May 12, 2017

With two Board meetings this week, it has been plenty busy and equally as productive. We brought closure to the months-long discussions regarding calculating and reporting weighted grades on high school transcripts, approved the elementary mathematics curriculum, and are close to finalizing some tough decisions on the 2017-18 budget. Also, please read through the entire message as there is an important note regarding recent news media attention about Palo Alto High School.

We are now going to be reporting cumulative weighted grade point averages (WGPA) on transcripts, along with the traditional cumulative unweighted grades (GPA). Here is a summary of the recommendations that the Board approved. Some are paraphrased for the sake of brevity.

  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 and school reports will include both the cumulative GPA and cumulative WGPA.
  2. Beginning with the class of 2021 (students will be freshmen in 2017-18), both high schools will report both the WGPA and GPA. The WGPA calculation 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.
  3. High schools will annually 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 (beginning with the freshman class of 2017-18).
  5. The high schools will formalize, publish, and communicate an “informed decision making” process for course selections.
  6. High schools will identify and implement the necessary supports for AVID/Focus on Success/HUR students to succeed in AP and Honors classes.
  7. District staff will develop an evaluation plan and assign a team that includes parents and students to complete a study of the impact of reporting WGPA on transcripts by August 1, 2019, and every year for at least three years.
  8. The 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. 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.

To loud and long applause, the Board voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the Elementary Math Committee to adopt the Bridges 2017 textbook for our students in preschool through fifth grade. The full exploration, pilot, and recommended adoption process lasted nearly three years! The Elementary Math 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 Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) 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 recommended the adoption of the Bridges series for the Core curriculum with Eureka Math as a supplement for the Spanish and Mandarin Immersion classes.

As for the budget, we made significant cuts to the district office staff by eliminating and consolidating positions. In addition, several of our Teachers on Special Assignment who have contributed much to the professional learning of our teachers, modeled countless lessons, and led curriculum development, will be returning to classroom positions. Not all cuts made were to make up for the shortfall in projected tax revenue, however. Some were made in order to assure we could provide additional funding for our minority achievement and talent development initiative, social emotional learning, and secondary school counseling providers. 

Here is the note that went to Paly parents and staff last night. I wanted to be sure everyone saw it so I am copying it here:

Dear Parents and Staff Members,

By now I am certain you are familiar with news media coverage regarding accusations of sexual assault against a Palo Alto High School student. As both your superintendent and a parent, I can understand how this piece generates serious concerns. Our investigation into these allegations is still ongoing.

We are committed to maintaining a safe, non-discriminatory educational environment for all students. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are unacceptable in our schools (BP 5145.7 www.pausd.org/policies#/browse/document/1144).

Our hearts go out to any student who reports being victimized in any way. We are committed to providing supports for these students.

If your child or any student you know is or has been harassed or threatened or even feels unsafe or at risk, please let a counselor, administrator, teacher, wellness worker or me personally know right away. I can be reached at superintendent@pausd.org. We will update the school community as we have information that we can share.

Sincerely,

Max McGee

Our next Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) meeting will be Friday, May 19. Please see the BPRC Matrix for policies and administrative regulations that are up for review.

In closing, I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day. With three grandchildren ages five and under, and a fourth at the “special age” of 13 going on 22, we are passing on going out for Mother’s Day brunch in order to spare the other patrons. Instead, I will be cooking up a mighty breakfast buffet and hoping it will be a nice day to have everyone outside the rest of the day. Jan and I will also be remembering our moms who passed on several years ago but whom we remember fondly for inspiring/nudging/shaping us to pursue our callings and modeling being the best parents we can be.    

Feedback