Academic excellence is, and must remain, a hallmark of Palo Alto Unified School District. We also need to encourage and allow teachers to pursue innovative teaching methodologies and share best practices throughout the district.
Because students have a range of interests and talents, we need to provide an educational experience that is as diverse as our student population—and allow students to define success in the way that best suits their unique goals.
We need to support students’ social-emotional well-being, while not compromising academic rigor. It is not an either/or choice between academics and well-being. Both are essential and interdependent. To help our students achieve to the best of their abilities, we need to provide the resources to support both.
In 2014, the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Task Force issued recommendations on how to achieve greater equity and access for historically underrepresented students and low-income students. The district’s Equity Plan sets priorities and milestones for implementing these recommendations, which we need to address with actions and follow through.
We need to adequately fund programs that are proven to be effective, such as AVID, which is designed to focus on acceleration rather than remediation to close the achievement gap. Similar to neighboring school districts, we should provide the needed resources to our AVID program to support historically underrepresented students and low-income students in advanced coursework and put these students on a college track. Reducing the rigor of our coursework will not narrow the achievement gap. Instead, we need to address the needs of all students to succeed.
Advanced Placement (AP) classes allow high school students to dig more deeply into the subjects that spark their interests. Additionally, AP classes can help students gain admission, and potentially merit scholarships, to colleges of their choice. To ensure students remain challenged in their areas of interest, we need to not only continue to offer advanced STEM coursework but also to add more English and history AP classes.
As part of the community’s effort to reduce student stress, there has been a lot of discussion around the question of whether the district should cap the number of AP classes a student can take. However, research does not show that limiting AP classes reduces stress. It depends on the student. Teachers, counselors, and parents can work together with students to make informed choices when creating their schedule.
Both high schools now consistently report weighted GPAs on student transcripts. This is important because some colleges and scholarship decision-makers focus predominantly on quantitative measurements, such as college entrance exam scores and GPAs. For this reason, I support PAUSD reporting weighted GPAs.
Our secondary schools offer courses that cover the same subject (for example, math) but range in pace and difficulty. Laning has pros and cons. Some think that laning keeps lower-achieving students from advancing even if their mastery increases. Others argue that higher-achieving students will be bored without the challenge of advanced class offerings. I support laning because it allows students to choose a pace that best works for them.
In her own words…