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Community Notebook: School district to launch lecture series on race, equity

New equity coordinator sets sights on continuing series throughout the community

As part of its ongoing efforts to close the achievement gap, the Palo Alto school district is hosting a University of California, Los Angeles expert on race and education in January.

The Jan. 9 event will be the first in a series focused on the achievement gap. New Equity Coordinator Keith Wheeler said he is launching the series with the goal of keeping these issues at the forefront of district and community conversations.

"I want equity to be a continuous conversation from Churchill (Avenue, the location of the district office) down to every site in the community," he said.

The first speaker will be Tyrone Howard, professor and associate dean for equity and inclusion at UCLA. Howard is the founder and director of UCLA's Black Male Institute, an interdisciplinary effort "dedicated to improving the educational experiences and life chances of Black males," its website states, and was also the director of UCLA's Center X, a consortium of education professionals focused on social justice and educational equity in Los Angeles schools.

His research has focused on the achievement gap facing African-American and other minority students and the "importance of providing teachers the skills and knowledge to assist them in reversing persistent underachievement," a UCLA biography states.

At the Palo Alto event, Howard will discuss issues such as racial awareness in the classroom, developing cultural competence and how poverty intersects with race, culture and gender.

Wheeler said the talk is targeted at not only district faculty and staff who work with minority and low-income students, but also other students, parents and community members.

For the next event in the series, Wheeler plans to moderate a panel of minority and low-income students, faculty and staff who will speak about their experiences in the district in February.

The Howard talk will take place from 6-8 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. Spanish and Mandarin translation as well as child care will be available. For more information, go to pausd.org.

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Comments

77 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2017 at 10:35 am

I'm wondering if any of these "events" will be inclusive of the equity concerns of Caucasian and Asian students, many of whom are experiencing reverse discrimination and exclusionary practices in the education system today.


23 people like this
Posted by Michelle de Blank
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 27, 2017 at 10:45 am

How depressing that the first comment on this article is so out of touch and contrary to any of data in PAUSD. Hispanic and AA children are not doing well in PAUSD. Bringing information from other places can be helpful. Best of luck!


13 people like this
Posted by Latino Parent
a resident of Nixon School
on Dec 27, 2017 at 10:49 am

Ok, but they should keep in mind that the school district has 2% black students vs. 12% Latino and Hispanic. PAUSD has as many Pacific Islander and Filipino students as it has black students. And it does as badly with special education students as it does with black students. So while bringing in a speaker from the Black Male Institute is fine, there are only about 100 black males (about 1%) in the district; maybe the next 10 speakers can address hispanic, special needs, and low income student issues.


10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 27, 2017 at 11:07 am

PBS this week had a 5 hour special on the continent of Africa - second biggest continent on planet - from the beginning of time to present. Check out their available CD's on this show. So time began with the inhabitants creating empires and battling for superiority over the available resources in any area. And yes slavery was an element of their commerce and activities. Then they started interacting with their northern European neighbors who had a penchant for colonizing the world and laying claim to any place they were able to overcome by force. Slavery was a commercial activity within this grab and plunder political environment. The North American continent was the later addition to the colonizing activity due to location.

PBS is airing more documentaries concerning the historical progression of interaction - last night was the State of Florida which was originally colonized by Spain then battles ensued with the British Empire and later rag-rag American fighters to protect that location.

Bottom line is that teaching world history starting with the US as it is today does no service to anyone since the US had different political forces at work across the nation as the Rail Road and US civilization moved across to California. California was colonized by Spain. Hopefully people will realize that the US was at the end of the practice of slavery - not the beginning. It is an evolutionary story. Careful not to cherry pick history to create a narrative for politically strategic "talking points".
Also to show that Africa today has nations which are busy trying to institute solid economical elements for their citizens.


30 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2017 at 11:09 am

I think it is great if the speaker focuses on any challenges that Black American students face in the education system. However, I discourage any speeches that involve blaming or insinuating the collective guilt of White Americans for the practice of slavery that was allowed in America as it was the custom of the economic world at that time. I also want to support another reader's comments that special education students experience many challenges and discrimination as well. The goal of the education system should be on improving learning and opportunities for all students.


24 people like this
Posted by Midlander
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Midlander is a registered user.

Above all, I hope this process engages well with the target children's parents.

The Economist recently had an article on how well various new immigrant groups performed in English schools, broken down by their home language. Two standout groups were Gujaratis (from India) and Yoruba (from Nigeria). Both these groups performed much better than native English students. And the key to their success? The parents were absolutely determined that their sons and daughters would be successful and set very high standards for them.

That provides a useful reminder that drive and motivation from home can make a really big difference to outcomes. (As Mr Obama has reported too.)


54 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm

What's the purpose of this talk?

Is it going to tell us anything that we don't already know? Not really. Is it going to suggest some convincing new approach? Probably not.

Other than a rehash of blame-the-white-guy, blame-the-riches, or tests-are-too-hard arguments, I don't think there is going to be anything new and, most importantly, any solution to the problem.


11 people like this
Posted by 2014 Gunn alumni
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2017 at 12:18 am

To "Concerned Observer:"
[Portion removed.] Have you seen the achievement gap? Have you done any research on this? Do you understand why these equity talks are happening in the first place? It's not because the Caucasian and Asian population is at a disadvantage, they are not being excluded. The whole point of this is to include populations of color who are disadvantaged, underserved, and underprivileged into the community, and teaching everyone about race equity. It's so disheartening to see that the very first comment on a race equity news page is "But what about reverse racism! White people are being excluded!" Especially coming from Gunn, where the achievement gap wasn't even being practically addressed when I went there (as a Latino and Native student), I'm disappointed that people in Palo Alto still manage to make outreach programs and events all about how we can not* forget about the white and Asian population, who are* doing well if you actually looked at any of the data


42 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2017 at 7:27 am

There's an old saying. You can take the horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

That being said, it is possibly to give some students (of any ethnicity) the greatest advantages in the world, but unless their families put in the necessary support to enable those students have the same ideals as the other families give their students, then the gap will remain.

Some students have parents that want them to get a job after school and weekends, look after siblings, or just don't care enough to worry about poor grades or disciplinary and behavior problems. They can't or won't help with homework or even give them enough time or space to do homework at home.

The gap will never close no matter how much is given to disadvantaged students unless the same effort is given from home.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 28, 2017 at 12:16 pm

I had the fortunate experience of growing up in the Los Angeles School System at a time when the city was highly diversified and had a strong middle class in every race. Tom Bradley was a black mayor from 1973 - 1993. At that time all of the schools had a curriculum for every class and that is what was taught in all of the schools in the system. Everyone was getting the same curriculum that was suppose to get them ready for college, SAT tests and adult life. I don't recall any spin at that time on religion or race, despite LA started getting into trouble when it started moving manufacturing jobs out of the city and reducing the number of job opportunities.
I am concerned that topic of race and religion are being introduced at a time when the students are suppose to be focusing on college or some trade. It is an emotional situation being thrown in to add a confusion level for the students. If all students are treated the same then they assimilate better. I remember when we took our son up to Chico at the new students meeting - everyone looked exactly alike despite race - same hair, same clothes, same attitude, same goals. I am getting that the extreme social engineering at the school system level is more about the parents then the students. I feel sorry for the whole group. You are isolating certain groups now instead of combining them. So sad.


27 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

@ 2014 Gunn Alumni.....Why is it that your view regarding people of color excludes Asians and Caucasians who may also be disadvantaged or require special needs? Are Asians and Caucasians not pigmented ? Are they all
wealthy ? Do they all come from families that place an emphasis on a good education ? Do they all come from two parent homes ?

Just because the data demonstratess that black and brown students may not be doing as well as other groups does not mean that those other groups are all successful academically and socially.

Equity in education is something that all students deserve regardless of what the data shows. How would you react if the PAUSD hosted a series dedicated to improving the educational and life chances of White males and excluded any other group ?


1 person likes this
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 28, 2017 at 1:51 pm

@concerned -
The school district is currently serving white and Asian students very well. They don’t need a series.
There are certainly socioeconomically disadvantaged white and Asian students who are also struggling, as well as students in those categories who qualify for special education. When our equity coordinator presented these data he also spoke of these groups.
But it seems clear that most of our students do well in school because they pay for an outside tutor. That certainly widens the achievement gap between low and high income kids. Beyond that, we seem to have pretty low expectations of our minority students. We have a lot of work to do and I’m grateful for this series.


10 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2017 at 3:07 pm

> But it seems clear that most of our students do well in school because
> they pay for an outside tutor.

What evidence is there that this is true in a school system that serves about 12,000 students--if "most" students who do well hire an outside tutor, this would suggest that there are thousands of tutors working here in Palo Alto.

There are a few businesses which operate locally that provide tutoring services, but these businesses have never revealed the number of students paying for their services.

Reality is that students who perform well academically come from homes where the parents are both well-educated and have a commitment to their children's understanding the value of life-long education.

It is very unlikely that the number of out-of-classroom tutoring hours here in the PAUSD will ever be known.




3 people like this
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 28, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Is your argument that because we can't know how many get tutoring we should assume that most of the reason for particular students doing better than others is NOT because of outside tutoring? Talk to parents of HS students. Most of the ones I have spoken with pay for a tutor or tutoring services. And we all know how much time students spend doing homework every night. If we have students who do not have the resources to get tutoring or use tutoring services and they don't have parents who can personally help them with algebra 2 or advanced history courses, I'd hope we had a school system that would still support them in succeeding if they apply themselves. It is sounding to me like the only way to get ahead in this system is by paying for a lot of extra outside help. That sounds really inequitable to me.


8 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2017 at 7:21 pm

> Is your argument that because we can't know how many get tutoring we should assume > that most of the reason for particular students doing better than others is NOT
> because of outside tutoring?

Would you prefer that we predicate that the top students are taking magic mushrooms or have been injected with alien DNA, since we don't know how to measure these possibilities either?

> Talk to parents of HS students.

There are easily 6,000 to 7,000 parents of high school students in the PAUSD.

> Most of the ones I have spoken with pay for a tutor or tutoring services.

"Most" is not a very qualifiable determiner. It's possible that all of the parents with which you have spoken about this matter say that they have paid a tutor. However, this does not mean that you have spoken to "most" of the parents of high achievers.

It's unlikely that the PAUSD has the authority to acquire this information from the families of enrolled students. Suffice it to say, some families hire tutors. That's about the best that logic will allow us.

BTW--one interesting metric about families and student performance might be: "how many books does the family of a high performing family own, and read vs the number of books that a low performing family own and read?" Would be interesting to get a sense of how those two questions might play out.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 28, 2017 at 7:44 pm

@Frustrated - my experience, fwiw, is that my children and most of their friends, representing 8 years of Paly high school experience, did not have tutors in the vast majority of subjects. There might have been parental homework help; that's hard to identify. Most did have outside college admissions support (wide variety, from essay editing to SAT prep to wrap-around "counseling").

But I don't think it is really the point. The point is that some students, especially those with lower income and lower home educational attainment, often do not do well in our schools. The question is how the schools can help them be more successful. Is it more teaching/tutoring? Support for family engagement (a current district priority)? Free pre-school spots? 10 books a home programs? Unconscious bias training? Full-day kindergarten? There are lots of possible interventions - the question is which will actually work AND which students will actually benefit.


26 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2017 at 7:45 pm

The underlying issue is often ignored by these sorts of things. It is about the MOTIVATION to succeed -- as instilled by parents -- than spending money on what amounts to mere symptoms. As a former migrant worker from an immigrant family, we succeeded because our parents expected us to do whatever is needed to succeed. This is missing in so many families.

Unfortunately, many parents place the burden of academic success solely or collectively upon teachers, administration, school boards, extra tutoring, technology (and access to it), etc. Yet, there are some great students (like those in my family) who came from very impoverished households with little access to academic tools (e.g., computers, internet, printers, encyclopedias, transportation to libraries, etc.) and from non-English homes. Yet, they succeed because they are pushed to by their parents and families.

I don't have anything against the things mentioned in above. However, those things rarely work in households where the importance of education isn't imparted through parents or guardians. If you listen to the stories of academic success from students hailing from impoverished backgrounds, you so often find someone (or some people) who provided guidance that included expectations that the student do her/his best to succeed.

The best place for this is at home. The sad truth is that so many children growing up in ways similar to my own lack the parental guidance that expresses an all-important motivation for personal academic success. How is this taught? How is this expressed?


28 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2017 at 8:52 pm

@ Frustrated...the school district serves all students and does it's best to serve all students well. White and Asian students happen to do better. It is not a local issue with Palo Alto schools. It is a nation wide issue. The school district doesn't single out White and Asian students and provide them with a better learning experience. They do better for a variety of reasons, but not all of them do.

So if you're going to provide a "series" for under performing students, it should be provided to all under performing students, regardless of skin color or socioeconomic status and shouldn't be labeled as such.

There are plenty of white and Asian male students who under perform but I haven't run across a White or Asian Male Institute dedicated to improving their learning experience and life chances, and if there was it would most likely be labeled as racist.


7 people like this
Posted by Sad
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 29, 2017 at 8:08 am

[Portion removed.] Trying to have a conversation about how one group is struggling doesn't mean you aren't having conversations about other groups. It's too bad no one seems to care about this particular group. When suicides spiked in one group, and special programs were done, you didn't hear people in other groups complaining and criticizing. It's fine for other groups to get programs to help them but not for this particular group apparently. Just sad and sadly typical of our town these days.


53 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 29, 2017 at 9:44 am

[Portion removed.] I for one am sick of hearing about racism and color in our public discussions and in our society which is supposed to be evolving towards being color blind. Black children should not be told that they start with disadvantages or damages caused by whites. People who perpetuate racism as an industry, and it certainly is that, or as a weapon to gain grants, contributions, etc. should be rejected. Black children are disadvantaged because black families and black society is not providing the right support and modeling. It’s not poverty, not culture - every other culture races past the short term challenges to rise in America, except for Afro Americans. The dialogue should change from it’s the obligation of all non-blacks to give towards raising the quality of life of american blacks to being open to helping them help themselves. Seriously, look at the dollar amounts spent on black poverty, crime, drug issues, single parents, etc since the ‘60s - dollars from non- black America - and the results, racism is not the issue. My own experience is that most Americas are incredibly generous but weary of black crime and lack of black achievement. Let’s end this terrible plague of selling racism and labeling. It’s deplorable that public funds are being spent to perpetuate this myth of racism. I look forward to a time when people are just people, when we actually practice the golden rule, and when Palo Alto gets back to a focus on quality, cost effective, competant services - all of that would much better serve the future of the city.


8 people like this
Posted by Breitbart West Coast edition
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 29, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Thank you Weekly for this racist forum.


8 people like this
Posted by Roy Moore
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 29, 2017 at 2:28 pm

[Post removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2017 at 2:54 pm

@Breitbart West Coast - There is a difference between a "racial" discussion and a "racist" discussion. Unfortunately, the lack of viable discussions about "racial" issues -- including strengths and weaknesses within each community -- has led to people alleging the "racist" term.

There are school success issues related to certain racial-ethnic groups. Students from a few groups often lag behind the average in America, California and Palo Alto. The attempt to determine the reasons behind this have nothing to do with "racism."


20 people like this
Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 1, 2018 at 12:34 pm

It is necessary to have some standards of accomplishment, but California has gotten rid of the old easy CAHSEE, the high school exit exam, because some students couldn’t pass it, even with multiple tries and free coaching, etc.
Therefore, a high school diploma here dorsn’t mean much.
Most 10th graders would easily pass it in Palo Alto schools and report it was at about an 8th grade level of difficulty.

I sincerely fear for the future of California if more students and their families will not take more interest in education.

It is well known that many starting at Cal State University campuses (inexpensive tuition) must take major Math and English remedial courses before embarking on actual college-level education. This pushed back graduation dates. So the State of California’s “answer” is to make such remedial courses now qualify for credits. This is ridiculous since they AREN’T college-level courses!
The main element is personal responsibility.
Have strong oversight of your children’s learning from birth onwards.
We have the internet and other resouces like HS counselors and local public libraries, utilize these resources so you don’t find yourself left behind. Read books. Anyone can be “self-taught” by reading library books.

Lecturing me about slavery isn’t going to work (I have a provable family lineage whereby nobody was in a position to take advantage of others in this way).


16 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 1, 2018 at 5:59 pm

@ Former Paly parent....so well stated. I would venture to guess that most Americans have similar lineage and are sick and tired of the "blame whitey for all of our problems."


Like this comment
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 1, 2018 at 6:01 pm

Last word omitted. "rhetoric."


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 1, 2018 at 6:24 pm

PBS just had a five segment documentary on the continent of Africa - the second biggest continent on the planet. From the beginning the different tribes were building empires and warring to establish the best areas for water and food. And slavery was common in that environment. Then they started to interact with the northern European countries who were now busy competing to see who could colonize the most areas. Religion also arose as competing social issues. Slavery was a major element of this relationship. North America was a late comer due to position on planet. Slavery in America was related to the colonizing European countries. who wanted to establish the south as an agricultural area. Hopefully the children can see this presentation which is available in the PBS library of purchasable programs. It is important to know that we were at the tail end of the activity. History on race did not start on our borders. It also brings history forward to today to the African nations that are operating independently.


13 people like this
Posted by Another PAUSD parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 1, 2018 at 6:48 pm

Please add a couple other dimensions to this discussion.
My sons and their multi-ethnic friends have told us that racism is actually the worst by the Asian students.
The have told us that the Asian students think Hispanics, African Americans, and "Whites" (non-Asians) are considered “stupid” until they are able to *prove* otherwise.
What is also not mentioned is the high level of cheating and plagiarism.
This is creating a lot of tension, animosity, and confusion among students whose parents have taught their kids that cheating is on the same level as lying.
We feel that this basically boils down to basic “Ten Commandment” religious values.
[Portion removed.]
This issue must be discussed and dealt with because not discussing it will never change it.
This will have long term implications on the integrity certain applicants to university programs, and hiring managers.


13 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 1, 2018 at 7:27 pm

@Another PAUSD parent, that puts to rest the question of whether there is anti-Asian bias and stereotyping in PAUSD. Thanks for clearing that up!


18 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 2, 2018 at 7:25 pm

What is going on here? PAUSD hires an ‘equity coordinator’, Keith Wheeler (why in the world do we need an ‘equity coordinator? This is incredible! ) Keith, in turn hires Tyrone from the Black Male Institure at UCLA to speak about improving the educational experiences of black males and sensitizing techers about black males in the classroom........what? How much does the ‘equity coordinator’ cost the school district and this special guy Tryrone cost the school district? Does anyone know? Who approves this junk? Isn’t anyone tasked with making sure the district focuses on teaching? These so-called academic programs to raise awareness is nothing less than race exploitation. It’s terrible. And this is being paid for by Palo Alto taxpayers.


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 3, 2018 at 8:25 am

George - totally agree. PAUSD is out of control as to budget and ethics regarding what their role is. Every class has a curriculum dictated by the requirements of the class across the state. If all classrooms are following the same curriculum guidelines then all students are being treated the same and expectations regarding success are similar across the state. That is the lesson all students should be getting - what is required. Then provide help out of the class to help get the student on track. We already know that PAUSD has been lax on following a budget which helps teachers get what they need. Who is in charge out there? The Alum Rock school district is reported on weekly in the papers for out of control action on bond provided update of infrastructure.


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

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