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Views on school reopenings: Students, parents and educators weigh in on the coming academic year

Community members detail worries, wishes once classes resume at Palo Alto Unified

The empty halls of Fletcher Middle School are reflected in the window of an empty classroom in Palo Alto on April 3. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

With plans constantly changing for the academic year this fall, and poor experiences with distance learning during the spring still on the minds of students, families and educators, the Weekly asked Palo Altans to share their concerns, questions and hopes about the upcoming school year for the Palo Alto Unified School District. Here's what they had to say. (Interviews were edited for brevity.)

Mudita Jain, parent

My biggest fear is that without a commitment to online, synchronous learning, the equity gap in our district will become wider, because the students who will lose out the most are the ones most affected by not having access to free, challenging, quality public education.

In thinking about reopening schools, the district should address:

• What are the barriers to providing synchronous instruction, and why can San Jose Unified School District, San Mateo Union High School District and Dublin Unified overcome those barriers and not us?

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• How can we provide rigorous, challenging instruction for all students while making sure students in need (due to economic, academic or medical fragility reasons) aren't left behind?

• How can we give students opportunities to engage with their peers, for their emotional/mental health? Not all students are interested in a sport.

• What can the district do about classes that need to be in person, for example, ceramics or robotics?

Maia McQuarrie works with an occupational therapist during the Palo Alto Unified School District Extended School Year program at Greene Middle School on July 9. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

(My biggest hope is) that the district would require all PAUSD middle and high school courses to be livestreamed and available for replay to students, even if in-person instruction is resumed. This would allow medically fragile students to participate in the course with their peers while at home, and if a hybrid model was in place, to transmit instruction from the in-person classroom to students mandated to stay at home three days a week.

Live synchronous instruction allows students to engage in discussion with teachers and each other, allowing them to learn from multiple sources. It also most closely imitates in person instruction while still being safe for students and teachers. Being able to replay a lecture is important for equity because students with spotty internet connections should not miss out on instruction.

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In addition, I hope that there would be a plan to have students engage in fun activities, even if online.

Medha Atla, rising senior at Palo Alto High, student board representative for Associated Student Body

As a student, obviously, I know that I wanted to be back on campus this senior year — my final year as a Palo Alto Unified School District student. So I would like to enjoy being able to see my friends and see my teachers and learn on campus, but obviously health and safety comes first. And I understand the superintendent's decision to do online reopening.

I'm a little worried about college applications and not being able to have access to my college counselor or my advisors or my teachers if I need help with college applications.

But I think it's going to be different from the online learning system that we had in place, March through June. I think this time, there's going to be a lot more structure and I think that will help a lot.

I hope that even though we're online (this fall) and we don't have that in-person experience, I will still be able to connect with my peers, and not just academically, like being able to work in groups, but also, socially. I'm an only child, so have no siblings, and I can't meet my friends right now.

I hope that there'll be a way to connect online, whether it's by giving breakout rooms or something like that.

Usually I feel that when you're in school, you automatically connect with your teachers because you see them face-to-face, and I hope I can still do that even if it's online, and I still feel comfortable going to them.

Claire Cheng, a Gunn High School senior, participates in a student-led tutoring session on Zoom from her home in Palo Alto. Courtesy Claire Cheng.

Meb Steiner, president of the California School Employees Association

My short way of sort of summarizing our approach to this is ... our working environment is the same thing and is equal to the students' learning environment ... and we need to keep both of those safe.

That's really the biggest concern right now around reopening: How do we do it in a well-planned, thoughtful rollout because it's a lot of stuff to do. It's just a huge endeavor and a very complex thing. To do it well requires a lot of planning, a lot of details, and it's a big risk because we are fundamentally trying to reopen a small city.

The lingering question is really having a very, very detailed plan of what our safety protocols are going to be. I think that it's really important that we put them on our website and they're available for anybody and everyone to access. Students would know what the expectations are, the staff would know, our community members would know, and we would all kind of be on the same page of: this is what we're doing; this is how we're going about it.

A custodian cleans desks using a peroxide-based solution in a classroom at Palo Alto High School on March 6. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Some things I know have been put in place. We have bought personal protective equipment, we've got some cleaning protocols — the custodians have been cleaning all summer. Our maintenance and operations folks have been checking the ventilation systems to see which buildings need more ... and making sure that buildings and facilities are safe.

But there's just a lot of moving parts.

On a district level, what I'd really appreciate is that we have open lines of communication with district leadership, with the school board, and with the stakeholders. I think that is something that is a real positive and allows us to collectively work together to make sure that we keep our students, our staff and our community safe. So that's our hope.

Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association

(My biggest concerns are) the health and safety of our students, educators, families and the community. Before schools eventually reopen, we expect to see robust and practicable safety measures and protocols. At the county and state level, we're trying to understand the new guidance that could possibly allow schools, once open, to stay open even with dozens of positive cases.

It's (been) exhausting for all of us (educators, families, administrators) ... being bombarded with new information, sometimes confusing, sometimes contradictory, sometimes outdated in a matter of days.

And that would be stressful enough if it were only a matter of what our work is going to look like, but again, like everyone, the uncertainty and stress affect our families and loved ones, and the stakes are incredibly high. We really hope to see leaders standing up for the safest options, for the longest reasonable time frame, in order to provide everyone with much-needed reassurances, stability, and the ability to make viable plans.

The Palo Alto school board members keep distance between their seats at an emergency meeting on March 12. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Going back to school, with all of the PPE (personal protective equipment) and safety measures, will not be anything like school as normal. We anticipate losing instructional time for following and reinforcing all the safety measures, challenges hearing each other with masks and the lists go on.

With our younger students, they have fears about coming to school even in normal circumstances. Teachers can ordinarily comfort those students with a hug and reassuring words. This can't happen in this time of COVID-19.

Andrew Kim, rising senior at Gunn High School, student body president

It's hard. We're missing out on so many school activities, especially homecoming, which is the biggest event at Gunn.

But I agree with the decision to continue with distance learning. Without a clear way to manage and control the spread of the virus, and monitor and isolate those who have the virus, it's gonna be pretty difficult to reopen in the current situation.

I think everybody should have a good understanding and have patience with each other. I try to empathize. (If) students empathize more with the district and the teachers in the district should empathize with the students, it can make the transition a bit easier.

The empty Henry M. Gunn High School campus in Palo Alto on April 3. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Our student government at Gunn High School, we're figuring out the best ways to keep the school spirit up through a virtual setting. We know for sure big events like homecoming, that require big gatherings, won't happen, but we're thinking we can do some virtual rallies and things.

I know we're having a bit of trouble with clubs right now. That is still not for sure decided yet. I personally think clubs are really important for students, especially during virtual times. We need somewhere that we can go to, somewhere we can find people of similar interests and go to for support. It's hard to just stay at home all day, especially if you don't have that close group.

(College-admissions testing) has been pretty difficult. I'm taking the ACT, and I think next Monday they're opening up for rescheduling. I scheduled an ACT in July, but that one got canceled. I had to schedule one all the way in Yosemite. I was like, "I'm gonna take this trip, just go drive out to Yosemite and get my last ACT done."

And that ended up getting cancelled, so we have to try to find whichever ones are open.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Views on school reopenings: Students, parents and educators weigh in on the coming academic year

Community members detail worries, wishes once classes resume at Palo Alto Unified

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 24, 2020, 6:55 am

With plans constantly changing for the academic year this fall, and poor experiences with distance learning during the spring still on the minds of students, families and educators, the Weekly asked Palo Altans to share their concerns, questions and hopes about the upcoming school year for the Palo Alto Unified School District. Here's what they had to say. (Interviews were edited for brevity.)

Mudita Jain, parent

My biggest fear is that without a commitment to online, synchronous learning, the equity gap in our district will become wider, because the students who will lose out the most are the ones most affected by not having access to free, challenging, quality public education.

In thinking about reopening schools, the district should address:

• What are the barriers to providing synchronous instruction, and why can San Jose Unified School District, San Mateo Union High School District and Dublin Unified overcome those barriers and not us?

• How can we provide rigorous, challenging instruction for all students while making sure students in need (due to economic, academic or medical fragility reasons) aren't left behind?

• How can we give students opportunities to engage with their peers, for their emotional/mental health? Not all students are interested in a sport.

• What can the district do about classes that need to be in person, for example, ceramics or robotics?

(My biggest hope is) that the district would require all PAUSD middle and high school courses to be livestreamed and available for replay to students, even if in-person instruction is resumed. This would allow medically fragile students to participate in the course with their peers while at home, and if a hybrid model was in place, to transmit instruction from the in-person classroom to students mandated to stay at home three days a week.

Live synchronous instruction allows students to engage in discussion with teachers and each other, allowing them to learn from multiple sources. It also most closely imitates in person instruction while still being safe for students and teachers. Being able to replay a lecture is important for equity because students with spotty internet connections should not miss out on instruction.

In addition, I hope that there would be a plan to have students engage in fun activities, even if online.

Medha Atla, rising senior at Palo Alto High, student board representative for Associated Student Body

As a student, obviously, I know that I wanted to be back on campus this senior year — my final year as a Palo Alto Unified School District student. So I would like to enjoy being able to see my friends and see my teachers and learn on campus, but obviously health and safety comes first. And I understand the superintendent's decision to do online reopening.

I'm a little worried about college applications and not being able to have access to my college counselor or my advisors or my teachers if I need help with college applications.

But I think it's going to be different from the online learning system that we had in place, March through June. I think this time, there's going to be a lot more structure and I think that will help a lot.

I hope that even though we're online (this fall) and we don't have that in-person experience, I will still be able to connect with my peers, and not just academically, like being able to work in groups, but also, socially. I'm an only child, so have no siblings, and I can't meet my friends right now.

I hope that there'll be a way to connect online, whether it's by giving breakout rooms or something like that.

Usually I feel that when you're in school, you automatically connect with your teachers because you see them face-to-face, and I hope I can still do that even if it's online, and I still feel comfortable going to them.

Meb Steiner, president of the California School Employees Association

My short way of sort of summarizing our approach to this is ... our working environment is the same thing and is equal to the students' learning environment ... and we need to keep both of those safe.

That's really the biggest concern right now around reopening: How do we do it in a well-planned, thoughtful rollout because it's a lot of stuff to do. It's just a huge endeavor and a very complex thing. To do it well requires a lot of planning, a lot of details, and it's a big risk because we are fundamentally trying to reopen a small city.

The lingering question is really having a very, very detailed plan of what our safety protocols are going to be. I think that it's really important that we put them on our website and they're available for anybody and everyone to access. Students would know what the expectations are, the staff would know, our community members would know, and we would all kind of be on the same page of: this is what we're doing; this is how we're going about it.

Some things I know have been put in place. We have bought personal protective equipment, we've got some cleaning protocols — the custodians have been cleaning all summer. Our maintenance and operations folks have been checking the ventilation systems to see which buildings need more ... and making sure that buildings and facilities are safe.

But there's just a lot of moving parts.

On a district level, what I'd really appreciate is that we have open lines of communication with district leadership, with the school board, and with the stakeholders. I think that is something that is a real positive and allows us to collectively work together to make sure that we keep our students, our staff and our community safe. So that's our hope.

Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association

(My biggest concerns are) the health and safety of our students, educators, families and the community. Before schools eventually reopen, we expect to see robust and practicable safety measures and protocols. At the county and state level, we're trying to understand the new guidance that could possibly allow schools, once open, to stay open even with dozens of positive cases.

It's (been) exhausting for all of us (educators, families, administrators) ... being bombarded with new information, sometimes confusing, sometimes contradictory, sometimes outdated in a matter of days.

And that would be stressful enough if it were only a matter of what our work is going to look like, but again, like everyone, the uncertainty and stress affect our families and loved ones, and the stakes are incredibly high. We really hope to see leaders standing up for the safest options, for the longest reasonable time frame, in order to provide everyone with much-needed reassurances, stability, and the ability to make viable plans.

Going back to school, with all of the PPE (personal protective equipment) and safety measures, will not be anything like school as normal. We anticipate losing instructional time for following and reinforcing all the safety measures, challenges hearing each other with masks and the lists go on.

With our younger students, they have fears about coming to school even in normal circumstances. Teachers can ordinarily comfort those students with a hug and reassuring words. This can't happen in this time of COVID-19.

Andrew Kim, rising senior at Gunn High School, student body president

It's hard. We're missing out on so many school activities, especially homecoming, which is the biggest event at Gunn.

But I agree with the decision to continue with distance learning. Without a clear way to manage and control the spread of the virus, and monitor and isolate those who have the virus, it's gonna be pretty difficult to reopen in the current situation.

I think everybody should have a good understanding and have patience with each other. I try to empathize. (If) students empathize more with the district and the teachers in the district should empathize with the students, it can make the transition a bit easier.

Our student government at Gunn High School, we're figuring out the best ways to keep the school spirit up through a virtual setting. We know for sure big events like homecoming, that require big gatherings, won't happen, but we're thinking we can do some virtual rallies and things.

I know we're having a bit of trouble with clubs right now. That is still not for sure decided yet. I personally think clubs are really important for students, especially during virtual times. We need somewhere that we can go to, somewhere we can find people of similar interests and go to for support. It's hard to just stay at home all day, especially if you don't have that close group.

(College-admissions testing) has been pretty difficult. I'm taking the ACT, and I think next Monday they're opening up for rescheduling. I scheduled an ACT in July, but that one got canceled. I had to schedule one all the way in Yosemite. I was like, "I'm gonna take this trip, just go drive out to Yosemite and get my last ACT done."

And that ended up getting cancelled, so we have to try to find whichever ones are open.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Kathy
Greater Miranda
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:08 am
Kathy, Greater Miranda
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:08 am
34 people like this

Yes, why can San Jose Unified, San Mateo Union HSD, Dublin Unified and others plan to provide live streamed teacher instruction for the fall and not PAUSD? If PAUSD cycles in and out and back again from in person instruction to remote learning during the school year, live streamed instruction would provide a backdrop of continuous learning and serve students who must stay at home. Live streamed instruction (and replay) may better suit MS/HS students, but this isn't an either or - in person or live streamed decision - PAUSD ideally would offer ALL means of instruction in the fall and next year. This past spring MS/HS students got little to no instruction.


S_mom
Community Center
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:36 am
S_mom, Community Center
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:36 am
19 people like this

This is missing discussion of the youngest students, K-2 or 3. These students should be evaluated separately, because they cannot learn via distance learning. At most, the teacher can provide materials for a caregiver to work on with these students. The district/county/state needs to acknowledge that they are essentially not educating these youngest students by not bringing them into the classroom. If they are being educated, it's because a parent or caregiver is doing it.

Luckily in Palo Alto many of this age group will have a parent/caregiver to teach them because we are a wealthy community. But I hope the district is considering the K-3 in PAUSD who don't have someone who can teach them in person -- those kids are going to fall very behind. The district should be thinking of bringing back the young ones who aren't learning as soon as they can, maybe by expanding PAUSD+ to include them.


Covid-19 ready
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:07 pm
Covid-19 ready, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:07 pm
11 people like this

@S_mom,

The District is allowed right now to ask for a waiver for elementary students to have in-person instruction.

No one is going to argue with you that K-2 or 3 would really benefit from in person.

Please ask the District to ask for a waiver. Note that if the teacher's union refuses, then the District could ask for volunteers (as it did for Special Ed this summer) or it could choose not to agree to the union's terms.


Kathy
Greater Miranda
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:15 pm
Kathy, Greater Miranda
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:15 pm
37 people like this

Why do the two special interest labor unions get the same or more opportunity to express their views rather than parents or taxpaying residents? And after safety precautions set out by our public health officials are met, shouldn't the focus be on educating and instructing our students?


Paly Teacher
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:56 pm
Paly Teacher, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:56 pm
32 people like this

"Yes, why can San Jose Unified, San Mateo Union HSD, Dublin Unified and others plan to provide live streamed teacher instruction for the fall and not PAUSD?" Thanks for not trying to speak on behalf of all parents. I ask again what sources you have for this claim because you've made claims of other district having sync. learning before only to be proven wrong. I found one for SMUHSD (Web Link). Further, districts can promise whatever they want. What matters is if they deliver on those promises. I don't always agree with Dr. Austin, but I take him at his word when he says he's committed to underpromising and overdelivering.

"This past spring MS/HS students got little to no instruction." Please. More hyperbole and false generalization based on anecdote, personal opinion, and/or resentment of the district. About 59% of parents said they agree or strongly agree that teachers were in contact with students enough, and about 62% said overall teachers were doing a good job with distance learning (source: Web Link, select just the middle and high schools on the right). Of course, those numbers should be higher, and I have full confidence they will be starting next month. But a general statement that "MS/HS students got little to no instruction" is patently wrong. Your lack of commitment to truth is concerning, especially for someone who sought to lead our students as a school board member.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 1:12 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 1:12 pm
26 people like this

Thank you to Gavin Newsom for not caving to political pressure, economic pressure, and pressure by parents to reopen schools prematurely in the beginning of a pandemic with rising case counts throughout California, and in turn keeping all students and staff members safe.

As he mentioned, schools are an “ecosystem” with adults running the schools. They do not exist in a vacuum and should not be run on a gamble of unproven data and so called science that “the kids don’t spread coronavirus” as the disease is only about 6 months old and there are too many unknowns. The latest research has shown that kids DO spread the virus even though a common belief seems to be kids don’t get the virus or spread it, and this includes K-3. The whole “close middle schools but keep elementary schools open” makes absolutely zero sense. It is NOT safe for anyone to return yet.

Web Link

Also, thank you to Newsom for taking all decisions away from local authorities who were clearly not up to the task of generally making a safe decision based on science and data regarding reopenings. Many local authorities, including ours, were about to blatantly disregard the health and safety of all students and staff members, and by extension their families, by forcing a reopening of Elementary schools by caving in to the few vocal parents in our community that are NOT epidemiologists or health experts, and who just want the convenience, free day care, and the return to normalcy that schools re-openings represent regardless of the danger to our entire community. You will need to adjust now as Newsom has told you “No” to your demands.

Child care issues are parent responsibility and not that of our great teachers. Teachers will work online and will continue to earn their paychecks from organizing curriculum and delivering instruction online no matter how high your taxes are. Delivering instruction and curriculum is actually their job, and their job is not the fringe benefit you receive of free and convenient day care services when schools are open! There will not be teacher pay cuts, teacher layoffs or firings, or any breaking of labor agreements because Newsom’s decision did not go your way or because you are currently being inconvenienced, or because you WANT the layoffs to happen. You will be supportive of staff, be thankful of their heroic online teaching efforts, and you will acknowledge that they are people too.

Thank you to Newsom for mandating masks in schools to be worn by students (although it should be for ALL students) to quell any future “mask refusal arguments” when a return to in person instruction Is feasible, and for also requiring students to be 6 feet apart when said return is possible. There can now be none of the “well 4ft distance between students is ok” talk to try to get more students in the door and other such “rule bending” of CDC guidance that puts staff and students in incredible danger.

It was also Newsom’s decision to keep schools on the state watch list closed, so the union can no longer be blamed here with the same old
anti-union rhetoric. But if the fantastic teachers union did happen to lobby behind the scenes for school closure, then thank you union for helping to keep staff and families SAFE, but especially for keeping our precious children safe! The children are our Nation’s future and this decision puts children first! Also, the available waiver will not be approved under any circumstance as the great teachers union will never agree to it!

For all of you angry at Newsom or are lashing out at the teachers and teachers union because of Newsom’s decision, please place yourself in Newsom’s shoes for a minute. If you were in charge and you had to make this same choice, would you choose health and safety, or would you want to be the leader that rushed everyone back too school too soon and caused sickness and death in schools throughout California? Instead of complaining here about the schools not being open, you would be furious that a decision by Newsom to reopen too early caused children and staff to get sick and die!

For all of you that demanded schools reopen disregarding the health and safety of PAUSD staff because of your tax dollars, argued that educators were essential workers comparing them to grocery store workers or medical workers(they are NOT), or demanded staff members take incredible risks to their lives and the lives of of their family members by going into an indoor setting in a small gathering on a daily basis(while all other indoor settings are currently shut down no less) to service you, Newsom effectively ended your arguments and put everyone’s health and safety first. Please keep in mind like I said earlier he also protected families by doing this. Just an absolutely fantastic job done by our Governor!

The new parent lawsuit against Newsom will not work. Schools are closed and I am looking
forward to an exciting and SAFE year of Distance Learning. Finally, here is the truth about what would happen if schools reopened:
(Spoiler Alert: Uncontrolled Spread/Highest Risk)
Web Link
All other data about “.01 this or that” is based on data with schools being closed since March. Also, no one wants to risk their lives and be the guinea pigs to see if that data actually holds true. Finally, it doesn’t matter if other countries have successfully opened schools or not as virus transmission is currently out of control in the United States. It is like comparing apples to oranges at this point. Also, if you point to the pediatricians recommendation about reopening, Newsom is receiving his health information from renowned health expert and pediatrician Mark Ghaly. So like you say, let’s listen to the pediatricians here!

Thank you Gavin Newsom for your amazing leadership during this unprecedented time.
Health and safety always comes first!


Grading scale
College Terrace
on Jul 24, 2020 at 2:19 pm
Grading scale, College Terrace
on Jul 24, 2020 at 2:19 pm
15 people like this

@Paly Teacher - Would you pass a student who completed 59% - 62% of their work? I know of several students who had teachers threaten to fail a student at Paly for not completing ONE assignment given during the shutdown. Didn't matter what was done during the 3rd quarter.

I would think, as a teacher, you would see 62% agreement on enough teacher interaction as a failure and not something to brag about.

I would hope that the numbers are expected to improve.


Sally
Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 2:55 pm
Sally, Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 2:55 pm
26 people like this

In our high schools, only 9% strongly agreed that there was enough contact. About half disagreed or strongly disagreed. I find it hard to stomach any way to spin that as a success.

Keep in mind, too, that most parents were factoring in the difficulties of the situation in giving their assessment. Not a pretty picture.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:05 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:05 pm
23 people like this

“Would you pass a student who completed 59% - 62% of their work?”

You are currently attempting to twist Paly Teacher’s words around to benefit your argument. She was responding to a previous poster that completely exaggerated about getting “little to no instruction” which would be close to zero instruction and obviously false as Paly teacher was pointing out that 59%/62% of parents felt positive about contact and instruction by teachers and therefore pointing out the exaggeration by the previous poster. Do you think if teachers were not delivering instruction or making contact with students 59%/62% of parents would approve of the job the teachers did? So she was only proving to the previous poster that they made a completely false statement about the amount of instruction and contact that was received and Paly teacher was NOT saying “we did GREAT because we got a 62% parent approval rating.”

YOU were trying to equate a 62% parent approval rating with a pass/fail grade for teachers because YOU didn’t approve of the distance learning instruction. Maybe the next 20% of parents didn’t “strongly agree” but instead “slightly agreed” that teachers were doing a good job which would add to an 82% pass/fail, which would also be enough for a student to pass. So equating a parent approval rating with a pass/fail grade for teachers especially when you do not have all of the data no less, was based on a logical fallacy called False Equivalence. To simplify false equivalence for you, it is basically comparing apples to oranges.

Finally, since switching to distance learning last Spring was done on the fly due to an emergency situation with no training, I would argue that a 62% parent approval rating is actually pretty good overall.


Silver Linings
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:27 pm
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:27 pm
7 people like this

"What are the barriers to providing synchronous instruction, and why can San Jose Unified School District, San Mateo Union High School District and Dublin Unified "

First of all, I wouldn't hold up any district as a paragon of pivoting to the shutdown in a stellar way. I have friends whose kids were in SJ schools who said their learning just simply stopped when the shutdowns happened. I personally don't think it's constructive to keep revisiting the spring. It was a crisis, yes, maybe things could have been done better. But it's infinitely more constructive to look ahead and support teachers and students to have a good year of learning under the circumstances because it is possible. Things do not have to be perfect to get a good education. Students: to the extent that you can use the time to do a unique and more substantial project, you will have more to recommend you to college than any coursework you would have otherwise completed. I hope the district will do a better job supporting students to customize their learning and do projects -- this is a unique opportunity.

If those programs really did do better (I'm not sure I believe they did, but taking that at face value), I don't know anything about Dublin, but SJUSD and San Mateo both have decades greater experience than PAUSD with educational options that include distance learning and homeschooling.

SJUSD has their own homestudies program which has been around for over 30 years, has its own campus (that it shares with other learning options), and has, among a lot else, a number of contracts for accredited online courses if students want them, and San Mateo has CA virtual academy (which most homeschoolers I know aren't impressed by but are at least familiar with) and DTech High which is customized, student-directed learning (it's very homeschool-like in its approach, including letting students take classes outside the program if it will benefit them). I don't know how Fremont Unified did, but they, too, have COIL, i.e., they were a lot more prepared to transition to at least some form of online/independent learning.

An essential aspect of such programs is supporting student independence and autonomy, i.e., the learning is more flexible and in student control, and educators support the flexibility, customization, and control (including helping parents support the student). The programs typically have a range of options for online learning and other independent learning. I can imagine it was easier to just extend existing contracts and knowledge district-wide because of that institutional knowledge and experience. SJUSD's homestudy program recently became a lot more restricted and isn't as good as it once was, nevertheless, they still have staff and resources we just don't have here when the pandemic happened.

PAUSD on the other hand is culturally very controlling, seemingly allergic to real learning independence, and therefore perpetually leaves even "home hospital" students unhappy. They like to keep those kinds of special needs students on an educational leash yet at a kind of emotional arms length (parents have complained about that in the paper), but as a consequence, they never developed experience with the online/independent resources the other districts have. Our district has let a lucky few do a better kind of independent study using resources outside the district, under the table, but since those situations have usually resulted more from favoritism, they haven't benefited institutional experience and programs. Those programs can only really work with a close working relationship between parents and the district, which is another area our district seems perpetually unwilling to develop. When some administrators have actively sought to suppress anything but the most shallow communications among families, it's hard all of a sudden to try to figure out how to do online in an optimal way. I have frankly never seen that kind of culture anywhere else, it's really kind of shocking to see it happen in a district with such engaged teachers and creative, community-minded families. (It's more a problem starting in middle school.)

SJUSD also has had to deal with the problem of technology and inequity for a lot longer than PAUSD, they regularly had family-education days, etc. But they serve a much more diverse student population. Nobody's perfect, though. To me the tragedy is that more students didn't feel they were okay simply because of being self-directed learners.


Reading minds now?
Community Center
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:28 pm
Reading minds now?, Community Center
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:28 pm
16 people like this

@Voice of PA - How do you know what "grading scale" was "trying" to do? How do you know that the next 20% "slightly agreed". You seem to be making stuff up to support your argument, as well, just as you also believe that 62% approval is good when it comes to education. How can you say that "play teacher" proved anything with the 62% number? How is that proof? She was responding to "Kathy" who stated that "This past spring MS/HS students got little to no instruction." Are you saying that isn't true? It's definitely true for some. But saying that teachers "did a good job" does not prove that MS/HS students received appropriate instruction.

As "sally" says, "In our high schools, only 9% strongly agreed that there was enough contact. About half disagreed or strongly disagreed. I find it hard to stomach any way to spin that as a success.
Keep in mind, too, that most parents were factoring in the difficulties of the situation in giving their assessment. Not a pretty picture."

Hard to prove her last point. However, when half of the parents don't think there's enough contact, that's an issue.

Let's at least call an apple, an apple. It would be nice for the teachers and administrators to admit that last spring was a failure and that many teachers phoned it in because they knew they had nothing on the line. No evaluations for them, no grades for the students. And, let's move on from that.

The people I talk to and it seems some that vent in these forums are upset at the online option because of how the spring was handled. Parents have been given little to no assurances that things will be better. Some teachers have flat out said that the district is pushing back on training. The training that I saw posted on the website actually included training in Schoology which has been around for 8 years and is hardly a tool for online learning outside of posting and collecting assignments.

Until parents see an actual change or even see a plan on how they are going to handle the upcoming year, I don't see how you can expect a positive response. Part of that is demanding parents, but most of that falls on the performance of the teachers in the spring and how the district has handled it since day 1.


Jeremy
Midtown
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:01 pm
Jeremy, Midtown
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:01 pm
6 people like this

Online-only learning seems to mean that most part-time staff, such as classroom aides and after-school coaches, will continue to be de facto furloughed. I suspect many--if not most--people in education and the arts who aren't certificated classroom teachers have been unemployed since mid-March.


Architect
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 24, 2020 at 5:08 pm
Architect, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 24, 2020 at 5:08 pm
21 people like this

@reading minds now:

Spot on. PAUSD needs to develop a comprehensive and transparent plan for distance learning acknowledging all the feedback from the spring and anticipating a full school year of online.

For example: PAUSD should immediately develop a survey of parents, students and teachers to understand what worked what did not.

Hundreds upon hundreds of issues will pop up. Each must be addressed before the start of school.

I'll give you my biggest concern: parents are being asked to stand in as role of teachers during the full school day.

Parents cannot work full-time *and* be teachers. Each child in the home needs some level of attention regarding scheduling, uploading/downloading, materials, emotional support, etc.

How are we as a school district going to address the fact that parents are now part-time teachers during the school day?

As a part-time teacher, I want a say in what I am required to do. I want my time to be valued. I don't want teachers putting on my shoulders what they cannot do over the internet.

Some teachers already do not respect the school-wide work load of students. Without immediate intervention, that problem is going to spread to not respecting parents.

PAUSD needs to recognize that distance learning is not teacher->child, but teacher->(child & parents). Parents will now be an integral part of the school day. Parents need to have a seat at the table about what will be expected of our kids and us with distance learning.



Paly Teacher
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 5:13 pm
Paly Teacher, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 5:13 pm
12 people like this

@Grading Scale: I'm not sure if you're inadvertantly or willfully misinterpreting what I wrote, but in case you're interested in an earnest discussion, let me clarify for you.

"Would you pass a student who completed 59% - 62% of their work?" I would and have. Also, some department at Paly will pass a student with 55%. Further, comparing these statistics to a high school grading scale is dubious. I could just as easily say 51% is great because that's enough to get you elected. Or I could say 40% is great because it can earn you millions of dollars as a baseball player.

"I would think, as a teacher, you would see 62% agreement on enough teacher interaction as a failure and not something to brag about." Given we teachers at little time to transition to online learning, I'd say it's not bad. In my previous post I said "of course, those numbers should be higher." Also, my point of presenting those statistics was to directly refute Kathy's statement that "This past spring MS/HS students got little to no instruction." I definitely wasn't bragging about it.

@Sally who said "In our high schools, only 9% strongly agreed that there was enough contact. About half disagreed or strongly disagreed. I find it hard to stomach any way to spin that as a success." I don't think very many people, if any, are "spinning" this as a success. I think most are saying it's a terrible situation, teachers did what we could, and, using the survey data from a previous post, it didn't turn out that bad.

@Reading minds now? who said "She was responding to 'Kathy' who stated that 'This past spring MS/HS students got little to no instruction.' Are you saying that isn't true? It's definitely true for some. I'm saying that's definitely not true. The way Kathy's statement is worded makes it a generality, and generally speaking, given a majority of survey respondents said they agree or strongly agree that their teachers were doing a good job with distance learning, it stands to reason that MS/HS students actually got a good amount of instruction. Of course, there were students who needed more instruction, but that fact doesn't mean one can apply it to all MS/HS students. Can we at least agree on that?


Low expectations
Esther Clark Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 5:52 pm
Low expectations, Esther Clark Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 5:52 pm
21 people like this

@Paly Teacher - Might I ask what subject you teach? Also, what departments pass kids at 55%? How is that benefiting the student? Is this done merely as a way to move the student from point A to B?

Your statement, however, also reinforces what the earlier post and an article in the Paly papter about teachers threatening to fail students for not turning in 100% of the ROLEs last quarter. At Paly, Principal Paulson actually told teachers to go back and resubmit grades at the halfway point because teachers were failing too many students. So, teachers will pass students at 55% during "normal" schooling, but try to fail them during emergency learning? Makes no sense.

You said that "teachers did what we could". That is also a generality and from personal experience, that's definitely not the case. And if you only look at the survey and say it didn't turn out that bad, then I don't see how things will improve much this fall. I would encourage you to reach out to your old students and ask them how things went. I've talked to many and I think there was one student who said they had meaningful and frequent time with their teachers and that the assignments were worthwhile.

This is also what adds to the frustration on the parts of parents. No one knows what's going to happen or how anything is going to work. Teachers are offended that parents are upset. But, given how many parents and students had a horrible 4th quarter, what can you expect? The district and some teachers say "trust us". Then give us something. Tell us what is going to be different. Admit that the last quarter was awful and that you (not you in particular), phoned it in because it was too stressful or you had no motivation, just like the students. Tell us what we can expect? Tell us now in July instead of on August 17th so that we are as prepared as you are to help our students succeed.

We always hear about the teacher/parent/student relationship and how it needs to be strong. If that's the case, then let the parents/students at least hear how things are going to be different. This is not the same as parents micromanaging teachers. It's as simple as "here is training PAUSD is providing the teachers" Austin loves his slides and presentations and "behind the scenes" videos. Let's see some of that. What can an incoming freshman or junior expect to see in their math class? How will their art class work? Are classes being canceled?

All most people ever want in a time like this is for people to own up to their mistakes/shortcomings and work on a path forward.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 5:56 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 5:56 pm
21 people like this

“I'll give you my biggest concern: parents are being asked to stand in as role of teachers during the full school day. “/ “ Parents cannot work full-time *and* be teachers.”
This isn’t exactly true. You are mistaking your role of needed continual parent supervision because your child is going to be at home and a role as a teacher. The teachers will be the ones delivering instruction and not you but you may have to SUPPORT them more than you are expected to when you just get to conveniently drop your kids off for the day.

How are we as a school district going to address the fact that parents are now part-time teachers during the school day?
You are NOT part time teachers during the day. You are still a parent that needs to extend their parenting duties to include helping with your child’s education until we can go back. You are not a part time teacher. You just FEEL like you are. The school district is NOT responsible for your work/parenting balance. It is NOT feasible for the district to take that responsibility. They don’t live with each family and know everyone’s individual circumstances. It’s not reasonable for you to expect the district to make the situation “easier” on you.

As a part-time teacher, I want a say in what I am required to do.
You are not a part time teacher, you are not on the payroll, and you do not get a “say” except for giving feedback on surveys that are given by the district as check ins as to what is working and what is not. Just because instruction is being brought directly into your home doesn’t suddenly make you an equal partner.” It’s the same set up for instruction except it is designed to keep everyone safe for the time being.
You actually kind of solved what you are looking for with your own words:
Each child in the home needs some level of attention regarding scheduling, uploading/downloading, materials, emotional support.
Teachers can send a weekly or daily schedule and it is now up to your child to get into a routine and be responsible for their education, and it is your responsibility to help them do so as a PARENT and not as a a so called “part time teacher.”
You are trying to put the dilemma of your child not receiving in person instruction BACK on the teachers and district. It is now your dilemma as in person instruction is NOT available due to the current public health recommendations.

“PA - How do you know what "grading scale" was "trying" to do? How do you know that the next 20% "slightly agreed"
I know exactly what “grading scale” was trying to do. They were trying to use a parent approval survey to “grade the teachers..” it was ridiculous to do so. You totally missed the logic of my post. I proposed a hypothetical with the 20% and I proved it was a false equivalence and I was correct. Finally, yes, I totally disagree with the posts from Kathy and Sally and I believe the Paly Teacher.


Paly Teacher
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:37 pm
Paly Teacher, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:37 pm
13 people like this

@Low Expectations: I hope you understand that I want to stay somewhat anonymous so I will not be divulging my department. If you're surprised by 55% (or even 60%) being the minimum passing percent, welcome to public education! How does that benefit the student? I don't want to get into a huge debate about this as there's enough to discuss but suffice it to say, whatever the reasons are, they'll generally apply to a minimum of 60%, 65%, etc.

Which statement are you talking about? Also, I'm confused. Do you want higher standards or lower ones? Requiring students to turn in all of their ROLEs does seem harsh on the face of it. What if I told you they were graded for completion instead of correctness? That is, what if a student literally just needed to turn in five or so assignments, each of which take three hours, to pass the class? At least a couple of teachers required all assignments because students could get credit for them even if they only earned a 30% on each of them. Further, teachers don't "threaten to fail students," just like how we don't threaten to give students an F if they earn less than 60% or whatnot under normal circumstances. Rather, generally speaking, teachers set reasonable expectations and students, for the most part, control whether they pass or fail. Teachers assign grades, but students earn them.

You said, "[I] said that 'teachers did what we could'. That is also a generality and from personal experience, that's definitely not the case." You're right, I am generalizing, but I'm doing so with not just my personal evidence of working with a couple dozen teachers but also the voices of 1700 middle and high school parents, to wit, the survey results. Of course, my statement "teachers did what we could" doesn't diminish your frustrations with your own students' teachers. I've always empathized with parents whose children aren't being taught well; I just don't include that disclaimer in every post because it would become too repetitive. I don't think "overall, distance learning was OK" and "my kids teachers didn't do enough" are mutually exclusive. Given the survey results and parents' experiences, I think both are valid. One statement is about the district as a whole and one is about someone's personal experience.

"I would encourage you to reach out to your old students and ask them how things went." I spoke to them during the spring and most were generally satisfied with what their teachers did. I don't mean to imply anything, but I hope you'll ponder this question: would you give my response more weight if I had told you they mostly thought their teachers did nothing?

"This is also what adds to the frustration on the parts of parents. I think it's reasonable if parents vent on here or anywhere as long as they're reasonable about it. Saying things like "but, given how many parents and students had a horrible 4th quarter, what can you expect? is fine. Saying things like "this past spring MS/HS students got little to no instruction" is simply wrong, unless one wants to be literal about it in which case the statement "this past spring MS/HS students got a good amount of instruction" would not only also be right but more right given the survey results. Saying that teachers were threatening to fail students if they didn't turn in all of their ROLEs...I mean, can you at least take a brief respite from your frustration and ask if maybe there's more to the story?

"The district and some teachers say 'trust us'. Then give us something." If by something you're implying nothing has been communicated, please read this page: Web Link. "Tell us what is going to be different." For starters, teachers were given professional development, there will be a fixed bell schedule, and grades will be assigned. "Admit that the last quarter was awful and that you (not you in particular), phoned it in because it was too stressful or you had no motivation, just like the students." I'll agree that it was awful for some families (say, 12% of them since 12% of survey respondents said they strongly disagree that distance learning was good) as long as you agree that it was good for a sizable majority of them. "Tell us now in July instead of on August 17th so that we are as prepared as you are to help our students succeed." This is a tough one. Obviously everyone wants more information now but working through details, scenarios, contingencies take time. Whether you agree with what they decide, at least the DO is working their tails off to figure out what to do.

"All most people ever want in a time like this is for people to own up to their mistakes/shortcomings and work on a path forward." I can't find the source but I recall Dr. Austin saying spring wasn't the best. In terms of a path forward, the DO is working hard on it and have communicated some details (e.g., the previous link). I'll reciprocate: all teachers want in a time like this is for parents to be open-minded and ask for more information instead of jumping to conclusions. Also, (this isn't meant for you), focus on the truth, not what makes for good soundbites.


Low expectations
Esther Clark Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:32 pm
Low expectations, Esther Clark Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:32 pm
8 people like this

@Paly Teacher - thanks for the thoughtful response. I'll disagree w a few things as least in terms of interpretation, but since we're coming at it from different angles that's expected.

I do however have an issue with this part, "What if I told you they were graded for completion instead of correctness? That is, what if a student literally just needed to turn in five or so assignments, each of which take three hours, to pass the class? At least a couple of teachers required all assignments because students could get credit for them even if they only earned a 30% on each of them. Further, teachers don't "threaten to fail students,". How is that providing a satisfactory education? And teachers did send emails to students telling them if all of their ROLEs were not completed, they would not pass. What good is it to set a goal of handing in an assignment if it doesn't matter if it is close to satisfactory? That's just busy work. It's moving students through the system. Who does that benefit?


Get your facts straight
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:41 pm
Get your facts straight, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:41 pm
2 people like this

While it may be true that we do not know the efficacy of the instruction put forth by SJUSD, San Mateo, Dublin, etc. etc, we do know that in PAUSD we will never know what works and what does not because PAEA and PAUSD are unwilling to commit to anything but synchronous contact and synchronous back to school nights. Promising only synchronous contact takes the notion of under-promising a bit too far, no?
In addition, I find it fascinating how the people posting comments have chosen to ignore the issues of equity and mental health outlined above.


Paly Teacher
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:43 pm
Paly Teacher, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:43 pm
17 people like this

@Low expectations: "How is that providing a satisfactory education?" What follows is my personal opinion.

It's complicated. It's important to remember that all assignments were homework. There were no in class tests so the only way to assess students is through homework, homework that can very easily be done by a tutor.

Scenario 1: Even though students are only graded for completion, all of my kids submit quality work except for one. He submits three quality assignments then falls off the edge for the last two. He turns in 30% assignments. I send him an email expressing my disappointment because I know he can do better and ask that he does. He does. Hurray!

Scenario 2: A student turns in five satisfactory assignments. Should I pass them? Would that be satisfactory education? What if a tutor answered every question for the student? Should I provide oral exams to 100 students, one at a time on Zoom for 20 minutes each, to check to see what they actually know?

Scenario 3: A student has struggled all year but has always hovered around a 70% in class. Now without the social support she gets at school, she withdraws into a shell and barely participates in Zoom sessions. She submits 50% quality work for all five assignments. I email her to try better but she doesn't respond. On the phone, parents say they'll encourage him to work harder but no revisions are submitted. Do I fail the student? I'd say no. I could have set higher standards for everyone and then made an exception for this student. I think it's better to set the same standard for everyone (completion) then prod students to work harder if I think they can.

Scenario 4: A student has been amazing all year but inexplicably turns in 50% quality work for all five assignments. I email him to try better and he says he's withdrawn into a shell because he can't see his friends. Do I make an exception and pass the kid? On the phone, parents say the student's been relatively cheerful. Do I now fail the kid?

Scenario 5: I set a high standard for everyone and by May a quarter of my students simply aren't submitting working. I email and call 25 families and 20 still aren't doing what they need to do. Do I fail 20% of my students? Do I make a huge exception for 20 of them? I think it's better to set the same standard for everyone (completion) then prod students to work harder if I think they can.

I'm not sure I explained things thoroughly but I hope I did enough to reduce our differences to educational approach rather than teachers don't care about students. It boils down to, at least for me, make it easy to pass and call out students who are punching below their weight. If I taught different classes, I might have used a different strategy.

"And teachers did send emails to students telling them if all of their ROLEs were not completed, they would not pass." I don't know. I did repeatedly. I'm speculating here, but if someone is told their teacher didn't provide such an admonishment, maybe the teacher did and the student missed the message. Not trying to blame students, just pointing on a plausible explanation.

"What good is it to set a goal of handing in an assignment if it doesn't matter if it is close to satisfactory? That's just busy work." I disagree. I graded kids for completion and got quality work. I'd like to believe in doing so, I reduced my students' stress levels. I could have amped up my expectations but that would have harmed students' emotional well-being with what I think would be little if any increase in learning. Am I absolutely certain that last part is true? No, but it's my opinion, my professional opinion, one based years of working day in and day out with students.

@Get your facts straight: District 1 promises synchronous instruction. District 2 promises to try their best. Both have 80% of teachers provide it. Which would you be happier with?

Plumber A promises to fix your pipes in 2 days in your first house. Plumber B promises to fix them as fast as he can in your second house. Both take three days. Which would you be happier with?

"In addition, I find it fascinating how the people posting comments have chosen to ignore the issues of equity and mental health outlined above." Are my comments not long enough for you...? I'm not trying to write a book. I don't see you talking about it other than using it to make other people look bad.


Sam
College Terrace
on Jul 25, 2020 at 11:46 am
Sam, College Terrace
on Jul 25, 2020 at 11:46 am
20 people like this

Voice of Palo Alto:

"Teachers can send a weekly or daily schedule and it is now up to your child to get into a routine and be responsible for their education, and it is your responsibility to help them do so as a PARENT and not as a a so called “part time teacher.”"

As a parent of a middle schooler and a young elementary school kid, I can tell you that this works for a middle schooler (of course my middle schooler has been mildly depressed for months, but we will deal with that), but it DOES NOT work for a young elementary school kid. These kids DO NOT learn on line, period. And yes, the parent needs to be the teacher. Case in point, this is where we landed when my kid was not learning, I tried to step into the role of teacher to help out, frustration for all, the teacher just told me to drop it and give up on learning for the rest of the school year, I appreciated her honesty...

Here is the thing: give it to me straight, accept that K-3 kids are not going to learn on line and that those teachers are not going to be teaching, they will provide materials, someone else will have to do the teaching, not the PAUSD teacher assigned to that grade. I would prefer the honesty of saying "listen, we are all in a tough spot, we don't want to go into schools bec we are not comfortable with the risks, we acknowledge that your young kids are not going to be served and that you will have to be a part time teacher or hire a teacher, we will get through this, etc, rather than denying this simple fact and pretending that you will be the teacher and that I as a parent will just provide support on my end.

Should you get paid to do this, to provide materials and a 30 min zoom meeting every day, I actually think you SHOULD, because we need to get through this and your service as a teacher is broadly appreciated and as a community we need to support each other.

I think many parents would be more supportive if teachers were more up front about the reality of what the ask is for parents. What many parents are reacting to in addition to the ask, is the denial of the ask.


S_mom
Community Center
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:25 pm
S_mom, Community Center
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:25 pm
11 people like this

@Sam

I completely agree. I think there is room to disagree on whether elementary school kids (especially K-3) should be taught in person (hybrid, w/masks etc) or if they should stay home entirely because of the risks. But, I just wish the district (and county, and state) would acknowledge that in requiring that they stay home, they are deciding that these kids will not be receiving an education from the school.

It just isn't possible for that age group, they need someone in person. These class zooms aren't much different from watching Sesame Street. (And I loved our kinder teacher last year and she tried so hard, it just doesn't work!)

They need to bring back the K-3 who don't have an adult to teach them ASAP, hopefully they will through PAUSD+.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:26 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:26 pm
11 people like this

@Sam-I wasn’t arguing whether or not distance learning is effective for younger kids, or whether or not the situation is harder on parents. In fact, I definitely would agree it’s harder on parents and less effective for younger children.

I was disagreeing with the false premise of the Architect’s post about how parents should now be deemed “co-teachers“ and are now allowed to have more of an “equal voice and an equal seat at the table” allowing them to team teach or make the educational decisions because instruction is being brought directly into homes. I was also disagreeing with Architect’s assertion that the district must somehow solve the unfortunate increase in parental responsibilities and duties that are being caused by schools being physically closed. It is not feasible for the district to come up with a one sized fits all solution for families or individualized solutions to meet the different needs of family regarding the fact that parents will have to expand their parental duties by also now having to help their kids at home more with education.

His post was a bit “whoa is me, how can the District help solve my work/parenting imbalance.” They can’t. This can’t be solved just as teachers having to deliver instruction directly into homes and being put in a position of being constantly judged by parents for their daily work can’t be solved. I just don’t think there are any good work arounds.

Conversely, since teachers are being brought directly into homes are they now co-parents and get an “equal seat at the parenting table” and get to make parenting decisions that effect families? No. Of course not.

So that was the point I was arguing. You may FEEL like a co-teacher, but there can not be any official designation of that, nor can the district solve each families work/parenting/child care/ imbalances. Actually, the Architect listed out some things that could be done to MITIGATE some of these imbalances and that would also possibly help value parent’s time such as teachers sending daily or weekly schedules and parent feedback surveys from the district to check in with what’s working or not and also allowing for feedback about potential ideas that can approve Distance Learning. The situation is just causing an increase in parental responsibilities.

“Here is the thing: give it to me straight, accept that K-3 kids are not going to learn on line and that those teachers are not going to be teaching, they will provide materials, someone else will have to do the teaching, not the PAUSD teacher assigned to that grade.”

I also disagree with you here. This may work for YOU because YOU would appreciate the honesty up front but imagine if teachers started the year by coming into homes and saying “Hey, this just isn’t going to work for you or me, I am not going to do much, and this is all on you parents!” MOST parents would go absolutely crazy if a teacher said this EVEN IF that was the truth. The district hotline would be ringing non-stop with complaints. It would just sound completely unprofessional for a teacher to say that statement to parents and a teacher shouldn’t have to be put in that position as they are trying to do their job to their best ability under the circumstances just as you are as a parent. Just as you would prefer to drop your kid off at school like normal for the day, I would venture to say that most teachers would also like to be in the comfort zones of their classrooms for the day. I am sure many of them not only miss being in the classroom but miss the students too.

I think parents and teachers can universally agree that Distance Learning isn’t the ideal and nothing can truly replace in person instruction. Also, I think everyone knows most teachers aren’t comfortable with the risks as the teachers union has already stated that.

Now if teachers are not delivering ANY instruction like you stated, that’s an entirely different argument and that sounds like a total dereliction of duties which would be a separate argument.


Curious
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:34 pm
Curious, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:34 pm
28 people like this



I'm a teacher in the district for the last 20 years plus and let me tell you: LOTS OF PALO ALTO TEACHERS ARE WILLING TO GO BACK IN PERSON ASAP but the UNION wins by majority and if I was to come out with my name on this site I would be crucified by lots of teachers as being uncaring and no empathy.

I cannot believe a grocery worker is deemed essential but teachers are not, THESE KIDS NEED US and I'm hoping Austin gives teachers a choice because I know for a fact lots will be right at the front of the school ready to go!

The kids need us and WE ACTUALLY NEED THEM!!!

Again, this is all political and the reason we are not deemed essential is because UNIONS are in back pocket of Newsom etc...

If anything elementary school kids without a doubt NEED TO BE IN PERSON, on campus in small groups inside, outside etc...if they need to bring in secondary teachers to do it then they should do it.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:48 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:48 pm
12 people like this

[Post removed.]


Freedom of Speech
Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 6:26 pm
Freedom of Speech, Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 6:26 pm
22 people like this

CURIOUS: I really appreciate your perspective and your support for in person teaching. Parents can read and we assume that teachers who did not sign the petition are not supportive of it, but it is nice to hear the voices of teachers in the minority.

Voice of Palo Alto, your post is full of judgement and downright authoritarian, why do you assume that "curious" is looking for approval from parents, maybe "curious" is motivated by a concern for the children and a different perception of risk, is that now allowed?

"Most rational people don’t want to risk death on a daily basis", guess what, we all risk death on a daily basis just by being alive!


The Voice of Palo Alto
Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 7:15 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto , Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 7:15 pm
5 people like this

[Post removed.]


Curious
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:20 pm
Curious, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:20 pm
6 people like this

[Post removed.]


Students Need Each Other In Person
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:36 pm
Students Need Each Other In Person, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:36 pm
7 people like this

@ Medha. " I'm an only child, so have no siblings, and I can't meet my friends right now."
Thank you for your comments. I truly wish the reporter had spoken to more students like you and Andrew, and less adults. Obviously I don't know your whole situation, but my heart is breaking for you. My advice is go be with your friends! It's safe! The risk of infection for teens is close to zero in our county and there have been ZERO deaths of kids in the entire state of Calif since this whole pandemic began (and CA is bigger than most countries). The stats on covid are all public on the SCC Dashboard. The County Public Health Officer Sarah Cody stated in writing in the SCC Public Health Dept June 30 report, that the flu is more contagious in kids than covid! From a renowned public health officer.
Web Link are together now! (including my Paly student and their bubble of 10-15 friends who have been seeing each other for several months with zero issues). It's tantamount to social/emotional torture in my book to continue to force teens to live in fear sequestered home alone. The stats do not support this and are based on fear not substance or facts. Get out and live your life and see your peers! Students desperately need to be with their peers, in person, not over zoom. I worry deeply for any student still living isolated since March. It's not warranted and very unhealthy.

@ Reporter
I wish you had spoken to more students like Medha and Andrew Kim, and less organizations with a political agenda PAEA. PAEA and teachers unions in general have no interest in getting teachers back in the classroom (lobbying to remain online until January 2021! it's there for all the world to see in the PAUSD/PAEA negotiating document). Unions, as referenced by the WJS, NYT, LA Times, Wash Post, etc etc are holding schools, students, the economy hostage based on emotional hysteria and not facts/data.
Web Link

@Voice of Palo Alto et all
It would be so nice to read comments from more than The Voice of Palo Alto hijacking the entire conversation on this thread (and other threads). Particularly when this commenter has literally no idea how much instruction parents had to give last spring when it was not happening through the school. Parents ended up holding the bag in the spring. Period. And parents of special ed students (as I know several) were completely foresaken by the district. It's clear this commenter is not speaking from first hand experience. Parents have been crushed under the weight of trying to protect themselves, their family, work sometimes remotely from home and other times out of the house as essential workers, some have lost jobs, and at the same time actually *teach* their kids in every subject for many hours a day for months on end, March-May. Yes, actually give instruction since it was non-existent from the school. And parents are terrified of the same situation in the fall. It's unbearable for the students and parents, not just in our district but around the world. Which is why every country in the world except the US is getting kids back to school in person. Because the kids with the most to lose will lose the most. It has life long effects. Please give others a chance to participate in this discussion, particularly those who lived it since it's clear who has and who hasn't. There should be a limit on comments so it doesn't turn into a one person diatribe or a two person debate. Thank you.


Covid-19 ready
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:38 pm
Covid-19 ready, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:38 pm
5 people like this

@Curious,

There has to be a new way.

If you are to be crucified, then the District Administration and Board need to say NO to the Union. No agreement will be better that what is being discussed.


Teacher
Midtown
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:58 pm
Teacher, Midtown
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:58 pm
12 people like this

Jeremy - I am a public school teacher in a neighboring town. Our classroom aides and paraprofessionals moved mountains to work with kids on zoom from home, 1:1, all day, every day through the Spring trimester. They filled in gaps and made a huge difference for kids (elementary, K-5) who were struggling with Distance Learning. They were essential for our kids, and we wouldn't have been able to consistently see every single struggling student without them. I think the staff who are indefinitely off are the yard/lunch/crosswalk supervisors. Our custodial staff worked throughout the summer, doing extra cleaning and repairs, and our office staff work from home when school is in session. Most of the district administration staff have been working daily through the summer, trying to come up with a re-design of everything that goes on in a school. We are having Board meetings weekly, to try to keep up, prepare and plan.

I know there were issues last year - there were probably issues for every single person suddenly working from home. And remember that none of us had an instruction manual, there was no one to ask, because none of us had done it before. Some teachers simply couldn't - either because they didn't know how, literally, to do all of the technological work, some because they had little kids at home, too, and had to care for them, or other family necessities came up. Some were afraid to go online, let's be honest. Doing new things is scary, and everyone deals with crisis differently. There was so little communication between teachers during that time, because we were all with our kids all day, or making videos of lessons, or looking at submitted assignments, or putting together whole-day plans with all the links and videos and instructions - this was for elementary school kids, they need lots of instructions! And frankly, some people learn faster than others, and for some teachers, it took a while to figure it all out! On top of all that, there was the panic - preparing one's personal environment for a siege - that took a fair amount of cognitive energy, as well! And for the commenter above who mentioned that teachers "called out because they knew they had nothing on the line" - I will just say to you that you must not know any teachers. I spent countless sleepless nights worrying about my students who were in bad situations they couldn't get out of without school. Students who I knew didn't have enough food, didn't have wi-fi so I couldn't directly contact them, or didn't have strong enough wifi to do zoom, or who had to go to one of the school campuses to get wifi, or the kids who just never showed up to zoom, no matter how many emails I sent to parents. And we lived through it with the kids, those of us who zoomed daily with our students. We heard things and saw things we weren't meant to hear or see, because for a while everyone was pretty new to having a camera in the living room! We tried to cheer each other up when we were sad, and I saw kids go through a pretty dark time there for about a month, and then we all seemed to adjust, and everything went pretty well the last six weeks. The end was horrible, because of the 5th graders that moved on to middle school - I will never forget the email from the superintendent announcing that school would be closed the rest of the year. I was devastated, knowing that I would likely never see my 5th graders again. At our driving graduation, I was glad I had a mask on so they couldn't see me cry, although it didn't really matter, because most of the kids were crying, too. I think we can all agree that Distance Learning is not good for most kids. I found, in my own individual experience, that teaching on zoom with a doc camera and a whiteboard I made out of a piece of plexiglass I had lying around, in the same schedule as school, worked well. It worked for me and most of the kids. I found 3rd graders had the hardest time because they wanted to play with their toys, and 5th graders had a hard time because they just didn't seem to want to sit and talk to a computer all day - they wanted more time in breakout rooms and doing independent work. The 4th graders, I found, and this goes across the board at school, as well, were most engaged, and most interested in doing school on zoom. They really got into doing work on their own, and in fact they actually made good progress in becoming good students. I wished that some families had been more accommodating and supportive in creating good learning spaces for the kids and helping them with organization, but for the most part, everyone worked together to make it happen. I am proud of the work I and my students and their families did during that time - I remember wondering if that is what it felt like to be a "pioneer." We were all on our own to figure it all out, and I think we all did everything we could. We will continue to do everything we can, understanding that this is not a good situation for kids or adults, or society, for that matter. We will do everything we can do to ensure that the children of this community are engaged in learning, thinking, and doing. They may not come out of this coming school year with everything they would have had at school, but they will have everything we can possibly teach them in this situation.


District Teacher- Yes, Another One
Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:56 pm
District Teacher- Yes, Another One, Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:56 pm
12 people like this

[Portion removed.] There needs to be a COMPROMISE between what the union is proposing and the district. Middle ground- and we go back to work. I am exhausted reading MOUs, and I really hope you have completed the district pd to get you off the ground come August instead of living in the comment section. Btw- your use of scab exposes you like a bad vd. Cmon! Build a parent page in Schoology with a gif of open arms- don't fight your teacher destiny!


Parent
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2020 at 11:09 pm
Parent, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2020 at 11:09 pm
10 people like this

My son did not submit a single assignment on one of his classes during distance learning. No email from the teacher, no phone call, no reminder to the child through schoology. I came to know about this on May 27th, when the teacher sent an email to all parents that for those kids who would like additional practice she is available for tutoring in the summer. My question is - how many of PAUSD teachers will pick up jobs in learning pods/tutors ? Isn't there a conflict of interest?


Paly Teacher
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 26, 2020 at 12:18 am
Paly Teacher, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 26, 2020 at 12:18 am
13 people like this

@Curious who said "LOTS OF PALO ALTO TEACHERS ARE WILLING TO GO BACK IN PERSON ASAP but the UNION wins by majority..." Then you go on to say "Again, this is all political and the reason we are not deemed essential is because UNIONS are in back pocket of Newsom etc." Are schools closed because a majority of teachers are worried about their health or because they're in the back pockets of the governor, because this is all political. Gather you thoughts, please.

@Students who need each other said "I wish you had spoken to more students like Medha and Andrew Kim, and less organizations with a political agenda PAEA." PAEA is simply trying to protect their members from dying and debilitating harm. They're agenda is one of safety. If the board votes to reopen schools, would you blame them for doing so for political purposes because they want to get reelected? Stop selectively throwing around charged language when it suits your worldview. "Unions...are holding schools, students, the economy hostage based on emotional hysteria and not facts/data." More hyperbole. How would you feel I told you that parents don't care about teachers and whether they die? Well, you wouldn't hear that from me because I don't deal in hyperbole. Why do you think the AAP didn't explicit say schools should reopen and instead said in-person learning is important, something that everyone including teachers already know? Speaking of political agendas, why do you think Trump pushed back on the CDC to revise their reopening guidelines to make them more open to reopening? What's emotional hysteria is using incendiary terms like "political agenda" and "hostage."

"Parents have been crushed under the weight of trying to protect themselves, their family..." You laud parents who were protecting their own but then vilify teachers who are trying to do the same? A bit hypocritical, no?

"Which is why every country in the world except the US is getting kids back to school in person." 1) False. The US is opening schools. Even schools in California are reopening. Just not ones in many counties, including ours for now. 2) The US has the most cases and deaths than numbers 2 and 3 combined. California has the most cases and the number of new cases is increasing.

"Please give others a chance to participate in this discussion, particularly those who lived it since it's clear who has and who hasn't. There should be a limit on comments..." That person isn't stifling discussion. It's not like there's a limit to how many comments can be made. People can choose what they want to read and what they skip. People can submit comments as much as they want.


Parent
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 26, 2020 at 2:25 am
Parent, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 26, 2020 at 2:25 am
9 people like this

Paly teacher

Realize that paly sci got together and made a new grading scale and their own rules. It was announced that kids lost all their grades from Jan to about april- they had to do every assignment up to 85 percent or would receive fail grade.Oh add that they told kids to teach themselves. A sr with an A in a sci class who was so sad and scared was told they would be Failed! Kids with tutors for the online tests again had advantage Admin and counseling were asked to make them stop from April to May and they did nothing because they are not there for children . This teacher corrected nothing until the day grades were due and gave no lectures because she said she had kids and was done because the so exam stopped at march .

Si paly teacher, try to look beyond your own screen and call out these abusive teachers who give rubrics and brag about rigor but deliver no content and never check for understanding or even correct with. It was the same abuse Before pandemic closure just pretty hard to see first hand. Kids tell you things and u usually dismiss them, but being shown a teacher actually telling the kids she is done and they have to post their own scores because she is busy but they must achieve highly and do all work while she does nothing quite a nasty mean ending for seniors .

Also counseling made their own schedule which meant they would not answer any phone call and would only send bounce back emails. Nice work if you can get it.


Resident
St. Claire Gardens
on Jul 26, 2020 at 3:42 am
Resident, St. Claire Gardens
on Jul 26, 2020 at 3:42 am
6 people like this

"My question is - how many of PAUSD teachers will pick up jobs in learning pods/tutors ? Isn't there a conflict of interest?" -- A conflict of interest, most definitely. In fact, it's not permitted by the Board. Search for "Non-School Employment" on Web Link#


Science
College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2020 at 8:21 am
Science, College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2020 at 8:21 am
21 people like this

Regardless of watchlist status, the key metric of risk to reopening a school district is positivity rate in the community. Here from Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner today:

" A positivity rate between 5% to 10%, he said, is "starting to get iffy," while above 10% is the "threshold where you really want to think carefully about closing the school districts. That is a sign that there is an epidemic underway inside that community," Gottlieb said, adding that it's going to be difficult for parts of Florida, which is an epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S., to open their schools for in-person learning next month."

Santa Clara County has a positivity rate of 3.56%. The highest it has ever been in the past 3 months is 4.09%. Within Santa Clara, Palo Alto is at least half of that.

Yes, there is a pandemic going on, but there is no epidemic going on in the PA community, and given how careful everyone is around here, we can keep this under control in the foreseeable. If a community like ours works hard at it and gets to those numbers, we should be able to open schools in the Fall. A petition for all on line learning until Jan 2021 is irresponsible and disconnected from reality.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2020 at 9:22 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2020 at 9:22 am
2 people like this

[Post removed; repetitive to previous comments by same poster.]


Fed up with VOPA
College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2020 at 9:27 am
Fed up with VOPA, College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2020 at 9:27 am
Like this comment

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


Copy and paste
Fairmeadow
on Jul 26, 2020 at 9:49 am
Copy and paste, Fairmeadow
on Jul 26, 2020 at 9:49 am
Like this comment

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


Paly Teacher
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 26, 2020 at 11:05 am
Paly Teacher, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 26, 2020 at 11:05 am
11 people like this

@Parent who said "Realize that paly sci got together and made a new grading scale..." This isn't surprising. We switched from letter grades to Pass/No Pass, traditional tests couldn't be given, etc. "...and their own rules." Teachers and departments make rules. You ask me to realize these things like they're something new. "It was announced that kids lost all their grades from Jan to about april- they had to do every assignment up to 85 percent or would receive fail grade." You're telling me kids had to get an 85% on all online tests to pass? I highly doubt that. I feel like there's more to this story.

"Admin and counseling were asked to make them stop from April to May and they did nothing because they are not there for children." You have every right to express your frustrations just as I have every right to call you out on BS statements like this. Admin worked hand-in-hand to get the school through this crisis. For example, they asked teachers repeatedly to reconsider grades. Paly's counselors are the most caring staff members on campus. You may work with them once in a while and get more "evidence" anecdotally from other parents, but I work with them on a weekly basis over the course of years. Are not there for children? There's a difference in opinion, and there's being completely wrong.

"Si paly teacher, try to look beyond your own screen and call out these abusive teachers..." First, abusive is too strong of a word. When parents push hard for their kids, I don't think of them as abusive, I think of them as advocating for their kids. Second, if you think your coworker isn't doing their job, are you going to call them out on an online forum, or are you going to either talk to them or their supervisor, or might you do nothing at all?

"Also counseling made their own schedule which meant they would not answer any phone call and would only send bounce back emails. Nice work if you can get it." I don't think you understand what our counselors do. They work with 500 students and their families. Now they have to do so without being able to see these students in person. And there are myriad issues related to campus being closed. Can you at least imagine that maybe they don't have time to answer phone calls? What the heck does made their own schedule even mean? Do you have proof of this. "Nice work if you can get it." I can't roll my eyes back any further.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2020 at 11:44 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2020 at 11:44 am
22 people like this

One thing that should scare both the administrators and teachers (if not the union), is that by going 100% Zoom, what makes them better than all the other online resources available? Our family has been taking advantages of programs across the country this summer and we have realized that compared to the disaster that was distance learning in the spring, our kids have been learning a lot more.

The in-person experience aspect is the biggest differentiator for local schools. Take that away, and what do you have? A bunch of lesser content by teachers who weren't trained to be on-line educators.

This should be a wakeup call for public primary and secondary education in the same way that it's been one for colleges and universities around the world. If the union were smart, they would realize that their relevance in this new world is in question.

It has us questioning the value of PAUSD in general.


Parent
another community
on Jul 26, 2020 at 1:46 pm
Parent, another community
on Jul 26, 2020 at 1:46 pm
10 people like this

Rich kids will have a big advantage again and others will be on their own . There is a complicity or naivety in staff that thinks some kids are smarter based in testing . Some kids have instruction they pay for and have @ help” with online testing and some do not.


Parent
another community
on Jul 26, 2020 at 8:48 pm
Parent, another community
on Jul 26, 2020 at 8:48 pm
14 people like this

@paly teacher

Yes eye rolling and denial and assumption that any parent is somehow lying.

You are missing the point that this teacher makes you all look bad but also is not good for kids to see circling wagons with teachers, not students. The great teachers need to be aware instead of in denial because it is not fair some of you worked harder and some just sent website links and went on break.

Counselors sent bouncebacks. College counseling only had 18 seniors order college transcripts out of 500. That is not being present. This was sent to all seniors.

AP bio teacher stopped teaching on May 13i could not believe it either so watched an office hour where she told the kids she would not give lectures (She did not like her voice)and told them to look at old notes for their AP review. All work assigned on an online site had to be done At the designated level and one missed would be a fail grade. she corrected no work and posted no grades until the day grades were due. This was abuse. She did nothing and admin would not look or do anything to correct her misconduct. Kids with tutors had AP test prep. Kids who just had this teacher hadNOTHING. Counselors and admin did not look. Being upset and then having a teacher leave your side while counselor and staff watched was abuse in my book and during a pandemic should have had consequences. She left her students and they had to do her job . Gross. You should be rolling your eyes at her . AP online does not mean” teach yourself” This is not right it fair to minorities but after seeing this first hand , u see why there is the large sad achievement gap.


parent
College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2020 at 10:03 pm
parent, College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2020 at 10:03 pm
13 people like this

I have two elementary school kids. They went to summer camp for 7 weeks. One week is 100% outdoor; the other 6 weeks have both indoor and outdoor activities. If the summer camp can run, the elementary school should be able to teach in person. Given the nature of the virus, it is almost impossible to convince parents who prefer online learning to accept the in-person learning or vice versa.
Therefore, it is essential to give the parents/kids the choice.


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2020 at 10:03 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2020 at 10:03 pm
Like this comment

Former parent in district- just wondering, if students never checked in on Zoom or whatever, and parents refused to respond to emails, shouldn’t the distruct of Social Services checked up on their welfare!?


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2020 at 10:05 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2020 at 10:05 pm
Like this comment

Correction ^ district OR Social Services


parent
Charleston Meadows
on Jul 27, 2020 at 8:58 am
parent, Charleston Meadows
on Jul 27, 2020 at 8:58 am
2 people like this

@anon

Yes. I think that will be the biggest problem- Children left alone, not the method content is delivered, just safety.


JR
Palo Verde
on Jul 27, 2020 at 9:38 am
JR, Palo Verde
on Jul 27, 2020 at 9:38 am
15 people like this

"Distance learning" is an inferior educational experience for all kids, and for younger kids it's almost useless. Teachers and administrators need to take a 50-75% pay cut, and the money should be refunded to parents (maybe in the form of vouchers) so they can hire in-person tutors. Otherwise there will be zero education for many kids while "distance learning" remains in effect.


MP Resident
Menlo Park
on Jul 27, 2020 at 10:02 am
MP Resident, Menlo Park
on Jul 27, 2020 at 10:02 am
20 people like this

I am a teacher in another district. Distance learning is a farce. No one has any data on how this method is effective for a large cohort of diverse students. HS students who are caring for younger siblings cannot participate effectively in on-line classes. This is inherently inequitable. The "synchronous contact" proposed by PAUSD is a joke. Only the strong students "may" succeed in this experiment. It is farcical for the PA Teacher to tell the parent that they are not the part time teacher - de facto - they are; notwithstanding all the "plans" that have been put in place.


Teacher
Barron Park
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:11 pm
Teacher, Barron Park
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:11 pm
16 people like this

PAUSD was inequitable before the pandemic. It will be inequitable during the pandemic. The difference? The grandstanders within the system now throwing around equity jargon and making their careers off the cultural moment. Hypocrisy at its worst- meanwhile the ones who have been QUIETLY, without fanfare, doing the work without tweeting, hashtagging, posting on FB, now are told to "Get with the times". Where were you in the early 2000's? That's what I thought. Take your new equity title and read another book. Meanwhile let's see who shows up to the hub of HUD kids on the school sites. Save it.


Covid-19 ready
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:15 pm
Covid-19 ready, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:15 pm
5 people like this

Why can't schools just pause until it's safe enough to return in person? The government can arrange childcare in the interim with the monies available.


Silver Linings
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:50 pm
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:50 pm
9 people like this

A nice article in the Mercury News today -- interview of homeschool parents for advice on surviving another round of online learning.
Web Link

I think all stakeholders have to do what's right for the safety of our community and students. I believe in erring on the side of safety, especially for the teachers. My own preference would be online, mastery- or project-based learning, and some OUTDOORS (with good hygiene) on-site meeting.

@Architect above wrote:
"I want my time to be valued. I don't want teachers putting on my shoulders what they cannot do over the internet.

"Some teachers already do not respect the school-wide work load of students. Without immediate intervention, that problem is going to spread to not respecting parents.

"PAUSD needs to recognize that distance learning is not teacher->child, but teacher->(child & parents). Parents will now be an integral part of the school day. Parents need to have a seat at the table about what will be expected of our kids and us with distance learning.”


This really cuts to the heart of a matter that I hope our district stops skirting, which is developing better communication with parents, and respecting healthy boundaries between the educational sphere and family life/time. In school, my student regularly was told to fill out intrusive forms about how that child spent time 24/7. I felt like writing "none of your damned business, please respect that our child and family have a life outside of school" on the form, but it would have just been taken out on my child.

I completely disagree with @Voice that this is the parents' problem. School should be teaching students independence and self-direction in learning. What parents are being confronted with all of a sudden is NOT the teachers' fault, it's the methodology of education, developed 150 years ago, BECAUSE it helped inculcate compliance, the Prussian model (or, the “factory model” of education). Unless your child is working an assembly line (and in today's computerized world, not even that so much), being a compliant worker who has been programmed to take external direction is no longer a good education for the student or society.

When my child was in an independent study (homeschool) program through a PUBLIC district, most of the students engaged in at least some online learning. This is important to understand because this was a PUBLIC district, operating under state rules for independent study. Students were not expected to turn in daily assignments, have a regular schedule every day that someone else handed down to them, etc. Many of them DID have regular schedules that came about because of synchronous online or college courses, but typically NOT scheduled up like public school classes, but rather, far more flexible and in keeping with the students’ needs and wishes for their education and time. Students met with the teacher once a month to hand in homework samples per an agreement at the start of the time period. Parents were part of the picture, although more as facilitators, not teachers. Usually, students had classes through accredited organizations with actual teachers. Or, they could engage in self-directed learning but both parents and the independent study teacher were there to be guides and be sure students were learning, they typically were not teaching the content.

The result is that students had much more control of, and responsibility for, their own time and learning, more similar to students in college.

I’m not suggesting that’s how PAUSD should do things. I’m just pointing out that @Architect’s concern is very real, and that this need to micromanage students’ educational activities, time, and output comes from the educational model, NOT because of some inherent need to do that for children’s education. In fact, the educational model that requires that of students is hard on student independence right through high school. We never realized just how bad it was until our child started homeschooling for high school. A lot of people assume our child was a successful homeschool because of being independent, but independence is learned, it’s not in their DNA. And it’s not something you can turn on like a switch just because the student is away from the school environment.

@Architect's point touches on one of the most pernicious drawbacks of Prussian-model education: students have to be "made" to do stuff, there is little attention to what it takes to develop true self-direction. The idea of even considering putting resources into having someone else do their work is anathema to a self-directed learning. Why do that? The whole point of an education is the value of learning. Self-directed learning is not a switch you can turn on, though, so parents like @Architect are being suddenly confronted with this negative reality, that a lot of the educational system is set up as an external prod to get students through a gauntlet of stuff of often dubious utility to their educations. No wonder parents are upset.

It’s hard to talk about this without sounding negative about teachers, which is not my intent. I actually believe we have a wonderful cohort of teachers (and parents, and students) in this district, most of whom go above and beyond the call, always thinking of how to bring a better way of doing what they do into the classroom. But they absolutely need to differentiate what is necessary for learning from what has been tradition related to a specific model of education and that maybe we would be better off jettisoning to better serve learning. Please do not try to reproduce school this fall through remote learning, it will only hurt the learning, hurt the opportunity to get something better from this that no one expected, and frustrate parents like @Architect who have a right to expect healthy boundaries between school and other spheres of life. (That’s different than telling @Architect the wrong-headed idea that is their parental duty to stamp out a kid who will get on the hamster wheel without constant prodding.)

Listening to parents like @Archietect will help in making the right choices: if one of the boundaries everyone agrees on is that parents cannot be expected to either make their children perfect little robots in this circumstance or sit over them and micromanage them to make them do each little step they are expected to do, then it opens up the possibility of considering HOW do we help children transition to being independent learners? Independent LEARNERS, not independent at “doing” school how they’re told.


Silver Linings
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:54 pm
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:54 pm
8 people like this

@MP Resident,
I agree with most of what you say and your sentiment. I would point you to the many independent distance learning programs that have existed in other districts, many of them less-well-healed than ours, for decades. The SJUSD program made it possible for students who had other responsibilities to succeed in ways they never could have in the confines of school, including students who had to work to help support their families in high school. Distance learning is NOT a farce. Trying to "do school" the way it was as distance learning is a farce. don't do that.


Another MP Teacher AND Parent
another community
on Jul 27, 2020 at 9:34 pm
Another MP Teacher AND Parent, another community
on Jul 27, 2020 at 9:34 pm
5 people like this

@MP Resident-
I agree with you. The best and the brightest (and youngest, most technological savvy and probably without children) are the ones in the teacher pool who are going to do distance learning at its best.Distance learning as a whole is a farce,as you stated, as we read especially from the "OG" ones who are set in their ways.
I assume you made a choice, like myself, what choice you made from the survey sent out last week asking as a PARENT from the ONLY Bay Area county as of last week NOT on the watchlist-what they wanted from the district. Hybrid- one week on, and one week off, or distance learning only? As a parent who teaches in PAUSD and has a student in another- I'm dying to know. What say you? Let's have it...


Silver Linings
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 7:09 am
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 7:09 am
2 people like this

@Covid19 Ready
“ Why can't schools just pause until it's safe enough to return in person? The government can arrange childcare in the interim with the monies available”
Because the mission of the schools is to educate and they can still educate students online. Before the pandemic, there were already many reasons and places that people chose to or the state had to educate students online. Improving those practices as a response so that students can continue their educations is abetted first-world response. Most states allow some discretion to homeschool if that doesn’t work for some people and they can’t afford private. The state froze out new transfers to distance charters so there are no funds to do that for people who can’t afford good classes. In CA you can decide to homeschool your child at any time. However, the students’ grades prior to high school don’t count anyway, why give up on the good teachers who will be trying hard to make this work?


Silver Linings
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 7:11 am
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 7:11 am
1 person likes this

Of course I meant “a better response” above. Darned autocorrect!


Covid-19 ready
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 28, 2020 at 9:42 am
Covid-19 ready, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 28, 2020 at 9:42 am
3 people like this

@Silver linings,
For households where parents need to work, a pause may simply be more realistic. It's not giving up on teachings. It's being realistic about what distance learning takes for parents, of young and even older students. Although the little ones may need help getting online, the older ones may be depressed or disconnected. Giving older students agency over there lives vs. online school might be more appropriate.
A pause is a compassionate option.


Architect
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 28, 2020 at 12:21 pm
Architect, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 28, 2020 at 12:21 pm
8 people like this

@Silver Linings: Thank you for writing your thoughtful comment. The word "gauntlet" stood out to me: "that a lot of the educational system is set up as an external prod to get students through a gauntlet of stuff of often dubious utility to their educations."

With the requirements of standards/common core, so much of teaching seems to have become a gauntlet of check-the-box requirements. Never mind whether kids actually learn the foundations of a life of learning and growth. We certainly have met many deeply engaged teachers who have looked past the requirements to the actual purpose of an education for every student in their classroom.

Distance learning is different than in-person learning. Many families have experience now with exceptional online education programs teaching everything from math to foreign language. Some of the best material we've found this summer has been from guides for home schoolers.

PAUSD isn't going to deliver A+ distance learning starting from the first day of school to every student. But we shouldn't settle for mediocrity either. It is my understanding that the expectation that roll should be called and every child be accounted for is necessary for funding. Does this model really make sense in a distance learning environment? Does a 3rd grader really need to attend multiple zoom sessions a day and be "present" to learn? When in all likelihood, the zoom sessions will have very low value per minute expended.

PAUSD needs to critically evaluate distance learning. It is not in-person learning delivered over the internet. It is something else. There are many good examples out there - PAUSD needs to get on top of it through organizing teacher, administrator, parent and student committees to openly and transparently design a program to meet the needs of all learners in our commmunity.


Architect
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 28, 2020 at 12:49 pm
Architect, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 28, 2020 at 12:49 pm
10 people like this

@VoPA: Parents are genuinely concerned for the educational, emotional and physical well being of their children. We all have real concerns about the plans for reopening. I would imagine most parents would agree that the concerns laid out in the teachers' union letter are also valid and need to be addressed.

Focusing just for a moment on distance learning: If a plumber were to drop off tools and parts outside my house and then FaceTime me daily over the next 9 months to guide me through the upgrade of my master bathroom, who did the work? What is the value of the plumber? What is my value? How should we organize our work together? If something fails in my bathroom, is it the plumber's fault or is it my fault?

It is true that parents need to be involved - we can't escape the Governor's orders, nor the pandemic. It is *not* true that parents should accept a hastily planned transition to distance learning.

For example, I can guarantee you that few teachers in the country are going to deliver the depth and quality of lectures as Sal Khan at Khan Academy.

If PAUSD is going to make my child sit through Zoom's all day, why shouldn't it be Sal Khan's tested and refined material instead of a local teacher trying hard to convert inperson schooling to distance learning? I've seen Sal Khan's material and it is better than just about anything else out there. If Sal Khan's videos are good enough for Bill Gates' kids, they're probably good enough for our kids.

@VoPA argues that parents are not teachers. I agree. I am not a teacher. I look up to the many exceptional teachers we've had in PAUSD. But sadly, being an exceptional in-person teacher does not mean that that teacher can convert all lesson plans to distance learning in a summer.

PAUSD needs to organize teacher, admin, parent and student committees to openly and transparently develop distance learning to meet the needs of all students in our community.



Silver Linings
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 4:12 pm
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 4:12 pm
5 people like this

@Architect,
I appreciate your thoughtful posts, too. You really seem to get to the heart of the issues. I agree with most everything you have brought up. One thing I wanted to speak to (as someone who has both schooled and homeschooled in Palo Alto):
You wrote:
>"It is my understanding that the expectation that roll should be called and every child be accounted for is necessary for funding. Does this model really make sense in a distance learning environment?"
I think it doesn't, but for some students it might make sense so they don't fall through the cracks.

That said, if the children are being schooled under independent study rules, which our state allows and which our board has adopted (which means, we could let anyone do things this way without making any changes to the board regulations or state rules), then no, they do not have to account for every student every day. There are specific rules regarding independent study, and they are designed to be guardrails not rails.

The way independent study worked in SJUSD to meet the state rules, is that parents, students, and the teachers sat together and made a plan at the start of the year, with the student getting broad latitude to choose curriculum and approach, and the teacher helping to guide how to make that work within the rules. It's not as flexible as PSA homeschooling in CA, but families do get the advantage of working with districts, having access to their curricula, working with experienced independent study teachers and counselors (the best part), getting official a-g credit for high schoolers, and in pre-covid times, the chance to also take some classes and do extracurriculars at the local school.

The student goes away and implements the plan, hopefully having more time to spend on passions and life and yet still get as rigorous or better an education. The tendency in my experience is for students to first bite off WAY more than they can chew, but this is independent study, and that's part of the learning experience.

The student and parents return within a window of time set by the state, I can't remember now, maybe it was 3-4 weeks. The student has a set of goals already laid out, and when they return, provides whatever interim documentation is required by the state: work samples in some cases (this is very minimal, the student is NOT turning in even close to all their work), videos of performances (performing arts had the same requirements of performances), district tests perhaps, a project presentation, even a log where the state does require more exact evidence of a certain number of hours spent, such as for PE. Sometimes it's as simple as documentation of a class being taken at a community college (including for PE) or other accredited educational provider, or even just project progress work.

The teacher and student go over their work, talk about how things went (not just the academics), evaluate how things are going re: long-term and short-term goals, and make a new plan until the next visit. The state counts the child as being "present" in school as an independent study student.

Sometimes my student did not meet some of the goals within one stretch, because of working really intensely on something else during the time period, or maybe the goals weren't realistic in the actual context of life. That's part of learning to work independently. Over time, those things can be made up. The independent study teacher knows what has to be done to meet state and district standards and can suggest adjustments or hold students accountable. Sometimes things went badly wrong, like when courses were cancelled, a vendors went bankrupt or had to change dates after the semester began, or an unexpected pre-requisite cropped up. Learning how to be flexible and resourceful in the face of imperfections was part of the education that we acknowledged from the beginning, the flip side of the freedom. (In the prerequisite situation, our student was simply able to go on Coursera, look up and do a self-directed college course of the student's choosing over a couple of weeks to learn/review the material, and go take a test to overcome the prereq. But it delayed the series.) A couple of times our student got really behind when working on a big project, but usually said student was accountable to an independent education provider who was willing to let my student then catch up. Having that kind of control of time allowed my student to do and learn way more than would have been possible in regular school.

I think whether students can succeed at independent study has to be a matter for families to decide, and the student has to want to do it (note: they don't have to be able to work independently to start, but they have to want that kind of freedom/program), but it helps to have independent study resources at the district. Currently, the PAUSD administration is in the stone ages with independent study, at least how they approached it with us, although some families have done well under the table (the favoritism route). California families have no right to independent study, but when it is offered, it has to be offered fairly to everyone. So if the district has ever offered flexible one-on-one or homeschool-like independent study to anyone in the past, there is precedent to provide it now. It would be interesting to get a little sunshine on what has been pretty hush hush before, since so many students could be benefitting now.

There are students who need much more checking in on. There are others who will benefit from having that kind of clarity and framework, but more latitude. I keep saying this, but independence is learned, and it is a process, and really, it should be a primary goal of education but it ends up not in Prussian model school. That is one of the best things about good homeschooling, the ability to put the support of creativity, autonomy, independence, personal development, real life, customized learning, emotional and physical health, and relationships first.

This is really a chance to do that for any district students who want to, if the district is willing to facilitate it. I'm quite sure there are teachers in our district who would excel at being independent study guides. I do think the district would have to offer a separate program because it involves helping the whole family not just the child to transition to independent learning (and you no longer having to be the school schedule hall monitor).

Esther Wojcicki wrote a book about changing education, from which she spoke about teaching a really struggling cohort of students, in order to disprove that idea that only gifted students can benefit from having the kind of agency she writes about. She said that it took a couple of months before they weren't rebelling in the usual way and got engaged. Homeschoolers bring this up, too, through the concept of "deschooling" at the start of homeschoolings. If you watch the documentary "Most Likely to Succeed" you can see that discomfort when people try to transition from the current school model to something more self-directed. Being aware of that can help you get there from here.

Hope that helps.


Silver Linings
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 4:19 pm
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 4:19 pm
3 people like this

@Architect,

One thing I forgot. Those meetings with the independent study teacher, I believe, have to be done in person and may not be able to be remote. The state would have to fix that, if so.


Silver Linings
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 6:57 pm
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 6:57 pm
5 people like this

@Architect,
Sorry, just clarifying that. The once-a-month meetings may have to be in person, rather than online, but if the distirict had an independent study program in which the student and teacher met once or twice a week, or even every day, there is no requirement I am aware of that those more frequent meetings have to be in person.

The main benefit of IS is getting rid of the gauntlet/hamster wheel of constant micromanaged external direction, which the parents end up having to prod their kids to do. I think what happened in the spring was a wake up call -- that so many older students complained that they couldn't learn as well on their own, and so many parents were confronted with the reality of having to prod their kid through learning. When motivation is external, kids are less likely to retain or engage in the desired behavior when they are on their own. This district has such talented students, I hope the wake up call refocuses on the value of helping students first and foremost to be lifelong learners.


A foreign parent.
Ohlone School
on Jul 28, 2020 at 8:02 pm
A foreign parent., Ohlone School
on Jul 28, 2020 at 8:02 pm
16 people like this

I agree with most parents and do not understand why the schools are not open physically. Like most schools in Europe and Asia, my country's schools are open. Most people live in crowded cities. All the students and teachers are studying together in one building. Classrooms with few small windows, are smaller but with more students. But, everyone lives in hope rather than fear.

People in Palo Alto don't know how lucky they are.


Donald
Green Acres
on Jul 29, 2020 at 5:54 pm
Donald, Green Acres
on Jul 29, 2020 at 5:54 pm
5 people like this

With all the tech companies and employees in Palo Alto, hopefully some parents have reached out to the schools to offer assistance with technology and any questions, to get the class up and running in the best way possible for the kids, if classes are held virtually.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:14 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto , Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:14 pm
2 people like this

“Distance learning" is an inferior educational experience for all kids, and for younger kids it's almost useless. Teachers and administrators need to take a 50-75% pay cut, and the money should be refunded to parents”

There will be no pay cuts. Teachers will not have to fear for their pay. Teachers will continue to be paid for distance learning. I hope it actually goes for the whole year to keep everyone safe. There will be plenty of other families to serve if you don’t like it.

[Portion removed.]

“Why can't schools just pause until it's safe enough to return in person?”
Schools will not pause. Students will be serviced online and again, teachers will be working online. Make the necessary adjustments for balancing work and parenting responsibilities and please stop trying to state the schools should temporarily close because you currently have a hardship. Why should staff members have a hard ship because you have a hardship? They shouldn’t.

“I have two elementary school kids. They went to summer camp for 7 weeks. One week is 100% outdoor; the other 6 weeks have both indoor and outdoor activities. If the summer camp can run, the elementary school should be able to teach in person.”

Comparing a successful summer camp that had a few children attending in some sort of “bubble” format, to the return of thousands of children to multiple schools is not an apt comparison. If your summer camp ran successfully, congratulations!
Consider yourself lucky as many other summer camps had outbreaks around the United States.

“If the union were smart, they would realize that their relevance in this new world is in question. It has us questioning the value of PAUSD in general.”

The union is protecting the health and safety of staff which is their job to do so. If you don’t find value in PAUSD please consider other alternatives such as private school. This will allow you to give up your frustrations about PAUSD but of course if you choose private you would actually have to pay for tuition out of pocket. Unions and teachers will still enjoy the same set up they did before, once things return to normal.

“I agree with most parents and do not understand why the schools are not open physically. Like most schools in Europe and Asia”

We really can’t have any more school reopening debates comparing the US to Europe and Asia. The virus here is circulating out of control as we have been averaging 70,000 new cases a day in the US and that is exactly why schools can not reopen safely here.


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