http://paloaltoonline.com/square/print/2013/12/14/palo-alto-minority-students-face-college-readiness-gap-despite-rising-figures


Town Square

Minority students face college-readiness gap

Original post made on Dec 14, 2013

Palo Alto school district officials Tuesday night reported progress in the percentage of high school graduates who are "college ready" — meaning they have fulfilled the so-called "A-G requirements," which are prerequisites for entrance to California's public four-year universities.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, December 14, 2013, 6:39 PM

Comments

Posted by Go Gunn!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 14, 2013 at 9:10 pm

"90.8 percent at Gunn High School and 79.6 percent at Palo Alto High School."
Score another one for Gunn Counseling!


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2013 at 6:27 am

It would be helpful to know what the demographic differences are between the two high schools. For starters, do they have the same percentage of Tinsley students from East Palo Alto?


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:00 am

Why are you republishing a story that was already published and has an existing thread on TS?

And by the way, yes, there are demographic differences between the schools. If you want to know why Paly minority kids lag Gunn minority kids in A-G readiness, you have to read the Paly math letter. There are more kids from more disadvantaged backgrounds at Paly than Gunn, and the teachers are more hostile to teaching children of disadvantage. It has nothing to do with counseling and everything to do with the despicable Math Letter and the attitudes it revealed. There was no accountability for that letter, even though it is now on the powerpoint slides of every Professor of Education who teaches about closing the achievement gap in every college in America as exhibit A of what is wrong with teachers in America. Jonathan Kozol could write a new book about the letter.

Don't kid yourself into thinking it is just Paly. If the students who are at Paly were suddenly sent to Gunn they would receive the same or worse treatment. This is a city wide virus not a local outbreak.


Posted by stats, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:08 am

Demographics don't explain why Gunn outperforms Paly on a-g completion 91% vs. 80%.

English Learners: 7%/Gunn and 2%/Paly
Low-income: 8%/Gunn and 9%/Paly
Disabled: 10%/Gunn and 12%/Paly
African American & Latino: 11%/Gunn and 14%/Paly

PAUSD VTP seniors last year: 3%

This was under Gunn's old guidance system, before the new hires were hired and before changes to make Gunn guidance comparable to Paly were made.


Posted by stats, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:20 am

Attending college: 99%/Gunn. 90%/Paly.


Posted by From the inside, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:29 am

Why would you expect accountability from the superintendent? Have you seen an example of this in six years? I haven't. What were the most agenda items at last week's board meeting. Extra money for everyone, including the superintendent. No one is going to get fired. Quite the opposite. And you're right about the virus. From the disproportionate number of Latino and African-American kindergartners whose Palo Alto teachers decide by fall that they should repeat kindergarten to high school teachers protecting students of color from rigorous math and the Silcon Valley value of trying and failing and trying again, students of color, especially Latinos and African-American students, are often treated differently and with lower expectations. It can be overcome by the student and family, but please don't blame it on a culture, or at least the stereotype that you are basing the culture. Each culture is diverse in itself.

But here's why it doesn't matter. You've got a superintendent who no one can figure out. His supporters blame the critics and his critics sometimes take cheap shots at his personality or demeanor. Here's a quote from the latest Weekly Comminication from the superintendent:

"Going to these meetings is good therapy for all of us as we have a chance to engage in gallows humor and share our challenges. This group also does some excellent work, including an annual college promotion event for Latino students in the county. At this week's meeting we discussed suicide awareness programs and policies, implementation of AB1266, and bullying prevention. It seems districts are in various places regarding how they handle bullying issues."

I can't really explain why, but these four sentences are disturbing. Gallows humor and suicides and bullying, with a bit about the good work this group does with one event with Latinos, I believe these sentences speak volumes about the leadership of our superintendent. It's so disjointed, it appears to answer critics here in the Town Square, and the gallows humor was offensive, especially so close to suicides. The PR person is paid a hefty sum for unimportant work, work that has nothing to do with kids, and you would think that the superintendent would send his Weekly Communicstion to her before publishing. He may very well have done so, which would not bode well of the PR person.

We need a new suoeriintendent, folks.


Posted by From the outside, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:53 am

@From the Inside
Thanks for your comments. Can you clarify which meeting Skelly was referring to in his memo?
I too have observed a long time pattern of disjointed, and often contradictory, thoughts from him. My sense is that these contradictions reflect the conflicts between an apparently affable, and even compassionate, personality on a personal level much of the time and a pride in being at the center of an "elitist" institution driving him toward defensive actions that are counter to the broader success that we could achieve within PAUSD.


Posted by Palo Alto parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:59 am

How do the statistics of the VTP students in the sequoia high school district compare to PAUSD?


Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 9:12 am

stats,

"Demographics don't explain why Gunn outperforms Paly on a-g completion 91% vs. 80%.

English Learners: 7%/Gunn and 2%/Paly
Low-income: 8%/Gunn and 9%/Paly
Disabled: 10%/Gunn and 12%/Paly
African American & Latino: 11%/Gunn and 14%/Paly "

The Paly Math could account for some of the difference when combined with 3% more African American & Latino students at Paly. These students were the "slackers" that the department suggested were not worth serving a regular standard Algebra 2 class, for fear of the school losing status in regional Math olympiads.

However, demographics could also be a factor. For starters, the high number of English learners at Gunn are from Asia or children of Stanford professors from other parts of the world. Both of these groups are usually not struggling with A-G.

While a German English learner who happens to be low income and a Math olympian is a minority, that demographic is likely to not have problems with A-G.


Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 9:16 am

Go Gunn!

"90.8 percent at Gunn High School and 79.6 percent at Palo Alto High School."
Score another one for Gunn Counseling!

These numbers could have nothing to do with Counseling.


Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 9:46 am

From the outside,

"these contradictions reflect the conflicts between an apparently affable, and even compassionate, personality on a personal level much of the time and a pride in being at the center of an "elitist" institution driving him toward defensive actions that are counter to the broader success that we could achieve within PAUSD."

Wow, you summarized it in a nutshell. Unfortunately, with some exceptions, this could describe a whole lot of people in charge of the "broader success that we could achieve within PAUSD."

Surely there will be someone posting it's the parents fault, it's the students, it's, it's, it's.........




Posted by stats, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 10:04 am

It's all spelled out in last week's school board info packet.

English, not math, is the class that most seniors were missing.

131 students did NOT satisfy a-g:

CSTs: 62 of them scored below proficient in elementary/middle school math

CSTs: 61 scored below proficient in elementary/middle school English

Largest race: 56 White students

Disabled: 47 students

Parents w/o a college degree: 37 students

Low-income: 23 students.

VTP students: 14 students

English learners: 13 students


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

Talk about being born on third and thought you hit a triple. The Gunn counseling department has little or nothing to do with the gap in college-going minority students between Gunn and Paly. Paly's minority students generally have many more disadvantages. The overlapping and intersecting disadvantages of poverty, especially the grinding, relentless, extreme variety, crime, lack of neighborhood supports and so forth combine to make them much more disadvantaged group. That by no means suggests that they can't learn or can't go to college. It means that the Gunn teachers are getting an easier job and now the Gunn counseling staff is publicly taking credit for the happy fact that Gunn minority students are generally not as economically disadvantaged as their Paly counterparts. That is all it means. Each school is getting all of its middle class white kids to college. Each school is struggling with disadvantaged students. Paly has a greater number of truly disadvantaged kids. That's all these numbers mean.

Anyone else remember 2011, when Kevin Skelly told the board not to worry because 2012's numbers for African American a-g were going to be a lot better than the abysmal 2011 15%? Well they did go up (due to a very talented and well-to-do cohort of black students), but then fell again when that cohort graduated and everyone looked away after the high-fives were over.

The problem is the attitude in the Paly Math letter. Everyone in America knows this. That letter is a giant, racist, red flag on our schools. The lack of accountability for Toma and his ilk makes it worse. But what can we expect from a district that promoted the Terman principal who failed so miserably to control disability bullying at her school and gave Charles Young an 8% raise after he failed to investigate rape culture at Paly.

So long as the Asian kids keep us on top score-wise, that's all anyone in this sick town thinks about.

Gallows humor and suicide indeed. That comment alone should have been enough to get him fired. But this is the same guy who said in one of his first acts as superintendent that it was impossible to close the achievement gap.


Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

stats,

"English, not math, is the class that most seniors were missing."

A recent survey has alumnae reporting suggestions to improve English, not a surprise then that it is holding back minority students from A-G. Paly eliminated the English Honors class, and there are only two lanes now - AP English or regular English. Unclear why, but I would think two lanes alone will make it even harder for struggling students.

English is a high school graduation requirement though, how could seniors be missing English?

The Daubers have promoted some change (attention if nothing else) to the counseling equity among schools, and the issues with Math at Paly; I recall they also promoted some changes on Science too. If they are not too worn out, maybe they could look at English.


Posted by Wilson, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 10:49 am

> Each school is getting all of its middle class white kids to college.

This poster, and her ilk, seem to have completely written the families of these kids out of the picture. The schools don't raise children. The schools don't feed them. The schools don't nurture them from the cradle to adulthood--the parents do.

This poster has dismissed the (doubtless) millions of hours of partental care, concern, guidance, and persperation of these parents--in order to press home what seems to be a tired, overly lame, statist agenda about the centrality of the state-run schools in our lives, and particularly in the lives of our children.

It's very difficult to listen to people trying to flog the schools as racist when it's clear that the the families of every student have a huge part to play in the intellectual growth, as well as the physiscal growth, of their children.

The schools can only do so much. Some people posting on this topic seem to want us to believe that the schools have some sort of womb-to-tomb obligation to provide for every want, and need, of every child. That is simply not so!


Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

Fire Radu Toma,

Not defending the Paly Math letter at all, but if the real problem is to be solved, and Math is not the subject holding students back from A-G, best to move on and see if the same attitude is what is causing the English problem.


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 15, 2013 at 11:31 am

Math is missing for a great many students. English is an issue as well -- you are correct. That does require attention but based on the presentation to the board, math is missing for nearly as many students and probably it is the same students who are missing both english and math, because the same students are given up on simultaneously by everyone. Just a guess - you are right it is an empirical question whether or not students are being actively deterred from advanced English as with math or whether they are failing it, or what is happening. The CST scores should illuminate some of this. You could sent Ken Dauber an email kenneth.dauber@gmail.com and ask him to perform that analysis.

One issue that separates math and english is that it is easier to tutor and teach writing than math. If a student has missed several years of math instruction and key concepts you are not going to get them doing quadratic equations in one semester. If they enter 10th grade working at a 5th grade level in math, that is going to be very very difficult if not impossible to remediate in the time remaining. This is of course particularly true where the kids have been told point blank that they can just stop trying because they can never do it, courtesy of Radu Toma and his racially problematic letter. Language skills are more tractable.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2013 at 11:33 am

@From the inside - You quoted the Superintendent. Your quote and questions relates nicely to the quotes I collected way back from the documents that were released after the PA Weekly exercised the Brown Act.

One of the Superintendent's quotes I picked then, and posted several times was:

"…As I often say, the community and staff take their cues from us in terms of how they relate to each other…" 9/2010

I think that all we learned adds up to the expectations of the cues which the community and staff are to take in terms of how to relate to each other.

It seems to me that this quote adds up nicely to the recent "Teachers too"'s comment addressing the teachers, which ended "… they are the people we pay to care for our kids, and they are all part of the problem. Until they recognize that and stop playing the game of silence, then only then will we be on the way to improvement. "
Web Link


Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Fire Radu Toma,

"One issue that separates math and english is that it is easier to tutor and teach writing than math."

This is kind of shocking to hear - that outsourcing English to private tutors is easier to do than Math, and therefore it's less of a problem. I think you may be rationalizing on behalf of parents who can either tutor their own children in English, or can afford to hire tutors. How does one even find a tutor for English when you don't speak English?

I would argue it's worst to quit on a student in English because that will prevent them from getting ahead in all other subjects. You need English in Social Studies, Science, even Math, not to mention applying to college or even aspiring to college. That both Math and English are holding students back from A-G is of course a double whammy.

Wilson,

"Some people posting on this topic seem to want us to believe that the schools have some sort of womb-to-tomb obligation to provide for every want, and need, of every child. That is simply not so!"

Womb-to-tomb obligation?

I't K-12. and English and Math are not exactly "every want, and need, of every child"


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I don't at all mean to minimize the difficulty of learning ELA especially for ELL students. By tutoring i was not at all referring to private tutoring but to school-based tutoring and teaching (I said tutor or teach) to get students to A-G. I The math required for a-g is sequential and you either know it or you don't. If you are doing 6th grade math in 10th grade it is just really hard to see how we are going to get you a C or better in Algebra 2 or geometry by graduation.

However, maybe I am wrong. Maybe the district is just screwing these poor and minority kids in all their basic subjects and they are just as screwed in English as in Math. I think math is harder but maybe that's just my experience with my children. I haven't seen the Paly English Letter yet but maybe it's just as foul.


Posted by Poor Mr Toma, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Nothing bothers me more than unfair attacks on teachers who cannot defend themselves here.

Mr. Toma NEVER said that the "slackers" were African-American or Hispanic. NEVER. The persons who tie the word slacker to certain ethnic minorities are only some anonymous posters here. Re-read the letter, you'll see. It is not even implied at all in the letter. The slackers can be from any ethnic or socio-economic background whatsoever. And slackers and socio-economically disadvantaged students don't have to be one and the same, contrary to your assumptions. The ones making it a racism issue are not the math teachers at Paly, it's you here. Note, by the way, that all Paly math teachers signed the letter (except one now retired teacher). So, you want to fire them all?

I'll add that Mr Toma only teaches AP Calc BC now at Paly, the very top math class. I can guarantee you that all his students just love him. So, I see no reason to fire him. He's a truly outstanding teacher. Firing him would only hurt the students who have him at Paly. Since those are the very top students, I suppose maybe some people posting here would not care. I'd call that reverse discrimination.


Posted by Poor Mr Toma, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Regarding students who are not college ready because of English, some people here wonder how that can possibly be since 4 years of English are required to graduate from PAUSD.

It's simple. A D- is a passing grade in PAUSD (yes a D-!), while most colleges (and certainly UC 'a-g's) require a grade of C- or above in all required a-g classes, including English, in order for a student to be eligible.

So, if you have one D in English from PAUSD high schools you graduate but are not a-g eligible.


Posted by stats, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Some perspective:

The 131 students missing English were a subset of the senior class.

Almost half of them, 61, were weak in English in elementary school. Others undoubtedly came to Palo Alto while they were in high school so could not fit 4 years of English in in the few years they were here. Many did not want to take 4 years of English, perhaps because they planned to attend culinary or another vocational school. Some had disabilities that made reading, processing, and writing almost impossible and took other classes that better fit their interests and abilities.

This is fitting with PAUSD's new graduation requirements which use a-g as the default graduation requirements but allow students to devise their own, unique academic path to graduation.

Last year, 83% of non-a-g seniors still attended college leaving 22 out of 876 seniors who did something different like took a gap year, got a job rather than a loan to help pay for college, or opted to get specialized training. Of those remaining 22 students, which is 3% of the senior class, 8 were minority students and 3 were low-income.

There is nothing in this data that suggests that it is the high schools' fault that 131 students did not satisfy a-g or that it is evidence of racial determinism by PAUSD teachers and staff.

It also does not follow that the 131 students are emblematic of Paly and Gunn "quitting on a student."


Posted by stats, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Corrected:

Some perspective:

The 96 students missing English were a subset of the 876 students in the senior class.

61 seniors not graduating with a-g were weak in English in elementary school. Others undoubtedly came to Palo Alto while they were in high school so could not fit 4 years of English in in the few years they were here. Many did not want to take 4 years of English, perhaps because they planned to attend culinary or another vocational school. Some had disabilities that made reading, processing, and writing almost impossible and took other classes that better fit their interests and abilities.

This is fitting with PAUSD's new graduation requirements which use a-g as the default graduation requirements but allow students to devise their own, unique academic path to graduation.

Last year, 83% of non-a-g seniors still attended college leaving 22 non a-g seniors in a senior class of 876 students who did something different like took a gap year, got a job rather than a loan to help pay for college, or opted to get specialized training. Of those 22 students, which is 3% of the senior class, 8 were minority students and 3 were low-income.

There is nothing in this data that suggests that it is the high schools' fault that 131 students did not satisfy a-g or that it is evidence of racial determinism by PAUSD teachers and staff.

It also does not follow that the 131 students are emblematic of Paly and Gunn "quitting on a student."


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm

@poor -- thank you thank our for giving me the chance to revisit the actual words of the Paly Math Letter. I downloaded this copy from the blog of a teacher who was so offended by it that he featured it as an example of how teachers hurt their students: Web Link His conclusion: "If I were a parent of one of those students, this determinism would probably drive me out of my mind."

Here it is -- it just keeps getting better with age:

"We are concerned about others who, for reasons that are often objective (poor math background, lack of support at home, low retention rate, lack of maturity etc.) CAN'T PASS OUR REGULAR LANE ALGEBRA 2 COURSE. MANY OF THESE ARE VTP STUDENTS OR UNDER-REPRESENTED MINORITIES."

He goes on in this vein for some time and then concludes that it we had to help all these kids (who are "objectively" not capable of passing a class my 7th grader is currently passing with ease by the way -- it's algebra 2 not particle physics) to pass this class and go to college, (instead of "community college and jobs" where they belong, the ingrates) then we would have to "dilute" our "standards" and "harm our district's reputation."

I think the last person we should take tips about protecting the district's "reputation" from is Radu Toma. Wow.

And as to the rest of the signers, yes, send them all packing as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure they thought they had to sign because the IS was pressuring them, but if that's the integrity they have then they all can either go to racial sensitivity camp or find jobs elsewhere. [Portion removed.] Honestly, if they had written that about white students -- saying that they can't learn compared to Asian students, for example -- they would all already be teaching in Merced.


Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

stats,

"Almost half of them, 61, were weak in English in elementary school. Others undoubtedly came to Palo Alto while they were in high school so could not fit 4 years of English in in the few years they were here. Many did not want to take 4 years of English, perhaps because they planned to attend culinary or another vocational school. Some had disabilities that made reading, processing, and writing almost impossible and took other classes that better fit their interests and abilities."

The 61 weak in English in elementary, is this information known in 9th grade or after graduation? There are 7 years from elementary to avert the sea of D's in senior year. If there is no room for improvement and the explanation is simply student circumstances, somebody needs to officially wave the white flag so we can stop talking about this. I suspect it would not hurt to get a clearer explanation of what Gunn is doing better, including if their student circumstances are easier than Paly.


Posted by resident2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

stats

"There is nothing in this data that suggests that it is the high schools' fault that 131 students did not satisfy a-g or that it is evidence of racial determinism by PAUSD teachers and staff."

I guess the same could be said about the news in this story. That there in nothing to suggest that the 10% increase in district-wide college-readiness from 2008 was the school's doing. If the numbers improve even further it may be miraculous.

Gunn is pretty high up there though, they deserve credit.





Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Here is a link related to the math teachers letter - Web Link

(I was "short memory?", wondering, then).

Sadly, this letter does keep getting better with age.


Posted by Poor Mr Toma, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 15, 2013 at 7:03 pm

@ Fire... and Village Fool

I love it how you link to only bits and pieces of the letter, and not the full letter. Why not? Well, because if you link the whole letter, you'll see that NOWHERE in the letter, it is said that slackers and minority students are one and the same.

Mr Toma makes the case that some students from various backgrounds or with various levels of motivations are not well-equipped to succeed in math for lack of motivation or because they are not well prepared or supported enough, for a variety of reasons again. And guess what? He is right!

I rest my case.


Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:09 pm

@ Fire Radu Toma "[Portion removed.] Honestly, if they had written that about white students -- saying that they can't learn compared to Asian students, for example -- they would all already be teaching in Merced." I don't understand this comment - care to explain?


Posted by @school, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I don't think one can find any insight for a solution if the school just produces statistics based on racial, income and similar social factors. None of these factors can be changed by the school. A more useful approach is to correlate factors like student effort, attendance, attention, subject areas, friends, teaching methods, etc. to the performance of students. These factors are under the control of the school, students and their families. The solutions can be found with such data and not the old tired racial/social profiling.


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 16, 2013 at 8:38 am

@poor

Thank you thank you thank you for asking me to post this entire letter. I am always thrilled to have an opportunity to introduce readers who may not have yet had the pleasure of reading it to its marvelously elitist and Orwellian dimensions:

Web Link

A great line in here is this one: "MOST of our students are fortunate enough to come from families where education matters . . .not ALL of them." Those students who lack those families "where education matters"? Many of them are "vtp or underrepresented minorities." They don't come from "families where education matters" and they "can't pass our regular lane Alegbra 2 class" unless we "dilute our standards."

We could of course make the "regular lane Algebra 2 class" possible for them to pass by teaching at, rather than above the state standard, but that would mean that we would "hurt our district's reputation." He then nauseatingly rambles on about math awards and competitions. This is clearly a teacher who derives a lot of his own self-worth and ego from the achievements of his students on math competitions and he's not about to let some minority families who don't 'care about education' get in the way of another pitiful line on his resume about how many 5's were scored on AP tests by the people in his classes.

Maybe in Romania, the top achieving students can be creamed to pad the teacher's resume and everyone else can "go to community college and jobs." This is America and educational opportunity is a core value. If you don't share it, perhaps you would be happier elsewhere.

@school. Let's take the letter and change some of the words around and see if you can spot the problem:

"We life in a [predominantly Asian] community. Most of our students are fortunate to come from families where education matters and parents have the means and the will to support and guide their children in tandem with us, their teachers. Not all of them. . . .We are concerned about the others who, for reasons that are often objective (poor math background, [culture not placing proper value on education and homework], lack of support at home) can't pass our [BC lane calculus class]. Many of these are [white, middle class] students.

The alternative, diluting the standards in our regular lane to basic benchmarks which might allow [white middle class] students to pass BC Calculus would end up hurting our district's reputation and, implicitly, all our students."

What if it was true (and there is some evidence for it, perusing the lists of names of National Merit and other winners of prizes at our high schools) that some racially identifiable groups of students are able to excel at math for whatever reason. What if boys are able to excel more than girls or Asian students more than whites -- if for no other reason than teachers have encouraged boys and Asian students more than girls or white students throughout their time here. Would it be reasonable or responsible for teachers to urge that girls or white students are holding back the greatness of the school's reputation and they should not be required to take a class because that would force the entire class to slow down for them?

If you are a Gunn parent then you know of what I speak.

Is this right? Is it appropriate? Or would a teacher who advocated not having to include white or female students in a hard math class for fear of diminishing the school's reputation be censured and even fired?

Only racist preconceptions about what black children are capable of and invidious stereotypes about black families allowed this man to walk away from this with zero consequences. He should have been removed from his position as IS at minimum.


Posted by Gunn vs Paly, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2013 at 9:23 am

It is a well-known fact that the children of Stanford profs go to Gunn, if not to a private school. That makes a big difference in a lot of areas, not least of which is the number of grads who go on to college.

It is also a well-known fact that many teachers turn up their noses at teaching disadvantaged kids, as do the administrators.

Keep in mind that disadvantaged and minority kids often have socio-economic issues at home that we so not see: Parents working two or three jobs to support them , thus not being present after school; parents too undereducated to help with homework; many disadvantaged kids have to work or care for siblings after school, leaving NO time for homework; parents who are disengaged, with mental health issues, health issues, or addiction issues; many disadvantaged and minority students have health or nutritional issues, being unable to see dentists or doctors regularly or when needed (MediCal no longer covers dentistry).

It is a well-known fact that neither Kevin Skelly or Radu Toma are well-endowed in the compassion department.


Posted by Alternate View, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

There are a lot of colleges out there who do not require the A-G course curriculum. To say that the ONLY kids who are ready to go to college are the ones who take the UC requirements is very short sighted. Many of the kids who go on to prestigious Art Colleges (like RISD) cannot take the whole A-G curriculum if they want to get their portfolio ready to apply. And the board was told that by Skelly when this subject came up.

It would be interesting to look at how many of the non A-G kids go on to further their education and skills either in college or other programs. Right now high school is only preparing kids for college. Shouldn't they be preparing kids for life, or to pursue their dream, no matter what it is?


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 16, 2013 at 11:45 am

Russlynn Ali, former Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, was one of the early proponents of a-g for all in California. She repeatedly called a-g preparation for college and career, for college and life. In the current economy, a student who not math literate through Algebra 2 has virtually no chance of obtaining a decent job of any kind. Look at the struggles of minimum wage workers to obtain a wage that will bring them up to poverty. Look at the abuse of workers by Wal-Mart. Students who do not have a-g are not prepared for life in the 21st century, let alone college.

It is outrageous for Toma to contend that the students who he feels "can't pass our regular lane Algebra 2 class" can "go to jobs". What jobs? What world is this man in? Why is he a public school teacher?

Here's a statement Assistant Secretary Ali made about it in 2004:

Web Link

Should students be excluded from every having a hope of even working at the poverty level in this economy because Radu Toma wants to put another gold star on his own forehead for having more Mathletes win more prizes and trophies than anyone else? Is this what public schools in America are for -- to help people who fantasize themselves as fancy amateur professors to burnish their legends? Meanwhile, students at the bottom can't afford to eat or live because they were miseducated by the richest district in the state? I applaud Kevin Skelly for ignoring the math department and pressing ahead for a-g but I wonder why is Radu Toma still the IS of that department?


Posted by help, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 16, 2013 at 11:50 am

Is there any way teachers who require that kids work together to learn upper level math (BC calc track) could require that English is the language of choice in the classroom? My student is at a table of all Chinese speakers and they will not speak English with him, but student interaction is required for learning. The teacher seems to be closing their eyes to this phenomenon. Can't figure out if the teacher is loving it, trying to be PC or unaware. What is the department, school and district policy? Are teachers obligated to put at least two native English speakers at each table? Should this be mandated? I think so!


Posted by More help, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 16, 2013 at 1:46 pm

This Gunn vs Paly competition is counter-productive at best. It needs to stop!

Also, English is indeed being overlooked in favor of math and math sciences. My daughter has had similar problems with Asian students who refuse to speak English to other students, even in class. This is in no one's best interest. The Asian kids will find it hard to keep a job if their English is not good enough, especially if they cannot write well in English.

My own employer has had to lay off a couple of Asian employees recently; one, encaustic her family would not allow her to speak English at home. She spoke well enough during college, but afterward, when she moved back,in with her family, her English skills deteriorated rapidly. Clients refused to talk to her, and absolutely no one could understand what she wrote, not even the proof readers could turn it Into reasonable prose. it cost her a well-paying job


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Thanks anti-Asian Palo Altans for illustrating my point on acceptable versus unacceptable racial biases. Biases that limit the chances of poor underrepresented minorities to be treated equally to whites are fine. Biases that limit the chances of white students to be treated equally with Asians are not fine.

Usually one does not get such a fine illustration so quickly but I knew if I primed that particular pump we'd see the needle jump.


Posted by From the inside, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Well done.


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 16, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Thx.


Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 16, 2013 at 10:16 pm

And the Asian-bashing and Math-Department-Bashing continues.

I have to say, you did an *excellent* job twisting the wording and taking phrases out of context in your parody of the math department letter.


Posted by Wilson, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2013 at 11:44 pm

> It is outrageous for Toma to contend that the students who he feels
> "can't pass our regular lane Algebra 2 class" can "go to jobs".
> What jobs? What world is this man in?
> Why is he a public school teacher?

California no longer requiring eighth graders to take Algebra:
Web Link

California will no longer require eighth-graders to take algebra — a move that is line with the Common Core standards being adopted by most states, but that may leave students unprepared for college.

Last month, California formally shifted to the Common Core mathematics standards, which recommend that students delay taking algebra if they aren't ready for it. Previously, algebra class was a requirement for all eighth-graders in the state.
-----

And what world does "Fire-Radu-Toma" live in? The California Legislature, in all its radiant glory, has decided that 8th graders don't need Algebra, so why is this person so livid with Toma, and silent about the acts of the Legislature relative to Algebra?

Algebra is not as useful as understanding technology these days. Yet, we don't have classes in our schools about the Internet, or a host of other new technologies that don't require as much mathematical reasoning, but are none-the-less more valuable in the real world.

> Walmart abuses its workers.

God! What drivel!! It's not hard to see that many of Walmart's employees are immigrants who did not go to school in the US. Moreover, they would not be paid more even if they could pass an Algrebra II test--since stocking, and operating a cash register are low skilled jobs, that are not worth much to any employer--be that employer Walmart, or some other outfit.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2013 at 11:57 pm

This discussion is long overdue.

Does anyone know who kept the letter out of the public eye? Why?


Posted by Fire Radu Toma, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 17, 2013 at 9:15 am

My understanding (perhaps the Weekly could do some reporting on this -- a PRA for all the email communications of the teachers and administrators regarding the Math Letter would surely be highly informative -- Kevin Skelly received the letter of the Math Department and then stuck it in a drawer and never gave it to the Board of Education, thinking (wisely) that it was pretty ill-advised, but also thinking (unwisely) that somehow if he stuck it in his bottom drawer it would no longer be a public record. A parent obtained it and shared it with other members of the parent community who were (wisely) outraged. They went to the board of education which (unwisely) went mute. They did say that they had never seen the letter before, even though it was addressed to them. Thus, the bottom drawer was excavated. There were also prior and subsequent drafts -- evidently they received a later draft that contained "data" of which rumors were heard but no copy ever emerged. No reporting was done so no other documents ever surfaced.

There is no way you can get 20 people to sign something without an extensive email chain. 20 fingers just pressed the delete key, but email is forever.


Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

village fool.

"This discussion is long overdue."

??? you're kidding, the discussion on the Toma letter has been rehashed plenty. Start a new thread to just talk about the letter, see you many hits you get.

Fire Radu Toma,

As a Math IS, I agree Toma wrote a lame letter. But if the district accepted the letter, it's past Toma, he obviously has not been fired, and not sure he can even be fired, ask the union. You've highlighted the double standard on biases in the community, that's not really news though.

News today is that English holds back more minority students from A-G than Math, that Gunn does better than Paly with ELL and college readiness, and that there has been an improvement since 2008 back when the Superintendent said the achievement gap was a hopeless task because of the tutoring and stuff that goes on. Skelly was right about the tutoring!

Not sure if the overall gap has improved, but the fact that college readiness is improving is a big deal.









Posted by parent2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2013 at 9:28 am

Wilson,

Your comments seem to be consistent with the main issue here, which is that minority student college readiness and job success could be improved by focusing on English.

PAUSD is notorious for its Math wars and every Tom, Dick and Harry has a Math platform. At a policy level, these wars all add up to how many pass Algebra 2 (or used to - now its common core). Somebody needs to figure out what the Algebra 2 equivalent is for English and move on from the old Math fights.


Posted by Subgroups, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

"But the college-readiness rate for "underrepresented subgroups" remains unacceptable, Wilmot said, at only 46 percent for socio-economically disadvantaged students; 52 percent for English learners; 44 percent for special education students..."
Special Education students are at risk because PAUSD can say they are not capable of meeting academic requirements to graduate or to attend college, and is allowed to modify testing to lower standards. PAUSD is allowed to give up on certain groups of students. It goes unnoticed because they can show fabulous high school test scores for other students.

Special Education students are defined only as students on an Individual Education Plan (IEP). But Special Education office tries to reduce the number of students on IEPs, so they don't get reported. There are many students with disabilities who can't get help because of this.

For the students who are still on IEPs, it is no surprise they are not being educated equally, seeing the rush to say PAUSD fully achieved "full inclusion from Day 1," into only mainstream classrooms. Special Education did this by 1)removing kids from Special Education to say they are no longer disabled students and not their responsibility 2) putting more disabled students in classes while depriving teachers appropriate help and services to educate disabled students. Parents and the Board of Education are told teachers now must teach many different different methods to a class at once, that all teachers were trained in inclusion over summer, that for the last 3 yeas push-in services were provided to help all students in a classroom, when OT and SLP were decreased or barely exist at all at some schools, that all classrooms have trained TOSAs who co-teach all the time. Maybe this is happening in a few classrooms somewhere at a few middle schools to trot out for the Board and press, but appropriate services are not provided at most schools or classes. Think about it, it would take an enormous expansion in resources to do what they said they've done, and that doesn't exist. Money is poorly spent and uncoordinated, with part time and contract professionals providing disjointed and duplicate services without talking to each other or seeing if the student needs it.
Teachers don't have 8 hands to teach differently all at once. We see Special Education kids who are brilliant but different now failing, angry teachers, Special Education nowhere to be found to help, except to say full inclusion has been achieved and that academics improved and students now feel happy. They have no actual PAUSD data to back up their miraculous claims of success in a few months, just cute anecdotes and results of studies done elsewhere. But why bother supporting claims, if you look at data it may show problems. Just say you have succeeded, the Board believes everything Special Education says and teachers and parents are expected to also. That way there is no need to provide the help taxpayers think they are paying for to educate all students to succeed in life.


Posted by help, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

What's wrong with being inclusive? Refusing to speak English in an English-speaking school is not inclusive but exclusive when the non-English speakers have the upper hand as they do in my son's math class. This district has made a policy of being inclusive. That's all we are asking.
Remember "You can't say,'You can't play?" We just want our kids at Gunn to be included in the math activities and have the teachers give them an equal opportunity.


Posted by Subgroups, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

@help - "What's wrong with being inclusive?" Nothing. It should be that way.
The problem is real inclusion is not taking place without teacher training and student supports which we are told are fully in place, but they are not.


Posted by help, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm

@ fire radu toma
what does radu toma have to do with gunn high school? also, who said that students who need algebra 1 in high school should not have an appropriate class? not this poster. you are confused.


Posted by help, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm

@ subgroups
no argument here, we need to be looking at kevin skelly and holly wade to resolve that issue. and getting some clarification from parents who lobbied with all their hearts for inclusion for some spec ed kids totally ignoring the needs of others.


Posted by C. Munger tried to destroy public education in CA, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Subgroups, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

@help - Or get District to manage Special Education better. Less duplication of services, less inappropriate services that don't help, less repeating material already learned, fewer payments to contractors for services that aren't measured or don't work, fewer unqualified contractors and para's used to replace credentialed teachers and qualified specialists. How about a policy to teach kids to read instead of paying for them to sit in a class unable to read their whole school career, and paying specialists to help them do their work since they weren't taught to read. Intervene appropriately when kids are not succeeding so it won't end up as expensive emergency later. And get Board of Education to provided oversight.


Posted by help, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Subgroups, you have my vote.


Posted by Asianne, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm

[Post removed.]