model program.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2023 at 9:28 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

Good enough for UCLA, but not good enough for PAUSD. Makes zero sense.

Posted by alum2548
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2023 at 11:21 am

alum2548 is a registered user.

It's bizarre coming back to Palo Alto and seeing PAUSD's math policies several years later. It looks like the path they've chosen has achieved exactly the opposite of what they intended. Compared to 10 years ago, nearly double the number of kids are accelerating.

PAUSD dumped the packet program which gave some basic support to students preparing to skip 7th grade. The middle school skip tests now have multiple parts — the calibrated MDTP assessment and an in-house part 2 developed by PAUSD. The difficulty of the in-house test appears to have become so inconsistent that PAUSD has been forced to grade on a curve or cherry-pick students (presumably so the pass rates are reasonable?).

It became such a mess that PAUSD was sued and lost. Now the floodgates are open for students to take UC-approved Geometry before 9th grade, effectively nullifying PAUSD's uncalibrated middle school skip process. With this option, the number of students on track to finish BC calc before senior year will only continue to rise.

None of this makes much sense and nothing here seems to help the students.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 25, 2023 at 11:42 am

Resident10 is a registered user.

The reasons for no longer offering MVC have continued to change as parents have gathered information and presented it to the Superintendent and Ms. Choe. In fact, MVLA high school is offering the MVC class to students during school hours without issues from California Department of Education. But, somehow, PAUSD cannot make it happen.

At the board meeting last Tuesday night, finally the Gunn teachers gave us the honest answer why they don't want to offer the class during school or put it in the course catalogs. They want students that take AP BC Calculus to be at the highest class offered by the school. They are ready to hurt the MVC ready students to meet their dashboard goals - it is about optics and not letting each student achieve their best. By limiting the highest level of math, the district can claim a higher proportion of students at the highest level (yay - amazing work!). Also, just as importantly, the district and their PAUSD Board supporters can claim the equity gap in math is smaller than it actually is by reducing the range of classes offered. This does nothing to actually help students struggling in math, but looks better on paper and pretty color coded charts.

It is dashboard manipulation and politics rather than actually helping any students they are supposed to serve.

Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2023 at 11:43 am

cmarg is a registered user.

I am SO grateful the district will not offer MV Calculus or any other college level classes. If is beyond crazy that parents want their children to have these courses in high school. Please parents, let your children be children. There is so much time for learning and once they are out of school, it will be full time working. I cannot imagine that the reasons for wanting MV Calculus and other college level classes is due to trying to reduce the cost of college. I know we pay a flat fee for our son's college tuition -- not based on number of classes or anything else. So, not sure what the rush is for parents to push their children.
If anything, enroll the student in life skills and if it is critical to have a college level class, take it at Foothill. Let's focus on children being children until they HAVE to be adults.

Posted by Down the yellow brick road
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2023 at 12:04 pm

Down the yellow brick road is a registered user.

Given that the Gunn math leadership revealed the true reason for this MVC war, that it was to prevent the MVC kids from gaining an "unfair" advantage in college admissions, we see this tremendous hypocrisy from Mr. Deggeller (Gunn Math Instructional Lead):

"Furthermore, our college counseling guru at Gunn, Ms. Linda Kirsch, has told me on multiple occasions that most college admissions offices do not want to see extra math on your transcript, nor are they impressed by a student who takes Calculus 'early'"
Web Link

So which is it? Does MVC give college applicants an advantage or not?

I must give kudos to the Gunn math leadership for providing the first plausible and honest reason for opposing MVC. It is the same feeling of sincere gratitude I had when I got pickpocketed on a train in France but had my wallet returned to me with all my IDs, expense receipts, but minus a few hundred Euros. I wanted to post a big "thank you" sign to the pickpocket.

Actually, make that the second plausible and honest reason: the first was when Mr. Austin linked it to the math lawsuit that they lost.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 25, 2023 at 12:07 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

Dr. Austin and PAUSD Board members that support him will cry equity and academic stress as the reasons for taking away higher math options for students. Taking away higher level academic options does not actually help underserved students, it just makes the gap appear less on paper. In fact, under this district and board leadership, the underrepresented students have not shown any real improvement in math performance in spite of Austin and his Board supporters constantly tried to reduce options to accelerate math. Don't let their actions fool you - it is only dashboard manipulation.

The other favorite refrain from Austin and his PAUSD Board supporters is we have to reduce math options or other honors/AP options due to "academic stress". However, their own survey of high school students found that students in accelerated math were NOT more stressed than any other students. The district, school and PAUSD Board leadership would rather cited the political soundbite "academic stress= accelerated classes" than do the real work of understanding what is stressing our students. If they took the time to actually do the work they would learn:

AP classes in PAUSD are not calibrated to AP tests. In some classes, 80% of students are getting a 5 (highest score) on the AP test, but only 20% are getting an A in the class. Classes being unnecessarily difficult is stressful for students.

In many classes, homework is much easier than the tests. Students complete the homework thinking they should be ready for tests but the tests are at a much harder level -very true for math classes at all levels. Homework and tests need to be at the same level of difficulty.

Many classes use standards-based grading but this requires regular feedback. In many classes, students aren't getting graded papers/labs back in a timely manner so they don't know what to improve/change, causing them stress.

We need better leadership In PAUSD. Leadership that cares about ALL students more than politics.

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 25, 2023 at 12:12 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

[Post removed; successive comments from same poster are not permitted.]

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 25, 2023 at 12:31 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

[Post removed; successive comments from same poster are not permitted.]

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2023 at 2:20 pm

Silver Linings is a registered user.

You want to give students freedom by taking away THEIR choices? Seriously? Why do you think high school students, who are entering adulthood, can't think and choose for themselves?

The fallacy of this attitude is contained in your wish to give them more CLASSES for "life skills" instead of more flexibility to have time for actually developing life skills by living life. By giving them more time and flexibility in the WAY they are educated—I'm talking about the WAY class is taught, regardless of the level of material—they can learn and achieve more of their dreams while also having a more well-balanced life.

My own DC, when given the freedom and support to follow passions in high school, chose to take far more advanced classes, including a year of math every semester, including college math courses that couldn't have been available in the district. Even today, when given the chance to take a class for joy and relaxation, it's a music or advanced math course. (Catching the dyslexia through testing after high school, which the district wouldn't do and we couldn't afford til then, helped even more.)

I wish I could share with everyone what it's like to be on the other side of seeing an enthusiastic child wither (and get depressed) under the WAY school is taught, and truly blossom from being given freedom and opportunity.

For many kids, being allowed to learn math is FUN, an opportunity, and being denied it is frustrating. We have a pretty disproportionately bright cohort in this district (including all kinds of intelligences, not just math). For many gifted kids, the "lack of challenge leads to frustration, underachievement, and even failure. Some gifted students become severely depressed."
Web Link

Students are not widgets.These aren't being forced to take MVC. SOME, who want it, should be allowed the opportunity rather than let their skills/interest lapse for no good reason.

Posted by alum2548
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2023 at 5:36 pm

alum2548 is a registered user.

@cmarg As a STEM person who took multivariable calculus and linear algebra as a senior, many of these kids actually want to take the courses. Some like theory, proofs and problem solving. Others want to apply the math they learn to work on cool projects in other fields like robotics, machine learning, physics, numerical simulation, etc.

The students wrote the very first open letter to the board at the beginning of April. They have spoken quite elegantly at several board meetings. It's a shame none of the media outlets covering this topic have taken the time to interview them. Their perspective is probably the most important.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2023 at 10:08 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

There are thousands of examples of why supporting engaged, talented, precocious kids is worth doing, if their joy and passion isn't enough for you. Jonas Salk comes to mind.

In our society, the negative vibes for nerdy kids comes from football players, if I must say out loud what everyone already knows.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2023 at 2:05 am

Anonymous is a registered user.

High schools are continuing to offer MVC thru Foothill, even more options than before. Is the concern over dual enrollment or parents wanting the non-Board approved course to be listed on the high school transcript to get the GPA boost?

Posted by Resident10
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 28, 2023 at 4:25 pm

Resident10 is a registered user.

@Anonymous - please review the facts. This course was approved for years by PAUSD, offered during school hours in the past (verified by course catalogs of the high schools) and was on the transcript. The current Administration pulled the approval for the course and initially said they would not offer it any longer. They offered many reasons the course was incompatible with CDE requirements. Parents and students contacted the CDE and found the reasons given by the district for not offering the course was invalid. When presented with this information, the district cut off all discussion with students and parents regarding the course.

The students spoke up for themselves at the last few Board meetings and folks should watch the video to understand their perspective. By now only offering the course after school (it was offered during school for many years), it interferes with athletics and extracurriculars. That is why the students asked for it to be offered during school hours.

Colleges will weight the class whether PAUSD does or not. Most colleges recalculate GPAs anyway. And, as most students will take this class during senior year, it is not going to be in the UC GPA calculation for them.

So to summarize -
Weighted courses do not cause additional stress per PAUSD's own survey and Sara Cody, Public Health Director of Santa Clara County (she spoke at a recent Board meeting)

Students have been asking for the course THEMSELVES so this is not the tiger parent stereotype that some folks like to push. The students voiced that they love math and have repeatedly pointed out that math is a foundation to other topics they enjoy like CS, robotics, Machine Learning and AI.

This is not about a GPA boost. Colleges will recalculate GPA. And the Gunn Math IL claimed that colleges do not want to see lots of math so his perspective is the course would not help these students with college admissions anyway.

Posted by alum2548
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 30, 2023 at 4:22 pm

alum2548 is a registered user.

@Anonymous: The timing of the Paly MVC section is quite inconvenient for kids that have after school activities. It is MW 4:45pm-7:00pm, so it starts 55 minutes after school on Monday and 75 minutes after school on Wednesday.

Compare that to how MVC used to be offered with a mid 7th period start. It was 3 days / week for ~1.5 hours, so the class finished only 1 hour after school ended. Gunn students had the first half of 7th period to commute to Paly.

Foothill has Zoom sections after school but you run into the same conflict with extracurriculars due to timing. They have async sections but these are notoriously difficult to get into since high schoolers have the lowest registration priority.

I think the biggest frustration is that PAUSD has made very little effort to advocate on behalf of these students. In February one parent emailed asking to go back to an in-person MVC offering since COVID had ended, but they were ghosted after a few exchanges. In March, PAUSD suddenly went the other direction and said they were not even going to request the after school Zoom section. It took a month of student and parent advocacy to get the Zoom section back. Once a letter with 400+ signatures was presented to the board, the in-person Paly offering was magically on the table within hours. During the whole ordeal, no one from PAUSD bothered to ask students what modality / timing worked best for them. So the kids are not really feeling loved or supported by the district.

I think many people are unhappy about the GPA change too. PAUSD has said new rules now require a CTC credential to assign high school credit, but there is zero evidence backing up that claim. On the contrary, EDC 48800(c) explicitly allows the school district to give high school credit for community college classes as they see fit. As far as anyone can tell, it was a PAUSD decision to stop giving credit and they're not being upfront about it. Whether you support that decision or not, transparency and honesty are important.

Posted by Li Zheng
a resident of Mountain View
on May 30, 2023 at 4:29 pm

Li Zheng is a registered user.

@S. Underwood: Colleges need both nerds and athletes.

The athletes generate revenue and the nerds innovate.

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