October 28, 2016

Along with a smattering of welcome rain showers, the last several days have brought a deluge of emails regarding grade weighting.  Grade weighting is the practice of awarding students an extra point for their final grade in a particularly challenging class.  For example, a student who receives an A in Chemistry would get 4 points on his or her transcript, while another student who receives an A in Advanced Placement Chemistry would get 5 points on his or her transcript.  While neither of our schools currently reports weighted grades on our transcripts, the University of California system and the California State University system weigh students’ grades based on systems they have for evaluating rigorous classes.  As you can read in the correspondence section of the Board packet posted online, there are both pros and cons of weighted and unweighted grades.  Every piece of correspondence that was received before the end of the day on Wednesday is in the packet; additional correspondence will be included in the November packet.  There was an agenda item on this matter at the October 18 regular meeting and there is an agenda item at the upcoming November 1 meeting (see B below)

Due to the long agenda for the November 1 regular meeting, the Superintendent’s Report will be short and consist primarily of sharing student and staff successes, along with some photos of Unity Day and Spirit Week.

A. Update on Social Emotional Learning Curriculum Committee (SCC)

Dr. Carrillo and Dr. Herrmann will update the Board on the work of the Social Emotional Learning Curriculum Committee (SCC).  The SCC is focused on researching and identifying best practices in social emotional learning (SEL) in order to best provide students (PreK-12) with necessary SEL competencies to successfully navigate life in and out of school.

The charge of the SCC is to recommend a framework, standards, learning targets, curricula, an assessment and evaluation system, and a district-wide implementation plan by February 2017.  There are four subcommittees at work, including: the Design Subcommittee, which is focused on researching current SEL frameworks, standards, and learning targets; the Curriculum, Assessment, and Evaluation Subcommittee, which is developing resources in the area of curricula and examining metrics to define effectiveness; the Districtwide Implementation Plan Subcommittee, which is creating an implementation plan; and the Communications Subcommittee, which primarily prepares interim and final reports to the Board.  The Board presentation will focus on initial findings of the Design Subcommittee.

B. High School Grade Reporting 

Following discussion at the last Board meeting, the Board members requested that the administration return with a short-term recommendation for grade reporting to support students’ eligibility and application for scholarships.  The current practice at Gunn High School is to provide a weighted grade point average (WGPA) on every student’s Common Application Counselor Report Form, as well as to make phone calls or produce a letter that reports WGPA on behalf of a student if necessary.  At Paly, teacher advisors do not report WGPA on the counselor’s report form, but like Gunn, the college advisors make phone calls or produce a letter that reports WGPA on behalf of a student if necessary. 

A common goal for both the short-term and the long-term is to align the college and university admission and scholarship practices at both high schools based on best practices, evidence-based research, and prior experiences that serve students well and are best aligned with the mission, vision, and goals of the district.  Likewise, we all have a goal of – and are committed to – assuring our current seniors have every opportunity to be strong candidates for scholarships, along with their peers.

For this year we are not recommending changing the current practices for grade reporting at either Gunn or Paly.  That said, we clearly want to assure that our seniors have the opportunities for scholarships this year, so we are recommending that the district issue a formal letter as soon as possible on behalf of each and every 2017 graduate who needs to have a weighted GPA for scholarship purposes.  As for schools that purportedly will not accept an official letter attesting to students’ WGPA from the school and/or district, we will support our students whose WGPA, SAT and/or AP would make them eligible for scholarships by providing additional documentation as needed and/or aggressive advocacy on behalf of the student. 

For the longer term we are recommending the following:

  1. Appointing an Advisory Committee (either a Board Committee or a Superintendent’s Advisory Committee as defined in BP and AR1220), complete with a formal charge that would require the Committee (the name of which is to be determined) to return with a long-term recommendation before the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.  The charge would include making a recommendation to the Superintendent, who in turn would make a recommendation to the Board in conformance with the language of PAUSD BP 5121:

    “The Superintendent or designee shall recommend to the Board the methodology to be used in calculating students grade point averages.

    The Superintendent or designee shall also recommend to the Board whether extra grade weighting will be assigned for honors courses that are substantially similar in breadth and rigor to an Advanced Placement course, an entry-level college course or a community college level course.”
  2. Revising the Board approved District Focus Goals at the January Board retreat in order to replace items in the work plan with this matter, which has become an important topic and is clearly a priority for the community and Board. 

C. High School A-G and College Enrollment Report

Director of Research, Evaluation, and Assessment Christopher Kolar, and Program Evaluation Coordinator, Dr. Clarisse Haxton, will be presenting district rates of postsecondary enrollment and completion from the high school graduating classes of 2008 to 2015, based on analysis of National Student Clearinghouse data.  These data provide an overview of students’ college enrollment and completion after graduating from PAUSD.  Overall, PAUSD graduates typically enroll in college and complete any degree at rates higher than the nation and comparable to the state.  However, historically underrepresented students and special education students in PAUSD enroll in college and complete a degree at lower rates than their peers.  This presentation also reports on A-G completion rates, a state indicator of students’ college readiness and eligibility to attend a California public four-year university (University of California or California State University).  Analysis by the Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) Department indicates that course naming and archiving practices have resulted in inconsistent tracking and reporting of A-G completion.  To address this, the district is taking steps to review and revise the Course Master and develop an improved system for tracking students’ performance in, and completion of, A-G courses.

D. Equity Plan Update

Dr. Martha Castellon, PAUSD Equity Coordinator, will summarize the progress the district has made toward achieving the first twelve priority goals, based on recommendations from the District’s Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) Committee.  She will also outline the Equity Plan we are developing, highlighting both opportunities and obstacles. 

E.  Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) - Program Status Update

As part of legislation on school funding and accountability (signed by the Governor in 2013) and State Board of Education regulations, every California school district is required to prepare a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).  

There are three broad categories of the plan, which include: Conditions of Learning, Pupil Outcomes, and Engagement.  Within those categories, there are eight priorities that include: Basic (teacher credentialing, standards-aligned instructional materials, and school facilities); Implementation of State Standards; Course Access; Pupil Achievement; Other Pupil Outcomes; Parent Involvement; Pupil Engagement; and School Climate.  Palo Alto is aligning the LCAP goals with the district’s strategic goals.

On October 25, the Educational Services staff presented, at the first of five community district meetings, a plan that included a progress update on goals and actions, using available data.  The Department of Academic Supports will also hold three meetings at Title One sites, plus a secondary site.  At this Board meeting Dr. Judy Argumedo and the Educational Services team will review feedback from the fall community meetings and begin drafting a plan, which will be presented in the spring to the community and Board.

F. Annual Authorization To Purchase Technology

When the Strong Schools Bond was approved by the voters in June 2008, one component funded by the bond was an annual allocation, on a per student basis, to pay for school technology.  This allocation of bond funds continued through the 2013-14 school year.  Subsequent to that year, funding was shifted to the General Fund.  On September 27, 2016, the Board of Education took action to shift the source of this funding back to the Strong Schools Bond and to allocate $1,200,000 for 2016-17.  Staff is recommending that the Board of Education authorize staff to purchase technology from both Apple Inc. and Dell Marketing L.P., in amounts not to exceed $931,000 and $445,000 respectively.

G. Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) Matrix

The Board will prioritize policies from a matrix of those scheduled for future consideration at the Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) and identify any that may need discussion prior to BPRC review.  The ones staff have prioritized are:

  • BP and AR 5121 (grading)
  • BP and AR 1312.3 (UCP)
  • BP and AR 5145.3 (investigating complaints of discrimination)
  • BP and AR 5145.7 (investigating sexual harassment complaints)

H. Resolution No. 2016-17.05 in Support of Proposition 55

During Board Operations at the last meeting, Board members asked that a Resolution be placed on the agenda for approval prior to Election Day to support Proposition 55, to protect some state funding for public schools.  Proposition 55 is also known as the “Children’s Education and HealthCare Protection Act of 2016.”  If approved, this act would extend the temporary income tax increases on the wealthiest Californians for an additional 12 years, while allowing the sales tax provisions of Proposition 30 to expire, making this extension of Proposition 30 revenues a purely progressive tax, paid for by taxpayers well able to continue to afford the modest increase, while benefiting all of public education.

I and J. Ratification of Tentative Agreement on Benefits for 2017 with the California School Employees Association (CSEA) and Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA)

The PAUSD Joint Benefits Committee has recommended changes to the health benefits plan that are more economically beneficial for the majority of staff.  Both the CSEA and PAEA are ratifying this agreement and the Board will need to do the same.

K. AR 3290 Gifts, Grants, and Bequests

This policy has been back and forth between the Board and BPRC more than once.  The language has been revised to be more encouraging and welcoming for donors.  Also, the Board will be discussing two options for handling anonymous donations.  These are:

Paragraph four currently reads:

Superintendent shall ascertain the identity of the donor and inform the Board in confidence. This requirement for identifying an anonymous donor to the Superintendent and the Board may be waived by a vote of the Board in a public meeting.

Staff recommended replacing paragraph four with the following two paragraphs:

“While PAUSD encourages donors to share their names so they can be publicly recognized, the district realizes some donors prefer to remain anonymous and welcomes and honors these anonymous gifts.  If a donor of a gift in excess of $50,000 prefers to remain anonymous, and the gift is made through a donor advised fund, which has a documented process for vetting the source of the donor’s funds, PAUSD will not seek to ascertain the identity of the donor.

If an individual wishes to make an anonymous donation from a personal account, the Superintendent shall identify the donor and alert the Board if a potential conflict of interest exists or there is another reason for potentially declining the gift.  This requirement for the Superintendent to identify an anonymous donor may be waived by a vote of the Board in a public meeting.”

We are looking forward to a fine weekend, and I hope all of you are as well.  The young ones are certainly excited about Halloween; in fact, I received a letter from an articulate fourth grade student requesting that we close school the day after Halloween!  You can see that letter in the correspondence section of the packet.  While we won’t be doing that, we will be passing out plenty of treats.  Also, although we are Sox (AL) and Giants (NL) fans, we will also be cheering on the Cubs for historical reasons.  The time between now and the Cubs' last World Series win is about the same as the amount of time between George Washington’s death and the Cubs winning a world series – 108 years for the former and 109 for the latter.  Wow, those numbers span a few generations, don’t they?!