May 5, 2017

Cinco de Mayo!  Yes, it is a wonderful day for celebrating Mexican-American heritage and appreciating all this rich culture has given us in Palo Alto, across California, and throughout the country. It is also a great day and weekend to celebrate our students’ creativity, depth, and voice by attending the Youth Art Show at the Palo Alto Art Center. The show actually runs for a few weeks, so do not miss it. Student work from first through twelfth grade is beautifully displayed and will awe and inspire you. When I was at opening night, a teacher asked me what I liked most and I told her that it was experiencing the artistic dimension of the students whom I know but never knew as artists. Whether you know a student whose work is displayed or not, you will be awed, fascinated, inspired, and lifted by the work. Enjoy!

This week has been staff appreciation week, and next Tuesday is National Teacher Appreciation Day. Please take a minute to express your appreciation for their efforts and expertise. In every classroom I visited this year, from Pre-K through high school, I saw deep caring and compassion for each student, abundant energy and enthusiasm, and remarkable talent in providing opportunities for individual attention, small group work, and whole class instruction. More importantly, the students see these and more. Below are a few student comments from a sampling of 667 expressions of appreciation I received from just one school.

  1. Without you, I would never have been able to write a proper essay, but you did so much more than teach English.  You taught me to be a better person.
  2. You genuinely care about us and enjoy helping us learn and improve.  You are reliable and give great life lessons.
  3. Your class is my favorite class.  Thanks for putting up with me even though I’m really annoying.  I have mad respect for you for dedicating your life to improving kids’ lives through art; you’re just really cool in general.  I really appreciate your positive attitude and the fact that you see the best in everybody, including me.  When you criticize and compliment my work, it makes me immensely happy because you care about what I make and care about helping me be better.  Thank you, you are the best.
  4. You have single handedly turned my perception of math from something of pure agony and hatred, to a subject that pushes me to my limits while fascinating me.
  5. You are super chill and understanding.
  6. You make your class all about learning and not about the grades.
  7. Your unconditional kindness, compassion, and understanding.

Earlier this week, during a Special Board Meeting - Budget Study Session, the Board approved $3.4 million in budget balancing solutions for the 2017-18 school year budget. The Board will continue to discuss possible additional cuts and expenditures throughout the spring.

At the upcoming Board meeting on Tuesday, May 9, we will begin by sharing a message of appreciation for our teachers. Following that, we have a long meeting ahead of us. In these Weekly Messages, I usually give a preview of upcoming meetings but because we have 20 items, I will just summarize the ones that will be of the highest interest to most readers. 

Elementary Math Adoption

The Elementary Math Adoption Pilot Committee was comprised of 52 representatives of parents, teachers, principals, education specialists, English language specialists, and district staff. The 31 teachers included representatives from each grade level and all 13 elementary schools, including Spanish Immersion and Mandarin Immersion programs. The Elementary District Math Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) team facilitated the committee meetings.  The work of the committee was to:

  • Review the texts aligned to the Common Core State Standards-Mathematics (CCSS-M) standards for grades PK–5,
  • Review and select the texts and materials, given the information from the teachers during the exploration period, to be used in the pilots for the 2016-17 school year,
  • Review the committee recommendations after the pilots were complete, and
  • Determine the texts or program for recommendation for use in grades PK–5, beginning August 2017, to the Board of Education for adoption.

The evaluation of materials survey was modeled after the approved California Department of Education’s Evaluation Toolkit. The following three areas were explored: Focus and Coherence, Rigor and Eight Mathematical Practices, and Usability and Universal Access. In addition, the evaluation of materials focused on the committee’s three essential goals: support all PAUSD students, provide the best access and support for students and parents when teachers are not present, and provide strong support for teachers as they plan, present, and assess instruction and learning.

After reviewing the selected materials and input from teachers, students, and community members, the respective Elementary Math Pilot Adoption Committee recommends the adoption of the Bridges series for the Core curriculum with Eureka Math as a supplement for the Spanish and Mandarin Immersion classes.

Reporting Weighted Grades on Transcripts

Since last fall, the Board has been discussing the pros and cons of reporting weighted grades on high school student transcripts. In March, the Superintendent committed to returning to the Board in the spring with final recommendations. After reviewing the survey data, research documents, feedback from forums, and hearing from parents, teachers, students, college faculty, and others, the final recommendations are enumerated below.

  1. Graduating students in the classes of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 will receive an extra point for all Advanced Placement (AP) courses and for courses designated as Honors classes in the current course catalogs. All transcripts will include both the cumulative GPA and cumulative WGPA. Moreover, high school counselors will report the WGPA on the Common Application or for college specific applications in any applicable School/Counselor report section.
  2. Beginning with the class of 2021, both high schools will report both the cumulative unweighted grade point average, using current methods for calculating this GPA, and a cumulative weighted grade point average that gives all students in grades 10-12 an extra grade point for every Advanced Placement Class and for every Honors course in which they receive a C or better, provided that PAUSD develops criteria and a Board approved process for designating courses as Honors courses. If the criteria are not developed, the recommendation is to provide the weighting for those Honors courses that the UC has designated as an Honors course.
  3. High schools will submit applications for eligible Honors classes (e.g. Chem H) to the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP) for Honors designation.
  4. Freshmen will not receive a weight for AP or Honors classes. (Please see rationale in the May 9 Board packet: Item 6B Weighted Grade Point Average: Important Considerations - Why not weight freshmen grades? )
  5. The high schools will formalize, publish, and communicate an “informed decision making” process for course selections that includes convening informational workshops and/or webinars for parents, using PAUSD time management worksheets, publishing statements in the course catalog, and scheduling individual student meetings with advisors.
  6. High schools will identify and implement the necessary supports for AVID/Focus on Success/HUR students to succeed in AP and Honors classes. These should include “AP PotentialTM” practices, additional tutoring, access to free ACT/SAT/AP Prep opportunities and supports from the Equal Opportunity Schools network.
  7. District staff will develop an evaluation plan and assign a team to complete a study of the impact of reporting WGPA on transcripts by August 1, 2019, and every year for at least three years. Data collected will include, but not be limited to changes in: college admissions, course taking patterns, enrollment in electives, enrollment and grades in AP/Honors classes, students’ mental and physical health, and the amount of homework assigned.
  8. Superintendent will recommend a formal policy and accompanying administrative regulation on how and how many courses, from outside entities that are A-G approved, count for credit and course weighting.
  9. Superintendent will recommend a policy on class size that includes a cost-effective range for the minimum number of students that must be enrolled in a course for it to run.
  10. High schools will accelerate the current district effort to revise the high school course master catalog to ensure correct identification of PAUSD courses approved by UCOP for weighting.

Renaming Schools

This item will be on the Board agenda for informational purposes.  On March 17, 2017, the Board approved the renaming of David Starr Jordan and Terman Middle Schools.  They also approved allocating a maximum of $60,000 from the Strong Schools Bond for renaming expenses that could be legally covered by the use of Bond Funds (signage, painting, and the like).  No funding for programs, services, or personnel will be reallocated for the renaming.  

In accordance with Board Policy 7310, the plan is to appoint a Superintendent’s Citizens Advisory Committee to recommend up to five new names for each school on or before December 12, 2017. Following this recommendation, as required by BP 7310, the Board will hold a public hearing prior to adopting new names. Our goal is to identify a new name in January or February of 2018 so the middle schools could open in 2018-19 with their new names. 

We are currently developing the Advisory Committee application, which includes questions regarding why they wish to serve on this Committee, a commitment to the time they have to allocate to this important work, how they envision a successful consensus process, and who they represent. Moreover, next week we are launching a survey of current stakeholders including students, staff, and parents to seek input regarding new names. Here is a draft of how it will read:

Now that the Board of Education has approved the renaming of both David Starr Jordan Middle School and Terman Middle School, we are beginning the process of identifying potential names.  We are eager to hear your ideas for a new name. It can be:

1. a person (e.g. Lucie Stern, Benjamin Banneker)
2. a geographical place (e.g. Silicon Valley, North Middlefield)

Please note that in accordance with Board Policy, the names of people can only be those who “have made outstanding contributions, including financial contributions, to the school community or have made contributions of statewide, national, or worldwide significance.”

When you click the link below you will be given the opportunity to nominate the new name.  You will be able to have one entry for each category.  If you do not want to advance a new school name in any particular category, you can just leave it blank.

Once all the names have been collected, we will identify the top five in each category and share them with the Advisory Committee.

Some stakeholders have asked to expand the opportunities for naming beyond people and places to include things such as Redwood, Sunshine, numbers, etc., or ideas such as Empowerment, Ideal, Discovery. These are not listed in AR 1220, but if the Board is in general agreement these will be included as survey categories.

To summarize, here is a timeline:
May 15 – 22, 2017                 Student, staff, and parent survey to generate names
May 15 – 25, 2017                 Applications for Advisory Committee Accepted
June 1, 2017                           Advisory Committee selected
December 2017                    Committee recommends new names for Board consideration
January 2018                         Board holds public hearing
February 2018                       Board approves names for the middle schools

Finally, our youngest son was born on Cinco de Mayo and now shares his flamboyant, colorful self with Disney World guests day in and day out.  He turns 27 today, and for so many of our PAUSD parents, it may seem like your children will never leave home. Believe us, it passes in the blink of an eye, so despite the challenges of parenting – which can be many – cherish every moment you have as a family and enjoy a festive, fun weekend.