Our Vision: For Palo Alto public schools where all children thrive emotionally, socially, and academically.
We are a group of Palo Alto parents, students, former students and community members advocating changes to PAUSD policies to reduce academic stress and improve the emotional and mental health of our students. We are concerned about rising rates of depression and anxiety among our student population. Many of us have had that concern for many years as the result of our experiences, or those of our friends, with PAUSD. Others of us came to that concern as a result of the highly publicized suicide cluster afflicting our community in 2009-11.
We reject the false choice between lowering stress and high achievement. We believe that lower stress and achievement go hand in hand. Think about it. Do you do your best work in a stressed-out pressure cooker? Of course not. Neither do our kids. Join us. Together we can make Palo Alto a national model for stress reduction and a return to sanity in secondary education.
Our goals include advocating for the district to implement Section P-8 of the Project Safety Net plan, developed jointly by PAUSD, the City of Palo Alto and various community organizations. P-8, entitled "Supportive School Environment" calls for a focused effort to "study, discuss, and implement" changes to improve student emotional and mental health through measures such as "finals prior to winter break, revised test and project calendars, revised homework policies addressing purpose and volume, academic integrity concerns, tutorials and advisories, and social and emotional skill development." P-8 also calls for PAUSD to "apply positive strategies across all schools in the district. This would allow for a common language, economies of scale, cross training and sharing of what works."
In part as a result of our efforts in the spring and summer of 2011, the PAUSD school board adopted several focused goals that are in line with P-8, including:
- Formulating and adopting a Board policy on the appropriate content and quantity of homework through the grades
- Creating a policy to prevent overlapping project and test scheduling for our kids
- Investigating why we have different counseling systems at each of the two high schools, with the goal of improving counseling for our students
In line with P-8, we are working toward the implementation of an advisory counseling system at Gunn. An advisory system employs teachers to meet regularly with students to help with scheduling, academic issues in classes, and general support. Students gain a caring adult on campus with whom they have regular contact. Counselors are freed to provide more specialized support, including psychological support. Paly has an advisory counseling system. District surveys have consistently shown, over a period of years and a variety of measures, that parents and students at Gunn are twice as dissatisfied with counseling as parents and students at Paly. The most recent survey, released in March 2012, told the same story: Paly exceeded Gunn by 5 or more percentage points on 95 of the 125 measures of effectiveness on which the two high schools could be compared. Gunn exceeded Paly by a similar margin on just 6. Implementing an advisory counseling system at Gunn would immediately improve the quality of counseling and increase student connectedness. See our counseling and guidance page for more information on this issue.
Tell the school board you support advisory at Gunn
Download an annotated bibliography on academic stress and closing the achievement gap, produced along with Stanford University's Challenge Success.
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Email us, and we'll let you know about future events and answer any questions you have. Or give Ken a call at 650-906-4340.