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What are the pros & cons of TEAM at Paly for 9th graders?

Original post made by Parent, Palo Alto High School, on Feb 2, 2010

What do people really think of it? Can't conclude via website.

Comments (20)

Posted by TEAM student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 2, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I came to the PAUSD district freshmen year, I signed up for TEAM in hopes of making friends and getting to know the area better.
TEAM was a lot of fun, the trips are great, teachers are fun, (of course recently the teachers have changed, some great ones have moved)
This is a pretty interactive class.
The only downside I can think of is that there are more then 1800 students at Paly, and by joining TEAM you get to know 100 of these students. So, sophomore year I simply meet a lot more students in my grade whom I didn't meet during my Freshmen year.
Also, TEAM is great because now I get to help out on the TEAM field trips and boot camp, etc.

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 2, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Both my son and daughter were TEAM students, and I think they both enjoyed it a great deal. PALY is not a mega-school, but it is big, and the "school within the school" transition at 9th grade was a nice benefit.

As a parent, what I saw as the greatest benefit is that the teachers met regularly to make sure they all were teaching their classes in a way that re-inforced each other. The students probably did not realize what was going on, but it definitely is a benefit to the students.

History teacher Mike McGovern, known for his re-enactment programs, was a key part of TEAM when my kids were there, and I think his impact was huge. I don't know how things are since he left the PALY faculty.

The field trips were great, lucky kids to have that opportunity, although other oppostunites outside of TEAM are presented to the students if they are involved in certain programs, such as drama or sports.

My family and children had a good experience with TEAM, but had my kids not been part of it, I think they still would have had a wonderful time at PALY their freshman years. They both landed at great colleges and are doing well as a result of their enire 4 years at PALY, not just 9th grade.

My point of view to a parent: if your child is offered a spot at TEAM, go for it. But if the child is not offered a spot, don't sweat it. PALY is a great high school, and TEAM is but one of many examples of why that is the case.

Posted by TEAM Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2010 at 8:01 am

TEAM is a good fit for many kids, but not necessarily every kid. For someone who isn't entering Paly from Jordan, either from JLS or Terman or another school, then they will get to know 100 fellow kids very quickly and very well as they spend all the core classes together. They will get to know other kids in pe and electives. For a child who finds it hard to make friends or is reluctant to join in the bigger school activities, they will also find it good to have a place where they feel they belong. For a child who is outgoing and wants to get lots and lots of friends, or relishes the big school feeling, they may feel slightly protected. The teachers do vary from year to year and you may want to check with current parents what they think as the one that we did not like is no longer at Paly.

The one downside is that when they start their sophomore year, there are few familiar faces in classes like math, and they realise that they haven't got to know very many outside TEAM students, but that is only a very short term issue.

If your child has a few close friends going to Paly, it might be worth checking to see whether they are planning to do TEAM as it can be a little harder for close friends when one is in TEAM and the other isn't as they won't come across each other on campus as much as they might otherwise and there might be some envy on the field trips. So close friends should choose together. This has been a drawback for us.

We chose TEAM for one child where it was a great fit who was pleased to be there.

Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm

A few more negatives to consider:
There is a "donation" required to participate.
Some kids hate the week-long Yosemite field trip.
Non-TEAM classes, like language or electives, continue at Paly during the week-long Yosemite field trip and the work can be difficult to make up.

Posted by pa parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:21 am

Hey Paul,
Since you are a writer, you need to be careful with definitions.

Paly is more a "mega-school" than TEAM is a "school within a school". It doesn't yet exceed that 2000-2100 student population where the research shows more and more negative effects from size, but it's getting there. Schools within schools refer to attempts to minimize the negative effects of very large schools by truly re-forming them into more optimally-sized schools. Often, districts can't open a second physical location, so they separate into smaller schools on site. But to get the benefits, research shows schools within schools have to be implemented properly -- they truly are made into different schools, with maybe contracts to share certain expensive facilities like gyms at different times, but with their own separate administrations and teachers, for example.

I'm not commenting on whether TEAM is a good idea or not, just that the term "school within school" is misapplied and means something entirely different. TEAM is not a "school within a school" if you're googling for the research.

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 4, 2010 at 11:52 am

Midtown Parent--

Thanks for your observations around what the definition of "school within a school" is. I am not an educator by background, and my use of that term in this case was based on this lay parent's perception of how TEAM works. Perhaps there is another description that is more suitable than the one I used. I am not sure what it is, but I do take your point.

Both PALY and Gunn are increasing in head count, and my kids have been out a few years, so the total census was less than it is now or is projected to be.

Posted by my sudent is now a senior
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

My student is now a senior. Two other benefits (beyond those Paul speaks of) we prized were:

1) the buffer of coordinated homework and tests by TEAM teachers which helped make that first year less stressful, and

2) the teachers really get to know your kid. troubles are identified and communicated early and well.

Posted by student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Hi. I am now a senior at Paly and I was in TEAM. For some students, especially those who went to small, private schools for middle school, TEAM provided a nice support network to transition to high school. However, keep in mind that a TEAM freshman academic year will be significantly easier than a non-team year. I found sophomore year to be completely overwhelming academically as the TEAM teachers are much easier than other freshman teachers and they coordinated with tests and stuff vs later years. it was hard suddenly in 10th grade getting used to have four academic tests on the same day. Pros: the trips were incredibly fun, there were a lot of bonding experiences, and it was a fun way to begin high school. CONS: you only know a small number of people, you're not prepared academically for future years at Paly,you are mollycoddled and spoonfed. It really depends on what kind of kid you have. But, if I had to do it again, I wouldn't have done it. Now with LINK crew and the new freshman orientation, you'll have a lot of help with the transition to high school regardless if you do TEAM or not. Freshman year should be a chance to get used to high school and too much mollycoddling like in TEAM only ends up hurting you later. If all your kid cares about is a good time and lots of field traps, TEAM is for him/her.

Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:24 pm

I would echo what Student says. While my child really enjoyed the field trips, I think TEAM left him unprepared for sophomore year.

Posted by Alex
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2010 at 9:30 am

TEAM was amazing. I was part of it when I was a Freshman at PALY. The only kids that hated the weeklong Yosemite trip were spoiled sheltered kids that needed all their amenities. Everyone else (vast majority) loved the trip. Honestly though I didn't feel connected any better with kids from TEAM than kids outside of TEAM, though I grew up in Palo Alto and had the same group of friends since Walter Hayes. TEAM didn't leave me unprepared for Sophomore year honestly some of the greatest teachers I have ever had in my life (James Hamner and McGovern) were from TEAM.

Posted by former TEAM student
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I was in TEAM four years ago. I joined TEAM because I wanted a community feeling, but I really don't think TEAM is as nurturing and welcoming as everybody says it is. What was difficult for me was that none of my friends from middle school were in TEAM with me. Just because TEAM is billed as being small and community-oriented doesn't mean it's less cliquey than the rest of the school. I liked a lot of the field trips, but I didn't really being around such a small group of people all the time. Sophomore year was a bit more difficult for me than freshman year, but I don't think I was completely unprepared for it. Do not join TEAM if you don't like the outdoors. I personally would not recommend TEAM, but I'm sure it's right for some people.

Posted by Jordan Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm

At the parent workshop on Thursday, they said that kids who are very advanced in math (past Geometry in 9th grade) would not be able to do TEAM.

Posted by 05PALYGRAD
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 5, 2010 at 7:00 pm

"some of the greatest teachers I have ever had in my life (James Hamner and McGovern) were from TEAM."

I had both instructors and while they were certainly very very personable individuals I feel that they probably taught me the least in my 4 years at PALY. Did not feel especially prepared coming out of either's class. They make it so easy that you feel like you're doing well, but really it's just a case of dumbed down material taught to the lowest common denominator.

I echo what previous posters have said in that TEAM is a nurturing environment which can be great for many, but to be successful longterm it requires that a student be able to get on his or her feet quickly by the start of Sophomore year.

Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm

My kids didn't do TEAM. My recollection was: it was always some exclusive group off somewhere. It seemed odd to have a subset doing a mysterious, different interdisciplinary curriculum. Most of us had kids doing the mainstream curriculum. I'm not quite sure why they have TEAM.

Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2010 at 7:33 pm

My child decided to be in TEAM because his friends were choosing it. I don't think we would take this path again, although I don't think it hurts students. I was disappointed in the calibre of teachers, the lack of a real team-approach to students and a total lack of counseling for sophomore class planning. TEAM students didn't have a regular teacher advisor at that time (do they now??), as the TEAM teachers were supposed to fill that role. However, there was no counseling for problems arising in current classes and no counseling for what classes to take Sophomore year. The teachers were available to help, of course, IF a student (or parent) really pushed or asked, but most kids at this age are not really proactive. So it turned out to be no different from the regular school environment, except that their friends in the regular program got more advice on what classes to take the following year.

One of the reasons we chose TEAM was because of the unique opportunity to be in Yosemite for a week. However, most kids were disappointed with the activities there and, as one parent said, they still had to make up assignments from non-TEAM classes.

Another reason we chose TEAM was that they advertised that it would truly be a TEAM approach and that they would be on top of any developing problems. I certainly do not remember a coordinated approach to tests or homework, but most disappointing to us was the lack of intervention. When my son's excellent grades started slipping in the spring semester (he was enjoying the social scene too much), they didn't seem to notice. When I called to express my concern, I was told that it was just "freshmanitis" and that they only had time to focus on the kids who were in danger of failing. They said they would be happy to advise him if he came in to ask for help. So he was supposed to reach out to them, rather than the staff reaching out to help him through a rough spot. Since he was reluctant to ask for help, he ended up with a C on his transcript, although it did not seem to hurt his college chances.

Also, I have to differ with other comments regarding integration back into the regular school environment: he had absolutely no problem adjusting Sophomore year into the larger Paly environment, and he did as well if not better than most of his classmates. He was certainly as well prepared. This was true for all his friends, so I don't understand the comments about being unprepared. He also had no problem adjusting to a larger social scene - as a matter of fact, he loved meeting so many new people.
So, for our family, the negatives for TEAM were not academic or social but rather the program not being what it advertised and the very disappointing lack of help when we needed it. Having said all this, I think most kids would be fine in TEAM - it certainly didn't hurt him in the long run.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2010 at 9:01 am

The lack of counseling from advisors is not limited to team. My son is a junior and has yet to have any personal conversation with his advisors. No help for class planning, no intervention when there are academic issues, not even in the class the advisor teaches.

Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm

note that two of us are posting as "former Paly parents..."
-I would just say that in our experience, looking back, I question this odd "teacher advisor" system -- doesn't matter if you are in TEAM or not, I would was minimal... I recommend they switch and use the counselor system as at Gunn.
Why ARE there two systems in PAUSD high schools?? I attended Gunn myself, and it was only upon becoming a Paly parent I learned they used this "teacher advisor" system.
Even thinking back over all these years, I valued my contact with my counselor, as I found him helpful and positive even though he assisted hundreds of students.
My friends who have multiple kids at Los Altos High School told me they get a meeting each year with the student's counselor (!) at which they discuss course selection ideas on a direct, personal level (!)for the following year - and whatever else. Sounds fabulous!

Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Yo, former Paly parent (the one who posted at 1:09 on 2/13),

I'm glad for you, and Imma let you finish, but Paly has the best college preparatory system of all time!

Joking aside, I don't really understand your objections to the TA system. Yes, there isn't one centralized counselor, but how is that a bad thing? I always felt that I was so lucky to have such an amazing adviser to steer me through the tumultuous college application process. I think part of what you're objecting to is the lack of what you feel is important for course selection: a parent counselor meeting. To that, I have two things to say. First, why do you, as a parent, need to have a meeting with the teacher? The system at Paly is set up so that students have meetings with the teacher whenever they need to, and parents approve the course selection. Second, it's not impossible for the parent to meet with the TA if they want: just send off an email.

There aren't that many differences between the system at Paly and the two that you've suggested are better.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2010 at 9:38 am

The Paly TA system is wonderful if you have a "amazing advisor". If you don't, then you are stuck. My son's advisor has provided only very general help - to the whole advisory class - in terms of course selection. In 1 1/2 years, he has never had a one on one conversation with him. In contrast, a friend's advisor, who is retiring at the end of this year, is planning on continuing with her advisory class to support them through their senior year next year. It seems like the only criteria to be a TA is willingness, where guidance counselors are trained - to be counselors.

BTW - I think Gunn is moving to the TA system next year.

Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Paly Alum, if you don't benchmark with others, you don't know what you are missing.
I would venture that there has traditionally been a counselor system used at comprehensive high schools in the U.S. The teacher advisor system is NOT traditional and we saw no benefits. I know that many students at Paly have paid outside college counseling so what system there is in school is irrelevant. That's why a few years ago they were always having to pressure the older students to attend and not blow off their (limited) group time with the teacher advisors.

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