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Pleasanton Middle School told to do better job teaching Hispanic students

Original post made on Feb 17, 2011

Pleasanton Middle School has to do a better job of teaching math to Hispanic students, according to a state review of test scores.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, February 17, 2011, 7:22 AM

Comments (75)

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Posted by Flea
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 17, 2011 at 8:00 am

I am a retired middle school math teacher from Nevada. I worked with low performing, low income students. I did a pretty good job of breaking down math in terms these students can understand. PMS, if you are looking for a volunteer, or even want to pay someone, post below. I have a NV teaching license, endorsed & HQ in math & science for MS. I have no interest in obtaining a CA license.


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Posted by comment
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 8:14 am

Read the article. This is a tiny amount of students who are non-native English speakers, and the problem is being addressed. PMS is an excellent school with API scores that put it in the top 3% of middle schools in California.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 17, 2011 at 8:25 am

Stacey is a registered user.

This problem is only going to get worse as No Child Left Behind ramps up the required level of proficiency very rapidly. PMS could meet the 58% requirement and then still stay stuck in PI as the requirement becomes much higher next year.


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Posted by Legal Hispanic Resident
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Feb 17, 2011 at 8:27 am

Maybe if we did not spend so much money supporting the illegal immigrants' education, we would have more resources to teach the hard working taxpayer's children!!


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Posted by lifetime democrate
a resident of California Reflections
on Feb 17, 2011 at 8:56 am

The burden of non-english students is what has brought down our public education. In other countries these students would be required to attend private schools. We are fools who have been bullied by political correctness.


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Posted by Former PMS parent
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Feb 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as innuendo, hearsay or specific accusatory information unsupported by facts.)


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Posted by Shortage
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 9:28 am

Sad we have to use our limited resources on illegals. But,just aa sad that this age is when students need to be 'inspired' in MATH & SCIENCE....nationwide we are lacking exciting, competent math & science teachers to prepare our country to again become world leaders in math & science. Companies hire foreigners because WE don't graduate enough in those fields. When we're loaded with GENERAL ED majors who learn crowd control, union activism, political correctness, and diversity, there's not much time left for mastering math and science.


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Posted by I'm legal
a resident of Parkside
on Feb 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

Why doesn't anyone ask the hard questions (fear?): Why is it everyone else excels in math and overall studies, but this group does not?
Is it a language barrier? Why aren't they assimilating and learning English?
Is it genetics? Are the teachers singling out these kids and giving them less attention?
If they have special needs (which remedial assistance qualifies as) they should not be in the same class or school as the majority of students who are capable of learning the material.
Political correctness does no one any favors here, least of all the kids who are the subject of this hand wringing and misplaced guilt.


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Posted by comment
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 9:43 am

"I have spent a lot of money on math tutors at the high school level- why is that?"

Could it be that your children aren't very good in math? Some people have higher abilities than others in some fields. That is just reality.


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Danbury Park
on Feb 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

Almost all of us have families with ancestors that more than likely immigrated to the U.S. without originally speaking the English language. Regardless of whether incoming residents speak Italian, German, Persian, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, French, Russian, or whatever, rather than saying this is a "burden," it is the strength of diversity that has made America great.


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Posted by Susan
a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Feb 17, 2011 at 9:47 am

A contributing factor could be the (lack of)English language skills. Several of those students were probably in the Valley View Spanish immersion program...placed in classes to speak Spanish so the English speaking students could benefit from native speaker's vocabulary, accent, etc. Perhaps they should have been in English speaking classrooms to learn the language and be better prepared for middle school.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:10 am

"Why is it everyone else excels in math and overall studies, but this group does not?"

I think is a combination of things. My kids excel in Math, but not thanks to the teachers. I have had to tutor them, and it was only one year when one of my children got lucky and had a class with a great Math teacher (and did not need my help).

Why do some kids excel? Because parents tutor them, or pay for tutoring services. The students who make it possible for PMS to receive Title I funds do not have the resources to go to tutoring services.

I think that speaks a lot about the quality of teachers we have in PUSD: bad teachers whose students do well in spite or them, whose students have to get help outside of school to do well on the tests and learn the material. And those who do not get that outside help either fail the tests or end up in remedial Math.

Despite what some parents say, we have some horrible teachers in PUSD, and the current system that keeps the bad teachers on board and gives them raises is responsible for it.

We should be able to fire bad teachers! We should be able to give raises ONLY to those teachers who are good, merit based pay is what we need.

The parcel tax language says the money is to "retain highly qualified teachers" - I hope they are not talking about the PMS Math teachers, and about all the bad teachers in PUSD. NO on this parcel tax because it will go to pay for raises, indirectly, and the raises will be given based on years worked, not on performance, so even the Math teachers whose students failed to pass the test or master the material, would get raises. NO on parcel taxes until the system is reformed!


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Posted by comment
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:23 am

"I have had to tutor them, and it was only one year when one of my children got lucky and had a class with a great Math teacher (and did not need my help)."

Oh sure so most Pleasanton teachers and schools are really bad and there are only one or two good teachers. That's why everybody leaves Pleasanton and moves to Hayward for the schools. Sure. Could it be, maybe, that your children weren't very good in math, and that's why they needed all that tutoring?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:27 am

"Could it be that your children aren't very good in math? Some people have higher abilities than others in some fields. That is just reality."

You sound a lot like "concerned parent." It is not as simple as that. Read the comments, many are complaining about bad teachers. That is the reality. I have had to tutor my kids, and it is not because they are not good in Math, there was only one year when one of my kids had a good Math teacher and I did not have to tutor my child because the teacher was actually good and taught the material in class, rather than relying on students to get it done somehow.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:34 am

"Could it be, maybe, that your children weren't very good in math, and that's why they needed all that tutoring? "

comment/concerned parent/(or whatever name you come up with)

No, in fact they took AP Math classes (got As and passed the AP test) in HS. They always scored above grade level in math. But it was not thanks to the teachers. There are very few good math teachers in PUSD.

Whatever the class, whether regular, honors or AP math, help is needed because teachers do not teach the concepts. They kind of talk about it in class but no real teaching goes on.



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Posted by Joyce Senechal
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:39 am

Pleasanton Middle School,

I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate Pleasanton Middle School and the job it does daily to teach our students. I understand that PMS has been placed under Program Improvement status due to our Title 1 designation and the No Child Left Behind Program. The irony of this is that with an API of 932 PMS is one of the top middle schools in the state. I firmly believe this still. Every school struggles with their pockets of students with extra needs. I find it ridiculous that PMS has been anointed with this status because it in no way reflects the excellence that is shown by those in the trenches, the staff. I just wanted to take this time to thank the staff for all they do because I realize that this negative stigma will undoubtedly cause pain for the PMS community and I feel it is completely unwarranted and misguided. I moved my family here to Pleasanton six years ago to partake of the excellence of Pleasanton schools, it wasn't easy and it still isn't as I have three very different children with very different learning styles. But I must say I don't regret a minute of our time here.

Thank you,
Joyce Senechal


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Posted by West Side Observer
a resident of Oak Hill
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:43 am

You must read the Pleasanton test results. Pleasanton's Asian and Indian students have high test scores because their parents demand their students excel and who foster their family's assimilation into American culture. Hispanic students struggle. Their parents do not demand as much as others do and they do not assimilate into American culture.
Additional proof exists in the composition of the "We the People" and the "Mock Trial" teams. Not many Hispanics there. For that matter, not many Caucasians either.


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Posted by Capsized by Illegals
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:47 am

The first corrective action that the Pleasanton School District should take is to call ICE in to determine how many of the children in PMS are illegals, or the children of illegals. Then they should contact some media outlets that would actually cover the issue to put heat on ICE to actually deport the illegals. Once all the illegals are cleared out then they could look to see how many students in this "impacted" category are left. At that point, they should likely reject Title I funds and the problem with the Feds goes away.

This is just a precursor of what is to come. By 2014, virtually all the schools in the Tri-Valley will be "failing" schools, even though most of them are in the top 10% in the state. Now Child Left Behind is a very ill-conceived law that needs to be overturned. The best thing that could happen to schools is to enforce are immigration laws and to get the state and local governments out of running schools. That's a function that is much better done at the local level.

By the way, when is the City Council (dominated by the 3 stooges) and the City Police going to do something about all the illegals in Pleasanton. It took the Feds to smoke out the illegal immigration scam going on at Tri-Valley University (Wow, the dolt Napolitano actually did something!)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:50 am

"Pleasanton's Asian and Indian students have high test scores because their parents demand their students excel and who foster their family's assimilation into American culture. "

That is very true, and if you are close to any asian family (I am), you would find out that they too, use tutors. Sure, the tutoring is for the more advanced Math classes, but it is tutoring nonetheless. I am not sure why, but many kids, whether in regular, honors or advanced classes, and yes, many asian very high achieving smart kids, use tutoring.

The post from "Former PMS Parent" was removed, but that person also said that he/she had to pay for math tutors.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 11:08 am

The article says:

"The second year of program improvement would require the school to add professional development and offer tutoring to low-income students."

Yes, tutoring is needed, and these kids who make Title I funding possible do not have the financial resources for private tutoring.

Good teachers are also needed. I looked at the demographics of all 3 middle schools in PUSD (go to greatschools.net) and they all have about the same percent of hispanics and low income students, yet PMS is the only one who failed to get this group of students to be proficient. It does make you wonder about the quality of the staff/math teachers at PMS.


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Posted by To Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 11:19 am

You don't know the entire story. Greatschools.net is not correct and I'm betting the information is old. PMS has more Hispanics than the other middle schools and on top of it, takes Title 1 money. The other middle schools do not take this money, so they are exempt from any federal requirements.

I wish more people were questioning the law. No Child Left Behind was an AWFUL law that was approved very quickly and without much thought. Educators have been saying for years that this was going to happen. By 2014, all schools that take Title 1 money must be 100% proficient or advanced proficient in their test scores.

Think of it this way - a child with Down's Syndrome will be expected to get the same test scores as a student who is in AP math. Why are we not questioning this law and demanding that it be revoked? Why did we not listen to our educators, who realized that the "one size fits all" approach is invalid and should no longer exists?


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Posted by Flea
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

As an experienced educator, I will offer my opinion regarding the Hispanic learning problem, since it was this problem that compelled me to leave education.

First off, many of the Hispanic students are children of illegals, not illegal themselves. They were born in the USA. But, since the Hispanic culture, in general, refuses to assimilate to the English speaking culture, they leave their children at a huge disadvantage. These parents do not speak English and are uneducated. They have no resources to offer their children. Most of my students fit this category. They entered the 6th grade not knowing their basic math facts, and many could not add or subtract w/o regrouping. The majority could not write a complete sentence using proper English grammar. Why? They were born in the US and attended our public schools since kindergarten. So, my not so humble opinion came to this conclusion: families make the difference. If parents refuse to become proficient in English how can they possibly help their own children? It is a huge question and there is not one simple solution. Elementary schools tell parents the middle schools will fix the learning deficiencies. Middle schools can't - students are expected to enter the classroom with a basic set of skills (multiplication facts, subtraction/addition facts, etc). When these required skills are non-existent, there really isn't a lot a teacher can do. It is up to the parents to get their failing students up to speed, or to stay on top of their learning to start with. Why are their kids entering middle school lacking such basic skills?
Oh, BTW, I know that the Pleasanton Schools are good. Duh, That's why we moved here.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Could everyone remain on topic? The story is about hispanic students performing poorly while attending one of the top schools in California. Why is anyone saying that Pleasanton Middle School has bad teachers? Obviously, non-hispanic students are doing well.

I'd like to know why the poor performance of members of a particular background would require the school to add professional development and offer tutoring to low-income students. Are people of a hispanic background always low income? Why would income affect math retention?


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Is there a website or place I can go to find a list of the bad/poor teachers in Pleasanton? I assume the names have been brought up to the school board (if no action was taken by the specific school administration) so it would be public information, I just would hate to have to sift through all of the school board minutes over the years.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Also, I agree with those above the NCLB is just awful. Of course it was an easy sell, who doesn't want to see all kids succeed? One problem is funding. There are national mandates for testing, yet these are not fully funded by the feds so it takes money away from the schools. We also then focus all of our efforts on making sure the kids do well on the test, not necessarily learn. Yet, the students who are taking the test have no stake in the test. It doesn't matter if they get 100% or 0%. There is zero incentive. Some schools have to give prizes and things just so the kids will show up for the test. But yet we use this as a measuring stick for performance.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

The solution to that is to make the test a required part of the class grade. Is there a law preventing that from occurring?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm

"Greatschools.net is not correct and I'm betting the information is old."

Well, the test scores seem fairly recent, not just for PUSD but for other districts. What is not correct about it? The test scores posted are as current as 2010 (since kids have not taken the 2011 tests). It seems current to me, but if you say it is not, please tell me why.

"Could everyone remain on topic? The story is about hispanic students performing poorly while attending one of the top schools in California. Why is anyone saying that Pleasanton Middle School has bad teachers? Obviously, non-hispanic students are doing well."

According to the article, PUSD has three schools which receive Title I funds, but PMS is the only one on probation. So do the other two schools have better staff or something? Title I funds go to schools with certain subgroups, so all 3 PUSD schools receiving these funds are in the same boat as far as low-income/English learners/hispanics go. Yet the 2 other schools managed to get their subgroups to perform at a proficient level, but not PMS. Doesn't that say something about PMS? Whether is is not as good math teachers, or misuse of title I funds, or whatever is happening over there, PMS is doing something different than the other 2 Title I schools in PUSD, and that is something that needs to be addressed.

I do agree that illegal aliens need to be deported. If a parent is illegal but the child is US born, deport the parent anyway. Chances are the child will go with the parent, especially a middle school age child which is too young to be on his/her own.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

"The solution to that is to make the test a required part of the class grade. Is there a law preventing that from occurring?"

The problem with that is that not all students have to take the test. A parent can choose to "opt out" of all STAR testing.

I think the better solution is to stop the "social" promotion. If a kid is not mastering grade level skills, he/she needs to repeat a grade.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm

As the parent of a very proficient 1st grader, I'd like to voice my disgust with the current state of affairs in our schools.

Perhaps the reason why hispanic kids are having trouble is that their parents are not proficient in the subjects being taught. OK, that's to be expected. The unexpected part is how much a student's parents are expected to teach their kids.

My wife and I spend many hours per week coaching my first grader through her reading, math and other projects. I'm sure that parents that are both working, and never had an academic background wouldn't do this, so no wonder they're failing.

Our schools need to teach the kids. Teachers need to teach kindergarten and first graders how to do homework if they're handing it out. Don't depend upon parents to teach time management, or even explain the work. If a teacher can't do that, then do it in class. The most you should hope from parents is to provide a table and time to do the work.


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Posted by To Steve
a resident of Avila
on Feb 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I don't get your mentality. Parents should only provide a table and time to do the work? Did you not understand when you decided to have children, that it is your responsibility to help them grow? That you cannot pass it off to anybody else because ultimately, your child is YOUR child.

If you are disgusted with the schools, imagine the disgust the teachers feel when they are expected to teach between 34 - 250 students, all with different backgrounds and different parents. Imagine what it's like trying to get a child proficient whose parents hate each other so much that they can't attend the same meeting. Imagine what it's like when politicians develop laws without stepping inside of a classroom. Imagine what it's like developing curriculum that can be learned by ALL students.

I suggest you volunteer at your child's school before you pass judgement. It would be similar to me telling you that you don't know how to do your job without understanding it.


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Posted by Shortage
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Like I said at the top, the focus today is on 'diversity' and 'politial correctness' by ED students, teachers, AND SCHOOL BOARDS. It does NOT HELP OUR students, but god forbid we have any honesty in the discussion. So WHO did it help to 'baby' students and not 'require' them to learn and perform IN English...nobody ! It's a major DISservice. That group will not 'succeed' until they genuinely ASSIMILATE....not just BE here ! We must require they do their part...enjoying the benefits doesn't just happen unless they DO their part...WE cannot DO it FOR them. Do they listen to American RADIO? not from what I've heard. The spanish stations do more harm than good, by allowing them to stay stuck where they are....that's their fault, not ours. If they don't want to BE and ACT like Americans, they won't fully gain the rewards....that's their choice, not ours. Teachers that 'baby', and sympathize with parents and students ALLOW the problem to continue. MY grandparents made assimilating & learning ENGLISH and learning HOW to BE American their number ONE priority.
Yes, dumping BAD teachers would be a positive move, IF we care about students..(IF union would let us put students first) rather than bad teachers on tenure being the priorty over students.


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Posted by first grade parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm

To Steve: I also have a good 1st grader and she gets her homework done in about 10-15 minutes a day with a tiny bit of help from me while I make dinner.

It's just a little math, reading and spelling work and maybe an occasional extra project. Oh, and there is 20 minutes reading a day, but that should be standard with or without school. Our teacher gives us optional other things to do too, but it's our choice. What do you have to do that is so hard?


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm

"first grade parent" - 10-15 plus 20 plus... So it's really ~40 min per day, right? Like I say below, I enjoy teaching my child new things, and with a MS in math/CS, math is my subject. But other parents are not so lucky or so inclined and their kids shouldn't suffer...

"To Steve" - I teach my 1st grader because I'm not going to let the failings of the school system affect her chances in the world. When I moved to CA from the midwest, I understood what I'd need to do, since the education system out here is so awful. However, I enjoy teaching, so I don't mind teaching my kids.

I'm just stating that public education now requires the parent to be actively involved and if a parent is not ready for it, the student will suffer. For Hispanic parents that don't know English very well, and may not have attended much school themselves, there is no way they can provide anything but a table and time for their kids. So the schools can't expect parents to provide much more than that. If the schools continue to expect parents to provide backup teaching, the situation for 1st generation kids will never improve.

By the way, here's a great example of my issue with the schools:

When my child came home yesterday and said that they spent time in class practicing sorting using Valentine candies, I wondered why they were spending time "sorting" when that was a Kindergarten/early 1st grade topic, and the class had already mastered it.

Wouldn't class time have been better spent using the candies to do addition and subtraction? Of course, they're also past adding and subtracting single digits, so perhaps the teacher should have just handed out the candy as rewards instead.

I hear complaints from the teacher that some of the kids are having trouble with math. Then perhaps she should use the class time more wisely and concentrate on the skills that are lacking, rather than the skills that have been mastered.


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Posted by first grade parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

No it's 10-15 minutes homework, no big deal. Any first grader should be doing the reading anyhow, just before bed or whenever. That's not something that needs parental guidance.


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Posted by To Steve
a resident of Amador Estates
on Feb 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm

If you have your MS/CS in Math, then get your butt in the school system and start teaching. I'd like to see you apply your skills instead of complaining and being passive.

And can you admit that it's possible your 1st grader missed the actual concept the teacher was trying to teach with Valentine's Day cards? Is it possible they misinterpreted something an adult was doing?

All of my kids have gone to PMS and I am thrilled with the level of support the faculty have given our children. It's a shame that NCLB was written so poorly by our politicians.


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Posted by About tutors
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I'm curious why everyone is paying for math tutors. I just got my child's organizer out and taped on the inside cover is free math tutoring that is available to students at Pleasanton Middle School. Teachers are free before/after school and during lunch 5 days a week.


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Posted by Easy Target
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Hispanics and Blacks do not have academic scoring issues just in Pleasanton, these two sub-groups have educational achievement problems throughout the entire state of California.

I suppose we could blame the teachers. Easy target.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm

"To Steve" -- It was candies, not cards. The teacher had them sort the candies by color, words on them, etc. My child can speak English, and was pretty clear in explaining what happened. I would also hope that the teacher doing something else wouldn't be misinterpreted as sorting. That would really be a failing on the part of a teacher, wouldn't it?

BUT, the bigger picture is what the article is about. If everyone commenting can try to remain on topic, I wouldn't have to keep explaining that it's not my child I'm concerned about. However, it is through my child I can see the problem.

The schools cannot keep expecting parents to provide backup teaching when there are parents that may not speak English, and may not have a very good education. If there are Hispanic kids having trouble, perhaps it indicates that the expectation of parents providing assistance at home is not a valid expectation. Teachers need to use classroom time as wisely as possible, and only use homework to provide repitition of skills already learned in class.


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Posted by first grade parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm

"The schools cannot keep expecting parents to provide backup teaching when there are parents that may not speak English, and may not have a very good education. If there are Hispanic kids having trouble, perhaps it indicates that the expectation of parents providing assistance at home is not a valid expectation." "

"If there are Hispanic kids having trouble, perhaps it indicates that the expectation of parents providing assistance at home is not a valid expectation"

Homework is a very valid expectation. It depends on the kids whether they get the concepts presented in class. Some don't and will need more help. If the teacher have to slow down for everyone the smarter kids wouldn't learn anything. We can't slow down to the pace of non-English speakers and expect our kids to live up to their potential.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm

The kids are English speakers. If they aren't, then that's a pretty easy explanation for their troubles. Usually kids from immigrant households will speak English by 1st grade without any help from parents. My wife didn't speak English when she was 5 and my nieces and nephews didn't either. Kids learn language very quickly.

The problem I see is that much of the homework requires parents to actually be involved, and have some knowledge of the material as well. That may work if the parent can handle the assigned work, but if a parent doesn't have the necessary background, the student will fall behind. In that case, is it the parent's fault for not being able to providing backup teaching, or should our teachers concentrate on core skills in class that will provide skills necessary for graduation, and provide homework for students to reinforce and go beyond the core?


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Posted by first grade parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm

"The problem I see is that much of the homework requires parents to actually be involved"

Not in our case. My child can read the instructions and get on with it pretty easily. I work in the classroom weekly and think that most of the kids would be the same. I troubleshoot if needed, and hey we're talking about elementary school, you don't need more than an elementary school education to help out with that if they need you. I really don't see the problem with first grade homework, which is what you started this conversation about.

If my daugher needs help in Calculus someday, we'll need a tutor :)


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I should add that my first comment here was actually supportive of teachers. I don't think it is necessarily teachers "fault", but since the pattern I see is the same in each classroom, I think it's a systemic failure.

I think there is a widespread expectation that parents will provide backup teaching support, but that expectation may not apply to 10-20% of students. Half of those students can overcome the lack of involvement through hard work, but the others cannot. Perhaps we should just dismiss the 10% who can't get by on their own as a necessary evil if we want the teacher to keep up with the "smart" kids. But perhaps these kids aren't stupid, they just don't have anyone to teach them at home like my kids do.


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Posted by first grade parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Steve, you shouldn't need to teach at home. You might want to try taking a step back and letting your child get on with their homework themselves. I found at the beginning of the year I was sitting down with my child and watching every move she made and generally interfering - we were both getting frustrated. Once I actually got out of her way, homework speeded up enormously, we're much happier and I just check and get her to review any mistakes.

From my experience in the classroom, the 10-20% you are talking about get SO much extra help at school. Reading specialists, more time with the teacher, tons of time and effort.


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Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Steve, you bring up a perfect example of what is going wrong with the communication between many in the community and what is actually going on in school.

The candy sorting project you speak of sounds like it came from AIMS, a highly regarded math and science program from UC Berkley. Unfortunately, in your assumptions about the activity, you have completely missed the point of it- statistics, probability, and data analysis are the standards covered with this engaging activity that reaches the attention span and ability level of 1st graders. As a child advances through the grade levels, these experiences add up and kids are able to do advanced math with a high level of proficiency. To call this a waste of class time is not understanding how to teach a classroom of 25-34 students. Did you speak with the teacher to know that every student had mastered the standards? Did you realize that most kids need to experience a concept ten times before they reach mastery? On top of that, in a typical classroom, everyone reaches this level at a different time, but you must ensure all reach it.

The same issue with the math students at PMS, do you realize how many students this issue is speaking of? The percentage is so low, less than you can count on your hands- or with that candy! Yet many assume that all students are needing tutoring or the math teachers are less than stellar because of this report is inaccurate and misleading. Where does it say that these students are illegal, or that their parents are? So quickly many jump to that assumption.

The lack of communication with the professionals in the schools is apparent with both examples. So many are quick to judge and blame without any interest in knowing the truth. I trust, believe, and ask my children's teachers when something doesn't seem right with their homework. Most of the time, its my child who didn't hear the directions correctly, or only listened to part of the instruction. I hold my child responsible for their learning, I don't teach them to blame others when they don't get it.

Stacey is correct- it is an issue we have warned about since NCLB was first instituted. Every school in the nation will eventually be in this position. Talk about a waste of money.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm

4 kids through PUSD, I agree with Steve!

(Comment deemed inappropriate by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff)


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Posted by tina
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Feb 18, 2011 at 6:34 am

It is so easy to pass the buck from person to person, but the reality is not every kid is good at math. As a parent I have helped in every single year of my child's education, and have seen the same kids struggle. Kids who struggled in 1st grade, were still struggling in 5th. I was not impressed with the resources available to them, and holding children back in school is not going to fix the problem. Kids who struggle need to be identified early on, because if intervention is not given these kids slip through the system.

Pleasanton schools have so much help from parents, and if parents can't help, they pay tutors who can. My son was an example of a child who struggle in 8th grade. There wasn't any resources available to him, so we paid five thousand dollars for a year of tutoring. This tutor took my son from a D student to an A. The saddest part of this story is that not all people have that kind of money, and unfortunately there's a lot kids who simply fall into the cracks.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2011 at 8:14 am

Steve - you say your child is "very proficient" yet you have to help them with everything. Maybe you should stop helping them and see what they can do on their own. I've had 3 kids through elementary school and have very rarely helped them with daily homework, except a problem here or there. If they are having serious trouble I tell them to skip the problems and talk to the teacher. If you are helping the child do everything, the kid gets to school, the students appears to be able to do everything, so the teacher assumes that the child is proficient. Instead of complaining, be part of the solution. If there is an assignment your child doesn't understand, let the teacher know - send a note, write an email, or give a call. Teachers use feedback from many locations and a students ability to do homework on their own is important. I bet if you asked almost all teachers they would say that parents shouldn't be helping much if at all on homework.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2011 at 8:21 am

Stacey - yes, there are currently laws regarding using the the test scores for or against the student and currently its logistically a problem because test scores don't get released until late summer or something, so grades would have to go back and be changed. It seems to make complete sense that if the tests measure students mastery of teh standards then it would be a really good idea to tie their grade (or advancement) to performance on the test (although doing this singly raises other issues which would need to be addressed). Some schools do look at the tests to see where to place kids (i.e. do they need a lower math class).


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2011 at 8:39 am

tine - you make a good point that others have made. Not everybody is good at everything. Out in the real world people are specialized in their job. In school we want students to achieve a minimum level of understanding in a broad spectrum of classes - but not every student is going to be able to do Calculus - hence the HS exit exam math only goes up to Algebra. For some kids getting a C in math is a great success and for others it would/should be considered a failure, but we do need to evaluate everyone on their abilities not just on effort. Parents should be aware of their children's strengths and weaknesses and support them as necessary.


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Posted by Tina
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Feb 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

I totally agree with me too. People in this area live in a huge bubble, where everything is so wonderful. All children have different styles of learning and capabilities. For some, math will always be a difficult subject, while others sail through school with great success. We should be more tolerant of those kids who struggle. People in this area do have a habit of pointing fingers, and looking down on others. When my son gets a C on a test, I'm super proud because I know how difficult it is for him. And let's not forget that the world doesn't run on GPA scores. What is easy for one child is very difficult for another.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2011 at 10:57 am

"And let's not forget that the world doesn't run on GPA scores" - once you are in college, no one cares what your HS GPA was. Once you get a job, no one cares what you college GPA was.


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Posted by Teacher
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm

It's funny that no one has asked about how literate these students are in their native language (Spanish). If a person, no matter what their age is, hasn't learned the basics in their native language then 2nd language acquisition is going to be much more difficult. ELL students would not be placed in a Spanish immersion program just so the "white" kids can hear Spanish being spoken correctly. ELL students have to, by law, be tested yearly on their growth. Schools want to redesignate a ELL student as soon as possible but it's all based on their CELDT scores.

Something else to consider, I'm not sure how PUSD report cards are laid out, but they should be aligned with the state content standards. If students are scoring well on report cards that are based around these standards, they should do fine on the tests.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 19, 2011 at 12:53 am

Stacey is a registered user.

"If a person, no matter what their age is, hasn't learned the basics in their native language then 2nd language acquisition is going to be much more difficult"

As a part-time linguist educated in Chomsky's theories, I find that statement difficult to believe. No one ever in the history of all humanity required an understanding of grammar to be able to speak their first, second, third, etc. language.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Gatewood
on Feb 19, 2011 at 5:54 am

'"If a person, no matter what their age is, hasn't learned the basics in their native language then 2nd language acquisition is going to be much more difficult"

As a part-time linguist educated in Chomsky's theories, I find that statement difficult to believe. No one ever in the history of all humanity required an understanding of grammar to be able to speak their first, second, third, etc. language.'

That's so wrong I'm really at a loss for where to start. It's like saying, 'as an amateur mechanic, I can tell you definitively that fuel isn't REALLY necessary to make your car run.'. Big loss of credibility there, Stacey.


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Posted by Michelle
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm

What I find most interesting is that this group appears to do okay in the language arts testing, but not the math. So is it really a language barrier issue or is something else going on? As a parent of a former PMS student, I will add my two cents. Let me preface this by saying I have been extremely happy overall with the Pleasanton schools. My daughter is now a junior at Amador and has been in the district since kindergarten. Yes, there were a few less than stellar teachers along the way but most were very good and some were outstanding. The only real complaint I've ever had was with the math program at PMS. With a few exceptions, it's very weak. I have to agree with other parents about the tutoring and/or parent hours spent helping their kids learn the material- my husband spent hours every week teaching our daughter the Algebra material because it was not taught to her during class. Kids who don't have families with the financial resources to hire tutors or who don't have parents with strong math skills will continue to struggle. This could turn out to be just the wake-up call PMS needs to shake things up a bit and improve which in turn will benefit all the kids. On a positive note, my daughter has had fabulous math teachers at Amador and she rarely needs our help despite taking several AP/Honors math classes.


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Posted by La Raza
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm

(Sorry, but postings on Town Square must be in English.)


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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Feb 19, 2011 at 8:44 pm

"Once you get a job, no one cares what you college GPA was."

But the degree you get from Stanford would speak a lot louder than that you get from CSUEB, not to mention the valuable networking opportunities you get at a reputable college. Getting a high GPA in high school is the prerequisite to getting into a great college.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2011 at 9:09 pm

I watched a board meeting a year or so ago, and the emphasis of PUSD was to get more kids to take Geometry by 8th grade. That is fine if the kids are ready, but if not done properly, it can lead to students moving through without really mastering basic math skills. This mercury news article talks about that problem. They focus on schools in Santa Clara County (and placement in Algebra I by 8th grade), but that same problem happens here in PUSD (but with placement in Geometry by 8th grade, Algebra I by 7th grade).

""California's middle-grades educators should continue to widen appropriate access to challenging mathematics coursework," Rosin said in a statement. "But in doing so, they need to build on a strong math foundation for students in earlier grades and base their placement decisions on a careful understanding of students' preparedness."

Rosin added: "The objective of giving more students the opportunity to complete Algebra I in eighth grade should not be achieved at the expense of a large proportion of students who would be better served by having more time to master key algebra concepts.""

Web Link


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Anonymous from Gatewood,

I know, surprising isn't it? Pre-literate societies had no need to learn about grammar in order to acquire other languages and it is difficult for those of us who are accustomed to reading and being taught via grammar in second language classes to believe it. And yet it still isn't needed for communication, which is the most important part of language (try Rosetta Stone or the free LiveMocha for an example). Grammar awareness always comes second, even in the native language.


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Posted by To La Raza
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 19, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Forgive me, because my Spanish is a little rusty. However, my understanding is that you want PUSD to have more before/after school programs and free lunch for those in need. But PUSD is already doing that. Anyone can qualify for free/reduced lunch and anyone can request that their child be in before/after school programs (although money is a little tight and the before/after school programs are limited).

I admire the Spanish speaking culture for so many reasons, mainly that as a majority, you are able to keep your culture alive. It's so incredibly impressive that the Mexican-American community works together. As a majority, the Spanish speaking children have more family responsibilities than any English speaking child could ever imagine. But something does have to be said about the lack of emphasis on education in your community, as a whole. Why is that? Why is it o.k. that Spanish speaking students are overly represented at Village high school (more so than any other ethnicity)? They aren't dumb - absolutely NOT. They are smarter in so many ways than other students. I really wish someone from the Spanish speaking community would stand up and tell parents to knock it off and get involved in their child's education. Yes, more of you are working longer hours than any of us could imagine. Yes, you are underpaid for your services. But your child is exactly that - YOUR CHILD. Our community as a whole would be so much better off if they were integrated into our schools and influenced other children.


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Posted by Yet Another Teacher
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Feb 20, 2011 at 12:34 am

Stacey's right about Chomsky's theories on language acquisition.

Thanks for the few thoughtful comments on this thread, but as for the racists who popped up almost immediately...sigh, not surprised you exist in Pleasanton, and you never miss an opportunity to wave your ugly flag of hate.

Why do so many people assume that these Hispanic children are the children of illegal immigrants? Do you automatially assume that anyone who looks as if he/she is from a Latin American country is in the USA illegally?

I'll solve the mystery, such as it is, of why the Hispanic kids aren't doing so great in math: it's a documented fact that the Hispanic kids come from poor families, and the #1 predictor of a child's success in school is family income.

Simple as that.


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Posted by Nomad
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2011 at 7:49 am

That's odd. School board members last week were saying that the #1 predictor of a child's success in school is the quality of the teacher.
I think it is the ethics of the parents/adults in that child's life.


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Posted by Alan Cook
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2011 at 8:04 am

National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids.

Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out.

The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting.

A Trip To The Number Yard is a math book focusing on the building of a bungalow. Odd numbered chapters cover the phases of the project: lot layout, foundation, framing, all the way through until the trim out. The even numbered chapters introduce the math needed for the next stage of building and/or reviews the previous lessons.

This type of project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a class room.

If we really want kids to learn math and to have the lessons be valuable, we need to change the mode of teaching. Our kids can master the math that most adults need. We can't continue to have class rooms full of math drudges. Instead, we need to change our teaching tactics with real life projects.

Alan Cook
info@thenumberyard.com
www.thenumberyard.com





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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 20, 2011 at 8:19 am

A high-quality teacher can cope with students from varied economic backgrounds. However, teachers and parents must work in partnership. Parents can reinforce high expectations for students and model diligence and persistence so their students work hard at learning (both at school and at home).

I think it's important to keep in mind that the change in status for the school was the result of a single student (who was proficient according to the federal standards!) being removed from the Hispanic subcategory on the basis that the student had moved into the school too late in the year for the student's scores to be included in the statistics.

Even though the district's schools are generally rated as effective according to federal NCLB criteria, PUSD still works to close achievement gaps. To do so is important not because of the federal law, but because of the moral imperative of providing equal opportunities to all students. Because of her moral commitment, Superintendent Ahmadi led a district-wide push to address achievement gaps this past fall. Objectives were identified school by school to address the particular needs of different socioeconomic groups of students. Students who are not progressing are identified individually by their teachers in October, and teachers work together to get students the help they need.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2011 at 10:13 am

"I think it's important to keep in mind that the change in status for the school was the result of a single student (who was proficient according to the federal standards!) being removed from the Hispanic subcategory on the basis that the student had moved into the school too late in the year for the student's scores to be included in the statistics. "

Where did you get this information Sandy? Have you read what you wrote? It does not even make sense.

Remember that PMS was on notice the year before and it was this year that they were put on probation. The problem was already happening the year before, and you expect people to believe that this year one single student cost PMS to be on probation? Gee, I hope you are not getting your information from the district, because if you are, we are in serious trouble!


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Posted by It's true
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Feb 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm

It's true, the district has announced that it was one student's score that made the difference (hence the reason that PMS was told the scores were fine in September and then the state changed the status last week). If you went to a public forum about this topic instead of complaining on this site, you would know that.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

"It's true, the district has announced that it was one student's score that made the difference (hence the reason that PMS was told the scores were fine in September and then the state changed the status last week). If you went to a public forum about this topic instead of complaining on this site, you would know that."

Then the district is spreading misinformation. Look it up, read about it - the California Department of Education would help you to understand how this works.

A school is put on probation after TWO years of failing to have the subgroup meet the criteria. That means that even if this year PMS relied on an ALREADY proficient hispanic student that came to PMS (again, already proficient, not that he/she became proficient at PMS) too late in the year to be counted.... PMS was ALREADY failing to have the subgroup perform at a proficient level the year before.

PMS' subgroup failed to perform at a proficient level TWO years in a row. The little story about an already proficient hispanic student that came too late to PMS does not explain PMS' inability to have the subgroup of already not-proficient kids, do well.

Too bad PUSD is choosing to spead misinformation. I guess it is just like when they say that the parcel tax will not go for raises, and yet we know it will, indirectly, pay for step and column.


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Posted by Ro
a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 27, 2011 at 11:18 am

When I first came to the states ten years ago, I was greatly impressed by the way English was taught. However, I thought that the math programs were dreadful. I was taken aback by seeing first graders timed on tests. Some of these kids were so stressed that they hated math. It wasn't about what the child knew, it was about how many math problems they could get right in three minutes. We are really loosing the principles of math, we are focusing on moving on to new chapter, when kids don't know the first ones. I have spoken to so many people in this area that have to put their kids with tutors because they are not getting it at school. We need to slow down and concentrate on the basic. Way to many kids are failing!


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Posted by Eye
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Timed tests are a part of life, and they have a place in education. Ask a kindergartener to count to 30 or recite their ABC's, how quickly they are able to accomplish the task is a reflection as to how well they know their facts. Ask a first grader to add two simple numbers together, again how quickly they can perform the task, repeatedly, is an indication of how well they understand their basic numbers. Ask a third grade to recite their multiplication times table, you will quickly learn how correctly and how well they actually know their multiplication facts.

The teacher needs to know how effectively (correct answers) and efficiently (processing time) the students's mind is working in order to help them mature and grow.

Teachers don't write the school textbooks, the educational grade level state standards, the standardized tests, nor the rate at which students should be paced.

The state of California does, local communities lost control years ago through our tax and spend mechanism allocating funds to school districts (strings are always attached), and it gets even worse once your school is in PI.

Once your school or district is in PI, they never get out. It is impossible according to the measures and structure of the program. The PUSD superintendent is thus fooling the school community, she knows better.

It is all down hill from here. Good luck.


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Posted by Karla
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm

The NCLB Law is a positive structure to protect students. There are benefits for all the students.
Web Link (NCLB)

The Williams Case is also a positive step to share concerns about the schools and the education provided to your children.
Web Link

The undocumented students are allowed to attend schools in the state of California and here are the legal findings by the CDE.

Web Link (Scroll down to Immigrant Status)

Ignorance is expensive, and if you have foreign students in Pleasanton (Chinese, Indians) The sons and daughters of the students from the Tri-Valley University who committed immigration fraud, please include them as illegal.

Karla


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Posted by Ro
a resident of Del Prado
on Mar 1, 2011 at 6:35 am

Sorry Eve, but I totally disagree with you. Children should not be time tested at a young age. I attended a math program where the professor was totally against time testing. Why? Because these kids are just learning the basics, and you are putting stress on a six year old just just beginning their education. Some of the kids that I worked with found it very difficult to complete twenty problems in three minutes, but sailed through them in five minutes. As I was educated in Great Britain, I do have something to compare against. Why put pressure on kids at such a young age? I have always been asked to work the math lab classes because my children have excellent math skills. from a young age math was always a game to my kids, because I made it that way.


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Posted by mike
a resident of Charter Oaks
on Mar 3, 2011 at 9:15 am

"The world needs ditch diggers too" - Judge Smails


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Posted by All kinds
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Ro doesn't have a clue about education, but she is though welcome to her point of view.


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Posted by tim
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 4, 2011 at 10:50 am

That is why the world is like it is, because we have people who can't respectively agree that people have different opinions.


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Posted by lisa
a resident of Ironwood
on Mar 4, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I had a child who really struggled at time testing. It was so bad that we had her tested. We were advise to have her excused from the time tests. It wasn't that she couldn't do the math, she just couldn't do them in the amount of time she was given. Not only did she feel a failure, but it caused her a lot of stress. Not all kids are the same, each learn differently and some do not fit the mold. What is right for one child is wrong for another. And let us not forget that each and everyone of us has the right to voice an opinion. Running those down who have a different opinions is pure ignorance.


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