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Five candidates prepare to compete for two seats on Palo Alto school board

Original post made on Aug 1, 2014

Gearing up for this fall's campaign for Palo Alto Board of Education, candidates are polishing their websites, securing endorsements and planning kick-off parties for late August and early September.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 1, 2014, 12:00 AM

Comments (55)

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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 2, 2014 at 6:31 am

Both Dalma and Dauber support Paly's proposal that would have required that all incoming 9th graders take Advanced English. Dalma, calling it a "very creative and courageous proposal from the teachers," claims it is a missed opportunity to innovate. Dauber refers to it as a "terrific example of data driven analysis." Dalma, according to the article, thinks this proposal would better serve PAUSD's low income students. Dauber says it will "automatically mitigate the achievement gap."

Web Link

I don't see how teaching only one level of English can be called creative or innovative. Aren't 90% or more of PAUSD's K-12 classes already one size fits all?

I also don't see how this is data driven when no one noticed that Gunn teaches two levels of 9th grade English and has 91% of its graduates college-ready? Data, like that only 80% of students at Paly are college-ready and English is the biggest stumbling block, suggests that there is a problem at Paly but, given Gunn's success, does NOT suggest that one level of 9th grade English is the solution.

The board's concerns focused on this: the proposal did not set aside money to beef up academic support, an obvious concern if you are going to move 100% of students into Advanced English with 2 times the work and rigor as the regular level English class that half of them wanted to take.

Paly's English Department gets kudos for being honest. It admitted that it needed to figure out how to better serve all students when teaching wide disparities of abilities in one classroom (applies to all into English 9A too) and a way to get struggling students to seek out the 1 hour a week of after-school support that is already offered. Those admissions – that sufficient support isn't there now and that the little that is there isn't being used - was all the board needed to nix the proposal.


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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 2, 2014 at 6:35 am

It would be good to hear the candidates opine on these English 9A points too.

Process: Paly's English teachers did not approach the board with their proposal – and did not reach out to get student and parent input - until AFTER the course catalog listing only one 9th Grade English class went to print.

Special Ed: One of the reasons for this proposal was to un-clump special needs students, many who take regular English. Offering only one level of English, the thinking went, would allow Paly to place fewer special needs students in a classroom, giving each more teacher time and more non-special needs 9th graders to help teach and support them. The special needs parents did not support this proposal though.

Accreditation: Paly's Accreditation Report puts two English lanes on its short-list of Paly's "areas of strength."


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2014 at 9:07 am

Here is what actually happened, minus the spin. Several years ago the WASC accreditation team (which included Paly teachers and parents) pointed to laning in freshman English as premature, and to the fact that minority and special education students were concentrated in the basic lane. The WASC report recommended raising the expectations for English 9. The Paly teachers did that, to the point that English 9 and English 9A now have the same content, and that many English 9 students score Advanced and Proficient on the STAR tests. However, minority and special education students are still concentrated in basic freshman English.

The Paly English teachers concluded that there is no pedagogical reason to have two lanes of freshman English, and that students in basic English suffer because they get labeled as "bad in English" even though many of them are capable of doing advanced work, as evidenced by their STAR test scores, grades, etc.

The school board overrode the teachers' judgment based on complaints from parents who wanted laning in freshman English, despite the fact that the teachers see no pedagogical purpose for it. One of the parents who spoke at the school board meeting was Jonathan Foster, the husband of Catherine Crystal Foster, school board candidate. Does Ms. Foster share her husband's view that we should continue to teach two lanes of freshman English, even though they are identical in content and serve to label minority kids as poor in English?

Here is a question for all of the candidates: why would the school board even get involved in a decision like this? When is the school board justified in overriding the professional judgment of the teachers we hire? Why do some politically connected parents seem to get deference on pedagogy over our professional teachers?


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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 2, 2014 at 9:29 am

If you approached the numerous parents who wrote in opposition of the proposal, you'd discover that your spin, that the board was against it because it wanted to please a yet-to-announce candidate's husband, is not true.

Here's a taste of what special ed families sent to the board the weekend before the board heard Paly's proposal:

"As a special ed parent,...They then think ...Somehow if we raise the bar, all the kids will magically develop all the things they need to do advanced English."

"In my opinion special ed students may be able to do English A, but at what cost? They will most likely get a lower grade. My son already struggles in the regular English,

This is important for:
- GPA: CSU and UC look at gpa mostly, why should special ed students not have a chance to apply there? UC also require at least a C, now some may only get a D and the course won't count, whereas the regular English with a C would count.
- self esteem: lower grades are not going to help. Special ed students
already feel "stupid" compared to others.
-extra stress: more struggling to get the work done."

"I am against the proposal. My son, now a senior, struggles with writing. The rigor of the higher level English class would definitely have been too much for him. He stays up until midnight or later trying to complete his writing assignments."

"This would have been disastrous for my student with an IEP -- she
struggled as it was to keep up in English 9! There must be an option
available for those who are simply not capable of being successful in an
"advanced" class involving extensive reading and writing."


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2014 at 9:41 am

The whole point of the English 9 proposal was that the two "lanes" are already the same, and that having two "lanes" simply labels kids in the lower lane as not good at English. The change was expressly not about changing the content of English 9.

What document are you quoting from? Please post a link. Selective quotes from anonymous sources who don't seem informed about the actual proposal from a non-public document is not evidence.

I am interested in whether Catherine Crystal Foster agrees with her husband's comments at that school board meeting. I hope she posts her opinion on that point. (Maybe she has expressed an opinion somewhere already. I have never seen her quoted on any issue in the Palo Alto schools, though).


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2014 at 9:48 am

> Cabrera has run unsuccessfully for public office four times before —
> including for mayor of San Francisco, mayor of Santa Cruz and
> California Assembly. He said he does not have the resources to
> mount a significant campaign and does not expect to win, but
> wants to contribute his ideas to the public debate.

Mr. Cabrera has already had multiple opportunities to contribute his ideas to the public debate. He seems to have not found much in the way of support for those ideas from his previous attempts.

Why doesn't he write up his thoughts and post them on-line somewhere? Or maybe write a letter to the editor every once in a while. Having a paper trail is never a bad idea when one gets around to thinking about running for public office.

> teaching computer programming

Certainly this is not a bad idea—although teaching the larger issues of what technology is, and how we use technology, needs to be taught also. People can learn programming within a couple of months (at least basic programming), if they are interested. Far too many people have trouble with Algebra, an intellectual discipline that deals with the manipulation of symbols. People can learn to program without Algebra understanding, but meaningful programming projects rarely are completely devoid of the same concepts that are the basis of Algebra.

There is too much at stake here for our local government elections to be a grandstand for people with a lot of time on their hands, and little to offer in terms of insight into the educational process, or the problems facing the PAUSD.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2014 at 10:04 am

Evidently "on English 9a" thinks she knows better than the Paly teachers and principal how to do their jobs. She has many theories about what is best for poor, minority, and disabled students.

I think the treatment the teachers received was atrocious. The board didn't even hear their item until 1230 am when they had to teach [portion removed] the next day.

Despite the fact that the community talks about how much it loves our excellent teachers it is very obvious that the so called "400" hate the teachers and care only about their own child rather than all children. The arrogance displayed by English 9a is stunning. This was a well researched proposal. Also I would appreciate knowing whether Ms foster agrees with her husband. It would affect my vote.

I don't think you always have to defer to the teachers by any means. I don't believe in complete autonomy. See: Paly Math Letter. However this was a proposal that was many years in the making, was approved by the is the principal dr young and dr Skelly. It was backed by solid research and data.

The points English 9a makes sound very similar to those made by former district parent Lauren Janov at the board meeting. Video. The tone is also similar.

Regardless what really comes across is the thst special Ed kids cannot pass English 9a please allow me to break it to you gently that this is already happening. It happened without fanfare. Everyone just signed up for English 9a.

I think you should be the first to know that those kids already are passing the class you said they wouldn't pass.

Clustering all special Ed kids into one level is not a least restrictive environment for them and is possibly even illegal. The comment made at the board meeting by Dana Tom in particular was that it might be a segregated class "possibly" but he was unbothered by that.


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Posted by Judy
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm

It would be interesting to know how many students registered for English 9 and English 9A for this coming school year. I have heard that so few students signed up for English 9 that it will most likely not be offered this year.

If this is true, and perhaps the Weekly could investigate and write an article, it seems that the Paly teachers were on the right track to alert the community that they believed all students should take English 9A. Perhaps this is not as big of an issue as last year's School Board made it out to be.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 2, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Observer,

"Evidently "on English 9a" thinks she knows better than the Paly teachers and principal how to do their jobs. She has many theories about what is best for poor, minority, and disabled students. "

Unfortunately, Paly English has been a notorious problem for all types of students (ask the students). Can't blame Diorio for something that was probably not in her purview until now.

The most concerning issue about the very political de-laning plan is that lesser performing students would have mandatory tutorial. That means they have to spend double time on a class where every other school in the nation manages to teach during the school day. Yes, please do that to de-stress the students.


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Posted by paly parent form Community Center
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 2, 2014 at 7:38 pm

To add, everybody finds out who the lesser performing students are anyway (you have to stay after school?), so what is the point of pretending that there is a mingling of all levels, when they all end up tiered after school.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 3, 2014 at 3:42 am

What people fail to understand is that the classes are already the same. There is no change. The only thing that differs between these classes is the name and the race of the students.


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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 3, 2014 at 9:17 am

It is important to get English right from the start because students who haven't passed the a-g requirements - which include getting a C- or better in all 8 semesters of English - haven't met the baseline requirements for admission into a UC or CSU.

1 out of every 5 students at Paly hasn't passed a-g.

79% --– 16% of the graduating class --- got at least one D or F in English.

Web Link


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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 3, 2014 at 9:28 am

The two English classes are already the same?

Not according to last year's course catalog and not according to the English teachers who told the board a few months ago that they wanted to drop English 9 so they could raise the bar for all and said that they had not watered 9A down:

From Paly's report to the board:

We are seeking "ways to improve courses so all students could receive rigorous and high-level instruction in English that would prepare them to take future accelerated and honors courses if they chose to do so."

"English 9A is already a rigorous curriculum, and this proposed change will not compromise the rigor in any way"

As for the research, Paly English teachers told the board that they "examined research and examples from the field. The most compelling study came from a similar school district in New York."

What was said about that school district in the Town Square comments following Gina Dalma's guest opinion "English 'lanes' limit students":

"There is nothing 'compelling' about a high school which has 2x the money, 3x the supports, and 1/31st of the students with high PSAT scores as Paly has" and, even then, only has "29% of Blacks [who] performed at the advanced level in English compared to 84% of Whites."

Confusingly, Paly introduced this proposal to the board as "Paly's commitment to providing students choices in freshman English courses" and then said it wanted to take student choice away.

Web Link
Web Link


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 3, 2014 at 11:16 am

Isn't Silicon Valley Community Foundation the people Zuckerberg gave $.5Billion to administer? Might not be such a bad idea to have someone one from the foundation on the board. Might be like the old days with Bill Hewlett. On the other hand, just being real as a parent volunteer, while I appreciate their service and how hard it can be, often the higher ranks of PTA can get just as insular as school board members. A Barb Mitchell endorsement is the kiss of death as far as my vote.}

It sounds to me as if a proposal to solve a problem for one group of students caused the parents of the other group to fear a resource their children value, a resource they felt was an accelerated educational opportunity, would be taken away. If the status quo really was hurting one group, then leaving the status quo shouldn't have been an option. Yet neither was the proposed change if it would hurt the more advanced students, as the parents had every right to be concerned about. Was this just a matter of perception, or was there something the district could do to tangibly demonstrate to those families that the opportunity would remain? Could other, better opportunities be offered to make it clear the change was an improved opportunity? How to reassure the parents of the advanced students that their opportunity would remain?

Our district unfortunately has a credibility problem. A lot of those parents no doubt remember the Everyday Math conflict (as just one example), and how it played out: 800 elementary parents signed a petition, not to ask for a different textbook, but only to ask that the decision be postponed one year so that the program they preferred, that had not been evaluated with the others, be evaluated too (for free by the publisher). The administration countered by saying things like, the teachers had evaluated them and preferred EDM, using the teachers evaluation as cover. Parents never disputed that EDM was best of the options the teachers evaluated, but wanted a program they felt was better to be evaluated, since it had simply been left out of evaluation because of a mistake. This did not stop the administration from using the teachers evaluation as cover and to accuse the parents of the usual ugly things for getting involved.

The proposal came out at the same time that news of our district plans to spend $40 million on a gym at Paly, nearly four times as was spent for the new athletic center at Gunn, with accusations that money which had been earmarked for supplies and furnishings would now be spent on the gym, and amid complaints of supply problems already in the English department. Between that and the district's past untrustworthiness, how likely was it that the proposed change was going to make happy the half of the parents who would just have to trust that their children's opportunity was not being taken away by it?

I'm planning on voting for Dauber and Dalmer, because I think they are the most likely to work at repairing the trust gap, and most capable of doing it. I have a lot of respect for Godfrey, but think she is most likely to carry on the administrative status quo. I'd really like to see our next administrator succeed, and I don't think that can happen with the same tack.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2014 at 11:31 am

If you read through the College Readiness Report (thanks On English 9A), it is clear that the students struggling in high school were already struggling when tested in 2nd and 7th grade. And the majority of them - by a large percentage - went to Jordan Middle School.

High school is often too late for kids to catch up. And the next time someone asks why so many potential Jordan students apply to private middle schools, there is your answer.


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 3, 2014 at 11:35 am

Whoops, I'm planning on voting for DALMA (sorry for the spelling mistake there). When situations like this happen, it's unhelpful to dissect what everyone said at this point in time or that point. Because the administrators we have are the types to dig in, justify a predetermined outcome, rather than think, take input, and try to problem solve. Maybe it's appropriate for them, but for those who are capable of even changing their minds based on public discussion, which I would think we want, it's not.

In his work on the homework committee, Dauber showed he could take input from diverse groups and hash out something with buy in from all parties. He has had my vote ever since. If you took his opinion at the start and at the end of the process, they would undoubtedly have changed.

My interpretation of Ms. Dalma's point above was that in light of what the teachers found, doing nothing wasn't acceptable, I don't think she was picking a rut and sticking to it at all, which seems to be the accusation. I think with her and Dauber, we have the only chance at an open door to try to get something as acceptable to everyone as possible when there are conflicts.


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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm

A Parent,

If what you said is true ("administrators we have are the types to dig in") it is not as applicable now with a new superintendent stepping in.

And as for this ("I don't think [Gina Dalma] was picking a rut and sticking to it"), here is Gina Dalma's very clear position on English 9 and 9A from the Guest Opinion she wrote for the Weekly:

"I applaud the teachers who are urging that lanes be eliminated at PAUSD and am disappointed that the plan is no longer on the table."

Her statement implies that she supports eliminating different levels of classes throughout the district. It would be good to hear her thinking on that too.

Web Link


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Posted by confused
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2014 at 12:09 pm

@Palo Alto Resident, please post your data.

The linked report states: Of those who failed to meet A-G requirements, students were from:
- Jordan 62
- JLS 49
- Terman 29
- No Middle School 32

How does the above data from the linked report validate that claim that " why so many potential Jordan students apply to private middle schools"? You do know there are over 1000 students at Jordan? While JLS has around 850 and 700 at Terman?

Are you serious that this small percentage difference is the reason highly educated, extremely, extremely wealthy, well-connected parents from Professorville, Old Palo Alto and Crescent Park are choosing to send their children to more prestigious middle schools? Some of which (Castilleja) ensure they can stay on through high-school? Really? That's your argument?


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Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm

@Palo Alto resident
I just checked the district site and there were 1022 students at JLS for 13 - 14 school year, and "over 1000" students at Jordan. I think they are comparable in size

I am very concerned about the statement "I applaud the teachers who are urging that lanes be eliminated at PAUSD and am disappointed that the plan is no longer on the table." made by Gina Dalma. I know there is a population that would like to see any and all tracking/laning eliminated in all schools. This concerns me greatly.

I think one of the strength of PAUSD is the variety of levels that are available in various subjects (math, science, foreign language, english) I am wary of any candidate that is opposed to this practice.


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Posted by confused
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2014 at 12:40 pm

@pvp, I notice you didn't post Jordan's latest numbers. In any case, even with your numbers, it just moves the percentages down.

I still can't get my head around the idea that you think that this tiny difference in numbers not making A-G requirements between these two schools is really the reason that the people with old money in north Palo Alto send their kids to private schools? Seriously? That's the platform of a candidate you'd vote for? This small difference is the real reason parents with no mortgages living in mansions running major companies choose to send their kids to private schools?

Really; who are you going to vote for on this basis? I'd would help to know who you think believes the same as you in this.


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Posted by paly parent community center
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm

On English 9A,

"Her statement implies that she supports eliminating different levels of classes throughout the district."

It takes honesty to understand the Paly English problem, and both Dalma and Dauber chose politics over a sincere and thorough look at the issues. The students who have left Paly over the years without English credit (courtesy of the English D's and F's) fulfilled all their other credits, algebra, even world language, and science for UC application. They were not ELL students either. The numbers should be able to prove it was an issue of racial segregation as the teachers claim, but the numbers don't point to that. To understand the problem, they should count the number of white students who had the same fate with English. How it compares to all other departments.

My view is that all other departments have achieved a basic solid standard which all students can access for graduation and post graduation success, and UC application. This basic standard is accessible, and doable and without too much drama.

In a way, the English department deflects their well known administrative issues (class size, teacher quality, alignment in terms of wok load and easier grading teachers) and want to now have lesser achieving students to use up their tutorial (which students are entitled to use for all their subjects) on a single subject. This is grossly unfair and could complicate the achievement of these students in all their classes.

Whatever they want to call the class, and whatever they do, they need to do it in equal time as the other departments within the school day.


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Posted by paly parent community center
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm

To Dauber's credit, he has spoken up for the basic standard to be more accessible for Math and Science.

With Common Core, there would be all the more reason to not call a class "advanced" unless it actually was. I heard the teachers wanted to call it anything as long as it was just one class, but the people wanting advanced objected. Which makes sense, you fight for more options for high school students, not fewer.


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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm

paly parent community center,

My guess is that many of the students (Asian, white or minority) who are forced or prodded into taking English 9A will need to spend far more than a once a week tutorial session to achieve the results the Paly teachers are expecting.

Remember, only 29% of Blacks perform at the advanced level -- with supports that appear to add an extra 5 + hours of English a week -- at the model high school the Paly English Department mentioned.

From the previous thread:

"[That New York high school] allocates 'generous resources to students who struggle' which it points out is 'likely an important factor' for anyone attempting to replicate its success.

Repeater Classes: 'A class specifically developed for students who have failed a Regents exam and/or class. If a student fails the Regents exam, they must take the repeater'

Support Classes: 'These are extra help classes that support the academic subjects. Students are assigned based upon grades, teacher recommendation, counselor recommendation, or by parent request. For some students, these classes are mandatory academic intervention services.'

Extra Help: 'Available Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings during zero period.'"


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2014 at 5:42 am

Virtually nothing that English 9a is saying is true. Even those statements that are technically accurate are misleading. Facts:

1. The External Wasc review concluded 5 years ago that freshman English should be a single lane due to the obvious racial segregation of the lanes;
2. The vast majority of schools have delaned 9th grade English and it is a best practice
3. The teachers have already aligned the curriculum between these 2 classes. There IS NO DIFFERENCE in the curriculum or how it is taught.
4 the star test scores of the students in both lanes are similar
5 no one registered for 9 this coming year because taking 9 means you do the same work but don't get honors credit due to the fact that the curricula are aligned

All tracking is a cost benefit question. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs. Here they don't because there is ZERO benefit other than allowing some parents bragging rights and a class with no black, Latino, or poor kids in it. It doesn't move faster, doesn't do more, and doesn't have more homework. It is identical other than segregated. On the detriment side of the ledger we have segregation, low expectations and failure for minority kids. Kudos to the play English teachers for trying to do the right think [portion removed.]


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Posted by paly.pausd.org
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 8:40 am

Web Link

English: 9
"This course is the college preparatory course for freshman English. It meets the UC and CSU English "b" requirement. Students will develop their writing, vocabulary, and reading and literary analysis skills in the context of literature. Through discussion, oral presentations, and expository writing, students will demonstrate their reading comprehension and understanding of key concepts. Vocabulary and grammar study is integrated into all units of study. Most course reading is assigned as homework. Students should expect to write regularly, with regular formal written assignments."

English 9A:
"This course is the accelerated college preparatory course for freshman nglish. It meets the UC and CSU English "b" requirement. Students will develop their writing, vocabulary, and reading and literary analysis skills in the context of literature. Through discussion, oral presentations, and expository writing, students will demonstrate their understanding of key concepts and critical thinking skills. Vocabulary and grammar study is integrated into all units of study. Students are expected to work independently at home and be self-motivated. Papers are graded more rigorously than in English 9. Most course reading is assigned as homework, with nightly assignments typically ranging from 20-30 pages. Extended pieces of revised and edited writing are assigned every 2-4 weeks, and average 2-4 pages per assignment. Shorter pieces of writing may be assigned more frequently, or completed in class."


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Posted by paly.pausd.org
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 8:45 am

Web Link

"Pending Board of Education Approval, the 9th Grade English team is proposing that all students enroll in English 9A for the 2014-2015 school year. If you'd like to hear more information regarding our rationale and work to ensure all students have access to a rich and rigorous classroom experience, please join the 9th grade English teaching team for a thoughtful dialogue regarding our ongoing work. We will be hosting two parent meetings on February 4th, 2014, 8:30-9:30 am or 7:00-8:00 pm in the library (ERC). These meeting are optional and offered as a way to partner with our parent community in order to address any concerns or questions you may have regarding your student's transition to Paly as it pertains to their English experience.
All freshmen are required to take English 9 Accelerated, which fulfills Paly's requirement of one full year of English. This course satisfies the UC and CSU English "b" requirement.


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 8:51 am

@observer,
You start out making a good case, but then conclude that because you see that side of it, therefore the other side must have base motives and attack them. That's how these things become a conflict with sides in the first place. To repeat, the change was motivated for good reasons, but you have to also realize that people who are happy with the education their kids are getting are being told the change will be just as good, with nothing to go on but trust in the word of our school administration, which is at a pretty low point. Read what I wrote in my first point. There's a difference between making a good argument for what you want and achieving change with human beings. Look at it from their point of view - [portion removed] - what did the district offer in concrete terms to ensure their education would continue to be advanced? If the education would be the same, why not offer some innovative opportunities to those who might want more [portion removed?] Opportunities available to all this time perhaps, but opportunities nevertheless? The point is, you're changing something that is working for one group and calling them names because you think they should just trust you that your information covers everything.

We have a new administrator coming in. Get out of old ruts. If you want change, you have to learn about how you create change (not opponents and conflict).


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Posted by paly.pausd.org
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 8:58 am

Of course, the second link didn't get board approval so they announced the "recommendation" to parents without approval. But, hey, when did high schools ever listen to the board?


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 9:03 am

Nightly assignments ranging from 20-30 pages, rigorously graded? And what if someone is sick for a week, making up 150 pages? Shoot me now. I'm a writer and I have trouble with those expectations, especially during what should be sports/language/extracurricular/social/family/dinner time. Eek. No wonder some people want laned English!

You can't just make debate arguments, you have to see this from parents' point of view.


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Posted by paly parent community center
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 4, 2014 at 9:05 am

Observer,

"1. The External Wasc review concluded 5 years ago that freshman English should be a single lane due to the obvious racial segregation of the lanes;"

If there was "obvious racial segregation" in 9th grade English, why did the English department not do something during 10th, 11th, and 12th grades to avert failing the harmed students before they graduated? It's bizarre that the supposed 9th grade racial segregation has been such a big deal, but that everything else was OK.

You reminded me of the other stated objective from the teachers - that more URM students take AP English. A completely unnecessary class for anyone (especially for those who just want the damn credit to apply to college). And there is the issue that the regular 9th grade class had too many disruptive students (all ethnicities), and the teachers find that difficult (impossible) to handle. But I guess they grow up by 10th, and it's ok to be elitist then.

You are wrong about parents "bragging rights and a class with no black, Latino, or poor kids in it." This is the kind of thing that the English department had the opportunity to correct, but instead they seem to agree with you. They owe the parents in the Paly community a lot better than that.

What really gets me is how sloppy the messages were from the English department on this whole thing which allow this nonsense to be spewed. So much for the English department's listening, reading, and writing skills. Their report has one sloppy chart, no supporting evidence, and they kept saying "we will come back with that information."

I would hope that this issue is now dead anyway. The teachers will get to sound like they saved the world by liberating the racial segregation in 9th grade (miraculously the problems solved with two sections with the same curriculum), and maybe they can move on to improving their department. Having the candidates take sides on this is not worth it, but Dauber and Dalma definitely jumped the gun on an issue without knowing more about it.


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Posted by parent community enter
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 4, 2014 at 9:17 am

paly.pausd.org

"Papers are graded more rigorously than in English 9. Most course reading is assigned as homework, with nightly assignments typically ranging from 20-30 pages"

I would like to know if this is a basic standard of work for a core class in high school, which is accessible and doable for all students.

This doesn't sound right.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 9:37 am

This thread has nothing to do with school board and more to do with English. So here goes, my 2c.

Middle school English is not laned. We have kids entering Paly and Gunn from at least 3 separate middle schools and who knows how many middle school English teachers. These middle school teachers have different expectations, different work loads and differing teaching skills/abilities. The students that graduate from our middle schools are then treated the same, please forget that some may be ESL students (often coming from well educated overseas families newly moved to the US). We then expect these students to manage the same reading load and the same writing load on a nightly basis.

Forget that some of these students may also be struggling in math and need extra math sessions after school. Forget that some of these students may be special ed and take longer to read a page due to dyslexia, etc. Forget that some may have to work jobs, or help with child care, or other family responsibilities. Forget that some may take twice as long to read or write a page as others.

When we add up the amount of time a student is in school plus the number of hours to do the assigned homework for all classes, we are putting a great many children under stress. Yes, of course we have plenty of students who are able to do this much work without too much stress, but we have plenty of students who stress out at the very thought of 30 pages reading. Why should all these students be treated the same? And on top of that, why should the capable students be expected to help/be held back/get less teaching time because there are struggling students in a class of 30.

I am no education expert. But I strongly feel that education is not a one size fits all scenario. Yes, all our students need to be able to read and write to an agreed standard. But some need to soar and others need to struggle to get there. Treating them as identical is doing none of them a favor.


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

Oops, I misread that - I thought it was 20-30 pages of writing per night! Still, I personally don't agree with so much HOMEwork.

This is a boundaries issue for me. Work life balance. Teach the kids to do the hard thinking and concentrating at intervals during the day. It's lazy to lecture them on what they should learn at some other time, and bad for the kids. Teach them to work hard, and have a life.

These kids aren't going home to Gilligan's Island reruns. They're doing service projects, and debate, robotics, tutoring, learning languages, playing instruments, helping with siblings, writing computer games, and spending time with family. They have tools and opportunities we couldn't dream of at that age. Yet we want them on that same old hamster wheel for every hour of their time. Making kids go to school all day, find time for college resume extracurriculars and sports, then all that nightly work? Too much.

Do you hear this, Dr. McGee? School board members? I don't want you to change a thing for those who like this and excel at it. But it will destroy my uber-creative, funny, talkative, project-oriented kid who taught himself how to code by watching youtube videos, can improvise with advanced adult players on violin, and is writing a paper for an adult scientific journal this summer based on new science done for science fair. Extend Connections into high school, on both campuses, school within a school for core classes, so the kids (especially boys) who are more holistic and project-oriented can thrive, too. As well as their family units... Aren't we the hub of innovation?


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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Observer,

English 9 and 9A are not "tracked" - set and inflexible - classes. Perhaps that misunderstanding is the source of your ire.

Paly is simply offering two different levels of college-preparatory, UC approved English and lets students decide which one they prefer to take.

On your points:

1. The WASC report you mention that was written by the accreditation committee 5 years ago says that Paly's curricular strength is its multiple lanes in English which allow students to "work at levels that match their interest and skill level, thus promoting academic success overall." Web Link

2. If there is "no difference" in the curriculum or in how English 9 and 9A are taught, as you assert, someone has some pretty major explaining to do because the published course catalog's descriptions, posted above, show the two classes as being very different.

They cannot be identical because under PAUSD policy Paly has to get the board's permission before it can make English 9 into a 9A and it has not done that.

3. You say that "the star test scores of the students in both lanes are similar."

No to that too. English 9A's 4% who are not proficient is NOT "similar" to English 9's 27%.

Web Link

4. Eyeballing it, English 9's ratio is probably 3 non-minority to every 1 minority student. Repeat: English 9 is mostly White and Asian.

Minority students take English 9A too.

5. How is it that YOU know that "no one registered for 9 this coming year because taking 9 means you do the same work but don't get honors credit due to the fact that the curricula are aligned"?

Apart from neither English class carrying honors credit, so contrary to that assertion too, Paly doesn't release who is assigned to what class until later this month and even then parents only know their child's schedule so this is a guess on your part.

If incoming 9th graders were told that the work in both English 9 and 9A is the same, see #2 as to how that can't be.

I don't buy the rest of your assertions either.

This was a top-down blanket proposal to force 180 students who want English 9 to take 9A – and so force those 180 students to ratchet up their homework by lots -- have "nightly assignments typically ranging from 20-30 pages" with extended pieces of revised and edited writing every 2-4 weeks.

What I don't get is why teachers didn't do what was logical and noncontroversial. Just meet with each student before they get to Paly, like teachers do in math, and engage in a candid discussion with the student and family about which class is the best fit for the child.

If Paly English doesn't trust the 8th English grade teachers to do that – even though they seem to be right on when recommending what of Paly's many math classes a student should take in 9th grade - then they can meet with the families themselves.

THAT would honor students and their choices.




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Posted by paly.pausd.org
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 1:15 pm

"The three remaining candidates, Dauber, Foster and Godfrey, have posted complete websites with long lists of endorsements."

For those looking:

Dauber: Web Link
Foster: Web Link
Godfrey: Web Link


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Posted by paly parent community center
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm

paly.pausd.org

"The three remaining candidates, Dauber, Foster and Godfrey, have posted complete websites with long lists of endorsements."

For those looking:

Dauber: Web Link
Foster: Web Link
Godfrey: Web Link

Interesting. They all have the same vision. Almost word for word.

Foster and Godfrey seem to have the same base.

I voted for Dauber last round, and would be willing to give him a chance if he could backtrack on two mistakes I think he has made regarding Paly. The idea that TA is the end all be all, and the adding fuel to the English 9A unnecessary drama. He'll also have to clarify his views on the OCR going after Paly and if he thinks that makes any sense, given his wife's strong views about these issues.

We'll probably need a Gunn person and a Paly person to provide a balanced experience with both schools and avert these situations where people act on politics first, and at the first mention of racial discrimination the idea is that everyone else is evil. Foster seems more political, so Godfrey stands out as more student focused.


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Posted by EnglishProblems
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 11:47 pm

WASC data shows that students failing to meet a-g are all clustered in English. There are multiple problems here, and I think a narrow focus on only the laning aspect is not complete. Let's look at a few items:

1) middle school English at Jordan is a disorganized mess. Each teacher approaches the subject haphazardly, with no end-to-end expectations of what is to be taught each year. There is no management or oversight. Each student gets 3 teachers, drawn from a random pool where 25% of teachers teach nothing. I could offer names, but the weekly will delete. That means about 15% of kids get a poor teacher for two off their three years. This happened to my kid. They are toast waking in the door at Paly and cannot catch up. Lane or not.

2) Paly English is little better. Some are truly excellent and can catch kids up. Some are abysmal - enthusiastic, but cannot teach. Apply the same math as above and you get a pretty clear picture where the problems are: teacher inconsistency. This is code for 'bad teaching' - yeah, it happens.

3) laning, and delaning matter very little for two reasons: the lanes purport to teach everyone the same. AND the difference in teaching skill far exceeds the difference in lanes. Let me give an example: kid 1 takes Eng 9A with Ms S. who fails to describe homework, provides no writing guidance or feedback, and is generally disorganized. Nothing learned except frustration and internalized messages of failure. Kid 2 takes Eng 9 with Mr. B, who has great writing guidance, catches kids up on items missed in Middle School; provides feedback on writing and is generally on the ball. Result: a struggling student learns an outstanding amount.

Point here is that lanes don't matter. The teacher you get matters. Way more.

4) Paly English is unmanaged. The worst teachers are retained, and the best practices are not pushed onto the low performing teachers. Like Jordan, the teachers each pursue their own path, regardless of the disastrous results. Why? Because they can. There is no leadership removing them, and nobody telling them to teach differently; with methods which work better. Even though the next classroom over has a great teacher with good methods that work.

5) The board has set down a goal for every student to be a-g ready. English is not delivering. Every student who receives a 'D ' or 'F' in English is a board violation from a broken department. I don't buy into the framing of the problem as a laning issue. They have poor teachers failing to teach our students; and keeping these students from meeting a-g.

They are unmanaged and fail to share best practices. There is no end-to-end coordination between middle and high schools , and the poor performing teachers are retained despite obvious issues.

Laning matters little as long as we treat every teacher as the isolated Queen of her own classroom. It is time to start managing these people to deliver English end-to-end.

Additionally, any lane reform will be mis implemented unless the issue of teacher inconsistency is addressed.

The current English dept heads cannot do this. They should deliver on true reform, or stand down. And the board should demand that English be taught well.


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:17 am

EnglishProblems is correct on all points! Teaching inconsistency is not only an English dept. problem, but a school district problem. However, to narrow it down to the PAUSD English departments, the majority of English teachers at Jordan are terrible and the administration knows it. This is so inconsistent with the 1970's and 1980's where PAUSD English department was outstanding. What happened?! PAUSD English teachers of the past assigned easy, 1-2 page essays each week and taught students how to write through daily lectures, returning the essays to the students with red pen marks. Today, the emphasis is more on analyzing because it's easier! No after hours of grading papers! There is one infamous English teacher who returns papers at the end of the semester WITH NO COMMENTS - the students can't even learn from their mistakes. Most teachers have peer corrections - students in the same classroom grading each other's papers. This is a tragedy, as written communication is more important than any other subject.

My children took 9 and 9A. The 9A teachers were easier. The 9 teacher graded writing so rigorously that there is no way a student with no parental help could earn more than 80% on writing. Don't trust the catalog - it's all about the teacher.


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Posted by paly.pausd.org
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:43 am

EP & PA, you're missing the point. This isn't about what needs to be done, it's about what people think. Sort of like that whole TA fiasco where the data showed the top five issues in BOTH schools were:

1. I feel anxiety about getting into the colleges that I want to go to
2. I feel tremendous pressure to succeed academically
3. My family expects me to attend a top college
4. I feel anxiety about my workload at school
5. I feel pressured to take a challenging load of Honors and AP courses

So what did we spend the next year discussing? Getting TA at Gunn! It's like "what are you guys smoking?!". You've got these kids screaming at you - telling you what is wrong and instead of addressing these major issues you start that whole farce. It's a pity that so many parents are more interested in point scoring than really helping the kids.

So many years have passed since that survey and not one thing has happened to address any of these top 5 issues. Now we have all this talk about 9 & 9A, which don't seem much different apart from workload. People just want to be seen to do something rather than addressing the real issues. That's the problem when you have people who are just in it for the politics.


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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:14 am

Agreed, Paly has lots of sorting out to do in its English Department, most important is setting curriculum and pacing and making teachers stick to it. That means holding teachers to the different expectations for 9 and 9A too.

If what Observer and others above said is true -- somehow, magically, ALL 180 students who typically would have taken English 9 decided to take 9A this coming year instead -- I hope that ALL 180 of them understand:

1. The Paly English Department told the school board that it did NOT and will NOT water down English 9A.

The homework load for 9A this year was high: "nightly assignments typically ranging from 20-30 pages" with extended pieces of revised and edited writing every 2-4 weeks.

This is nothing "differentiation" can address unless some students are given Spark Notes instead of Shakespeare and Steinbeck to read because, to have a meaningful class discussion about last night's reading, the entire class has to be on the same page, literally.

The teachers were clear on tape that moving everyone into 9A was to enrich the classroom literature discussions. Everyone must be reading the same nightly assignments for that to happen.

Web Link

2. NO extra support classes are being offered, at least nothing close to the 5 + hours a week of extra English AFTER English class that the NY school offers.

This is important.

With the extra work and without the extra support, the 16% who usually get a D or F will still struggle.

Others who might have earned a B or C in English 9 might now find a C, D or F in English 9A if the fast pace turns out, because of sports commitments, homework in other classes, dyslexia, etc, to be way too fast for them.

One semester with a D or F in English = ineligibility for a UC and CSUs when you graduate.

3. Put SEPTEMBER 2 on your calendar. That is the last day a student can drop English 9A and enroll in English 9 instead. If your child misses that deadline, he will have to stay in English 9A until the end of the semester whether it is working for him or not.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Some of the facts in this story seem dubious. Terry Godfrey is described as a "finance director" and Catherine Foster as a "consultant". Are they doing those jobs now? Is the kid really a "community volunteer"? Where did those descriptions come from? If they came from the candidates some fact checking seems in order.


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Posted by Chris Kenrick
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Voter,
Those descriptions come from the candidates' ballot designations. For a bit more on the backgrounds of Dauber, Foster and Godfrey please see our earlier story: Web Link


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:26 pm

According to Godfreys website, www.terrygodfrey.org/about_me, Godfrey was last doing a job that could be described as finance director 7 years ago. If that is what she put on her ballot designation as her current occupation, that is inaccurate.

Thank you Ms. Kenrick for clarifying but if the source of the description is the candidate's own ballot designation that is contradicted by other information, you should say that. A reader of your paper, and apparently of the ballot, will get the incorrect impression that Godfrey is working as a finance director.

It would also be informative to know if Ms. Foster has any clients, or if "consultant" is really an empty term.


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Posted by Supporter
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:30 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Shelly
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:27 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Carrie
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Above posters have been quoting from old catalogs and old anecdotal experiences with freshman English. English 9A has been revamped. One of the improvements is that the writing curriculum has been standardized and all teachers will be grading from the same rubric. Paly published the 2014/15 course catalog on their website on August 4th. See: Web Link

Here is the 2014/15 course description for English 9A (contrary to the first sentence English 9 is still being offered):

"All freshmen will take the accelerated college preparatory English course. This course meets the CSU and UC English "b" requirement. Students will develop their writing, vocabulary, and reading and literary analysis skills in the context of literature. Through discussion, oral presentations, and expository writing, students will demonstrate their understanding of key concepts and critical thinking skills. Vocabulary and grammar study is integrated into all units of study. Most course reading is assigned as homework. Extended pieces of revised and edited writing are assigned regularly and average 2-4 pages per assignment. Shorter pieces of writing may be assigned more frequently or completed in class."

The expectation of 20-30 pages of reading per night has been removed. I attended the English Department parent meeting for incoming freshman parents last February. From this meeting I learned that the only required Core literature is "Romeo and Juliet" and "Of Mice and Men" and that movies of both will be shown in class so that all students can access the material and participate in classroom discussions. Other reading will be done in small groups or individually based on individual choice and abilities. I was assured that nightly homework would be below the district homework policy limits established for regular lane classes.




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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm

@Carrie
Thanks for your factual information and link. After reading the claims in some of the postings above, I was getting very confused. There seemed to be a disconnect between them and what I understood was being proposed by the Paly English dept. Also, my understanding is that this proposal was for only de-laning freshman English, not any other subject or grade. Is that correct?
How do the candidates stand on this issue?


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Posted by EnglishProblems
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

@carrie - thanks for the info. While this is good news, it was also already known. My understanding is that prior years also claimed that the same curriculum was used across teachers. So I guess all we have gotten is a common rubric. Okay, yay, I guess...

This still does not indicate common teaching methods according to shared best practices; as well, the great difference in teachers remains, as does the IS unwillingness to address the problems in classes.

I would say this is a mild half step. And may show some slight willingness to address the bigger issues: teacher inconsistencies; middle school English; the mismatch between grade expectations (showing up in grade 9 without prerequisite knowledge form 8). And finally the a-g problem.



It needs more work. Some of these issues span across sites and needs board direction. The timid mantra of 'site based' abdication by administration and board does not work.

The local issues in Paly English need much firmer management, and the board should demand it.

Here again, feckless board behavior has avoided asking anything of quality from this site/department. Which brings us to the board race itself. Heidi has proven as silent [portion removevd] as one could imagine from the last race. Of the current candidates many appear to be cast from the same mold: mollifying insiders who shrink from the task of reforms. The board needs members of strong moral character, leadership, and courage to wade into the swamp of unmanaged sites and start bringing some accountability to the classroom.

They could start with a public committee to examine teacher inconsistencies.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:10 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Really?
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm

@EnglishProblems - really? You think the school board should form a public committee on teacher inconsistency? Is that a technique you've seen used in other high-performing districts to encourage professionalism and build trust and mutual support amount parents, administrators, and teachers? Witch hunt much?


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Posted by EnglishProblems
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Okay - you're right. The board should ask 'pretty please get your act together' then slink away silently when nothing happens.

I'm sure that will work.

Meanwhile what you portray as a witch hunt is actually the foundation for almost every profession. Shared best practices are well known established management principles in every innovation company in the valley. Defined methodologies are a given in high tech, medical, a Accounting...

The starting point for any system of improvement is to first get everyone performing similar, and according to best currently known principles. THEN experimenting with incremental improvement , while sharing and examining results. Moves the whole group forward.

Additionally you can use this body of knowledge that the organization accumulates to train new hires.

The sum becomes more than the individuals.

Simple. Happens everyday outside your cave.

The community knows this stuff. The school does not. So, yes, I think a public committee could achieve great things.




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Posted by On English 9A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Note #1

The head of Paly's freshman English, who lead the presentation of the only-English-9A proposal at the board meeting, is co-leading Ken Dauber's school board campaign. Web Link

Note #2

The minutes from Paly's Site Council Meeting report that, before she approached the school board to get permission to get rid of English 9 – which it denied - the same "lead teacher for 9th grade English reported [to the Paly Site Council] that the plan for 2014-15 is to enroll all ninth graders in one level of English. ... Instead teachers will adjust assignments within each class to fit the needs of individual students."

Web Link

Repeat: The teacher said that the 9th Grade English "teachers will adjust assignments within each class to fit the needs of individual students."

That means that As will be for effort, an inherently subjective call. Those who teachers think can manage more work will be expected to do more to earn an A. Students who the teachers have low expectations of will earn As for less work.

Note #3

If Carrie's post is true, how does the head of freshman English's assertion that English 9A hasn't been watered down ("English 9A is already a rigorous curriculum, and this proposed change will not compromise the rigor in any way") jive with:

xx as Carrie and others shared above, the changed 9A course description which is a WATERED down version of the old English 9A description, and

xx that students can watch the movie of the book - in class – instead of read it?

Web Link


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:13 pm

On English 9A posted this web link: Web Link

I find it interesting that the former head of the Office of Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali, is endorsing Ken Dauber. Conflict of interest , anyone? [Portion removed.]


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:17 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by George Orwell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2014 at 12:29 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

Well Done! Restrict the thread, silence the discussion!

Dear Queen or King of this virtual world,
This is my second attempt to post my sincere compliment. I do hope that my comment will not disappear again, as it is important to give credit where credit is due.


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