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Three new courses proposed for Paly

Original post made on Feb 14, 2012

Sports nutrition, cars and physics are the subjects of three new classes proposed for Palo Alto High School next year. The Board of Education will discuss the proposals tonight in advance of a final vote Feb. 28.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 8:35 AM

Comments (35)

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Posted by Michele and Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

At tonight's school board meeting, District staff will present a recommendation that the school board approve a new course at Paly, Conceptual Physics, and that the school board also approve the renaming of 5 science courses at Paly. The most significant of these renamings would change Biology 1A to Biology and Chemistry 1A to Chemistry, dropping the indication that these are advanced classes.

We Can Do Better Palo Alto recommends that the Board:

1. Approve Conceptual Physics.
2. Require that Conceptual Physics be taught at Gunn with a delay of no more than 1 year, in order to more closely align the core A-G math and science classes at the high schools.
3. Defer the renaming of Biology 1A and Chemistry 1A, pending (a) a report on the gap between a basic A-G curriculum that meets but does not exceed state standards and the current course offerings, and (b) a specific explanation of the content of Biology 1A.

Our rationale:
1. Conceptual Physics is a positive step towards a college preparatory science curriculum in the basic lane, and should be approved.
2. Offering more classes that meet but do not exceed the state standards such as Conceptual Physics will reduce academic stress and increase minority achievement. These are the district's two most important focused goals for 2011-12.
2. There is no good reason why our two high schools should have different core science curricula, and Gunn students would also benefit from an expanded set of A-G science options for students who don't have a strong interest or background in science. The need to reduce stress and improve minority achievement is every bit as salient at Gunn as it is at Paly and the focused goals apply with equal force at both schools.
3. Despite the rebranding of Paly's Biology 1A as Biology, the course itself doesn't seem to be changing. The Paly course catalog reflects the name change and the new course, but maintains the existing prerequisite: "Freshmen in Biology should be enrolled in Algebra 1A or higher math. Freshmen in Algebra 1 are recommended to take Conceptual Physics as freshmen and Biology as sophomores" (see Web Link, p. 62). The requirement that students be in an advanced math class in order to take Biology strongly suggests that Biology is not in fact being taught at the basic A-G level. (This also produces the odd recommendation that students in a lower lane math class take physics rather than biology, despite the fact that physics is generally more math-intensive than biology). By contrast, all Gunn freshmen are required to take some variant of Biology. The basic lane of Biology at Gunn, which is taken by students regardless of math placement, satisfies A-G, so it is clear that such a class can be offered in PAUSD to students in basic lane Algebra 1. Paly students who are not strong in math should still be able to take Biology in the 9th grade, as can students at Gunn. See: Web Link
4. Based on PAUSD's CST scores, biology is an area of particular weakness in teaching black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students, which underlines the need to ensure that we are actually offering a course that meets but doesn't exceed A-G standards.

For 2011, the percentage of students scoring proficient or above for biology were:
Black students: 37% (129th among districts in California)
Hispanic: 46% (103rd among districts in California)
Economically disadvantaged: 46% (115th)

See Web Link

For 2010, the corresponding percentages were:
Black: 15% (201st among districts in California)
Hispanic: 51% (57th)
Economically disadvantaged: 29% (287th)

These dreadful CST scores (in which PAUSD placed nearly dead last for teaching biology to economically disadvantaged students in 2010) make it clear that the teaching of Biology, like the teaching of Algebra 2, is an area of particular weakness for our high schools when it comes to under-represented minority students and poor students. These numbers will not improve absent a strong signal from the Board that scores like these are unacceptable. Allowing the rebranding of courses without getting to the bottom of the root causes behind these failures will serve the interests of no one.

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Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2012 at 11:45 am

These people don't quit.

I notice that Mountain View (with 18 kids in the sample) has even lower 2011 Bio scores for black students that PAUSD (with 19 kids). Does that mean they are even more racist that we are?

Does that fact that PAUSD zooms from ranking 287 to 115 in a year suggest that we are looking at artifact, not an actual reflection of teacher quality or discrimination.

I do wish these people would apply their considerable energy to a more productive enterprise.

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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm

@ Wow

I infer from your post that you think ranking 115th in the state for teaching biology to disadvantaged kids is somehow evidence that we are doing great. Would you still think so if those were our rankings for the teaching of white and Asian kids? The corresponding figures for white and Asian students are 7th and 13th, respectively, in the state. As I have said before, if we did as comparatively badly for our majority kids as we do for poor and black and brown kids we would have a successful recall of the school board in no time flat. But because there are no minority members of this school board, they can just cry crocodile tears about low achievement but do nothing (which they seem to excel at) and then face no democratic accountability for it later.

Please bear in mind that these are not measures of the achievement gap. They are measures of how we are doing with teaching poor and minority kids relative to how other districts in the state are doing with teaching those same populations of kids. Based on these statistics, PAUSD has a lot of room for improvement.

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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Since regular Biology and Chemistry are taught at Gunn, obviously teaching them at Paly would not be "watering down the Palo Alto curriculum". As it is now, Paly freshman who are not in Algebra 1A or higher waste a year of science because the current class, Integrated Science, will only count as an elective towards A-G requirements.

BTW - some of the kids are not allowed to take Biology freshman year simply because their middle school science teacher did not think they were organized enough.

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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Just in case people are interested, the comparable percentages proficient for white students in biology in PAUSD for 2010 is 83% and for 2011 is 88%, while for Asians it is 91% and 93%. This means that, of course, PAUSD has a big achievement gap in absolute terms. But we also have a large gap in relative terms when compared to other districts -- our minority and poor students do worse than those in other districts.

If you think gaps of this magnitude are fine, as do Wow, or that our desire to close them is evidence of some kind of sinister conspiracy, as does "2 cents" then do nothing. But if you would like to see this Board make progress on the goals of reducing stress and closing the gap then please support improving the teaching of math and science in our schools.

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Posted by Don't understand
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I don't understand this. Do all students have the same classes in elementary school and middle school? Isn't it possible that no matter how much money our school spends, not everyone is math and science motivated? I for one will think twice about our school bond now....

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Posted by reader
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm


When you post ranks (e.g., 129th among California districts), please mention the total number of district being ranked for that category (e.g., 129th out of 1012).

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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 14, 2012 at 4:09 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

[S]ome of the changes envisioned (particularly adopting a new easier Alg. 2 class for underperforming students) will, in my opinion, result in a watering-down of the curriculum for all students in Palo Alto.

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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm


Thank you for your comment. From my perspective, the percentile rank is not as important as the fact that there are 128 school districts that are doing better in the teaching of Biology to poor and black and brown kids, and only 5 or 10 doing better in the teaching of white and Asian kids. In my view, this gap, which Ken has aptly called PAUSD's "homegrown achievement gap" matters irrespective of percentile for two reasons:

1. We should have the same relative ranking for all minority groups. If we are consistently in the top 5 or 10 for whites and Asians and consistently below the top 100 for black and poor kids, then I want to know why that is, and want it fixed. Even if you believe that we can never fully eradicate the gap between majority and minority WITHIN PAUSD, there is no excuse or explanation for why we cannot rank as well in the teaching of all kids regardless of race. If we are number 10 for whites, why are we not also number one for blacks? Are we spending our money, time, and teaching incorrectly? Focusing too hard on the top at the expense of the bottom? Lack democratic accountability for minority parents on the board? Need professional development for teachers? What is the explanation for the homegrown gap?

2. The fact that there are 100 or 200 districts that do better than we do in teaching poor and black and brown kids means that we have in no way reached the limit of the possible and those Paly math teachers who said that they had done all they could are simply mistaken. Someone needs remedial education but I am not sure it is the students.


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Posted by my opinion
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 14, 2012 at 6:52 pm

the more i read about this "we can do better" agenda, the more I dislike their propaganda.

Just because the vocal minority wants to push their views on our school board doesn't mean they're right.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2012 at 9:13 pm

The reason Palo Alto schools do so well with rich kids is the expensive tutors, enrichment, and oversight by the parents of these kids. The teachers would like to take credit, but it isn't the teachers making the difference IMHO. When faced with kids they actually have to teach because such kids don't have all the added support, success is not so easy. We shouldn't blame the teachers for the success of the rich kids or the failure of the poor kids. The teachers already spend a much greater percentage of time and energy trying to help these challenged kids. How about the middle kids in Palo Alto who get totally ignored?

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Posted by Sigh
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Whenever I see the dissertations of certain posters on these threads, I don't read them. I formerly was in support of them, but they have overdone it and worn us all out. Why can't they write in abbreviated versions? They've lost their audience.

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Posted by I agree with sigh
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 15, 2012 at 7:58 am

The conceptual physics class looks like a really good step in the right direction, but we're still going to have to look more closely at the Bio class if it is still structured as having prerequisites. It makes no sense that an average kid in the middle shouldn't take Bio in 9th grade at Paly. And we should all care about how all of our kids are taught at Paly -- the Daubers are doing a great job there, because the academic stress for everyone is a corollary to how kids at the bottom are completely written off. So net for me is the science department at Paly is asking us all to look much more closely at their syllabus and course content if they are still going with the Alg 1A prerequisite. That will be an interesting conversation. When I put my kid in a regular lane, it needs to be a regular lane. What do they need for Bio 1H -- calculus?

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Posted by paly mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 15, 2012 at 8:37 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

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Posted by What's-Under-The-Hood?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2012 at 10:21 am

> Aimed at ninth-graders, the Introduction to the Automobile
> would give students "a chance to see how an automobile works
> and all the knowledge needed to diagnose and repair one," school
> officials said

In the 1950s, most young men had more than a passing knowledge of how automobiles worked. Wonder what has happened in the last five decades that has taken us from a nation that invented cars to one that no longer understands how they work?

This is the sort of thing that would be best taught through distance learning, with perhaps some on-site labs, such as having to change a tire, and checking/changing the oil.

What would be a little better would be a course in "Introduction To Technology", which would include automobiles.

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Posted by Auto Smarts
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

to What's Under the Hood?

One of the things that happened is complexity of cars. In the 1950s, a car was much simpler to understand and repair. With so many new electrical and computerized systems in today's cars, auto shops are more expensive and challenging to equip and operate. The world has changed. I think it's great that they are offering this option for students who are interested in understanding today's cars.

Changing a tire and checking oil is a whole separate issue. EVERYONE who drives needs these skills. I note your focus on young men. I'm guessing you are from an older generation.

I am a 50+ woman and when I was a teen my parents wouldn't let me drive without learning to change a tire and check/change oil first. That was smart. This isn't for boys only. My kids (girls) will learn to check/change oil and change tire before I ever give them the car keys. That is a basic skill for a vehicle operator, not a technical skill. It is also a safety issue to be able to fix your own tire independently if you have a problem on the road. Being dependent on the kindness of strangers if you find yourself with a flat in an isolated place is not good. All young people must be skilled to help themselves. This should be part of drivers ed for every teen if it isn't already.

Independence builds confidence. It is good for kids to learn this stuff.

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Posted by Wynn Hausser
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2012 at 11:02 am

Yes, why do we have to focus on silly facts? Can't we just summarize them USA Today style? I don't have any time to really learn about an issue. My preconceptions are just fine. Jeez...

What is getting boring is to hear that every proposal that dares address anything other than high-achievers is somehow "watering down the curriculum" and "propaganda." And any person or group that dares call out the district has ulterior motives and is trying to destroy our incredible schools. Oh, and by the way, all these comments are by people who won't stand behind their words by posting their name while those of us trying to change things do.

We are living in the world's innovation center. Yet our education system is anything but innovative. PAUSD should be a leader and an innovator, a beacon for how school districts can best educate all of its students. We should accept nothing less.

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Posted by What's-Under-The-Hood?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

> One of the things that happened is complexity of cars

Ah .. The question posed was intended to be rhetorical.

> Independence builds confidence. It is good for kids
> to learn this stuff.

No debate. But "this stuff" is not why we run the public school system, that is costing the taxpayers over $13K/student/year here in the PAUSD. Keep in mind that it's unlikely that most of these kids in the PAUSD can tell you how long it takes to make a hard-boiled egg, or how to actually make a hard-boiled egg. Should the school system be expected to make that instruction available--or be called "horrible" by some of those in the community with a lot of time on their hands?

No doubt there are advocates for every possible thing that could be taught in a school system. The point of the posting was that distance learning, with "short courses" that can be downloaded at home, or on any mobile device, would be a better way to deal with these issues.

There is no reason that instruction like this "Auto" course could not be designed/funded and provided by the CA Dept. of Education, so that local school districts can, in effect, offer this instruction, but not be burdened with the costs, or problems with adequate course design, and delivery methods.

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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Unbelievable the censorhip of opinions on these boards...

Where are we? In North Korea?

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Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

This raises interesting questions that are difficult to address in a forum like this. I looked at the detailed #s for Biology as an example.

If my calculations are correct, we would #1 in Black achievment if 37 more black kids tested as proficient. We would be #1 in Hispanic achievement if 98 more Hispanic kids tested as proficient.

This is 135 kids out of a total of 2689 kinds (in grades 9-11). Does it make sense to change the curriculum for everybody, or should we just have special programs for under-achievers (of all races)?

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Firstly, I am not posting my name because I want to protect my kids from people who disagree with me.

Secondly, I see nothing wrong with having high level achievers in high level classes and see nothing wrong with having some lower lanes for smart kids who are not math and science whiz kids but still want to go to college.

Thirdly, education as I see it is to prepare our kids for adulthood, teaching them the skills they need to survive in the world. This is not about getting into top colleges or getting the highest paid jobs, but being productive, independent adults.

To do this, we need to make sure that each student is prepared for life after high school. For many this will mean top colleges, but they still need to know how to put air in their tires and cook themselves something to eat that is not putting a box in a microwave. They need to know how to budget their income, balance a check book, file their taxes and prepare for a job interview. They need to know how to rent an apartment, apply for a job and find the time of the next train or bus on a public transport schedule. They need to know some old fashioned skills that are being lost. They need to be the generation to take over from us.

These skills should be taught at school and reinforced at home. Academic education is important and fairly rigorous in Palo Alto. But having some electives; music, drama, sports, autoshop, cooking, real life skills, are also important and tend to make the school day a bit more interesting. After all, it is not getting 100% on the physics final that is going to be remembered with nostalgia in ten years' time, but the camaraderie in helping to cook lasagne, change a tire or singing a solo.

I think we have all seen adults who are dull as dishwater when it comes to social skills. We have seen many billiant students who have great credentials on paper but can't work as a team or apply what they have learned to a real job. We really must educate our students with the skills they really need for the future, not just getting into an Ivy League to do sciences.

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Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm

@Wynn Hauser -

"Yes, why do we have to focus on silly facts? Can't we just summarize them USA Today style? I don't have any time to really learn about an issue. My preconceptions are just fine. Jeez..."

I believe from previous posts that you are part of the We Can Do Better group, correct? If so, your derisive response says something about the mindset of that group, which seems to think it has the answers and should set the priorities. Aside from that, it makes me glad we chose not to elect you to the School Board, since your dismissive attitude is not the kind I would want making decisions for the community.

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Posted by My 2 cents
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm


There long has been an elective auto shop class at Paly. What is new with this other than now offering it in 9th grade ?

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Posted by Former Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Re: Conceptual Physics: Sounds like a fine idea, but why not (also, perhaps) still retain laning in the other science courses? I have seen laning go in and out of style several times during my high-school-and-later years; my most stimulating high school courses were the Honors ones, and when they phased out Honors English my senior year (to keep us "elites" from being separated from everyone else), the course I ended up in was ridiculously easy. (I did get another A on my transcript, though.)

The only problem I see with laning is that teachers do seem to be distinctly less motivated when teaching students who are less motivated; I think that this is an issue to which more attention should be paid. (Of course, they probably pay more attention to the more interested students anyway, so it's a problem with any class format, mixed-ability or laned.)

Re: Fundamentals of the Auto course: Why is no one even discussing bringing back old-fashioned Driver's Ed?? I took that in high school, and learned a lot. (I learned on an automatic transmission there, and the attempts of my parents to teach me on our stick shift car were utter failures.) Nowadays, parents have to teach their kids — not always the best option — or we have to pay for expensive private courses. At Gunn, there was one driver's ed course offered each year, during Period Zero, starting at 7am or so — to limit the interest in the course??

If cost is an issue (which I'm sure it is), then offer the nondriving portion of the course as a regular elective class (covering rules of the road, principles of autos and their components, safety, reaction time, etc.), and offer the driving portion after school for a fee. Or offer the whole thing for a fee — we would have gladly paid it. My husband taught our boys, and they never did learn to parallel park, and won't even attempt it now.

Re: Sports Nutrition: Um, OK. Why is this a high priority to be offered as an elective? Do they have a particular highly-qualified instructor in mind? Is this someone's pet cause or project?

To Parent: I think you make some good points, but a lot of the things you mention are typically taught in the home. I do understand that not everyone has parents who will, or even can, teach these skills, but I do think that some of this is offered in the Living Skills stuff required at Gunn and, I presume, Paly. As for cooking, my younger son took a year of cooking classes as electives his senior year at Gunn, and enjoyed them. On the other hand, my older son will probably never be motivated to go beyond heating things in the microwave. (*sigh*)

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Posted by Wynn Hausser
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2012 at 5:13 pm

@ parent: I have kids in school too (as does almost everyone involved in WCDBPA). But I do not hide behind them as a reason not to share my name. I am willing to stand behind my words - unfortunately most are like you and won't. Your prerogative but your good points would be even more credible if you would put yourself out there.

@Wow: real easy to take anonymous shots, isn't it? It is called sarcasm and often an effective rhetorical device. Sorry if it didn't work for you.

I'll repeat what I've said before. The ONLY reason this has become a priority for the district is because of our group. We don't think we have all the answers. But we seem to be the only ones who back up their points with facts not personal attacks. And we don't hide - we put ourselves out there. I'm proud of that, whether others like it or not. At least we're doing something.

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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

If only we had been fortunate enough for Wynn Hausser to have been elected to the School Board. He is exactly what we have needed and what has been missing since the suicide crisis began; a voice for amassing and collecting good data quickly, applying it sensibly, and for remaking our priorities given the then-current exigency. Hausser wants to maintain what is really excellent about our schools without devolving into happy talk about how it is all rainbows and puppydogs when the house is burning down around us as it was in 2008-2010.

We need less denial and more action on key issues at the district level. And we need a school board that understands what a board's real function is -- to provide democratic accountability for the school administration not an impotent cheer squad, which is what we have now. Yesterday at the School Board meeting Kevin Skelly actually said (I am not making this up) that the CST scores don't matter. That should have come as news to the Board which had barely stowed their pom-poms from the WASC review meeting at which the primary evidence of our fabulosity was (you guessed it) our CST scores. In this case, however, Kevin was dismissing the CST scores that show that PAUSD has a bad record in science (particularly biology) for economically disadvantaged kids (including white and Asian kids). Really? When we do well on the CSTs we see slide after slide. When we do badly we hear from our superintendent that they don't matter.

It is a bummer not to do as well as you had hoped on a measure. I believe that Kevin really in his heart cares deeply about the achievement gap. But the way to get there is not to discount the measure when you don't perform on it, particularly when you throw a 21 gun salute when you score well.

Yet no member of the Board even questioned his statement, or said, "I care about the CSTs." "The CSTs are the basic state standards and I need to know why our district is doing badly on them and why the superintendent is saying they don't matter." But no one did.

And that is why we need Wynn, and others like him, as well as minority representation, on the school board.

How sad that the last election had two incumbents running unopposed. Obviously what they took from that is that they were doing a heckuva job. Nothing much was going on at the time of the last election, but unfortunately all hell broke loose shortly afterward and we have paid for our failure to pay attention to the election for the subsequent 4 years. Even if the incumbents were re-elected, an election would have sharpened issues, given the community a chance to weigh in on issues, and made them feel that they had to be accountable.

I hope Hausser runs in 2012.

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Posted by science parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I wonder what the difference will be between Paly's Conceptual Physics and the Physics 1 course at Gunn, the one which uses a textbook called 'Conceptual Physics'. Gunn's Physics 1 is an excellent, accessible course taken by 10-12 graders.

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Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm

@Wynn Hauser - for a group that thinks it is elevating the debate, your sarcastic criticism of others seems misplaced. Again, your temperament does not seem well suited for the school board, which is perhaps one of the reasons you were not elected (4th out of 5, wasn't it?).

Per Wynn and Michelle's posts, it does seem like their group thinks it has a firm handle on what the priorities should be, and believes that those who disagree are in denial or just don't care. A better name for their group would be "We Know Better."

While their enthusiasm is laudable, their alarmist and antagonistic style (including last year calling for Dr. Skelly to be fired), backed by half-baked analysis, exhaustively explained, actually may be hurting education in Palo Alto, by focusing limited resources and attention on issues that may not be the most important - or even issues at all.

Again, I hope these people can apply their considerable energy to a more productive enterprise.

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Posted by subtleties
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm

"I infer from your post that you think ranking 115th in the state for teaching biology to disadvantaged kids is somehow evidence that we are doing great."

Interesting. I took wow's post to mean that the board can do their job just fine without you continually harassing them.

Each to their own, I guess.

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Posted by paly '08 student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm

@Michele Dauber, Wynn

First, has there been serious investigation into the effects of laning? I want to know what happens if students who finish Conceptual Physics decide that they would like to take more physics. Where do they fit into the other physics lanes? I had a similar question about the Algebra II debate. I don't think simply adding a lane fixes the problem. Rather, it boxes the students in once they have finished those classes. They are left with the predicament of either repeating most of the material they've learned in Physics 1, thus wasting a precious semester, or jumping all the way to AP Physics. And if anyone even dares to suggest that we shouldn't be concerned about whether they would like to continue...

Second, I want to point out that, contrary to some of the accusations here, I feel that though the district may use too much self-congratulatory rhetoric, it does *not* rest on its laurels. When I was a student at Paly, the Campanile (of which I was a part) wrote the following editorial: Web Link. This was in part because of great student interest in adopting the four-block schedule. In the following year or two, Paly administrators and teachers did extensive research on student support of the idea, the effects (both good and bad), and how best to prepare teachers to make the switch. The four-block schedule is now a fact of student life at Paly. (Web Link) This is probably the single most drastic stress-relieving event to happen within Paly in the past four years. May I stress that it was done *civilly*, and that its success is probably due to the care of the Paly administration in its implementation?

I graduated from Paly in '08, having attended my fair share of board meetings and internal Paly reviews on the achievement gap. Please don't accuse our district's administrators and teachers of indifference to the achievement gap. I said this during the math debate, and I will repeat it: Paly provided me with some of the best teachers I've ever had, and it pains me to see them attacked with such vigor and ferocity. We Can Do Better Palo Alto can galvanize without unkindness.


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Posted by What's-Under-The-Hood?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2012 at 8:27 am

> purpose of the school board is to force democratic accountability
> on Administration ..

Hmmm .. What does the CA Ed. Code say about school boards/

CA Ed Code/Powers of School Board:
Web Link

The term “democratic accountability” does not appear in this defining section of the Ed Code.

The term “democratic accountability” does appear in left-wing literature/propaganda that imamates from “Ed Schools” that generally can be seen for the long-term demise of education in the public schools—due to a lot of “theory” and precious little results.

> How sad that the last election had two incumbents running unopposed.

Actually, there were no declared candidates, so the School Board “selected” the incumbents to "save money".

Unfortunately, because there is so little transparency at the PAUSD, having an election that actually examines the school’s performance, and the performance of incumbents, is not likely. Anytime anyone actually looks at a voting record of someone who is an incumbent, all sorts of screams of “unfair” emerge. Too many people equate the value of the schools to housing prices. This is an albatross around the PAUSD's neck that may be impossible to get rid of.

> Wynne Hauser for School Board

Didn’t vote for him when he ran, won’t vote for him in the future. His postings about "education" do not reveal him to be a man whose understanding of "education" is superior to other Palo Altans.

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Posted by Don't understand
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 16, 2012 at 8:29 am

Great points! Paly '08 student! I am disappointed with our district administrator's action regarding this matter. I actually feel bad for these students. I hope they don't feel bad about the "watered down" curriculum because they can't take the regular science classes.

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Posted by Completely Agree with Wow
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I do not think that place of tragedy (which I understand the Daubers have suffered) is a good platform from which to decide that one can become the self-appointed conscience of the district on every topic. This is what I now see the Daubers becoming. I understand that both Ken and Wynn Hausser are considering (again in Wynn's case) running for the school board and I very much hope that they are not elected because the pattern of communications displayed here is going to be hugely injurious from within the Board, should they make it there.

The issue for me is that "holding the schools accountable" misses the point. Several years ago the then-head of the Hewlett Foundation's educational efforts, Marshal "Mike" Smith, gave a talk at Gunn where he discussed Hewlett's experiences supporting education in Washington, DC. He said that they were stunned to eventually identify a lack of dental care as a major barrier to kids in DC successfully making it through middle school. How can a child concentrate on work with a horrible toothache? The Hewlett Foundation put a good deal of money into dental care after realizing that no matter what they invested in education, if the primary needs of the children in terms of food, sleep, and reasonable medical and dental care were not being met, the kids would not improve.

I feel that the Daubers, in their zeal for improvement for kids, are ignoring environmental factors as Hewlett initially did and blaming only the schools. And I don't think that's fair. As Paly 08 grad pointed out, everyone at the district cares about the achievement gap. From administrators through teachers through fellow students, the district cares. Lambasting them is not going to make them care more. And if they end up elected and treat school officials as they have been treating them from their bully pulpit (and I use the term deliberately), they are going to drive excellent administrators out of PAUSD.

I would LOVE for the Daubers and Wynn Hausser to look at the COMMUNITY surrounding the kids of color who are not performing as well as the other kids. What factors might there be in addition to the schools that they could turn their attention to and improve? Instead of just playing the same old one-dimensional role of critic, could they get involved and try to improve things on the ground? Organize after school sessions for these kids (as many studies have pointed to longer school days and mentoring as keys to success for them)? Could they help train parents to help kids? How many of these parents are able to help the kids acquire Physics? How many are reinforcing their homework efforts even if they can't help with the topic? Can classes or parent mentors help with that?

Until the Daubers and Wynn become more than the sound and fury (and sarcasm) they have positioned themselves to be, if they run, I beg that you not vote for them.

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