Town Square

Post a New Topic

'We're doing crisis learning': Superintendent addresses hot-button closure issues during live webinar

Original post made on Apr 21, 2020

On Monday, Superintendent Don Austin addressed the realities facing a district that has moved instruction for 12,000 students online.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 9:34 AM

Comments (52)

21 people like this
Posted by Bikermom
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 21, 2020 at 9:52 am

My kids are severely stressed out. And trying to manage 3 elementary aged kids schoolwork is exhausting. I think they should just do a few projects and some math and end school mid-May. A lot of other states are doing this. To ask a child to stay in doors (there's not many places for us to go) and not see their friends and then do schoolwork is asking too much. The mental health of our children is what's most important. I have friends who children are doing videos with Nasa engineers. Palo Alto is just throwing a bunch of schoolwork at our children, requiring them to be on screens most of the day which against our family code anyway (and their accounts don't block YouTube and stuff like that, my husband figured out how to do that remotely) since the school district doesn't monitor or filter content coming in. It's a mess. I don't make my kids do the schoolwork. They read and we do some math and work on keeping their mental health well balanced.


48 people like this
Posted by J94306
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:22 am

Life is easier now for my kids than before the shutdown. They sleep 10+ hours a day and there is very little learning from Gunn or Fletcher. Under current conditions, they spend maybe 2 hours a day on schoolwork (far less than their normal 7 hours at school + hours of homework), so they have 6-7 hours of extra free time each day to do what they want (indoors or in the backyard).

On the contrary, I am appalled at how little teaching or learning is going on in PAUSD. (e.g. my child's Honors Chemistry teacher is MIA - he hasn't taught or assigned anything in 5 weeks and doesn't respond to email.). Compare this with other schools in the area who have their act together and are doing regular Zoom teaching calls with students and continuing learning.

In Palo Alto, we have 10%+ students who are less privileged and may be "doing crisis learning".

But the vast majority of high school students in Palo Alto are not in crisis mode.
They have food, shelter, laptops, Internet access, phones, and lots of time on their hands.
They are bored to death.

So, is PAUSD optimizing for the 10% and ignoring the needs of the other 90%?
Other school districts don't seem to be doing this.


22 people like this
Posted by Superintendent Webinar
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2020 at 12:48 pm

This article did not capture some of the Superintendent's questionable points in the Webinar.

1. Yes, the Superintendent said students can write in their applications why they don't have 2nd semester grades (yeah sure, UC schools and others around the country will read closely 120k applications per school about the virus). But this article did not report that he also stated confidently that no matter what grade approach high schools use, the colleges will be throwing out all grades this 2nd semester to equalize GPAs since that's the only way to deal with this issue fairly. I would love to know how the Superintendent already knows all colleges will be throwing out 2nd semester grades before any of the colleges have even figured it out or made public statements to this effect?! That was a very presumptuous statement and there is no way he can possibly know what "all colleges" are going to do.

2. The Superintendent said most schools are using p/nc. Really, can you show me the data? Because most schools I see (including school districts he's dismissing above) seem to be giving students the choice of either grades or p/nc. And he continually repeats that p/nc will not negatively affect students' gpa and that is patently false.

It appears the Superintendent is just posturing and making up stuff to justify his decisions with no clear evidence to support his statements. No intention of really listening or thoughtful approach that other districts are empolying. The message to parents was clearly "shut up and move on".

The Superintendent also wasn't shy about using the webinar as a vehichle to toot his horn, saying how many people have been thanking him and that we should all write him nice notes. A waste of time.

@ J94306: Agree. Same at Paly.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2020 at 1:04 pm

Students from about 3rd grade and above should be treating each day as if they are going to have to write an essay titled "what I learned while I was home during the shutdown". They should be able to spend time learning all sorts of things that are useful, they are interested in and what they would not have learned if school was in session.

For some they could say they learned to do laundry, or cook for the family. Others might say they learned about the night sky and watched the moon each night. Others might say they really got into studies about earthquakes, or weather, or their heritage country. Whatever their age and whatever their interest, there is so much they could learn because it interests them, or because they see a need to do it. This learning opportunity will never come to them again. They can learn outside a strict curriculum and they can discover their passions. This should not necessarily be instead of, some assigned work, but it should be the greater part of what they are learning.

If the only thing they learn is how to zoom or how to get frustrated by poor methods of academics, then the whole thing will be a complete waste of time in the big picture of things.

In fact, some of the best teachers may start of the next school year in the classroom with an essay (or poster) of what I learned during staying at home. Perhaps now is the time to make sure they have the answers ready.


18 people like this
Posted by A bit much
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 21, 2020 at 1:26 pm

@Resident I have heard that before and it sounds wonderful. In practice though our kids have lost all of their friends, they have lost their activities, they have lost their physical outlets. Plus they have chores since their parents are extra busy. I think you are expecting a bit much for them to rebound so quickly and pursue their innermost dreams. How many parents do you see doing that?


16 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2020 at 2:10 pm

What also should be noted, there were lots of questions on the grading and they were ignored so that only positive messages could be shared. It was unfortunate that we all could not see the questions being ask.

I also wish there was a fact check regarding the statements Superintendent Austin made during the webcast.

There is a School Board meeting this evening at 6:30pm. Students and parents are encouraged to voice their opinions on the grading policy.

It was decided that March 25th was an emergency date to decide on the Teachers' Union MOU and grading - not sure what constituted the emergency given schools are still deciding (schools like Palos Verdes which is where Superintendent Austin came from prior to PAUSD).

We are the only district that has a Superintendent decided decision on grading. All other districts have used board vote.

Please attend the meeting this evening. For details:
Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by localmom46
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 21, 2020 at 2:14 pm

Superintendent Webinar-
He did not say that he wanted people to write him notes. In fact, he thanked those who did, but suggested that they write notes to teachers and other PAUSD staff instead. The UCs have stated that they are willing to accept C/NC this semester ONLY if all students have the same grading within a district. In other words, they have specifically asked that districts not give students a choice. So if other districts are giving a choice, it could hurt their students when dealing with UCs.


36 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 3:31 pm

I watched the webinar last night. I was hoping that the superintendent would discuss the huge discrepancy I am seeing between the elementary school and high school Phase III learning I am seeing in my family.

My elementary grade school child has direct instruction from her teacher, videos that she records in each subject area as necessary, as well as mandatory zoom calls twice a week. Last week she had a significant amount of meaningful homework. The teacher has optional zoom office hours three days a week.. My child has emailed the teacher and the teacher has been quick to respond to any questions my child has sent over schoology. I would say that my child's teacher is putting in significant time during phase 3, an incredible amount of time and we are very thankful.

My high schoolers have a completely different situation. Only two teachers in total are videotaping lessons and sharing them with the class. All other instruction comes in the form of Google docs and a few links to additional information located on the web. Am I the only parent shocked that my children are basically receiving no meaningful instruction?

There has been no change to the syllabus, no change to the rapid pace of how much my children have to learn and the large amounts of homework pre-shelter in place are back. . Why bother with Phase I, Phase II and Phase III? Basically, everything is the same as it was pre-shelter in place but now they teach themselves?

Granted my children are in several Honors classes so perhaps that explains the lack of meaningful instruction? Who knows. This is Silicon Valley, PAUSD is one of the 'best' school districts in the nation and this is the best they can do? What if you are a family with a student that struggles in school, or isn't great at school? I expect more from PAUSD, other local public districts have figured it out why can't we?


14 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 21, 2020 at 3:47 pm

If the superintendent would just punish the sci teachers who refuse to teach and then threaten seniors with failing grades, rescinded college or not graduating if the kids don’t perform to high levels on new testing platforms with their new 1-5 grading scale they made up by themselves then I would think he had a heart .

No lessons no feedback. The teacher did not correct tests the online platform did hours of homework even though AP tests are open book and cut off in march


19 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2020 at 3:50 pm

What also should be noted, there were lots of questions on the grading and they were ignored so that only positive messages could be shared. It was unfortunate that we all could not see the questions being ask.

I also wish there was a fact check regarding the statements Superintendent Austin made during the webcast.

There is a School Board meeting this evening at 6:30pm. Students and parents are encouraged to voice their opinions on the grading policy.

It was decided that March 25th was an emergency date to decide on the Teachers' Union MOU and grading - not sure what constituted the emergency given schools are still deciding (schools like Palos Verdes which is where Superintendent Austin came from prior to PAUSD).


We are the only district that has a Superintendent decided decision on grading. All other districts have used board vote.

Please attend the meeting this evening. For details:
Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by momoftwo
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 21, 2020 at 5:35 pm

@localmom46

The UC system has not said this at all. Please stick to facts. From the UC website:

UC cannot instruct individual schools or districts on how to choose to implement their grading policy. If your high school allows different grading options for different courses, you can choose the grading option that you feel is most beneficial for each course. Keep in mind that Pass grades will not be included in the GPA calculation, nor will they receive an extra point in the GPA if they are approved honors, AP or IB courses. However, UC-approved honors courses, including AP and IB, will be included in the honors course tallies, ensuring students are considered in comprehensive review as taking a challenging curriculum.


2 people like this
Posted by momoftwo
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 21, 2020 at 5:36 pm

@localmom46

The UC system has not said this at all. From the UC website:

UC cannot instruct individual schools or districts on how to choose to implement their grading policy. If your high school allows different grading options for different courses, you can choose the grading option that you feel is most beneficial for each course. Keep in mind that Pass grades will not be included in the GPA calculation, nor will they receive an extra point in the GPA if they are approved honors, AP or IB courses. However, UC-approved honors courses, including AP and IB, will be included in the honors course tallies, ensuring students are considered in comprehensive review as taking a challenging curriculum.


8 people like this
Posted by Steve Toteda
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2020 at 5:44 pm

Please join the PAUSD Board meeting TONIGHT and make your views known! The Board MUST vote.

Board Meeting Access Instructions - April 21, 2020:

Via Video Conference/Internet: Web Link

Via Telephone: Dial 669-900-6833, enter Webinar ID 949 9734 6242, then press #.
If asked for a participant ID or code, press #.


38 people like this
Posted by Mr.C
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 21, 2020 at 6:29 pm

Well,

Im 53 and I will be back for sure the first day when school opens if not waiting over night!

I'm not living my life in fear and I really miss the heck out of the kids!!! Apparent now more than ever that teaching and coaching is the best job in the world and never thought I would miss the kids and the interactions so much!!! I know all my teaching buddies at Greene feel the same way and the online learning going on at Greene is very solid and good for being put together so quickly. Let's also be clear here though, in no way shape or form is this type of learning anywhere near the same as real life interaction between students and teachers etc...now more than ever, and I have had kids tell me this: we, myself, they will never take the actual day to day on campus atmosphere of learning for granted again.

Like anything in life, you are always going to have the complainers in the world who see the glass always half full but that is their right to think that way and whatever....teachers that are on the frontline doing this new type of learning everyday know the truth.

Pete Colombo


4 people like this
Posted by Amom
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:01 pm

I front lines implies war and that is an extreme metaphor for just delivering any k-12 standard class.

Critical information is not false just because it is not a thank you note.


Paly scu depth is way out of line and making kids life worse and harder to protect their egos and rigiot while making kids teach themselves should go unchecked!Kids know that is more important to theses teachers than their well being and that is a totally empty glass for seniors.


24 people like this
Posted by Predictable PAUSD
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 22, 2020 at 12:44 am

@J94306 wrote "So, is PAUSD optimizing for the 10% and ignoring the needs of the other 90%? Other school districts don't seem to be doing this."

Of course this is what PAUSD is doing and it was entirely predictable. You can always count on PAUSD to down-level things to the lowest common denominator for their cherished politically correct equity reasons. And how convenient at the same time this allows the teachers to still receive full pay while likely doing a fraction of their prior work.

Many educational institutions (including very small colleges) had remote learning options before covid-19 hit. It is very doable, PAUSD admin & staff are underachieving as usual.


30 people like this
Posted by Longtimer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2020 at 6:59 am

@J94306,

Do you realize there are some of the “90%” families who have parents and siblings on the front lines - medicine, first responders, etc - and the stress that causes to families? Some family members cannot even come home for fear of infecting the household? Others have experienced deaths of loved ones and coworkers and have been unable to say goodbye properly?

The pandemic is having profound impacts on more than 10% of us, even in our well-to-do ivory towers. How fortunate for you that your household has not suffered as much as others.

Why don’t you and your family help others? That might relieve your boredom.


12 people like this
Posted by are your students teachers doing?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 7:45 am

In 2015, the teachers union resisted posting assignments on Schoology. Web Link

Now in 2020, how are your teachers doing with online "crisis" learning?


26 people like this
Posted by Insider/Outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:08 pm

Some of these posts make me ill. There is a pandemic going on and everyone is doing the best they can.
Everyone is being impacted. Think about that - everyone is being impacted. If we can all take the time to understand the many ways this health crisis is upending everyone’s life maybe, just maybe some of the anger could dissipate so humanity could emerge!


14 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 23, 2020 at 10:30 am

I’m deeply concerned about the District’s process. I see 3 problems:

1. I listened to the 3/17 meeting and went back and re-listened to the discussion about Emergency Powers. See Scroll down to find link the 1:21 Web Link

At roughly 1:26:12 Don Austin says ” This is something it would be exceedingly rare to be doing things outside of process and weren’t completely necessary and time sensitive to the point where even calling a special board meeting wasn’t an option.”

There was absolutely time to call a special board meeting. That was the standard. It was not met.

2. In addition, neither the Board nor the Superintendent gave an analysis of the State Guidelines, as suggested by the State.

3. The overriding State theme is no harm. But the Superintendent made it clear that his goal was only a solution for the 10% who are not doing well. Yet, this tradeoff is not no harm. I don’t have time to re-listen to the last meeting now, but roughly he said “The 10% are our priority and expect that some kids will be hurt by that.”

I expect our Government and our District to be data driven (timely regular surveys in this difficult time), transparent, and lifting up all students.


7 people like this
Posted by Amom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 23, 2020 at 1:46 pm

@insider outsider.

I agree , but realize seniors who have lost a very big year are now also being given a much harder curriculum and threats of fail grades. I would like to have them just call the year over and assign a small packet that takes care of the last two chapters if each book if parents need their kids to sit and work.

Yes. We would all like humanity. I am not if the teachers assigning all the same work and giving no instruction can just stop.

Seeing my kid stuck to a computer for hours because of a teachers ego is inhumane and abusive. parents wanting full school days is crazy. Both need to stop it and consider rubrics and rigor are for the living and shut up.


12 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 23, 2020 at 3:34 pm

And how convenient at the same time this allows the teachers to still receive full pay while likely doing a fraction of their prior work.

Vote no on the parcel tax.


17 people like this
Posted by Anothermom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2020 at 11:39 am

I find the level of teaching through online learning in PAUSD to be appalling. We pay high taxes but yet our students receive little or no teaching from many teachers in the district. At the high school and middle school levels, students are receiving ZERO online teaching by most teachers: they are assigned problem sets without any instruction and told to ask parents for help. How is this sort of "teaching" helping the 10%? It will only widen the divide between those students whose parents are available and able to teach the material (or able to hire tutors to do so) and those whose parents cannot. When the schools finally do reopen, there will be an even wider gap between the haves and have-nots.

Other school districts, most notably Los Altos, are able to provide A FULL SCHOOL DAY of online teaching to students on a daily basis. Why does Superintendent Austin not require this of PAUSD teachers? Who is overseeing the volume and quality of teachers' work? If teachers are not teaching online during the school day, why are they still getting paid?


33 people like this
Posted by Theresa
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2020 at 1:19 pm

Hello
I am a teacher in Palo Alto. I have taught there for almost 20 years and teach at the middle school level. I want people to know that teachers are working very hard. I can say for my staff, I am in touch with various staff members personally via email, staff meetings and other social media accounts. I know MANY of us are working long hours. We are answering hundreds of emails a day, we are watching webinars on how to teach online, we are sending parents letters, we are participating in online IEP meeting for students that need extra help, all while trying to record lessons, make them engaging, schedule zoom check ins for our students.
Teaching had never been an online endeavor for us, and it is a completely different way of teaching! We are doing our best, and as Don Austin says in his webinar, this is not learning as usual, this is "crisis learning" and it will in no way resemble what we were doing in the classroom.
Many of us are doing hours of behind the scenes work that may not be obvious to the public, We do care about our students!


11 people like this
Posted by Amon
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 24, 2020 at 1:55 pm

Theresa

Thanks. This is not new or complicated. Just push record and post and teach what was already planned. It is not 1982.

Please realize the it is not equitable to give homework and test without instruction of any kind. A link or power point is not instruction. This is happening at your meetings please tell them this is making you look bad and kids feel bad


16 people like this
Posted by Another parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2020 at 8:05 pm

My Gunn freshman has way too many assignments and zero instruction. It’s ad hoc and poorly rolled out. PAUSD must do better.


11 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2020 at 1:19 pm

@Theresa,

Teachers are working so hard, and we parents do appreciate that. Thank you. This is not meant to target you. Parents, especially of high school students, are frustrated because our kids have no schedules or anything close to normalcy. It's not good for their mental health, and even if they are doing the work, most of it is self-taught.

The District owes teachers systems and processes to share the load. It is time to leverage our limited resources, which are about to get cut as we head into a recession. For example, why can't all the middle school teachers of the same class (at least at the site level and ideally across sites) deliver a few "levels" of lectures for all students live on a schedule and then individual teachers have office hours. The load for lecturing and organizing can be divided. Or, at the high school level, why pull away from State authorized online content like UC Scout which could be available FREE to our students with teacher approval. Why not have Monday as a full planning day, with scheduled live teaching periods in Middle and High School Tuesday through Friday with all classes meeting multiple times?

These are just ideas, but continuing to proceed classroom by classroom is not leveraging the digital tools. We need to do better by our students, especially at the high school level.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2020 at 1:49 pm

At this point, after multiple such comment series, we all know the arguments and attitudes. What I want to know is: what legitimate and legal means do we have to force changes in cases where the majority of us is unified against current policy? How do we make clear that we are the majority, if indeed we are? One parent started a petition on change.org in favor of grading. This was got plenty of traction, but was of course ignored in the Board meeting it was aimed at, where people vote along predictable ideological and/or union lines.

Someone mentioned UCScout which hundred of us have signed up with. There's a state law suggesting that these graded courses should be given credit not just by colleges (they are) but also by our public school. I'd start a petition to that effect, except it looks like a completely ineffectual process. Does anyone have a better idea?


5 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2020 at 4:56 pm

@Resident,

I'm not a big fan of petitions with this Board and Superintendent. Petitions need an audience. The two petitions with hundreds of signatures re grading and the need for online "what they call synchronous" teaching and a fixed schedule have gone ignored.

Some ideas:

1. Get the data from students and parents (separately) on how much teaching they are getting, how they feel, what they think they need. Data Data Data
2. We need to bring together high school parents from Gunn and Paly to find our common ground. Right now, parents have no voice from the School Board. Writing emails and showing up to meetings is not creating change. We need a group for this. Dauber had We Can Do Better. We need We Must Do Better. Yesterday.
3. We need the local mental health community to step and explain to the District that adolescents are not mini adults. They need help to find purpose, and they need schedules and boundaries. The experts all know this. Just like parents do. But, the District throughs out mental health solutions instead of fixing part of the root of the problem.
4. UC Scout is $400/class and the District can offer it to us for FREE. Do we deliver our bills? Do we say no on the parcel tax. Do we get a charter here? We need to figure this out as a group.


2 people like this
Posted by Amon
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 25, 2020 at 6:34 pm

Ic scout is awful. It is not the answer. Kids would have to do all the semester work bonfire the missing 6 weeks.

It is so much weird tedious work and then weird proctored exams and strange meet times.


It would be nice to have a set schedule for the rest of the year rather than making new ones each day.

It also would be ok to have a written textbook option with a proctored exam instead of seeing my kids with migraines


5 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2020 at 9:49 pm

@Amom

Fair re UC Scout. Actually, I'm just suggesting that teachers free up the UC Scout lectures for kids to watch now or the full class for summer or fall. Of course, I too strongly prefer live lectures and a schedule, but how do we get there?

I too find my kids are getting a lot of busy work. It is making them miserable. This is not No Harm in our house.



20 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2020 at 10:25 pm

I do find it odd that for the most part private schools are sticking with grades, in some form, even if just as an option and moved to online learning almost immediately after schools closed. The public schools in the area are going C/NC.
The PAUSD MOU is depressing to read. Teachers not being evaluated during this time, and specifically not evaluated on how they do online lessons. It is painfully obvious that the teacher's union is pulling the strings.

Curious as to how teachers at private school are managing, but the public teachers seem to be having a much harder time adapting and some are hardly making an effort.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2020 at 12:11 am

@Fact Checker:

Agreed on all. So how did the Dauber group work? How does one start a charter, whatever that is? How would those of you who are in the data business go about collecting data of the kind you suggest? How even get hold of a list of all PAUSD families in order to contact them?

Re UC Scout. No it isn't great; in fact compared to the best of real classroom teaching, it is pitifully limited. But it speaks for your point about normal rules, clearly organized schedules etc. being good for our kids' mental health that in our house the UC Scout experience has been well received by its victims (who I should say are not of the overly studious kind) for its predictable structure and professional presentations. We too have one school teacher at Paly who we are deeply grateful to for his competent engagement during this crisis and who I'd hate to see discouraged by blanket negative comments. But that's one of how many?

A couple of hours a day of UC Scout or any other professionally prepared, and hopefully better, accredited program of one's choice seems plenty to get that psychological benefit of pride in progress and new mastery. I'd love to see PAUSD pay for this, certainly in the case of students who find the price a hardship. But at the very least I want PAUSD to acknowledge the gains made by students on their own in such programs.

I'm not sure on what rapidly rotating planet people live who are not in "frontline" crisis and still can't fit a couple hours of academic learning into their shelter-at-home teenager's day, in addition to training in clothes washing (overdue indeed) and shopping for the elderly neighbors as well as ample hours for individual teenage passions. The idea that those of us who are not in acute personal crisis need to nevertheless stop all serious learning in order to focus on mindful living during this time seems to me to pose false choices on many levels.


4 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2020 at 9:54 am

@Resident,

1. I didn't pay attention to the details of the Dauber group. It was created, ironically, during the teen suicide crisis here. And, I say ironically because this Board seems to have no idea that how learning is delivered creates stress. They are 100% focused on schedule flexibility and not normalcy.

2. UC Scout is (as I understand it) FREE to the District. They don't have to pay for it if they open it up. This can happen two ways: 1) individual teachers can points students to relevant lectures (seems ideal for many learners) or 2) I believe the District can open up the classes (again, I think this is FREE).

3. US Scout is not the only option. Students are turning to AJ tutoring, which has a program by which you don't have to repeat 3rd quarter. You simply do the 4th quarter and get your grade. I'm sure many families are doing this. There's a lot of email and even direct calls soliciting parents. And, good for them for being opportunistic. I'm not sure this is good for anyone or how colleges willl look at it. It is not a choice we have made.

In addition, many parents are saying on social media and privately that they've had to hire tutors and buy classes (without grades) for the videos. Sources for these cited are Florida Virtual School, BYU (esp for language), Apex...The list is long for classes (where you have to repeat 3rd quarter or just watch videos). So those who can afford this options or whose kids are lost in the lack of schedule and crazy busy work lag.

4. Even if that world you describe were real, it's an adult world. Teenagers practice mindfulness, but this is a tough time to start. They need connection, productivity, exercise, and sun. Live learning is a path to that place.


11 people like this
Posted by Silver lining
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2020 at 11:31 am

We had to homeschool on a shoestring, with poor technology and a tiny fraction of the funds we were paying in taxes for other kids to go to PAUSD, because of ending up on the receiving end of what can only be called institutional abuse and a smear campaign. One teacher we ran into later expressed wonderment of the "weirdness" going on in that situation. We are still in many ways licking our wounds and afraid to ask for equity and anything that is legally due our child (even reimbursements for things the district promised for expenses they demanded we incur or further educational evaluations said child desperately needs but we can't afford. There is a special place in hell...)

But the reality is that we would never have known many of the other ways school was hurting our child if we hadn't been abused out. Our kid's test scores went way UP precipitously just from leaving school, and eventually became the kid who rolls out of bed and gets a perfect score with no prep, despite almost no attention to testing in our household.

No, we wouldn't have chosen what happened just as no one here would choose this. But when we stopped focusing on what was lost and just accepted the imperfections, when we let go of what was lost and moved forward, it made room for a better education than same kid would ever have gotten in school by far, even if same kind kid hadn't been relentlessly dumped on by teachers who didn't know they were carrying out some admin's personal vendetta. It made room for a better education in spite of the imperfections, lack of resources, and lack of institutional support, all of which everyone above has way more of than we did.

Far from decrying the ills of kids teaching themselves, now is an opportunity to be supporting kids to be lifelong learners at this time. When my kid left school, free of the structure of the wrong kind of math homework, constantly being held back because of a purposefully unrecognized LD in school, free of the demeaning expectations of others, free of spending most of the day trying to run a numbing gauntlet or skipping lunch to line up with other kids only to not be in time to get questions asked, it was possible to do more than a year's worth of advanced math every semester and by mid-high school get college credit for math I wasn't even doing myself until well into my own college career at an elite school. (And no, I don't remember it well enough to teach it or help.)

There is great advantage to students in college and life figuring out how to learn what they need on their own. There are an almost mindnumbing number of resources out there, on Coursera, EDx, etc.

If your kid was doing fantastically in school and you think staying the course is a ticket to Harvard, then by all means, do what you can to ensure the district gives you that. If you look at your child's education and wonder whether there is a downside to having zero time to read, learn normal life skills, or do anything creative, self-motivated, or long-term, then do a little reading about self-directed education and "deschooling" (which is the necessary transition time most people need to re-set their expectations in order to become self-directed learners after being almost entirely dependent on external direction in their educations). Now could be that time. You have permission to basically get off the treadmill and do something better.

Someone above described what homeschoolers find: that you can do all the work you get from school in a few hours and have the rest of the day free. Letting kids be in charge of how and whether they make good use of that time can be the greatest lesson you ever give them. It can take time to transition from the expectations of school, though, it's like an invisible tether or being let out of a cage.

I truly think the district is handling a bad situation reasonably well, but I think they could be turning this into a huge advantage and they are missing it. I do think they would benefit families by basically creating two groups: those who want to use this as an opportunity to find something that works better for them, and those who need to recoup what was. If they do this, the district and all its children and teachers may find the disruption to have been a blessing in disguise. The trouble is that they seem to want to cling to this idea that they need to control everything, and that anything they do now is a compromise.

Yes, the single greatest advantage of school, the physical community no individual has to put any work into creating, is gone. But only temporarily. Will you make this hiatus into something better or will you forever see this as a loss? Make something better of it and your college application will be vastly more appealing than the student who has to make excuses for why they weren't perfect on paper.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2020 at 3:13 pm

@Fact Checker:

Thanks for the suggestions. You are clearly better connected to the grapevine on resources than I am. And yes, live learning is what we really want and need. As you say, the search for alternatives isn't by choice.

The fact remains: Unless we really get a movement going here, and fast, that insists on academic and pedagogical excellence, our kids will not see a better public school system anytime soon, virus or no virus. It's the "pedagogical excellence" part that gets at stress reduction. (Speaking as someone familiar with European school systems.) Experienced community organizers, please step up!


19 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 26, 2020 at 4:22 pm

PAUSD's real equity problem is their lack of world-class academics within the schools.
It's all happening elsewhere, with the school hoarding the credit.

Starting in elementary school, the the families who value and understand academic passion and excellence see small deficiencies. The deficiencies start small, so the supplements start small... things like early spelling and elementary math being done at home because the bar at school is quite low. By middle school, the mismatch has grown and large numbers of kids are taking full-on courses outside of school. Coding, dance, foreign language, music, mathematics, ceramics, theater, and on and on. Popular athletic activities like like swimming and soccer belong in this category as well.

The district criticizes this external work, calling it a culture obsessed with status and stress. In reality, it is the culture alive and in love with learning and other threads of human development that their ed schools purport to strive for. The stress is caused by it happening outside of school. PAUSD's failure to provide it within school is the nexus of both inequity and "overworked" teens.

The district loves their Catch-22. If you call improvement, you are carelessly labelled as elitist and ascribing to a shallow status and stress culture. If advocate for PAUSD to grow by simply emulating other local programs, you are accused of your community's privilege. They can do no wrong.

Palo Alto students and families have three options. (1) Accept academic mediocrity that would come with trusting the education to the district. (2) Supplement that deficiency with academics outside of PAUSD, which actually is burdensome and stress-inducing. (3) Leave the district.

Most folks are strongly on path (2). Folks stay because of the social cohesion and privates are $44k a year.

There may be a fourth path of advocacy... get a helmet.


13 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 26, 2020 at 5:29 pm

@Sally - another path of advocacy is to help start a charter school within the PAUSD district, one focused on academic excellence, one non union so there are no conflicts of interest, unlike now, as teachers' job security comes first(!) rather than students, regardless of whether the teacher can actually teach.

Another path of advocacy to send a strong message to PAUSD that what they've been doing is inadequate and insufficient, not providing synchronous lectures, nor video recorded ones, which the teachers'union MOU actually prohibits, unless the teacher agrees it can be video recorded. VOTE NO on the parcel tax!!!

Yes a few teachers are doing some synchronous lectures, but we have almost 900 doing different things. Scattered, erratic, and in HS, kids are teaching themselves.


8 people like this
Posted by Silver lining
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2020 at 6:56 pm

@Resident,
>Experienced community organizers, please step up! (Been there, done that, still licking my wounds. Our district believes any changes must come from those within the district office not from people who need to solve a problem, the district doesn't trust that -- even though research shows that's who typically solves problems -- and cannot punish those kinds of parents enough for their desire to work with the district to make things better.

Remember the film Most Likely to Succeed and all that?

@Sally,
There are actually county charter schools that are distance charters, and there are distance charters that have the legal ability to extend their reach into Santa Clara County but don't. Most of those programs have waitlists. You can sign up with them to homeschool, there are funds available to pay for classes, and the kids work with an experienced education specialist once a week or so.
Some families do it for exactly what you described, so that all that "enrichment" can actually become school and kids can have their lives back.

I think if the district were smart, they would use their independent study rules to create a program for people who want to keep social distancing, or want to try a new way of educating, similarly to the way SJUSD does it, or Fremont Coil, or Connecting Waters (in the East Bay). That way, kids are still in the district and work with district teachers, but it's cheaper for one, and those families who need it tend to be happier and their kids get the best of all worlds -- the ability to take a few classes at school and extracurriculars, but they have the discretion to do other classes more efficiently through self-study or online.


3 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2020 at 10:22 pm

@Silver Lining,
Thank you for sharing so much. It is refreshing to have a candid discussion, even behind these online persona. Would you consider providing a bit more info? I have two questions.
1. What are the County Charter School that have distance learning?
2. Independent Study is listed in the high school course catalogs? Is it a real option? If so, are you willing to provide any links or explanations of how this would work or how one would request it?
Thank you.


22 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2020 at 11:42 am

The worst thing about the Palo Alto School district is....

the entitled, anonymous parents who can't wait to slam by name any teacher or administrator who doesn't run the schools as they see fit.

Is the current online learning situation perfect? No. But kids are learning and those who wish to go above and beyond in their assignments will surely get better recommendations from their teachers. And if you think that the "grades" that are given out this semester will not be eyed with a huge asterisks by any admissions committee, you are wrong.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2020 at 1:30 pm

I would sign up in a flash for a non-online, live charter school that puts academics first, as long as they are taught with the kind of efficiency that doesn't extend the school day endlessly. But when we talk about teachers for such a school: we don't need "world-class academics". We just need ambitious professionals with reputable degrees in both their academic fields and in pedagogy, who are competent at what they do. That means we pay them BETTER than what the unions guarantee, and offer them plenty benefits, reasonable job security etc. We put them through trial lessons before hiring them, and we do evaluate them regularly, non-intrusively, respectfully and fairly. Elsewhere in the world teachers have to compete to gain access to their profession, are respected and paid well. We can't change the American attitude to teaching generally, but perhaps we could create a small island of sanity on this subject.


13 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 27, 2020 at 3:33 pm

@Palo Alto Parent --- why does the MOU with the teacher's union give them a prohibition over recording a lecture they might give? How does that benefit students? Why aren't all teachers giving instruction to students via synchronous and asynchronous means? Why should teachers be fully paid when they aren't performing for students? Certainly some are wonderful and are serving students, but not all.

Why should an MOU with the teacher's union dictate what grading policy our students will have? Where do our kids come into that? Why should their hard work vanish because of an MOU with the teacher's union that had no input of any kind from those whom you're supposed to serve?

I just heard that Social Justice pathway 10th grade students at Paly are doing very little work of any kind --- meaning for the SJ Social Studies and English courses. Why is that? Why not take your students through the curriculum, or some portion that's remaining to keep them learning?

Why should we parents vote and pay for a parcel tax when our kids are getting little of what we pay for with our property taxes?

Why are PAUSD's CAASPP results so poor for econ disadvantaged students?

Why do charter schools have much better student academic performance for econ disadvantaged students?

Why shouldn't we VOTE NO on the parcel tax? Why shouldn't we look to sign on with an online charter school that would actually provide learning? Why not start a charter here that might actually focus on academics instead of making equity excuses?


6 people like this
Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2020 at 4:56 pm

[Post removed.]




17 people like this
Posted by MC
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2020 at 5:39 pm

Synchronous learning via Zoom does not work. I wish more people would realize this fact. Online learning is best done in an asynchronous fashion. All of the research on online learning supports an asynchronous model as creating the best learning opportunities. Zoom sessions can be check-ins, but more than that is a catastrophe. I wish I could allow some parents to watch my online Zoom courses to see what they look like, and these are with college students. Even when you ask for video and audio to be turned on, you get little compliance, a sea of thirty names with no response, even to direct questions. Students are overwhelmed--this is a "deer in the headlights" level response. Internet connectivity issues abound, meaning about 20% of students are booted off, only to get back on briefly before their next outage. Screen sharing of materials seemed like an outstanding idea, and one that I thought would employ to the fullest. Creating powerpoint slides, walking through the material, turning to breakout rooms for discussion--all of it looked good to me six weeks ago when Shelter-in Place began. Now I see the reality, and am a strong advocate for asynchronous learning with brief Zoom check-ins. I was impressed with Austin's clear message supporting teachers. The workload on teachers doing crisis learning is hard to fathom unless you have been there yourself.


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 27, 2020 at 7:12 pm

I am ok with anything except this one teacher who has done NOTHING . Actually that is ok too but then she expects kids to teach themselves and pass tests that were hard with instruction It is not equitable at all

Making my kid’s life hunch harder and threatening to FAIL a senior that may be too stressed out or not a credentialed AP teacher is not ok.

Learning crisis for this class not crisis learning

Shane on paly scu staff for allowing f this!


7 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 27, 2020 at 7:42 pm

@PA Parent - Why not address the issues?

Why are so few PAUSD HS teachers providing synchronous instruction....or asynchronous instruction?

Why should we parents and residents be expected to finance... no instruction?

Why does the teachers'union get to decide if instruction gets video recorded? And grading policy?

Yep. Vote a big NO on the parcel tax.

And a charter school sounds like a great idea, especially if it's dedicated to academics, unlike PAUSD.


7 people like this
Posted by @mc
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2020 at 8:16 pm

As a fellow teacher, please don't generalize for all of us.

My live "Zoom" classes are essential to my students. They look forward to seeing each other and me. We started teaching a brand new unit and completed our project all remotely these last 4 weeks, and even had outside experts review their project since it was online, the judges were easy to find, something I would not have been able to do when I usually teach this in my classroom.
.
Great teaching can take on many forms, and some great teachers won't look great online, and vice versa. In a crisis, judge teachers for their effort, rather than their success with tools they may not have been trained to use (though I have no sympathy for teachers who are lazy, those do exist, as they do in any profession). The quality of the remote experience for both teachers and students depends a lot on training and access to the proper hardware and tools. I feel lucky to have both training and tools (but I honor many colleagues have not had that chance, and I am awed by how far my entire profession has re-invented itself in a matter of weeks).

What has worked for me is 4 live classes a week, each around 20min, with about 20min of HW each time, yet that is totally unique to my students, since they have other classes with 1hr+ of non-live work (with no live sessions), so a live class fits their needs. I wouldn't demand all my colleagues to do as many live classes, that would exhaust students, and I would strongly object to have my class shackled to meet someone's format too.


2 people like this
Posted by Envious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2020 at 9:27 pm

@mc:

Yes!! I want you for my kids. Thanks for what you are doing. You're right, people have different strengths. But I just wish all your colleagues were as engaged in actually teaching as you are.

@Independent from Esther Park:

The parcel tax appears to be off the agenda for now. But be that as it may, just repeating your message once a day is not constructive.


6 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 27, 2020 at 9:59 pm

Well maybe the message needs to get across.

Thanks to all the PAUSD teachers who are actually teaching. Doesn't change that many are not. And our kids are suffering.


5 people like this
Posted by Silver lining
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2020 at 8:35 am

@Fact checker
> @Silver Lining,
Thank you for sharing so much. It is refreshing to have a candid discussion, even behind these online persona. Would you consider providing a bit more info? I have two questions.
1. What are the County Charter School that have distance learning?
2. Independent Study is listed in the high school course catalogs? Is it a real option? If so, are you willing to provide any links or explanations of how this would work or how one would request it?

Sorry, was using shorthand and forgetting people are thinking structure rather than range. There are county-wide distance charters. Some are charters under other school districts but anyone in the county can join subject to education specialist availability. You can find names through the Dept of Education office of independent study. Sadly the lists they compile are not very helpful, talk to homeschoolers about which are good and actually active in the county. Any that are in counties adjacent to ours can take students in ours but they have to have education specialists willing to serve there and have capacity for more students. The good distance charters all have long waitlists before the pandemic.

Independent Study is available for districts to use as they see fit subject to state requirements such as how often the students need to meet in person with their teachers. See the programsI mentioned for how it could work.

I mention it because we have everything in place to develop a great IS program but don’t use it. One of the kinder admins told us they couldn’t let us use it the way they do in those other programs because then “everyone would want to” and for just that year upcoming, IS disappeared from that HS catalog. Seriously.

Our board regulations include IS and IS gets used in our district already, but more in the way our district operates, where The Preferred Ones get what they need kind of under the table and everyone else is shut out. Our kid asked for IS for math and was denied by an admin who asked the state office of independent study how to deny it. In the denial, said our kid wasn’t suited for independent study. A board member concurred and said IS here was for kids on both ends of the spectrum, implication being there is a yardstick they were measuring kids by without their knowledge and my kid couldn’t measure up to rate IS. Obviously.

But they never offered our kid a formal process to request it nor to appeal. Same kid the following year was doing more than a year of math every few months as independent study through public homeschool and by end sophomore yr taking college calculus. Same kid could not have taken calc in our district and was made to feel uppity stupid for asking to be in advanced lanes. Turns out if you don’t identify LDs it’s better for kids if you support them to get what they need on their own instead of treating them like uppity idiots and holding them back while smearing them and the family behind their backs. (Tip to parents of kids who have asthma in school, go get the inflammation and lung function assessed when it’s safe and before school, then do it again after school starts. Asthma being a risk factor for Covid, but also hard on kids learning especially when they are suffering but being mocked for it by adults in school.)

As you can see, Icant tell you how it would work in our district because it would all depends on the district. Our district wouldn’t even let us have parent-teacher meetings in school lest the teachers understand we weren’t who we were being smeared to be. You can’t do IS if retaliatory needs of some admins are a priority over student wellbeing.

My point is, they have all they need from a board policy adoption and state rules standpoint to roll out a great IS program. They always have. Just don’t try to reinvent the wheel like the teacher above who thinks synchronous instruction can’t work. (Ask Stanford Online HS whether they agree.). Trying to duplicate school as synchronous instruction, sure, don’t do that. But the district could use IS to gradually return students to partial physical presence on campus so they can meet their in person needs but still take advantage of independent study (again, learn from other districts how to). See article on CNN recently about how a lot of students are happier in the pandemic. When you read it,THAT’S what homeschooling is. Just realize, you can have that and a great, pain free education AND all the great things about access to school physically, by doing IS right. The question is, can the district support INDEPENDENT anything? I hope so. Just realize, you have all the rules and board policies already in place.


12 people like this
Posted by Silver lining
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2020 at 9:57 am

Just some perspective. Here's an article about how some kids are a lot happier since school shut down and why.
Web Link

I just want to point out that THAT article sounds like homeschoolers talking about the benefits of actual homeschooling, in which kids get the best of both worlds, the freedom to learn the way they learn best AND a good education. What everyone is doing is crisis schooling, and it's too bad that they haven't figured out that they don't have to reinvent the wheel. Because as we transition back, we could be getting the benefits described in the article AND the benefits of physical school, if we just let go of the idea that school is some kind of sorting hat and good education has to hurt.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

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

Get the most important local news stories sent straight to your inbox daily.

Gates sets an example for local billionaires to emulate
By Diana Diamond | 5 comments | 2,278 views

Pie Brings People Together
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 2,048 views

Couples and Premarital: Personal Weather Report (TM)
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,032 views

Feel the burn: The Peninsula gets a new Nashville hot chicken joint
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,005 views

Our First Year with an Elf on the Shelf
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 691 views

 

Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 26 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $7 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.

DONATE HERE