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Honors English Class at Paly

Original post made by Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School, on Oct 18, 2012

Today an email was sent to the American Classics Honors English Class stating that due to a mistake this class is no longer Honors ranked.
You took American Classics H last school year, 2011-2012, and we have some information to share with you. Last year, we applied for the class to be Honors, with weighted credit. We learned earlier this week that it will not receive the weighted credit option.

We have been working, and lobbying on your behalf, with the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) for several months regarding the American Classics H course taught at Palo Alto High School last year. I have spoken directly with Dr. Monica Lin, Associate Director of Admissions at the Office of the President, to try to resolve the issue but the American Classics H course will not receive weighted credit from the University of California for the 2011-2012 school year. We have gone back and forth with the UC staff and they are firm in their decision. The UCOP's rationale is that we had too many courses with honors credit at that time and cite some technical issues in our submission of the course, around which our discussions have been centered.

As your Principal, I am not interested in blaming anyone for this situation and have done everything possible to convince the UC System that the class should receive a weighted grade. The good news is that the class is still considered an honors course by the University of California even without the weighting of the grade. Dr. Lin has assured me that since the UC's are reviewing applications and students holistically now, there will not be any negative impact to students applying to the system at large. For students who are close to the minimum eligibility requirement it may have an impact if they drop below the threshold. Furthermore, it will not affect any applications to private and out-of-state colleges because we only report unweighted GPA's and then the colleges calculate GPA's based on their own criteria.

You might feel the need to contact the University of California President's Office but I strongly encourage you not to. We have done everything possible to ameliorate this unfortunate situation and contacting them will not change anything (they have made that crystal clear).

If you have specific questions, please see your TA or the College and Career staff

This makes a big difference to my student. How can this have happened in PAUSD?

Comments (15)

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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2012 at 8:01 pm

This would not have happened on Marilyn Cook,'s watch, when she was principal. I do not think they ha e had a principal since then to match her.

Now that all decisions are on-site, rather than district wide, it is only right to hold the current principal of Paly at least partially responsible.

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Posted by Ian
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 18, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Paly just wants it all. Guess what? You can't have it. Get in line with the rest of the high schools in the state and stop expecting everything should go your way.

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Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 18, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Ian - I am not sure what you mean. This English class was advertised to the students as having UC "weighted" credit, before they took the course. There was an some issue (unidentified) for last year, so the student who took the course last year do not get the UC weight. The "problem" has been fixed and the student taking the class this year will get the weighting. How does this make Paly parents want it all? Gunn seniors had the option of taking a junior english class (last year) that counts with the UC weight. It appears that Paly seniors will not have this benefit.

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Posted by just watching
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2012 at 10:21 pm

School's online newspaper quotes the principal saying about Dr.Lin, associate director of admissions:
“She [Lin] is as flexible as a brick,” Winston said.

Web Link

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Posted by Lake Wobegone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

The UC's reason: "we had too many courses with honors credit at that time" should cause PAUSD to take a look at its extensive tracking system. What UC is saying is that you have too many kids taking too many honors courses and it is starting to look like grade inflation. We don't know what you are doing in PAUSD with all this tracking but when every kid comes in with a heavily weighted transcript it looks unfair to the other schools who aren't as reliant on tracking.

And that Paly math letter probably didn't help as a backdrop to this negotiation, since all over the state, officials at various levels were using it in powerpoint presentations to illustrate what's wrong with educators today.

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Posted by more info needed
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2012 at 9:08 am

Lake Wobegone,

Wow! That's certainly jumping to conclusions based on pure wild(and biased) speculation.

UCs say they want to encourage kids to take challenging classes and so the limit has nothing to do with "too many kids taking too many honors courses" or "grade inflation."

UC: "The University assigns extra weight to grades received in honors level courses to encourage students to undertake more challenging work at the advanced secondary level. "

Since UC admissions is basically numbers based the limit is to make it fairer for students at schools which don't offer APs and honors classes whose GPAs can't be higher. The high number of honors classes Paly offers helps get our kids admitted there.

In fact, the most competitive UCs are signaling that they want to see more APs and honors classes on kids' transcripts. Just look at UC Berkeley's new admissions criteria which now includes "The applicant’s full record of achievement in college preparatory work in high school, including the number and rigor of courses taken and grades earned in those courses."

What is odd here is that Paly didn't have too many honors classes in English last year. Without this one it had 0. So either Paly got its paperwork for it in too late or the UCs didn't think the class was rigorous enough to be considered an honors class.

If this class was one of the hybrid classes Paly offers where enrollment is open to all, but kids who get harder assignments are promised the extra GPA weight, maybe that didn't pass the UC "rigor" test.

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Posted by more info needed
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2012 at 9:18 am

Just counted.

This year Paly has 8 classes designated honors by the UCs this year.

Last year it had 7 without the honors English class.

How is it then that "we had too many courses with honors credit at that time" as Paly says the UCOP said about 2011-12?

Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2012 at 9:24 am

The problem as my student and our family sees it, now that I have had a chance to cool down and reflect a bit, is that this was advertised as an honors class and was chosen for that reason. I believe it was a popular choice and a large percentage of the class chose this class. As an honors class, it was more rigorous, the work load was heavier, the grading was stiffer, and most importantly a lower grade was more acceptable than a higher grade in a nonhonors class.

The fact that now this class is being treated as a regular class will mean a lower GPA for those students who did not get the highest grade. A B grade on an honors class looks like a reasonably good grade. A B grade on a regular class is a much poorer reflection on the student. If the workload, grading expectations for the students and grading practice for the teachers, is that for an honors level class, it makes all the students who took this class a little less challenge orientated than they actually were.

I can't say that this is something that will not affect their college application process. I think this is a serious matter and I think the email from the principal is not the end of this affair.

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Posted by Lake Wobegone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2012 at 10:40 am

more info-you wrote "UCs didn't think the class was rigorous enough to be considered an honors class." Yes. That is because we have too many classes that are designated as "honors," and too many students receiving honors credit to be plausible, which is what they said. But TO THE BARRICADES! SOMEONE HAS CRITICIZED OUR PERFECT SCHOOLS! EVEN IN THE MIDST OF A GIANT SCREWUP! TO THE RAMPARTS!

We should look at what the UC said and try to fix the problem so other kids are not hurt in the future.

@Paly Parent. This really did hurt your student, no question that a B in a regular lane class is going to look worse than a B in an honors class on a UC app for UCLA and UCB. You are justified in being upset.

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Posted by horrible news
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Interesting how the principal asks us to not blame anyone yet in my opinion, he is the one to blame. The buck stops with the principal.

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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Horrible News: You are absolutely right. That is why he is the principal....he is well-paid to take the responsibility.

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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 20, 2012 at 8:39 am

This class has an overall issue with grading. Grading is tough, arbitrary, subjective and unpredictable. Students routinely say that they do not understand how the teachers in this class grade. Students have no idea what makes an A, a B or C paper. Some teachers are easier graders than others. Overall teaching and grading in this class needs to be looked at.

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm

This whole situation is very disturbing and I don't like the fact that the principal referred to a UC official as being as "flexible as a brick." That's not exactly what our school officials should be saying about a UC official in this day and age where it's getting harder and harder to get into the UC system.

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Posted by just watching
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Paly Parent- there may be more reasons not to like the principal's statement about the flexibility of the UC official. It has to do with expectations from a school official.
As to responsibility? blame? flexibility statement just mentioned seems to deliver the principal's opinion.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm

What does this do to the grade calculation for the student's final transcript? They worked harder for a whole year, and now that is erased?
I would like to understand why this situation took a full year to NOT get fixed.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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