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Paly - Another Honors class not Honorably ranked by UC?

Original post made by just wondering, East Palo Alto, on Nov 18, 2012

Is it correct that it turns out that a Physics H. class just followed an English H. class - UC will not weigh as honors?

Comments (27)

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 18, 2012 at 11:57 am

According to my Paly junior: "Yes, it is true that it will be unweighted, but there will still be an "H" on the transcript."


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Posted by Physics H Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Confirmed. As the parent of a child in that class at Paly this year, I received an e-mail from the teacher announcing the news... Disappointing to say the least.


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Posted by just wondering
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Two similar announcements about Honors classes in less than a month? Web Link


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Posted by Liebschen
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Makes yu wonder if Paly is worth it. We plan to send our daughter to private school and bypass the whole PAUSDchaos.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 18, 2012 at 8:44 pm

No, Liebschen, it's not Paly's fault, but feel free to pay our PA taxes and send your child to private school.


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Whose fault is it if the UC system decides that an honors class does not meet their requirements? This is bound to keep happening, so the Paly public needs to know. Has any of this happened to Gunn, also?


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Of course this is squarely the fault of Palo Alto High School's administration! Who else is responsible for designing curriculum?
The victims here are the students who worked at an Honors level and will not receive that credit in the UC admissions process. If the PAUSD administration actually cares about student stress, start with the adult incompetence that harms students.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 24, 2012 at 7:04 am

don't they have AP physics at paly? why don't students just take that instead?

this is the kind of thing we would need to be careful of when considering dropping AP's like some private schools have done.


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Posted by Sue
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2012 at 9:20 am

Paly does offer AP Physics BC, but the pre-requisite is physics, which can not be substituted with physics taken at other institutions such as Foothill College. Gunn students can take AP Physics without having to take physics first. So this gives Gunn students who choose to skip physics and take AP Physics directly the extra-weighted point in GPA calculation which can be quite useful for college application.
I appreciate that Paly renamed Physics 1A to Physics 1H. Though it is not UC weighted, the new course name reflects the course rigor better, at least from the point of view of private colleges, hopefully.
I also hope that the grade deflation situation for several of the English teachers has improved. Course rigor does not have to come from grade deflation. Some of the teachers treat courses with "advanced" designation as "honors level" and grade harshly, so students do the hard work without getting the honors recognition from colleges.


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Posted by just wondering
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

parent- maybe not all can take AP physics?
You and Ducatigirl do raise an interesting question - does anyone know if any private school, or other school in the area had such situation lately? Honors classes lose Honor recognition/weighing of UC?


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Posted by fault
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm

"Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Whose fault is it if the UC system decides that an honors class does not meet their requirements? This is bound to keep happening, so the Paly public needs to know."

The fault ultimately lies with the principal. This is the second error this semester at Paly. How many errors like this have there been in the past decade under other principals? What's really going on at Paly? Why did the letter come from an assistant principal instead of the principal? The principal needs to address these issues to the Paly community.

And for those of you who say it's not a big deal, dozens, if not hundreds, of our students just got dinged when compared to their peers at other similar high schools. So yes, it's a big deal.


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Posted by GPS
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 25, 2012 at 10:18 am

It should not be so difficult to navigate the course selection in high school. Honors, AP, 1A, 1H, which gets more grade points etc. This is a system that is overwhelming to kids and parents, hard to figure out, over-tracked, and impossible -- literally -- for kids with parents who are not college educated to decode. High school should not be so much about plotting and gaming for college applications and this kind of 1A/1H/AP anxiety is just unnecessary stress on our teens. The district is doing the right thing by trying to simplify designations but it should also look to see if we really need all these tracks (hint: we don't). Other elite schools are doing fine with fewer tracks -- not eliminating tracking but not over-using it either.


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Posted by palo verde parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 25, 2012 at 10:43 am

@GPS
Although I agree with your premise that there should not be so much anxiety about courses and colleges, the reality is that is the way of the world these days. The issue here is that the SCHOOL has created more anxiety. Students were told that both of these classes would be weighted for the UC GPA and planned their schedules accordingly. Now, after either completing the course last year or being 1 quarter into this year, they have been told "oops" we made a mistake and now it is not weighted. This has not happened at Gunn just at Paly. Our students need to be able to trust that the administration is taking care of business and is not advertising things unless they have confirmation from the UC's in writing. You are correct that our students are under a lot of pressure and mistakes by the school administrators that create more stress are unacceptable.

This has nothing to do with tracks and laning. It has everything to do with Paly not waiting for confirmation (in writing) that a course has received honors credit before advertising it that way.

My surprise is that they did not learn from the mistakes with the English class and that it has happened again.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 26, 2012 at 9:21 am

Sure, the principal is blamed for everything. Winston is an exceptional principal and is popular with parents and students and very professional.

Shouldn't the teachers be blamed? They are the ones planning their curriculum. How could they just nilly-willy teach anything without following guidelines?


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Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm

The biology classes at both Gunn and Paly has bio, bio1A, bio1AC when bio1AC is an honor level level class without honor designation. How can colleges know bio1AC is at an honors and is grading harshly at least at Gunn. Our students are loosing edge to compete with top students from other districts when they use "Honor" and we use "AC" in our course name.


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Posted by PA Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm

@Mom: Teachers have nothing to do with whether or not a course receives the "H" designation from the UCs. The administration fill out all of the paperwork and submits it to them, normally with the teachers and/or ISs consulting about the particulars. It has nothing to do with, as you say, "nilly-willy teach[ing] anything without following guidelines."


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm

One would think if the UC denies the "H", the teacher would ask them the reason and redo their curriculum so the class can be designated as an Honors class. The Instructional Supervisor should also know what it takes for a class to have the honors designation.

Perhaps the students are being worked as hard as an Honors class, but there is some information they are not being taught that doesn't classify it to be an approved Honors class, which would be a terrible shame to overwork students and not allow them the credit.


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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2012 at 4:34 am

I'd like to note that in this discussion about your childrens' education, you seem more interested in the value of the class towards UC admissions than the value of either knowledge imparted or effort given.

Do you not know that there is a special place in the job market for adults-to-be whose parents teach them that results - and not the joy of learning - are what matter? That place is called the middle of the corporate ladder, and it's the prison to which you're condemning your kids by stunting their true thirst for knowledge?


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

Chris, I went to Paly with you. You must know that academics and college admissions were much easier back in the day. Only a couple of people could reach the perfect SAT score. Now, it's common. A 3.4 GPA and "good" SAT score could easily admit a student to UCLA or UCB. The balance scale applied: High SAT could offset a low GPA, vice-versa. Ivy Leagues weren't distant dreams.

The game has changed, and now colleges want all top scores. Yes, it would be ideal if our children could have a true thirst for knowledge and disregard test results, and take APs just because they completely enjoy learning more about the subject. But joy of learning and high GPAs don't always go hand-in-hand. Why don't students write in their college applications that they are truly knowledgeable but their grades and SAT scores don't reflect their intellect and the college should gamble on them performing well at their college? Because they know how to study, but just didn't apply themselves in high school.

Teaching children that results matter is also teaching them responsibility. I know plenty of intellectuals who could talk me under the table but lack motivation and the hard-work ethic. They are unemployed because they "know" they could be successful, but lack the discipline to be successful.


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Posted by Member
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2012 at 11:22 am

Dear Palo Alto Online journalists. Please investigate these issues further. Principal Winston refused (after several requests) to provide specifics on why these courses were denied the weighted designations by the UC - he said generally that it was due to some "technical" issues and too many honors classes at Paly. So what were the technical issues -- a missed deadline, missing form? Regarding too many honors classess - what is the cap of weighted honors courses that a UC allows a high school? Was Paly made aware of this cap? In Winston's letter to parents and students about the English 11H course, he asked us not contact Monica Lin at the UC President's office who made the decisions. The UC did provide specific information to the school as to why the application for weighted honors designation were denied. Why is it not being shared (transparency in a public institution is required)? More importantly, the school needs to learn from the feedback from the UC so this does not happen to future students.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I agree completely with Member's post above...it is time for a full investigation into why this has happened twice in a year.


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Posted by just wondering
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Member - I am very sorry to say that I doubt there will be any interest.
Proof is in the fact I posted this issue, here. While i'm not familiar with the fine details of tracks - I doubt the kids impacted here were on route to AP classes, or that their parents had access to high profile lawyers. Lack of transparency/best practices impacts many - this is just a sample. I think this sample represents "old boys club" thinking, power, culture - found in this district, not only in Paly. Another example was the Paly math teachers letter - it was out of public eye for many months. Weekly did not ask Paly math teacher interviewed just few months ago about this letter. Another example is the latest incident of trying to move a CF carrier - luckily parents were able to get legal advice - this one made national news.
I think that all common to the samples I listed above (I have quite a few more) is the confidence of school/district officials that nobody is watching, or that some segments deserves different attitude than the others. Unfortunately - they seem to be correct, most of the time.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 28, 2012 at 6:21 am

I tend to think that since this is being left under the carpet so to speak, that parents of those students (in some cases it is the same students who have been affected twice) should attend the next board meeting and ask questions.

I don't expect the board to answer the questions, but at least they will then become public record.

If enough parents choose to speak on the subject it will be hard for PAUSD to ignore the situation. It may not just need to be one board meeting is enough to get any type of response.


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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

@ Mom - I think you're missing the [much] bigger picture here: as lame as it may sound, knowledge & thirst for it is really & truly what will make or break someone's career - especially in today's knowledge economy. It's not just a slogan, and there is imho *no* relationship between level of course taken, and those two things.

Second, the dramatic & sustained inflation in the cost of university means that families should look much more critically at the relationship between university quality and graduates' future earnings. What I've read on that topic - and what I've seen in the work world - leads me to believe that the student's attitude towards learning has more impact on their future earnings than the quality of the university they attend. THAT is the point I'm trying to make, and I don't see it as compatible with 'UC or Ivy At All Costs'.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 28, 2012 at 10:51 am

@Chris: While I might as well pick up the phone and call you, it could be a long conversation. I get what you are saying. And what makes you think students have lost their thirst for knowledge? They have to jump through hoops to get to a decent school. Don't believe all high school students are aiming for Ivies or top UCs. Many of us aren't interested, as the mental health of our children are important to us. People seem to also forget that social skills are also important for the future. Bottom line is, the college one graduates from does not equate with their destiny. It's what they do in college and how they perform on the job that relates to their success.


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Posted by just wondering
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Member - sorry my anticipation was correct - no interest.
Assuming all you wrote is correct -
I am curious as to your input, above, about the refusal to share info about these incidents?
Your input indicates that several requests to provide details were made.
Who requested the info? parents? staff?
Hoping you still visit this thread, and share some more.
Thank you


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Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2012 at 11:56 am

Winston is a great principal. You are lucky to have him. Tell you what, you don't want him, send him to Gunn! If only!


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