Town Square

Frustrated, still, by ongoing lack of progress on achievement gap, district to focus on improving middle schools

Original post made on Oct 16, 2019

The Palo Alto school district is planning a "complete reboot" of its middle schools after years of failed efforts to systematically improve academic and social experiences for minority and low-income students.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 16, 2019, 9:04 AM


Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2019 at 9:27 am

The results are terrible. In particular, they suggest that our middle schools are not serving ANY students particularly well in core academics. Unless you believe the "advanced" 7th graders are some how excelling into advanced, high school content by sitting through Math 7.

The truth is, all our "advanced" students take math (and other support) outside PAUSD, because parents know the core middle school academics are so poor. [Although students report the electives are fun and engaging.] The ones stuck with only district support find (like the dyslexia group) that no help is coming.

For our weakest students, we pay twice as much as average for worse results.

I dearly hope Dr. Austin is committed to more than words to improve this. He will need the community's strong support and encouragement to overcome the barriers, as a few board members alluded to.

Hopefully he can turn his allies back into allies. The district culture has continually turned allies into enemies in recent years.

Posted by IAQ IQ
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 11:50 am

One of the problems with our school district management is that anytime there is a problem, the tendency is to deal with it in isolation, and try so hard to find a "magic bullet", known factors are left to get worse because complexity (and win-wins) are not trusted.

So for example, in deciding whether to reopen Cubberly or to make the other two high schools larger, if you bring up the achievement gap as one factor in deciding optimal school size, you get treated like some kind of unmitigated opportunist. We can't include thoughts of the achievement gap in deciding school size, no, we must make separate commissions that look at the problem in isolation and not surprisingly, fail over and over again because they can't fix all the contributors that could have been improved in the course of running the district.

Another example is environmental health factors, especially indoor air quality in the schools. No matter how much worse our problems of things like pneumonia, asthma, colds and flus going around, depression, missed days because of illness are here than comparable districts, bringing up the importance of good indoor air quality and evidence-based ways to achieve it gets the eye of Sauron on you (and all of Sauron's PTA leadership minions -- literally, will go nastily up against you, despite their being utterly and studiously uninformed about the issue, if you dare aspire to make our schools healthier).

Despite the considerable evidence that aging school facilities negatively and tangibly affect student performance, and that indoor air quality is a major factor, our district overtly chooses to avoid adopting an evidence-based indoor air quality management plan and systematically implementing it. It chooses to spend its funds on a few ostentatious, expensive new buildings rather than creating a plan to basically create and maintain all-new, healthy campuses from scratch. It promises in the facilities bond that renovated spaces will be like new in the specs, with absolutely no plan to do that or accountability.

Web Link
"In recent years, numerous studies have emerged that show that the school environment can adversely or positively affect students’ well-being in multifaceted ways, both in the short term and over the course of their academic career."

"Millions of K–12 students in America spend several hours a day learning in schools that are more than 50 years old and in need of extensive repair and where children may be exposed to mold, poor ventilation, uncomfortable temperatures, inadequate lighting, and overcrowded, excessively noisy conditions. These adverse circumstances can disadvantage students who already struggle on a daily basis. "

Despite the new buildings and paint in our middle schools, we still have largely aging facilities, and evidence-based practices for good air quality have not been followed, and complaints over the years get covered up, those who complain even dismissed, threatened, and denigrated.

All of our middle schools have indoor air quality and other environmental health problems. Students and staff are affected. PAUSD is like the homeowner who spends a lot of money buying fancy drapes and the best appliances while the foundation cracks and floods underneath. (Actually, that's not a metaphor.)

Poor indoor air quality factors in the middle schools is absolutely a burden on student performance. Outdoor air quality right next to Gunn High School because of increased congestion due to purposely impeded traffic (and its effect on IAQ) isn't even being considered despite the scientific evidence indicating that might not be healthy. How does our school respond? Avoid taking asthma data for the CA Healthy Kids survey. An important part of the student performance picture gets ignored once again. But that's right, we live in a magical place in which nothing is related to anything else and every problem has a magic bullet solution in isolation.

Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2019 at 12:15 pm

It is convenient to blame teachers, and of course in every large institution there will be bad apples. Bad apples in PAUSD rarely, if ever, are thoroughly evaluated by the ADMINISTRATIVE TEAMS and SCHOOL BOARD that grant tenure. It is almost ludicrous to assume that a dedicated, talented, and motivated teacher suddenly turns bad once granted tenure. Unions do not evaluate or grant tenure, they just protect those that have earned it according to administrative and board set standards. The teaching profession suffers when bad teachers are cleared by poor administrative oversight, and most Union members are not thrilled when a teacher who is unqualified gains tenure.

On another note, the current superintendent came from Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified where english language learners and economically disadvantaged students make up about 10% of the student population. The numbers are nearly the same here. One must assume that he had marked success closing the achievement gap in PV in order to reach the pinnacle there, as well as getting hired here. Is there hard data evidence of such success, and if so, will he be revealing his magic formula to PAUSD in December?

In addition, the current Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Instruction was once a middle school math teacher, as well as an AVID instructor and coordinator. One must assume that her achievements in both of those capacities are what helped get her to the top of the district leadership echelon. She too, must hold some key as to how to solve our current shortcomings.

The two minds together, one would think, can up up with something better than bemoaning failure and pinning the blame on the middle school site administrators and teachers. In recent years, 25 Churchill has become more authoritarian with top down educational edicts, eschewing teacher input at almost every turn, and then blaming teachers and revolving door site administrators when the "vision" is not met. The leadership model at PAUSD is broken and one can only hope that the "December Report" will demonstrate true innovative thinking commensurate with the highly successful district leadership that has mandated said report.

Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 16, 2019 at 1:10 pm

I think teachers get tenure here after two years. That’s too soon. Also, there ought to be merit pay for master teachers, I’ve promoted this in the past, but oh no, we’re all “equal” and the powerful teacher unions must protect all, however mediocre and NOT reward the occasional truly outstanding teacher. You end up with a malaise.
Greene (Jordan in our day) had one great math teacher and one terrible one for 7th grade. It’s possible there was a third I had no information on. Certain connected parents were able to maneuver their kids into the man’s class. Oddly, I think he left or retired early. The female teacher taught two years and left (Stanford grad who was odd and sat at her desk, not teaching the class). Those of us with kids in her class found her baffling. We didn’t engage outside tutors, I am proud to say, but 7th grade was a setback. Child went on to get a significant STEM degree. I understand now it really IS necessary to acquire outside “supplementation.” That’s too bad and a poor use of time. Some of us reflect on our own education and remember certain highly talented teachers we had, I wish they could be better recognized.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2019 at 1:30 pm

They aren't going to be hiring very many new teachers. I suggest that, for once, they try to hire a handful of experienced, energetic math teachers who themselves have a solid grasp of both calculations and concepts. And then accord them a level of respect. More than anything, school district management in general, including PAUSD, seems to be unable or unwilling to accord respect to good teachers.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Here's the problem summarized in one sentence,"Board member Melissa Baten Caswell said she hasn't seen meaningful progress on this issue in her 12 years on the board, despite years of conversations, investments and effort."

The board will continue to act as if they're doing something. They'll set up a task force, form committees, present reports, etc... The board members will change and something shinier will appear on their radar to focus on.

Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 16, 2019 at 2:44 pm

cmarg is a registered user.

I feel that the way to help the achievement gap is to start in the early elementary years. There needs to be math intervention happening. Why is there reading intervention and no math intervention?

What is needed is 1-1 work with the students. I feel there needs to be assessments and then 1-1 personal intervention happening. I know that at the middle schools they have an additional math class for struggling students. I can only speak for the last 2 years when saying it was not effective. There was a crowd of students and basically what happens, especially with middle school age students, is that they would prefer to misbehave than be called stupid. Working 1-1 is the answer at least until there is some level of mathematical competency in place.

Again, I have to ask, why is there no math intervention? Why is there only reading intervention? The schools need to have this program starting in elementary school.

Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Tenure can be granted in two years, but must be decided by year three.

Posted by Kids are in the wrong classes
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Kids are in the wrong classes is a registered user.

I think the problem is that kids are in the wrong classes and so the middle lane has been gutted. This is probably the fault of the parents, who all want their kids in advanced math.

There are some terrific 7th grade math teachers at JLS. In 8th grade my kid said that the teacher expected the class to already know the material (from tutoring), and so didn't teach it so much herself. My kid is thrilled to be in a class in 9th grade where the teacher is actually teaching the material. We don't believe in tutoring so this is a nice change.

Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2019 at 3:59 pm

You will always have an "achievement gap"... teachers and schools can do what they want, but if there isn't proper support and encouragement at home from parents setting high expectations, those students will always lag in a relative sense. Unfortunately having lower level lanes builds some of this into the system, but is necessary because you can't advance the academic bottom by holding back the middle and above. There are great disparities in abilities, preparation and motivation among our population. I don't think you will be able to find enough teachers able to significantly ameliorate this in a mixed classroom with 25+ students of widely varying preparation. This is where the parents should play their role and where remedial work could theoretically be useful if there wasn't so much stigma/baggage attached. My experience in this district is that PAUSD has a bias to place students in lower lanes, while many parents will want to make sure their children don't get left behind in the slow lane. As a parent if you aren't paying some attention to your child's academic trajectory, your kid will likely be in the slower lane while others of no greater ability pass them by.

Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2019 at 4:04 pm

@Wrong Classes -- I am very skeptical of the idea that parents want to have their kids in expensive, after-school classes while they learn little in core areas during the school day.

Parents simply want our schools to live up to their reputation for academic excellence, for all students.

My student is not in extra classes, by the way, unless you count art. I do supplement core academics modestly, and enjoyably, at home. I wish we could spend that time just playing games, which we do that too, of course. If we didn't supplement (not support, but supplement, with real content, workbooks, grammar, spelling, math, reading, writing), I do feel that PAUSD's level of instruction would be setting my child up for deficiency, stress, or failure later in school and life.

I'm not talking about building 3rd grade astrophysicists. I'm talking about grading homework. I'm talking about revising writing assignments. Spelling. The basics. They are not getting it at school, and the scores demonstrate this clearly, in my opinion.

You don't have to agree, but thank you for listening.

Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 16, 2019 at 5:18 pm

YP is a registered user.

Well let me simplify this, parents make a huge difference in school achievement. If the parents aren't available or not motivated or not able to help their kids then those kids will suffer in school. So PAUSD can do all they want and spend all the money they want but that is the root of the issue, admit it.

Posted by Back to basic
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2019 at 6:59 pm

The romantic, child-centered approach of teaching K-8 math would leave kids with poor mastery of arithmetic competency, which would permanently undermind their ability to learn algebra and more advanced STEM course. This simple truth explains the persistent underperformance of PAUSD's disadvantaged kids and the math-science death march of U.S. K-12 education.

The way math is taught at PAUSD's elementary and middle schools and most other American public schools is extensively entwined with anti-intellectualism descending from Rousseau, John Dewey, Edward Thorndike, William Kilpatrick and other progressive education pioneers. Both teachers and students have been victimized by the destructive innovations of the elite math-education professors at schools of education in Stanford, Columbia, and other prestigious universities. Steeped in progressive doctrines and primitive in math knowledge, these reform-minded educational experts have effectively derailed American K-12 math through fads of "critical thinking," "problem-solving," "brain science," "21st century skills" and so forth.

In "What to Do about Canada’s Declining Math Scores," Canadian scholar Anna Stokke examines how Discovery Math imported from U.S. has undermined Canada students’ math ability, leaving over 70% of students not able to do 1/3-1/4 right.
Web Link.

To understand the profoundly problematic K-8 math in PAUSD (and in many, many other U.S. schools as well), please read the many hard facts gleaned from Palo Alto Online: "Why the Palo Alto Schools Failed in Closing the Achievement Gap or Reducing Stress?" Web Link

To understand how badly English or math is taught in American schools, one may read "My Childhood Schooling in the Soviet Union was Better than my Kids’ in U.S. Public Schools Today." Web Link

To learn about how U.S. K-12 English and math standards have steadily declined since early 20th century, one may read "Hard Lessons." Web Link

Posted by Now Latinos matter
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 16, 2019 at 7:16 pm

Latinos have been ignored for decades by the various superintendents and board members, and even many of our teachers. Now they couch low expectations by talking about how they want to present equal opportunity as long as everyone buys into the notion that equal outcomes can never be the goal. The latest superintendent, Austin, is only raising this issue because of the discrimination evident in special education. And Baten Caswell wore out her welcome years ago. She is part of the problem of low expectations, certainly not the solution.

Posted by Back to basic
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2019 at 7:41 pm

To our Superintendent Don Austin: PAUSD's elementary math has to be overhauled if you really want to improve the middle-school math and reduce stress for high schoolers. Arithmetic competency is fundamental. Rigorous paper-and-pencil practices are essential. Checking errors in students' homework, rather than merely "grading homework for completion," is vital.

Mathematicians including W.Stephen Wilson (John Hopkins), Wilfried Schmid (Harvard), R.James Milgram (Stanford), David Klein (CSU North Ridge), Wayne Bishop (CSU Los Angeles) have made numerous remarks about the misled U.S. K-12 math. But American schools have chosen to ignore their voices.

***The Road Taken by Johnny Who Can't Calculate***

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry Johnny could not travel both.
And be one curious kid, long Johnny stood,
And looked down both as far as he could.

One guided by mathematicians, who urge
Rigor, focus, and coherence.
Additions, subtractions, multiplication tables, and long divisions;
Ratios, rates, percentages, and proportions.
Paper-and-pencil algorithms,
Steadily sharpen your thoughts.
Practices dispel anxiety, and practices grow knacks;
Fears will disappear; confidence will grow.
Knowledge is power, and you earn it with sweat.

The other favored by educational experts, who chant
A child-friendly wonderland:
Story-telling, finger plays, and diagram visuals,
Geometric slides, turns, and flips.
Let calculators do the chores,
And sweetie you are for creativity.
Practices cause anxiety, and practices make you a nerd.
Multiplication tables numb your brains,
Multiple ways for five times ten are the magic.
Spiraling through the K-12 woods, and you gain
Critical thinking, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and Johnny—
Johnny took the one guided by educational experts,
And that has made all the difference.


Posted by Back to basic
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2019 at 7:45 pm

Starry, Starry Night

-- to mathematicians who have fought their whole lives to salvage U.S. K-12 math

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a winter's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul

You lamented about the absurdity
Leading astray U.S. K-12 math
You anguished over the fads
That caused the math-science death march

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will …

Posted by more time
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2019 at 8:41 pm

We can not solve the acheivement gap within the current school day/school year. Students who need additional help (reading intervention, math intervention) actually need ADDITIONAL help and teaching. The current model PULLS these students out of their regular classroom (if they are even identified as needed intervention) during the regular school day. So they MISS what is happening in the classroom while they are getting a small amount of personal attention. This necessarily leads to a hampster wheel of constantly trying to catch up.

Our school day and school year is shorter than it should be. Students who are below grade level standards need MORE TIME with high quality instructors. These high quality instructors don't have to all be credentialled teachers. There are amazing volunteers available in our community. But the students need additional help beyond the regular class day.

Their peers (NOT ALL of whom participate in tutoring) are getting this additional academic support naturally and daily within their highly educated families.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 16, 2019 at 9:09 pm

Omg - so Conaway and Dibrienza are giving the teachers and the district a pass for not educating these SED students, and instead saying there is racism and bias causing the problem? Sure. How about just devoting resources to help them read, and read well. Then they can get good results. Take your hands out of our pockets and produce results, not excuses. Shame on you.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 16, 2019 at 9:36 pm

Nice job, blaming on the kids' parents. Yes, parents are important, but if the district and teachers know there are deficits, and they do know, they can take action to help make up for the deficits and the lack of parental resources. But no, they don't. And then they blame others, and refuse responsibility...

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 16, 2019 at 9:40 pm

New York Daily News: Success on the SHSAT is about reading, not race.
Web Link

Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 16, 2019 at 9:52 pm

How about holding the district and teachers accountable for student performance? That's what some charter schools do - and no teacher tenure. Yeah, take that, teacher's union...

Posted by Kids are in the wrong classes
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2019 at 10:45 pm

Kids are in the wrong classes is a registered user.

There is a relevant article in last week's Washington Post: Web Link

It's about Shaker Heights, which has tried for 60 years to close the achievement gap without much success. There is a lot of finger pointing there as well. These are difficult issues.

In this district, imo, unreasonable parental expectations coupled with a gross overuse of tutoring exacerbate inequality problems and distort the whole educational system. I would run for another district if I had low-achieving kids. The district can't possibly throw enough help their way to counter the mess and restore their confidence.

Posted by Barry Garelick
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2019 at 6:35 am

Are Palo Alto schools still using Everyday Math? That just might be part of the problem.

Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2019 at 7:03 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Barry Garelick - PAUSD finally dropped it, though I don't think the replacement is much better. However, the kids in middle school and high school now are the ones who suffered from EDM.

Posted by John94306
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 17, 2019 at 11:22 am

John94306 is a registered user.

On the bright side, it's nice to see significant improvements at Barron Park Elementary, which has the highest % of low-income students (29%).

12% improvement in English overall
19% improvement in Math overall

And just the low-income students improved by 10%+ last year:
2019: Web Link
2018: Web Link

Maybe someone should look at what Barron Park Elementary is doing right for the lower-income students.

Posted by Back to basic
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 17, 2019 at 12:09 pm

@Barry Garelick
Thanks for your inputs! Everyday Math was dropped in 2016 and PAUSD almost adopted the worse Investigations! The Big Idea Math used in the middle schools is a poor curriculum.

If the public had listened to your speeches and read your books and essays, the U.S. K-12 math would not have become so wrecked.

For folks do not know Barry Garelick, please spend some minutes on his enlightening speech and writings, and spread them as far as you can:
Web Link
Web Link
You need these shots to immunize yourself from those intoxicating “problem solving,” "conceptuatl understanding," and "21st century math skills" preached y Stanford's revolutionary math-education professors.

@Barry Garelick, would you please attend PAUSD's board meeting at 6:30pm on Oct.22?
We can't never thank you enough for your enormous endeavors with courage, integrity and perseverance.

Posted by Back to basic
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 17, 2019 at 12:49 pm

@Barry Garelick

Barry Garelick worked in the field of environmental protection; after retiring in 2011 he obtained a teaching credential in secondary mathematics. He now teaches math at a middle school in California. He has written articles on math education for The Atlantic, AMS Notices, Education Next, Education News, and Heartlander. He majored in mathematics at the University of Michigan.

"Math Education in the U.S.:Still Crazy after All These Years" Web Link

"Explaining Your Math: Unnecessary at Best, Encumbering at Worst" mx://rss-reader/preview.htm?Web Link

"Why Trendy Math Instruction That Focuses On ‘Understanding’ Often Cheats Kids" Web Link

"How Attempts To Force Equity In Math Classes Can Protect Kids From Learning" Web Link

Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2019 at 12:58 pm

"@Barry Garelick, would you please attend PAUSD's board meeting at 6:30pm on Oct.22?"

That meeting was rescheduled to Oct 15 (last Tue), due to conflict with the County's Supervisors meeting in Palo Alto on Oct 22.

The next board meeting is Tue Nov 5, starting at 6:30pm, at 25 Churchill.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Posted by Back to basic, a resident of College Terrace

>> You need these shots to immunize yourself from those intoxicating “problem solving,” "conceptuatl understanding," and "21st century math skills" preached y Stanford's revolutionary math-education professors.

You are 39.38% correct, but, you are missing something. I will start with a different subject: "self-esteem". Yes, it turns out, despite the -deserved- ridicule directed towards the self-esteem "movement", that high self-esteem does have some benefits-- and some dangers. Here is a short, readable article that will bring people up to date: Web Link . And, here is an example quoted from the article:

"The mistake was to confuse correlation with causation, but to refute causation while upholding correlation takes complex, time-consuming, and expensive research. One early study to do this (Bachman & O’Malley, 1986) showed that self-esteem during 10th grade failed to predict grades during 12th grade, whereas grades during 10th grade predicted self-esteem during 12th grade. High self-esteem was thus a result, not a cause, of good school performance (as well as a co-result of some third causes). "

One of the morals of the story: don't sit around and -talk- about self-esteem: go build a boat, paint a house, learn to play an instrument, or, -learn some math-. Likewise, don't -talk- about "conceptual understanding" of mathematics-- develop the actual conceptual understanding, which, it turns out, is important. Memorization and doing practice problems are also important. Both -conceptual- and -procedural- understanding are important.

IOW, don't get confused by the failure of these dumbed-down math curricula into thinking that only procedural understanding -- the "Three R's", calculations, drills, memorization, etc.-- are sufficient. They aren't. They are a part of the picture, but, not the entire picture. The actual process through which people advance in mathematical maturity is "iterative". For a discussion of this "iterative" process, see: Web Link

"Mathematical competence rests on developing both conceptual and procedural knowledge. Although there is some variability in how these constructs are defined and measured, there is general consensus that the relations between conceptual and procedural knowledge are often bidirectional and iterative."

Let's not try to go backwards in history to the era when only procedural knowledge was considered. And, I daresay, this must be true in most fields of higher learning as well, both in the Arts and Sciences. In short:

- Conceptual and procedural knowledge are bidirectional and iterative

Posted by Barry Garelick
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2019 at 5:28 pm

Thanks for the invitation, but I live in Morro Bay and it would be difficult to attend.

Regarding a comment above stating "Let's not try to go backwards in history to the era when only procedural knowledge was considered. And, I daresay, this must be true in most fields of higher learning as well, both in the Arts and Sciences."

I don't think I or others are saying to ignore conceptual underpinnings. I agree with Rittle-Johnson that the process is iterative but the implementation (and belief) is that understanding should come first and is imperative. Furthermore, the earlier eras (as evidenced by the textbooks used of which I have many) provided the conceptual explanation behind the procedure. So to say that it was purely procedural is inaccurate. Those students who master procedures but may not have a complete understanding of the concept behind it have been called "math zombies" by those who believe such mischaracterization. One must recognize that there are levels of understanding depending on where on the novice/expert spectrum a student is.

And interesting that the so-called "math zombies" graduating high school are generally the ones who do not need math remediation classes when they get to college.

Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2019 at 5:55 pm

YP is a registered user.

wow , lots of long posts that nobody reads. Get to the point.

As I said earlier parent involvement makes a huge difference in scholastic success. If you aren't willing to make the huge sacrifice to participate in your child's education by spending countless hours with them , then please don't blame others .

Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 17, 2019 at 6:27 pm

@YP -- No. Watch the board meeting. There is consensus that our district is spending twice as much per kid in these subgroups for worse than average results.

Yes, it's essential to take the lead on your kid's education. No, the story does not end there. Public education is important, and we are not doing it well for kids in need within PAUSD.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2019 at 6:40 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Too many words for you?

Parents get scolded by teachers and the experts for helping their children too much.

The district's job is to educate the students

Some parents don't have "countless" hours to do the job at night that the school is supposed to do during the day.

I tried to keep it short for you. I'm sure you need to go back and teach your children whatever they didn't learn at school today.

Posted by Independent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2019 at 7:47 pm

Yeah, talking out of both sides of their mouth. You parents are too involved!!! Stop asking why we aren't really educating your child! Stop paying such close attention!

You parents aren't involved, so it's not out fault that we didn't educate your child, it's your fault.

Double standard for Pausd.

Posted by hop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2019 at 8:24 pm

How about improving academic and social experiences for ALL kids not just the minority and low-income students.
The middle of the road students get very little support - not special ed, not low income but struggling and you qualify for nothing.

Let's be honest the gap has got to be influenced by all the tutoring so many parent's put their kids through.

Look at the root of problems before you try to solve and throw more solutions at kids.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2019 at 11:19 pm

Posted by YP, a resident of Crescent Park

>> wow , lots of long posts that nobody reads. Get to the point.

"There is no royal road to geometry."

Posted by Member1
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 18, 2019 at 10:47 pm

Paly parents have to homeschool kids in addition to sending them to public school. They know kids will not be prepared for college otherwise. The accurate measure of teaching is the lower scores. The teachers even have posted in the catalogue that kids need to teach themselves if they are in honors classes We had a teacher only give pass or fail for progress report. Because he did NO correcting before a test. He told kids they could get a D grade and a 5 on the AP test because his class was so awesomely difficult. A dozen kids dropped; he has half a class , does not teach, does not correct work. Competitive parents see this as an opportunity to pass other students and homeschool or hire tutors with masters degrees: I loved seeing so many kids walk out: he should get less pay. Every kid deserves to be taught in school and get feedback.

Posted by Insider trading
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2019 at 4:04 am

There is no real desire to fix the problem as the School Board, Administrators and a number of teachers don't care. The few that do are also retaliated against if they don't tow the party-line, as they all eventually do a 180. Tell you one thing and do the opposite, while they deny they ever said anything to you. The truth is for one reason or another, the energy and motivation in this district runs-out after everyone takes care of themselves and of the VIP/liked families.

The District is numb and the humans that are paid by our tax dollars do not care enough to be lawful and hold others accountable to educate our youth (also humans) that really need help. The humans in the District are petty, biased and discriminate against the neediest children. They self-report they don’t have the competence, resources or time to help. Others just take it personal when parents keep asking for help because they keep failing to give help. Hint, if you did what you were hired to do and it generated results, parents wouldn’t need to send you so many emails and file complaints.

This District grades the kids into misery yet they can’t be held accountable for ANYTHING. In a recent IEP meeting, I wanted the goals to be linked to the quality of the services provided, and track both. UH UH, the special ed folks did a major head-bob and said, “That is not done. That is not how we do things. It can’t be done.” Absurd really, kind of tells you they have no intention of putting any attention into the services to your child right there...

I am one of them and my children and I are on the receiving end of fake promises and commitments not important enough to keep, of dozens of laws broken, of made up metrics, and crazy threats in which they don't realize how ignorant they sound. Of dozens of bully tactics to fill a room with so many people you can barely breathe to intimidate you to back-date and sign a faulty cookie cutter IEP with a fake status of your child's progress, which refuses to acknowledge their disability, while the school psychologist says, “It’s a teen-age thing and they’ll grow out of it.” Anything their absurd IEP practice doesn’t cover gets blamed on the parents and the child. Which is ALSO against the law, but like I said, nobody cares and it’s an effective way to get out of educating a child and traumatizing them for life. They don’t even realize what a toxic community they are creating…with dozens of damaged kids and families…

There is no respect for any questions and such arrogance to refuse to obey the law. Instead of do their job to teach and help kids when they are going downhill, academically and emotionally, they spend more energy going through their stall, deflect, cancel, bureaucratic and rude retaliatory strategies to drag out the year without having to do anything, even though it’s the law to make changes within 30 days. The child is ignored in class. The child asks for teacher help, the teacher says to come in at lunch, the child skips lunch, and the teacher is not there, saying later that something came up. The child rushes to the class after school, and the teacher says he can't help, he has to catch a train and that they are not allowed to stay more than 15 minutes after school, and won’t take time to even answer ONE question. They drive previous honor students to ALL Fs! I have records which the school refuses to recognize and they changed the grades temporarily for Due Process, then mostly back to Fs. They are just passing the kid but not teaching, only isolating and traumatizing.

When I told the multiple Principals, Assistant Principals, Superintendent, School board, of course teachers and Special Ed (SPED is the meanest to parents and students). It’s like they are burned out or something, they are always looking for a fight. We became the target of PAUSD libel and discrediting so the teachers that were helping, stopped and said we were playing games and wouldn't make herself available anymore. She starting parroting the lies she was fed, of which she had no first hand knowledge because they were made up by the administration, and ignoring my child. He wanted to die and she said he was happy and participating. Literally no engagement. He would tell me, what's the point, I never get called on when I raise my hand, whether it's with a question or an answer.

I've gone to School Board meetings and directly stated the violations and child abuse. Multiple times Todd Collins, Austin said they would make sure to look into it, but all that does it get more lawyers and rhetoric my way. Melissa has been there for a lot of this and she is to be held accountable more than the others because she has not done anything significant to put real focus and care into this. Families that are hurting are begging for acknowledgement of failings and remediation but nothing. Like so many posters state, you just recycle staff and spin announcements, you can’t quite call them plans because they have no goals, they do not include the appropriate student segments, there is no training, no budget, no time, and then people shift around, another reorg, and nothing gets done, a cycle of parents leave, and the shifty shell game starts over again.

The truth is we do not matter because if we did, something would have changed because EVERYONE IN THE CHAIN has detailed information of the lack of competence and lawlessness and all the pain, shame, isolation and failure it brings, all that is missing is the education. These people do not deserve to be paid by our tax dollars, they need to be held accountable for child abuse. They fake documents and lie to get out of complaints. In two complaints I have files that have been determined valid and moved up the chain, PAUSD lied and provided fake documentation the California dept. of Education. CDE was informed in writing but they came up with some excuse not to do anything about it and said they got more documentation that it was fixed. Yeah, seems like more coverup coming out of the "CYA Factory" at PAUSD. Austin is guilty as well. He was made aware of teachers lying in court and did nothing.

Many know it, everyone on the school board is aware because I have personally informed them and provided written documentation. I assume it's in the official notes, unless; they made the mention disappear, like the police report they made disappear a couple of years ago for some extreme bullying where an 11-year old child was beaten by classmates. The administrators made the child recant the complaint in a meeting where they did not contact the parent.

They do not care, as long as their children get special needs (T. Collins) the attitude is, "You get what you can afford, you are poor so you can't expect much." I have had a member of the past school board walk up to me and tell me, "Don't I know, I am supposed to leave and pay for my own kid, why is my child more important than the many?” Uh, it’s the law!

These same problems go back as far as 2010 and probably further. Here’s a really obvious case, 19 teachers and hired consultants plus 2 lawyers? Really, with what they spent to deny services, they could have paid for a Stanford Education. The District pays a flat rate of $150,000 per case, not including witness prep or IEP meetings. So each case is at least $200,000. Really, that can’t be spent on teaching? The kid is going to need that much in therapy now. And just what does the District really win? They chase the family out. After the school takes a family to court, they leave. The climate is even more hospitable. Is that how we do the hard work? Oops, I mean avoid the hard work of educating kids that actually need to be educated? You people need to find other jobs if you don’t like kids or hard work, hey but the gravy train is too hard to walk away from, so the kids pay for it for the rest of their lives!

Nothing has changed
Web Link

Web Link

PAUSD used same lawyers
Web Link

Web Link

Web Link
School board eyes special-education investment
Parent: 'Public accountability and compliance starts now'

Posted by Psychologist and Attorney Fees
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 29, 2018 at 1:58 am

"Let's hope they do want to become less adversarial and reduce attorney fees. Let's hope they can increase trust of their staff toward students and families. However, looking at the case presented to the Board in closed session before this meeting, the District does not want to. Student vs PAUSD, OAH Case No. 2017110106:
Web Link

PAUSD paid 2 attorneys to attend this case. Was paying for 2 attorneys necessary to fight a single mother of a disabled child, injured in an automobile accident, on disability without work?

The District also paid 4 School District Psychologists to testify against the child. What is worrisome is these are the people who hold the most confidential mental health information in a sacred trust.

Add to this the 5 Special Education Teachers and Therapists, again people held in trust by parents, and 8 General Education Teachers.

Is this what Special Education uses our taxes for? The staff members were out of class while the two attorneys prepared and coached them to testify. They were not teaching while they were testifying.

Couldn't the District have done this more efficiently?

Especially worrisome was the use of PAUSD Central School District Psychologists [portion removed.] While many of these people indicate they are experts in autism or their fields, and perhaps they are in some way, most of them are not, and are sadly overstating their expertise. As Dr. Rodriguez reported at the Board meeting, PAUSD psychologists are generalists and asked to handle too many areas they are not trained in. Also the case reads like there was a tremendous amount of Group Think going on. (Dr. Sheridan was - wait for it - an expert in the child's file! Great, she read the file!)

PAUSD's Mental Health Resources were not put in place to harm children. They were put in place to help children and reduce suicides. This shows this is not how PAUSD is using this staff. More worrisome, this testimony happened after the new Assistant Superintendent and Special Education Co-Directors were hired, and with approval of the Board of Education.

The District also states it has rich mental health resources at school. It is disheartening the resources some Board members fought so hard for are instead being used to harm children. Here, they practices a common Special Education tactic - stating resources just put in place (if that is accurate), are fully functioning and working effectively. The staff surveys presented that same evening show the opposite.

Special Education employees with their own lawyers, use of multiple employees to attack parents of suffering children. This is exactly the staff behavior and attitude that brought the District into the mess of the past years.

Attorneys for PAUSD:
1.Elizabeth J. Rho-Ng -Attorney at Law
2. Michael L. Turner - Attorney at Law

Here are all the PAUSD teachers who testified against their student with autism:

PAUSD Teachers:
1.World History teacher [portion removed]
2.Theatre teacher [portion removed]
3.Math teacher [portion removed]
4.Physical education teacher [portion removed]
5.Spanish 3 Teacher [portion removed]
6.History and Government teacher [portion removed]
7.English teacher [portion removed]
8.Chemistry teacher [portion removed]

PAUSD Psycholigists and Mental Health Therapists:
9. [portion removed] - a licensed marriage and family therapist, director of ERMHS therapy - testified about Student’s
mental health status and therapy history
10. [portion removed], a contract ERMHS therapist
11. [portion removed] - School psychologist
12. Dr. Stephanie Sheridan, Psychologist, Director of Special Education (Secondary)

Posted by Psychologist and Attorney Fees
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 29, 2018 at 5:54 pm

@Shameful - ditto, reading the case I felt the same. A carefully orchestrated attack on a parent at every turn, designed to overwhelm the family and make them go away.

The case presents the Academic Communications program at Jordan. We observed it, and it is not what the District bills it as. There was little control, and students eloped (left without permission due to autism), and the teachers and therapists didn't even notice. I stood quaking in fear. Finally, after some interval, someone got the child back.

The academic part of that class was more like a busy airport than a learning environment, kids coming in and out of the room. The poor teacher had to teach 3 grades while other kids did computer work, which was learning "executive functioning skills." The same teacher also had to be case manager for multiple kids, whom she may or may not have taught. She had to know all of their schedules the whole day, all while teaching and case managing. She rarely was able to leave before 6pm, and worked on her computer at night. They overworked her to death with no support.

The Academic Communications program was fishy from the start. The District tried to present it as a mainstream class, and not a Special Education Class. They tried to say the child received push in speech and language in a mainstream class, when in reality, this class was a special education class. Special Education made it appear there was a therapist going into the regular classrooms to help children succeed alongside typical children in regular classes. It did not meet District policy for push in services.

We had no idea why the District was misrepresenting this class until private Speech Therapists told us they wanted to make it look as if the kids no longer needed speech therapy, because they now received it in a mainstream class. In reality, it was a special education class that a couple days a week mainstream students with social cognitive problems go enroll in. This was a way for the District to avoid adding these students to Special Education. It kept the numbers of students in Special Education appear lower than they really were. It was a way for them to say "we succeeded, we cured autism", and then take children out of special education services.

Also, it was a way to give one credentialed special education teacher for too many students. The communications class taught 2-3 days a week was not in a separate classroom. It was in an adjoining conference room with a door in between the two room, so the District could list one credentialed teacher with twice as many students. We could never get an answer on who taught it, just a vague "Mental Health Worker", and that the Academic Communications teacher ran it and was wonderful. No doubt she was, but it was clear she was a Special Education English teacher and did not understand SLP or the class content. Her comments about how the student improved are nice, but not a measurement of true lasting improvement.

No one who from the District who testified was an "expert" in autism as they presented themselves to be. Their own comments made in the judge's finding show they were not experts, because real experts would not have made some of the silly claims about improvement. The District's testing was nice as far as it goes, but these so limited it could never show the complete picture in autism. In other words, the tests they relied on miss a substantial amount of true autism deficits, which is why the family paid themselves for an IEE. That was the only way they could determine what was really wrong with the child. These District employees may have convinced a judge they were experts in autism, but that is quite common in PAUSD. Being calm under cross examination (which the District's lawyers, with an unlimited budget, prepped them to be) does not equal expertise.

Sorry to say, it's the same situation that lead to the OCR crises of the past few years. I wish I could say it has changed, but this case record shows it has not. "

PAUSD Special Education Teachers and Therapists:
13 [portion removed] - Academic Communications teacher (Special Education)
14. [portion removed] - Academic Communications class at Jordan
15. [portion removed] - a special education teacher
16. [portion removed] - speech and language pathologist
17. [portion removed] - AT, described as a 'technology expert' who was also a special education teacher"

Quoted from Shamful
"Reading it I see a group so completely rallying against a disabled special needs parent for years, along with a group of special education staff and psychologists who do not really know the child ganging up against the mother.

What is most worrisome is the number of PAUSD psychologist's who held the child's private information in trust, presenting themselves as wanting to help the child when all the while they were being coached to testify against the child. If these PAUSD mental health professionals really considered the child's best interests, they would not testify against him/her. Psychologists report directly to Special Education, a department which has their own lawyers available at all times. The child and parent did not.

Further, because a District prevailed in a case does not mean they did right by a child. Some of these psychologists are called in when the District wants to obtain more staff to testify against a child. The staff who testified were paid by the District to do so. Some of these same staff quit the District because they were unable to help children under the very programs cited as a success.

The existence of a program does not mean it was a success, and the District has said the vast monies spent in recent years did not work.

The District has the ability to present a very one sided story so readers think the family was overwhelming at fault. For example, they have the advantage of access to a hostile environment. Hearings are held at school district offices, in school district buildings, where District employees can spend time preparing and testifying and go on with their work. It is not a neutral environment. Parents and children must testify against the some 17-19 people the District used and prepped, all in hostile environment on the District's own territory."

Very telling is also that the testimony included PAUSD refusing to classify a child diagnosed with autism as disabled due to autism. Instead the improperly categorized the disability as Other Health Impaired which is of course a lie.

Rather than work to get a FAPE in place where the staff would ensure that the student wrote down assignments and due dates in a simple binder or calendar toward the end of each class, they put the student in the absolute Zoo of Schoology that the teachers sometimes use and don't use depending upon the whim of the day.

PAUSD failed this child. And then went on attack mode against the student.”

You wonder why complaints have gone down? Because it’s a waste of time and PAUSD USES complaints to CYA not for justice. If you’re going to complain at all, it should be outside the district, preferably the Federal Government.

Real harm is done

Posted by Tins key?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2019 at 5:06 am

How much of the achievement gap is from Tinsley students? What is their achievement compared with the rest of the district’s students?

Posted by Still hurting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2019 at 12:10 pm

@Insider Trading,
Wow, there are way, way too many specifics in your story that are exactly what we went through, I thought for sure it would be JLS. It should become a complaint to the OCR (if our government in Wash is still functioning?) Bill Johnson, I challenge you to follow through on these, if only to introduce the families to each other by a trusted arbiter.

Posted by Elementary Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 19, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Elementary math instruction sucks. Kids don't get identified early on if they have trouble and they are taught all kinds of kooky math. Wise parents who see this start mathnasium, kumon early on. Not so wise parent like me trust the system to work because after all it is research based. Come middle school, kids who get math are ready for acceleration and kids who get tutoring get acceleration. My kid is discouraged by teachers because his basics are not strong (wonder why?) and they don't need the additional stress. Fast forward high school, the kids who accelerated in middle school either because they get the math or they had tutoring, move on to higher levels, whereas my child who thanks to the parent (me)who waited for the system to work, is in the lower lane. Fix elementary school math, teach them the basics like it has been taught (most kids are not ready for circulatory logic and need concrete examples and practice) drill the basics in and challenge the kids who are ready to take on more. Get rid of the idioticity that is taught in elementary schools in the name of math which incidentally the teachers also hate. The achievement gap will decrease.

Posted by Still hurting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2019 at 6:20 pm

@Elementary parent,
" my child who thanks to the parent (me)who waited for the system to work"

Take them out of school for a year or two and homeschool. They'll catch up. There are public programs you can transfer to from our district. Our district doesn't have a program like that so if they deny your transfer you can appeal to the county and they have to let you go for a program our district doesn't offer.

The transfer has to be renewed every year -- you don't lose your right to come back (though you may find you don't want to after you see how much your child benefits when your energy and resources go to helping your child rather than fighting the district).

Posted by There are charter schools
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2019 at 8:44 am

For those of you who are too frustrated to continue at PAUSD, but feel trapped and moving is not an option:

PAUSD children are eligible to attend Bullis Charter. It's authorized by Santa Clara County and the only requirement for application is that the child be a Santa Clara County Resident. There are probably additional charter schools that Santa Clara residents are eligible to attend as well.

Yes - I understand that moving your kid doesn't solve the PAUSD issue, but depending on what's going on in your family sometimes the best thing to do is cut and run. For some, Bullis Charter might be an excellent option.

Posted by John94306
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2019 at 11:07 am

John94306 is a registered user.

The common narrative is that wealth drives academic performance.

But that's only one part of the story.
What if you could compare American students by race who have the SAME socioeconomic status?

Fortunately, Stanford recently provided this analysis in their Educational Opportunity Project:
Web Link

In the interactive graph, economically disadvantaged students are to the left of the y-axis.
Students who are above the x-axis are performing above grade level.

The results are:
Poor Asians generally perform better than
Poor Whites who perform better than
Poor Latinos who perform better than
Poor African-American students

This is the same academic performance gap that we see in Palo Alto and in most schools.
You can't blame it on money because the students have the same socioeconomic status.

So, do we have the courage to consider other reasons without overreacting with defensiveness?

My personal view is that education starts in the home, so academic performance is about cultural priorities and expectations.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Posted by John94306, a resident of Barron Park

>> What if you could compare American students by race who have the SAME socioeconomic status?
>> Fortunately, Stanford recently provided this analysis in their Educational Opportunity Project:

Nice link. I'm pretty convinced now, after exploring their map/dataset tool (nice BTW), that PAUSD elementary schools are doing a decent job, considering that PAUSD elementary schools have some of the highest learning rates around. But, many people are happy with the elementary schools here; the topic was the middle schools. Is there a corresponding link for middle schools?

Posted by A Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2019 at 6:06 pm

@Back to basic , I totally agree with you. Thanks for the link. I personally experienced some terrible math teaching happening on my kids (in Fairmeadow). I honestly think the way they are teaching math is simple wrong.

I have a suggestion: can we have dedicated Math teachers at elementary schools? I.e. not the same teacher for both English and Math.

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2019 at 6:49 pm

PAUSD is not perfect. Some schools are stronger academically than others within PAUSD. But a couple of points that I want to raise are:

1. Get involved. Be part of your school PTA and attend their meetings. Attend the meetings for the PTA Council held at the board. They talk about very important issues there that all PAUSD parents should be aware of.

2. Demand that principals and boards ONLY hire qualified and COMPETENT teachers. I remember that Palo Alto Online published a story a year ago about a Robotics coach or Computer science teacher at PALY that didn't know how to teach, nor did she know how to code in JAVA.

Think about this. WHO hired a robotics teachers who didn't know how to code in JAVA? This teacher apparently had "She has a Career Technical Eeducation credential in ITEC" in a city filled with JAVA coders. Ironic? Very.
It's as ironic that PAUSD would put the largest elementary school (with 2 special programs) under an "educator" who never taught a classroom in a school, nor did they receive a formal pedagogical training, nor have a Bachelor of Education degree.

We should demand all teachers and principals have .a Bachelor of Education degree or higher and a teaching background.
We should demand competency in the area they are hired into.

Such things would never happen in other Boards... happens here. Who is doing the hiring and promotions here?

3. Let's not reinvent the wheel. Take a page out of successful school boards near us in California as well as in North America and copy, and institute their programs here.

4. Continue to be involved. Don't sit back and complain. Take initiative and try to help out and fix what clearly is broken.

5. on a side note... if someone has been on the School board for 12 years or more.. and the board is flailing.. perhaps its time we vote in new people. Perhaps there should be term limits on sitting on the School board.

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2019 at 6:59 pm

Let me highlight the differences in hiring technique of PAUSD versus other school boards. THIS Is why one perhaps different student achievement outcomes.

I have a friend. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. He then worked for 4 years in real word in computer engineering. THEN he returned to school and obtained a post graduate degree - Bachelor of Education degree in Computer Science. (Some of our PASUD principals didn't even go to teacher's college or a teaching program).

He was then hired as a computer science teacher at the highschool level and has taught computer science for 17 years now. He is also now a founder and developer of a program that helps teachers as well.

REAL world coding. REAL world Bachelor of Education degree, and REAL world Bachelor of Computer Science degree.

Now... compare those accreditations to the Computer Science teacher that was hired at PALY that kids said she couldn't even code in JAVA.

NOW you wonder why our kids are struggling? Why is there an achievement gap? Maybe if we hired competent folks to begin with who knew their subject matter, and were taught in the ways of pedagogy in a formal manner... this would be the issue.

Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:28 am

Good teaching candidates are few and far between. Plus Palo Alto has a reputation whether or not it is deserved:

1. Administration is out to lunch when it comes to training and evaluating new teachers.

2. One false step, misstep, politically incorrect statement, or upset parent group as a new teacher and you are done, especially if you teach math or english. No time to grow and develop.

3. The DO loves you until test scores arrive, then you are just another piece of new meat.

4. The DO does not have the requisite skills or personnel to hire or train well, so they just play the numbers game.

5. Why teach in a place you'll never live, in a district where some very nasty folks will have your head on a stake if they don't like you. You are not part of the "community". You are hired help, and if you don't stack up, well there are a lot of kinder gentler districts in more affordable areas. All that inclusion, tolerance, and unity TALK is just that.

6. Seriously, an accomplished mathematician is going to put his or her head on a chopping block for peanuts when they can do much better financially, socially, and emotionally in another line of work?

7. It soon becomes apparent to new folks that PAUSD is not a "lighthouse", but a slaughter house. If you aren't tough, seasoned, thick skinned, and able to defend yourself in the court of public opinion, let alone teach, then stay away.

Just a few reasons why PAUSD may not attract or keep the best talent.

Posted by Member1
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 26, 2019 at 7:19 am

I called lawyers for the same type of lack of adherence to their own policies and ca ed code and civil rights. I found it interesting that the the law firms were all familiar with the district and types of abuses. One lawyer told me not to take it personallly and said that pausd treats all kids poorly because they hate children. We also see that they will work ten times harder not to do their jobs in th counseling and admin rather than just do their job. Have you every played a board game with a bratty kid that changes the rules during the game to win. That is what is feel like. We are very low income with high achieveing kids who have no tutors and the admin staff has only put roadblocks and nastiness by way of their very tight chain of hatred and lack of integrity toward serving children. My kids were not in the special donor parent groups. These kids fake volunteer hours and the school signs off on it, they break rules to give these kids advantages who have achieved wiell but only with full time tutoring. Counseling does not like low income kids doing better than the elites and it is not that they will not help them, it is that they actually make it much harder and then when they do achieve, they actually take away credits and treat the kids like they are criminals for doing so well. They work very hard to demean the child that does achieve and they actually take credits off to lowere chances of college accesptances. They allow other kids to have overage of units if they in the favored group and take away credits form ones that are not. They wait long enough so college APS are due and nothing can be changed.

I will not be celebrating their graduation as much as I will celebrate not having to ever see or contact the counseling staff that would not follow ed code and only took things away from my kids. Equity anyone?

Posted by Still hurting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2019 at 11:10 am

Wow, like @Insider Trading, what you say has been exactly our experience:
"We also see that they will work ten times harder not to do their jobs in th counseling and admin rather than just do their job." "the admin staff has only put roadblocks and nastiness by way of their very tight chain of hatred and lack of integrity toward serving children."

Yep. Us too.

Posted by member 1
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2019 at 8:27 am

Holding down the top and keeping the middle at the middle will not stop unless teachers are allowed to teach and make decisions based on individuals from year and to have time for better articulation meetings for each child as they progress. The principals do not know their students or seem to think overseeing articulation is not needed but it is. We had one principal that knew every student, their work habits and often went into the classrooms and often attended general meetings with parents.She would advise teachers and get them resources that matched needs for her students that year. She could see a kid at recess and ask them how they were doing in math and then would go in the class and pat a kid on the back the she saw trying or she would pull a kid out and work personally on something they had trouble with so she could apply proper resources, special ed or just tutoring on site. This effort brought every kid up to their highest level. She would also host some tutoring while she was in the office and had treats and a comfy place they could come and just do their work. If any of them happened to decide not to do work, she would find them at recess and bring them in her office until it was done and find out why they had trouble and help them without humiliating them. She went home at 5. This took no more of her time than sitting on the computer in her office by herself all day.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2019 at 8:42 am

A large part of the problem is the size of the schools. It is so easy to get lost in such a big student body.

It is perhaps time to look at a different way of teaching in a large school. Perhaps we should start thinking about "houses" or schools within schools. If each school were divided into groups named after galaxies or trees and each student knew their own fellow house members, teachers work within the same group teaching more than one grade level and cohort groups could progress through their school career together rather than each school year being in a completely new group of people with new teachers.

One of the advantages of a smaller school is the fact that everyone knows each other. Apart from classes like music or in sports, the classes change each year. In middle school feeling connected to a group of cohorts is important as adolescence begins and self-confidence wanes. Trying to find a place where to belong, a group of close friends, where to eat lunch or who to hang out with after school are very important to a sense of belonging. If a student can't make a connection with a small group within their peer group, they are already going against the flow.

Not everyone is going to do well when they are forever being pushed into new groups and never see the people they were in class with last year!

Posted by member1
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2019 at 8:45 am

The elementary school where the principal was present had 35 in each class and 800 from k-6. Has nothing to do with size. Everything to do with mindset and people who love to teach and know how to teach

Posted by member 1
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2019 at 9:04 am

Size has nothing to do with admin who sits in offices and does not know children or families and considers any information from children or families not useful unless it is sent on a data sheet.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 31, 2019 at 6:27 am

Teachers get too much credit and too much blame. 60% of the parents here throw many resources at their kids outside of school to make them strong (or at least proficient). They are propped up not because of strong teachers, but because of rich, educated parents that don't let their kids fall through the cracks, and often choreograph the kids to excel far beyond their natural trajectories. Then there is a percentage of the kids that need a ton of extra help but don't get it from home (many times because the parents are busy just trying to pay rent). From the rest, a few naturally shine (but can't compete against a smart kid and his/her parents), and others struggle to stay afloat. Because of the top half, the schools rest on their laurels and pat themselves on the back.

Posted by insider trading
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2019 at 2:38 am

PAUSD Is completely corrupt and incompetent.

Every segment of the Community and stakeholders are accountable as this has been the situation for at least the last 10 years. There is collusion with SELPA, California Department of Education, and even OCR to do what they have to it find either technicalities or out right ignore lawlessness and allow the school to neutralize complaints and keep the status quo.

The laws really are a sham as practiced in PAUSD and there is no avenue for justice for the children. If you get close to justice they’ll (any and all of the organizations listed including PAUSD ) just change the rules and interpret the law more absurdly. One of example is PAUSD Completely failed to do any investigation on a very serious case, kind of like the rape cover up. When Pausd is finally held to account by the federal government (ocr), they delayed it over a year, so now are more than two years from when the event happened.

This Is outside of legal deadlines and the school district should’ve lost just on a lack of timely response. But then the school district win because they said the statute of limitations had run out on the complaint by the student even though the complaint was submitted timely. Timeline was evaluated based on the investigation dates. While the illegal behavior by the school continued and harm continued against the child to the point where they dropped out of school, the OCR said that Continuance of the violations should have been reported as a new complaint. If it was not they could not take it into account because it was not specifically listed on the complaint (because it had been submitted during the appropriate time frame) and while they found the violations valid they couldn’t hold PAUSD accountable. Absurd. The OCR said the family should’ve filed another complaint for the same thing .

The point is you will not win and corruption trumps all.

And since this is the case and it’s pretty well-known by PAUSD administrators, school board members, lawyers, teachers and especially organizations that these families go to for help like CAC, and Parents Helping Parents etc. then it’s up to the community to demand change, but since it doesn’t, it shows that we don’t matter.

Nothing has changed and in fact it gets more vicious now that we have hired layers of lawyers. The promise is propaganda and nothing more it does not include individualized education for those that need it as required by law.

These lawyers were outside of the process of people who have been fired and we still have their lawyers, whose philosophy is to win at any cost and no consideration for educating children. Elizabeth Ng Is out to make a name for herself and Enrich her own family, which she would not treat as she treats PAUSD’s disabled. She is aware how incompetent PAUSD is and that she will not be held accountable for winning based on lies and lawlessness continues to coach dozens of teachers, mental health workers, administrators to tell lies and to hold fake IEP meetings.

We are here as fodder to be the lower end of the curve, PAUSD has predetermined we don’t have a future and that nothing is expected of these students.

So nothing is done or spent on them. Exact many parents will stay in more effort goes into tonight’s appointment actually providing the support.

Money is redirected for more AP programs, Over 250,000 spent to rename the schools, over 200,000 to spend every time someone is taking to court, millions on ”me too annual raises”, $$$ for consultants to evaluate if they need to pay for teachers housings to even though they have absolutely no evaluation system to hold them accountable, and no one has brought up the fact that they’re not allowed to help students at lunchtime or more than 15 minutes after school, and it’s a waiting room only in tutorial class, not even enough chairs.

No one has brought up the fact that they like to hire young teachers who are inexperienced and aren't yet trying to support a family, who will leave after a couple of years because they can’t afford to settle here. Therefore PAUSD will never acquire the specialized knowledge needed to support our historically under represented students.

So Disabled, brown people, and low income students will continue to be historically and permanently underrepresented. They will be sacrificed. The parents that put faith in the dozens of professionals that pack into an IEP room (but are actually unavailable to support the child ) will be gaslighted and denied their legally required services. I guess that’s one way Palo Alto plans to get restaurant workers, cashiers and other minimum-wage jobs since they can’t afford to live here, they’ll create them. Just like the school board is in collusion to keep the real estate prices high and prevent bad publicity at all costs-having the facts of illegal activity by their staff does not prevent the School Board from taking legal action against the family, even the supervisor is in cahoots as Austin makes no effort to follow up on a public direct request by the school board.

They just pass the buck back-and-forth and put on a show that they are good people and doing something about it when in fact they are not. The fact that they close dozens of public request, even from lawyers , over and over year over year shows they are hiding the evidence of wrongdoing.

The VIP people will remain at the top of the curve(even though it’s been self-reported 30% of them cheat to keep stay there, which students who don’t cheat complain thatNot enough is being done about it and teachers make excuses for them because of the pressure nothing being done about not enough is being done about it and teachers make excuses for them because of the pressure, and if they did report it it would affect the chances for college admission, aside from all the other services provided to them by their parents to shore up the Deficient PAUSD program. Why don’t they get as concerned about creating Students that will be permanently harmed and never become independent?). The VIP people will continue to get priority for their special programs like AP classes, changing the rules like weighted grade point average gutting classes for the general student body, which is one of the few benefits of having Such a large school, renaming the schools at $250,000 firing the art director of many years, whose salary was less than half that, extracurriculars like debate of which they do not support disabled students to participate in and those that have tried end up humiliating themselves because there is absolutely zero support no matter how many times you ask.

Someone has to be a loser for someone to be a winner right? It’s tragic, in our community, that those who need the support most, by no fault of their own, being born with a disability will have their lives destroyed permanently. I hope you out in the community will take a breath and find any effort to help those that need it. To those that much is given much is expected but that’s not happening here. If you have any morality we need your help I doubt this will haunt you that you did nothing, because you got yours and you just didn’t have the time or whatever, but it should.

Don’t you want your kids to go out into the world where they’re surrounded by people with good values and morals? The ”win at all cost society” is what has driven so many suicides in our area. It’s not surprising because it’s exhausting to live through day after day until one day you give up, you say enough is enough because there is no avenue for change or justice. medical professionals echo but nothing has changed and that’s why they’re still saying the same children coming in for severe mental health issues and that they’re at risk for worse. The data is there if you ask the right people.

There’s a community of children that need your help right here at PAUSD. if not more than a window dressing to this problem takes place then CAC should make an advertising campaign to keep parents away that fit these profiles. Least you can do is help them avoid so that theirLeast you can do is help them having their lives co-opted by PAUSD‘s bureaucracy and lawyers to the point where every family member is destroyed and their finances are depleted and they are no better off in fact they are very much worse. Protect them from existence in Purgatory and help their children avoid being scarred for life.

CAC You’ll be heroes because that’s exactly what PAUSD wants! Either form a strong enough coalition to have change or make sure no one comes here. I wouldn’t wish my experience and my worst enemy and that is PAUSD. Unfortunately since I live in a lawless school district where there is no avenue for justice —it’s also the best option for families. PAUSD and the ‘Haves’ win.

Governing entities that are supposed to hold the schools accountable do not. They also put more effort to avoid confronting the schools and to do what’s right. Often they outsource validating the complaints to the actual entities who have been reported to be unlawful. Meaning PAUSD is asked to investigate itself. How PAUSD does this, is they manufacture whatever evidence is missing to clear them of all wrongdoing. Literally they don’t give an inch: out of 24 violations they will clear them selves of all 24. And no one, anywhere finds this suspicious?

I have heard from many lawyers that the goal is to keep the status quo. No matter what the situation is, more than 70% of valid violations will be neutralized. And those that continue require significant financial resources and time. The amount it would cost to gamble that your case will be one of the 30% to win, and hold PAUSD accountable for even a portion of the violations, is multiples times more than paying for what your child needs, and you avoid the severe and permanently damaging experience for your child and becoming ostracized from the community, having all your private information gossiped about.

Since we live in a lawless school district where there is no avenue for justice —it’s also the best option for families. PAUSD and the ‘Haves’ win.

Posted by TL;DR
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:06 am


Posted by teacher outside the public school system
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:55 pm

teacher outside the public school system is a registered user.

I have been a teacher for decades and have had students from several dozen of the local schools.

Although it is not straight-across-the-board, I am sorry to say that the PAUSD kids are usually among the least able of any of them to think for themselves. And it gets worse as they get older.

Public schools systems in the US have a deserved international reputation for sucking the creativity and analytical thinking skills out of students. And my research (I have a masters in the education field) and personal experience (teacher for over 30 years) points me to that Palo Alto is among the worst offenders in this regard.

The students here may end up scoring high on their SATs and earn a weighted GPA of 4.95. But that does not mean that they can figure out problems that 6th grade drop-outs from third world countries deal with every day? And how many of the students here would do so well if it weren't for their parents spending thousands of dollars on their outside tutoring and activities each year; some of them in an average MONTH?

Yes, our achievement gap stinks. But what do we want to achieve? If it is getting higher math scores but not actually being able to apply basic math skills, I say No Thanks! If we want to give all our students a high-quality, well-rounded education, than I am all for it! I have been doing this myself for decades and would love for PAUSD to embrace this idea.

Fortunately, there are some private schools in the area doing a great job and some of them are well worth the extra cost for those that can afford it. But what about those who cannot afford it? I am worried about ALL our kids. But when so many in our area are doing "well" primarily because their parents are paying extra for their outside tutoring and having them not work until after graduation (many of the lower-income kids have to work), there is a problem. And I do not believe this is a problem of how to get the low-income kids scoring higher on tests. I think it is about giving ALL our kids a quality education, as opposed to what they are getting now. It is not just about academics, either. There is a lot more involved than test scores. Or at least there SHOULD be...

And no, I am not blaming the teachers. Some of the PAUSD teachers are doing a great job. But the system really should change drastically.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2019 at 3:44 pm

Thank you to the previous poster for saying what has to be said.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:48 pm

@teacher, would love to hear anything more specific than trash talking "international reputation for sucking the creativity and analytical thinking skills out of students" and calling for a "high-quality, well-rounded education." It sounds like you are just trashing PAUSD without any real info beyond your own gut.

Different people like different kinds of education for their kids, and schools provide varied products. All fine. But I don't get why your ideas are great and PAUSD's are terrible.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2019 at 9:03 pm

@ Parent

I have friends with high school students in other countries. Some of the things they learn in high school are not available here. Business, Coding, with expectations of things like problem solving, computer science, personal finance and other life skills, things like being a teacher's aide to younger (elementary) students, a week taken for week experience at the sophomore level where all students get to work in a cafe or retail turning up for work dressed appropriately on time and have to deal with customers and other staff members. They seem to have more confidence, more ability to solve real life problems such as travel by public transport to events in the nearest big town (think Caltrain to San Francisco or San Jose rather than go by school bus, etc. etc. They also get bike proficiency tests. Their courses tend to be more comprehensive with 2 year curriculum and final exams that can test them on anything from the past 2 years.

For the other side, they probably don't get as much PE or sports, driving privileges (no on campus parking) and busy work. I dont think they would make posters or cooking projects for language classes but instead liaise with a class/school in the target language speaking country for video conferencing and discussing cultural topics.

Additionally, they have longer school days, more days in the school year, but less homework and less expectations for extra curricula or community service done outside school. As I mentioned earlier, these things would be done as part of the school day or given a week of school year to perform such things.

I am not sure what the teacher above would suggest, but these are things my own experience has encountered with high school teens of friends.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2019 at 9:40 pm

@Resident, if you really think that the shortcomings of PAUSD or US schools are that they don't provide personal finance class or school-sponsored retail jobs, then the schools are doing pretty well. I agree, if your high school kids can't get to SF on the train by themselves, you should work on that. But I wouldn't be blaming the schools for that - that sounds like the parents' domain.

Posted by TL;DR
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 4:00 am

Way up about the 13th comment: "over 70% of students not able to do 1/3-1/4 right."

Curious that 1/3-1/4 = (1/3)x(1/4), generalizing to 1/n - 1/(n+1) = (1/n)x(1/(n+1))

Never noticed that before...

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 12:25 pm


I think it all comes down to defining what education is all about. If you feel that education at the high school level is just getting a student into a college for third level education then probably we would agree that for the majority of PAUSD students they are getting that type of education.

If on the other hand, we define education as preparing a young person for life regardless of what their post high school plans are then I think we have a problem.

Not all homes are the same and not all students are the same. Some will go on to college and even to get masters or PHds. Others will do a few years at community college and perhaps still do the same. Others will not stick out college or even community college and still others will be looking to get jobs post high school. The question then has to be asked whether PAUSD is fulfilling their needs.

Whether then are able to get to San Francisco by Caltrain may or may not be the point, the fact is that field trips on school buses are still treating them like elementary students who need to have their hands held. Work experience, is not a school sponsored job but a real life lesson on how to appear for work, dressed appropriately, on time, with clean fingernails and hair tied back (or whatever rules the establishment gives them). Our high school students turn up for class in whatever they like, often pajamas or sports clothes, neither of which would be appropriate for work. Work experience shows them what holding down a job entails, not that they are doing work for which they get paid.

Personal finance is important now even more than in the past as with Apple pay and other phone apps, many students are getting themselves into debt just by buying daily coffees and using Uber for something they could be walking or riding a bike to. Personal finance is more than just balancing a check book, but understanding that money spent being greater than income causes debt and that any money earned by an individual is subject to tax and other deductions. Since so many Palo Alto parents are unable to do their own tax filings and need professional help, it is unlikely that their kids are learning how to file taxes from parents. They need to be taught. Likewise those who come from families where parents are holding down two jobs or can barely speak English, they need help when it comes to learning about how to file their own taxes.

Yes, I will reiterate that I think PAUSD is doing a fine job of getting a large percentage of students into colleges (along with the paid tutoring, paid college prep, etc.) but there is so much more that needs to be done to be ready for adulthood. Some families can teach this but don't because of reasons of lack of parent knowledge on the subject or, and this may be even worse, because parents are not expecting their kids to even make their beds, help prepare meals, or do laundry, and any time a problem comes up the parent deals with it rather than make the teen solve the issue themselves (with guidance of course).

No, as someone said above, real life problems are being solved by kids in 6th grade in other countries. Our teens are quite often totally unprepared for being an adult in the real world.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 5:42 pm

" real life problems are being solved by kids in 6th grade in other countries."

@Resident - if 6th graders in other countries are doing their parents' tax returns and working retail jobs, well, hats off to them. But this is more about parenting, not formal education. I think giving kids the knowledge and thinking skills needed for college and careers is a the main job for the schools - most parents aren't well qualified to do it.

Parents, on the other hand, should be great at teaching practical "life" skills to their children, either directly or by exposing them to life's challenges. I agree with you that many don't, at least as much as we thought appropriate in our family. But I don't expect the schools to pick up that slack.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 8:25 am

It is not an "achievement gap" The lower level is exactly what a kid gets from the school district minus tutoring and help at home.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2019 at 8:44 am

@ Parent.

Not sure about your career, but my formal education beyond the age of about 14 taught me nothing to prepare me for the good office jobs over the years. When I first started working, I was trained on the job for work specific skills that I had not already learned. Basic bookkeeping and business English skills would have been very helpful but all my math, science and history (although enjoyable and made me a rounded and informed individual) did nothing to prepare me for my career.

Fortunately for me, my parents had instilled in me a work ethic and summer jobs in a large retail environment also helped in my preparation for career. Learning the importance of job loyalty, how to dress, timekeeping, etc. were already in my experience, but is that the case for our high school graduates?

Employers are looking for skills beyond the classroom, particularly for jobs that do not need college degrees. Are schools failing students who are destined for these types of careers?

When we read about some of the problems in society today, people changing jobs for an extra $1 per hour rather than taking a little longer staying at a lower level in the overall plan to get promotion or management training, people with poor work ethics and unable to turn up on time for their shift or dressed inappropriately, we have to wonder why this happens. It seems that some parents are not doing this at home and I would go as far as to say that those students are the ones who are not college bound.

When we talk about the achievement gap it is really a disservice to those who are not on the college bound track. There are plenty of careers where a college degree is of secondary importance to someone who is willing to work and willing to fulfill their work duties well. These students deserve a fair chance to start their adult lives. These students can be our future plumbers, electricians, restaurant managers, small business owners, delivery drivers, chefs and first responders.

Let's give our students a well rounded education and prepare them for being adults first. The college preparation should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.