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'Superman' hits Woodside High School

Original post made on Sep 28, 2010

Woodside High School is cast in an unflattering spotlight this week with the nation-wide opening of the documentary "Waiting for Superman," a portrait of a troubled U.S. public school system. The movie has been commented on by President Obama and promoted by "Oprah."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 11:49 AM

Comments (76)

Posted by Mom of 2
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Ok so the "lay" audience is not capable of understanding the data! Give me a break, this is what bureaucrats say when the data paints them in an unfavorable light.

Even taking the Woodside admin's data at face value, approximately 47% of the class of 2010 went on to 4 year colleges. That is very bad for a school in an upscale suburban environment. It is deplorable compared to the private high schools where 100% of the graduates go on to 4 year colleges.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 28, 2010 at 12:49 pm

This is a classic example of the Sequoia Union High School District "fudging" its statistics.

Please read carefully...

The film states "just 62 percent of (Woodside High's) freshmen go on to graduate." FRESHMEN. This means that of 100 students who enter the school as freshman, 38 of them will drop out. Principal Reilly disputes those figures by saying that 90 percent of his graduating class of 2010 went on to college.

They're both right... but Principal Reilly statistic conveniently ignores the fact that 38% of his class has already dropped out by the time their class graduates!

The SUHSD has a deplorable drop out rate.

Posted by Carol Smith
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Waiting on Superman is a terrific must see movie. MEG Whitman who's top three campaign issues includes fixing education hosted a showing last night. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Hillview Middle School, and specifically Mike Moore Principal (ret) was shown as a good example of excellence in public school education.

Menlo Atherton's Performing Arts Center was spotlighted as an example of focusing resources on what adults want versus what our children need in today's competitive global market.

Summit Prep was identified as one of the charter schools which is doing the job that needs to be done for our children today; while Woodside was used as an example of a school performing exactly as it was designed to perform unfortunately it's to 1950's standards.

The main theme of the movie was, we need to fix education and make it for the children, not for the adults, unions or administration.

Instead of getting defensive, it's time to take real action and create an environment for our children that optimizes for success in the global market and success for our children individually.

Posted by public and private school mom
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I have one teenager in a private school and the other at M-A. I favor the private school education right now, but in all fairness we must recognize the private schools get to cherry pick their students. That's part of the reason why they have a 100% graduation rate. Summit (Charter) is lottery.

Posted by Dad of 2
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Something seems hinky about the graduation rate numbers and college preparedness numbers for Woodside High.

The available data (Web Link shows that of 423 seniors enrolled for the 2007-2008 school year, only 327 (77.3%) graduated. The other 96 (22.7% of the senior class) presumably failed to graduate.

Yet the data which David Reilly cites (at Web Link also available as Web Link claims a graduation rate of 92.4% for the same year.

Of the 327 who graduated, only 170 (52%) were prepared for college. (Web Link And that's only 40% of the incoming 2007-2008 senior class of 423.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm

There's nothing hinky at all.

They are two very different elements and the Reilly is deliberately confusing them.

Posted by Mom of 2
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 28, 2010 at 3:27 pm

yes and using the data from Mr. Reilly's link for the class of 2010 shows that only 120 went on to 4 year colleges out of a graduating class of 327. 37% of the graduates went on to 4 year colleges - using the district's own information. Oh but wait - as a layperson, I can't figure this out.......

Posted by my oh my
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm

How things have changed - I graduated in 1968 from Woodside. Quite a few of my freshman class were gone by their senior year. Primarily families moving and a few joined the military. Very few drop outs and a large graduating class the vast majority of whom went on to colleges across the country including 2yr and 4yr. Some went into the military and some went to trade schools - plumbing etc - and the plumbers I know have done damn well for themselves. I know many of those 2yr folks and the majority transferred to 4yr colleges.
Well things do change. Primarily the population of the school and the economics of the day. When I went to Woodside virtually all families had one stay at home parent - and be this as it may that make's a difference. Also virtually very family had two native English speaking parents - that also makes a big difference. We didn't have cell phones, computer games and the internet. We had some drugs in the community but not that much. We had smaller classrooms, full-time librarians and all sorts of activities through the school. We didn't have gang pressures and on-line social network pressures. We had tons of parent participation.
Well, that's not the way it is now. I'd like to see a comparison of Woodside to other highs schools across the nation with the same socio-cultural criteria including stay at hoe parents, English speaking parents etc. Then show me the apple to apple statistics on drop out, graduation and college. And then all you nay-sayers can b**ch all you want.

Posted by my oh my
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm

"the film also highlights Woodside, which is characterized as a middle-class public school in wealthy Silicon Valley."
Yeah right - how many of those students are from "wealthy silicon valley?" How many are from Woodside, Atherton and Portola Valley? Not many. Woodside's own stats say that 35% of the student body is socioeconomically disadvantaged, 19% English learners (not English as a second language), and 13% disabled. Seems more like an inner city school to me.
No matter the backgrounds of the students they deserve the best available education - but I'd like to see Woodside stats compared to like school populations.
I do have one question for Mr. Reilly. What was the actual size of the 2010 senior class that 2007 year freshman class. How many of the 2010 class graduated? How many went on to 4 yr univeristies (only 121 by the schools own statistics) and how many went on to 2yr colleges?
Lets clear-up the confusion and give us some real numbers.

Posted by charter fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Here's a way to do your own research, that is, if you believe the California Department of Education. Go to, and do a search for AP Test Results. You can look for yourself to see how Woodside, Summit and other Sequoia District schools did on the AP's in 2009.

Let's hear it for Summit! Number 15 in the state for the percentage of students taking the AP! Remember they do advise students which tests to try. They could have even higher numbers.

But wait...... how many passed? Does that matter? Take a look at how the results of those other so-so schools in the district did. You can do your own statistics comparing those who took the test.

Just taking the AP is nice. Passing it? Now, that's a little more important, if you are going to be all excited about the chance to take that test.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 29, 2010 at 2:26 pm

The public schools in this nation are a disgrace. It doesn't matter how much money we shovel into them, because the money is looted by public officials and teachers with ridiculous, unaffordable benefits. Also, it's virtually impossible to fire incompetent teachers or staff.

The only solution is to get the government out of the picture. The public schools should be shut down wholesale. They should then be replaced with a competitive private system, where the customers are the parents and students, instead of teachers' unions.

There is virtually nothing more disgusting than the teachers' union wailing about "oh it's for the children" while stuffing buckets of money into the pockets of its members.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 29, 2010 at 3:53 pm

It's interesting to see the comments on this board. I have just a few thoughts:

1) While Woodside and SUHSD has made this into a battle about Woodside vs. Summit and many are bashing public schools, keep in mind that Summit IS a public school. If you dig a lot, you might note that Summit is listed on the district website, but only under other.
2) It would be nice for SUHSD to claim Summit as a success story demonstrating that the district is open to multiple ways of innovation. Unfortunately the district has taken the divisive approach in the past and tried to thwart and minimize any potential success of Summit.
3) It is not as simple as Woodside is failing and charter schools are good. There are many students for whom Woodside might be preferable and there are those for whom Summit is a better choice. The key thing is for parents to have a choice.

4)While the original intent of teachers unions may have been to avoid politics, the effect of no meaningful evaluations, pay based only on seniority, and other negotiated benefits, the overall impact has been to take what was once a respected profession and de-professionalize it. When so-called evaluation processes result in something like >90% of teachers being rated excellent, it tells me that the process is meaningless. When union rules dictate that seniority trumps results, that schools fail can hardly be surprising.

5) The messages of the movie is not that Woodside is a problem (though the school is amazingly defensive), but that poor schools is a universal problem and that we are all in this together and must address the problem focusing on results if we want to remain a viable society.

Posted by Doing my homework
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Sep 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I am a parent of an 8th-grader who has been following this issue. I made an appointment with Mr. Reilly at Woodside High to discuss the facts of the matter. What I found was a very thoughtful young man with the best intentions. I think it is unfair to bash him in a forum such as this. Maybe SUHSD has had its battles with Summit in the past, but Woodside, specifically, has not, and certainly not Mr. Reilly. He actually speaks very favorably of Summit. He did not create this opposing dynamic, the film maker did. He explained to me the reasons for his message: his parents had questions and concerns about the film, and he needed to clarify the situation for them. Reilly and Woodside have a tremendous task at hand; why is this community beating up on them?

What I learned was that the problem with the data is that the denominator is exaggerated in calculating these percentages. Woodside doesn't get kids by a lottery. Hoards of students are assigned to Woodside due to their address---some never show up, some move. Then, as the years progress, some students move out of the area, and some move in with varying levels of preparedness. Approximately 50 students are counted in the total number of freshmen students who never stepped foot at Woodside. The school spends a great deal of time ascertaining where these new students are the first two months of school, and they do not drop them from their rolls until they are certain why they are not at the school.

He also shared with me that a total of 131 students from the freshman class of 2003 moved out of the area, transferred to another CA public school, or moved out of state. The reasons? In a socio-economically challenging area in which to live, there are many families who move around. Furthermore, Woodside receives a significant number of students every year from private schools and transfers from other schools. The cohort, as he explains in his letter, is not a true cohort.

Take a look at the Graduation Rates and Drop-out rates for the SUHSD:

Web Link

Web Link

Woodside doesn't lose "hundreds" students...they are in flux. Also, has anyone considered the Special Ed classes that Woodside has on their campus? I learned that there are four programs whose aim is to get students capable of independent living. Those students are counted in the denominator as well. Why do we blast Woodside for not getting these students to a 4yr. college? Is that fair?

I found Reilly to be a capable, hard working leader who owns up to the areas that need improvement in his school. I think it is a shame that he be subject to such harsh criticism when he has made no claims against Summit and he did not bring on this dynamic. He's only been there for two years, and from what I have seen first hand, has really added much to the school and has already made significant positive changes, which is why I am considering it for my daughter. There is some real innovation going on there. I just hope that this community comes to encourage him and doesn't drive him out because of this. That would be a shame, because he is just getting started.

I see the list that Woodside publishes as to where there graduates actually attend; does Summit post a list as to where students actually attend?

Also, Reilly shared with me that he has many families who choose a community college over four year colleges right out of high school, not only for financial reasons, but also educational reasons--they want a smaller learning environment for the first few years of college rather than sitting in large classes with little contact with professors. Is 4yr.-college the be all end all? Aren't there different pathways to the same destination?

It is unfortunate that the film puts two good schools at odds with one another. Despite all of the grief that this film has brought on to Woodside, Reilly spoke very favorably of Summit, and he believes that eventually the community can come together to support and celebrate the achievements of these two schools, which I found refreshing amongst all of this harsh debate.

After all, does Summit serve unmotivated students of disengaged parents? Who is going to serve them? Superman? I think I met him today at Woodside.

Keep striving to do better Woodside! I am proud to say that I will be sending my daughter there, just because I think it suits her better. For some of her friends, Summit is the better choice. I think we are fortunate to have a choice in this district.

Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

In my interviews with David Reilly and with Summit Prep Executive Director Todd Dickson, I don't recall having heard one speak badly of the other.

What I have heard are attempts to understand and explain and appreciate the real differences and difficulties in comparing the two systems head to head.

The comments immediately above that reference Mr. Reilly's appreciation of the role that Summit Prep plays in the Sequoia district ring true from my conversations with him.

I haven't seen the film yet. Having written 10 or 15 news stories over the year that Summit Prep sister-school Everest Public High School struggled to get a charter and a place to stay, I can say with confidence that a comparison of charter schools and traditional schools is inescapably and deeply nuanced.

That's not to say that it is hopelessly complicated, but it is hard to see a way forward that will not involve significant and difficult adjustments. Intelligent people have deep disagreements on a matter critical to the country, the education community, the kids in high school now and those on the way.

Such topics need well attended public debates.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 29, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Doing my homework -

Thank you for your thoughtful post. I'm glad your child is doing well and I certainly hope that continues at Woodside High School. And I agree with you that Mr. Reilly is an impressive school administrator.

As I've said before, if a child is in the top 10% (gifted) or bottom 10% (challenged), the public schools seem to perform quite well. You hear over and over again from parents of children who fall into these two categories extolling the virtues of public schools. I'm happy for them but they ignore the point that their challenged child is the recipient of extraordinary resources or that their academically gifted child would probably thrive under any circumstances.

Unfortunately, for the middle 80%, the story isn't nearly as encouraging and the statistics seem to bear this out.

If you look at the number of entering freshman and compare it to the number of high school graduates four years later, you'll see that HUNDREDS of kids are gone. The school's story that kids are just "lost" or "moving" is convenient, but totally untrue.

If these missing kids didn't drop out as the school asserts, then they would be showing up at other schools, wouldn't they? If some kids move out of an area, other kids move in and replace them and it would be a zero sum game. But it's not. No, these students aren't relocating or in transition, they're drop outs.

And, unfortunately, they're almost always in that 80%. It's too bad that we fail such a vast segment of the student body.

Posted by Looking at data
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 29, 2010 at 9:10 pm

How do you explain the drop out stats posted by the parent above about Woodside? If hundreds are dropping out of Woodside, why doesn't it show in the data?

The drop out seems to be more of an issue at M-A, no?

Posted by Maureen Bligh
a resident of Woodside High School
on Sep 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm

I don't know who has the right graduation statistics but as a mother of children at Woodside High School, this is what I do know:
- We are fortunate to have Mr. Reilly as our principal. He cares deeply about the children at our school and is passionate about focusing on efforts to improve the quality of the education for all students at the school.
- At Back to School Night I am always impressed with the quality of the teachers at WHS.
- The college and career counselor at WHS is an extremely dedicated, hard working professional that does everything in her power to help kids navigate the college application process and how to get scholarships.
- My kids really like their school! I also have friends who have kids at Summit and guess what they like their school too. I think having choice is great. I don't think we need to position one choice as good and the other as bad.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Shhh...Let the self important believe that their way is the right way and everything else is substandard. That way my kid will continue to have class sizes smaller than those at private schools. He will know how to make himself known on a large campus. The univerity he desires is over 30,000 students - class size of 8-16 is not much of a prep for that. My goal is for him to graduate that university, not just gain acceptance. He will continue to be able to interact with superior teachers who have to prove their expertise on an annual state wide basis with a wonderfully diverse population.

Of course, we will always take the additional funding. It will enrich a school that is fantastic for the population it serves. The fundamentals at Woodside are the people, both students and parents, who invest their time at this institution. Every moment of interaction makes it better.

Good Luck all - we are on the right track at Woodside High School.

Posted by Mom of 2
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm


Not sure which private schools you refer to in your post, but the really good ones in our area have very small class sizes - 8-15 students per class. Those students must interact with their teachers in order to succeed - interaction with teachers and class participation are a component of the class grade. The students learn early on to make use of "office hours" and their free periods to meet with their teachers. Those private schools prepare their students for a variety of universities; large and small; public and private; within California and elsewhere. Self advocacy is not reliant upon the size of the campus! What the private schools do well is preparing their students exceptionally well for a wide variety of universities. The commentary that is heard often from graduates of one of the local private high schools is that they were "overprepared" (is that possible?) for college and that they found the university experience relatively easy compared to their years in Prep School. These are kids at Ivy Leagues, UCs, large and small institutions nationwide. The private schools give their students choices. It's just a shame that for the amount of public $ spent on public schools, that the same is not true for the vast majority of those schools.

Do not kid yourself - the good private high schools in this area not the equivalent of the local public high schools. They are much, much better.

Posted by Mom 2
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Correction - minor, but someone will make a snarky comment about poor grammar - relax, it was a typo:

Do not kid yourself - the good private high schools in this area ARE not the equivalent of the local public high schools. They are much, much better.

Posted by Snarky
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Sep 30, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Mom 2,
I think you misunderstood Observer's comment about the class sizes of private schools.

And Mom 2, the private schools are also very white and refuse to make modifications for special education students! Hooray! Your precious children will not be exposed to the kids who live on the other side of 280. Good for you.

Gimme a break.

Posted by R U Kidding
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2010 at 5:34 pm

How can a high school be in the top 6 percent yet have only 62 percent graduate and 32 percent meet CA university entrance requirements? Those numbers just don't add up.

If Emily does badly on tests, how is that Woodside High's fault? The same goes for the East Palo Alto students with the 65 percent dropout rate. Is the Sequoia Union High School District telling these kids "don't show up at school" or are they dropping out on their own? And why are the parents letting their kids drop out? I'll bet that the students attending the charter schools in EPA have parents that value a good education.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm

> How can a high school be in the top 6 percent yet have
> only 62 percent graduate and 32 percent meet CA university
> entrance requirements? Those numbers just don't add up.

because the top 6% ranking is indexed on IB/AP tests per graduate. If you have fewer graduates due to dropouts or other reasons, then your index goes up.

Posted by Mom of 2
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm


I understood Observers first point, which was that her public High School had smaller class sizes than the private High Schools. Unless the public HS have decreased class sizes recently to 8-15 students, Observers comment is just not correct.

FYI, Sacred Heart (possibly some of the other privates) has a very extensive program for kids with learning differences and incorporates many accommodations for those students. Sacred Heart also attempts to create a student body that is diverse and has an entire department devoted to outreach to under-served communities. Is the student body predominantly white? Probably, but at least they are working on it.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 1, 2010 at 6:04 am

There are several "Observer"s of this debate - which is good.

Class size - Yes, there are some smaller class sizes at Woodside. No they don't wastefully spend on classes that are not fully embraced by the community (and I mean the students not their pushy parents). If a class can't fill the appropriate number to win teacher funding, then the parents must come up with that bit of supplemental education on their own. Oh my gosh - the crime of it - a part of our society that won't meet every one of little Johnny's needs(sorry "Johnny", just picked a name)! Disappointment, how can the darlings possibly survive with disappointment in their lives!

You may think that having all class sizes 8-15 is good, I would argue, however, that a kid who can stand up and present in front of 30 might be a better leader, doctor, lawyer than the one who can only speak to small groups. Teacher face time? Only good if the teachers are good. The level of teacher expertise being better at private over public is debatable. I am in a position that I see people's incomes and so far (20+ years) all of the public school teachers that I've come across have higher salaries (anecdotal, but a point of reference). Could that possibly mean public schools entice more qualified teachers? Just a thought....

The real debate of public/private should be what is best for the student. Some children flourish in the one on one or small group environment. Others prefer the anonimity of a larger class size, but still aquire the knowledge just as deeply.

"Mom of 2" made my point perfectly with her self-important pronouncement that the local private schools are BETTER. Just your opinion lady - I know plenty (yes more than a handful) of parents that, after shelling out $100K, end up with a kid in a "lesser" post high school education. Sounds like it's more about the parents pride than the kids. These are just the situations that should NOT be part of the educational experience yet are at the local private schools.

You can keep it, I'll work with the "broken system" we have. I am an involved parent and I can supplement any deficits (which there have been none so far). We have the ability to add tons of family values time and vacations with the $25k/year I'm saving NOT supporting the private school machine.

Posted by Susan Smith
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Oct 1, 2010 at 7:26 am

Is the only measureof a High school's success whether or not a graduate goeson to college? I don't think so. Some travel, some marry, some enter a vocation... and some don't enter college until they can afford to pay for it, maybe years later, like this Woodside High Scool graduate did. Can we start facing our realities instead of chasing our fantasies?

Posted by reality
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 1, 2010 at 7:55 am

Observer: In the past it was true that many private school teachers earned less than their public school colleagues. As a former teacher in public, parochial and independent schools I can tell you that this was the result primarily of private school teachers being willing to accept marginally less pay in order to teach more motivated students supported by engaged parents. That's not to say that all public school students are not motivated, or that their parents are not engaged in the process. Far from it. However, as in most things in life the small minority of problematic situations consume a huge amount of time and effort. It's hard to teach a class when 30% or more of the students just don't care. Having said that, I don't think the pay scale is significantly different these days (at least not at the HS level). Most of the local private HS are competitive in salary - there may be other benefits that the unionized teachers at the public schools have that the private school teachers do not.

The reality of small class sizes is that no student can "hide" in the back row and just hope to skate along. It requires effort on the part of the student to engage in the classroom discussion and become part of the educational "community".

As far as private school graduates matriculating to a "lesser" post high school education - of course those situations do exist. However, just take a look at the list of colleges that were destinations for the Woodside High class of 2010 - which is included as link in Principal Reilly's letter.

Roughly 120 graduates from the class of 2010 were admitted to 4 year colleges or universities. Not sure what the total graduating class was since the most updated data on class size is from 2008. But if you assume that the class of 2010 is roughly the same size (327 students) then roughly 36% go on to 4 year colleges. Again looking at Principal Reilly's link, a grand total of 3 students were accepted at Ivy League Schools (less than 1%) of the class) and only one chose to enroll. ZERO students were accepted at Stanford.

Compare that to the same statistics for the academically rigorous private HS in our area (the info is readily available on the Menlo, Castilleja and Sacred Heart websites) and you will see that there really is no comparison. 100% of those kids go on to 4 year colleges; the middle 50% of the SAT scores for those graduates is in the 700+ range, and a significant number of the graduates go on to the Ivies and other highly rigorous and selective colleges and universities.

Posted by Kam L. Humps
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Oct 1, 2010 at 8:48 am

This all could be true. 2 of my fellow students are still trying to graduate out of San Quentin.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Oct 1, 2010 at 10:33 am

@Susan Smith
you raise an excellent point. I hold that reaching a meaningful diploma is a measure of success. A meaningful diploma is one that gives the student the option to proceed to higher education if they choose.

The concern if students aren't graduating is self evident. Of equal concern is that students graduate but are prohibited from moving forward. This situation arises from having a graduation requirements that are insufficient to attend a CSU school such as San Jose State. While a student and family can rise above the institutional expectations to retain their options, it is stronger when the institutional expectations guide them that way.

Students may still choose the school (or career path) that is right for them - that is why measuring success by A-G diplomas completed is often more enlightening than even college enrollment (good) or college acceptance (better)

Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

reality from PV:

Do all hold Stanford (you reference "ZERO" got accepted from Woodside) as the Gold standard to entry into the Success Club? I heard it was Dartmouth? Or could it possibly be Plumbers Union xxx? Think about what you are saying...

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 1, 2010 at 11:14 am

There are some excellent points made on this thread. Success is not defined by admission to a four year college. I think having the ability to support yourself (and family) would be a better measure.

There was a time when our large comprehensive high schools provided excellent vocational training - auto repair, plumbing, chef, electrician, etc. With success based on college admission, it seems like they no longer find this necessary.

Some view charter schools as academically elite (which is not the case), but wouldn't it be nice if there were a charter school that addressed those students who did not want to go on to college and wanted to pursue vocations? I could imagine quite a facility dedicated to "the trades" and supported by unions and industry.

Not everyone wants to go to college. They can still earn a very good living and support themselves!

Posted by Harry Turner
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Last October the Almanac published a letter from me claiming that the SUHSD was burdened by an a very large dropout rate. Now I suspect that I overstated it substantially. The Woodside High School principal's recent letter persuaded me. I omitted year-by-year turnover, a material omission, a mistake.

His explanation was objective, even handed and informative. He corrected a significant mistake. He benefit all of us and I respect him for it.

Harry Turner

Posted by Reality
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm

to Observer:

I mentioned the Stanford statistic not because I consider it the Gold Standard, but because it is generally the Ivy League school that kids from this area find attractive. I realize that not everyone wants to attend an Ivy (even if they qualify), there certainly are many, many superior colleges and universities out there. However, one would hope that a student who really wanted to attend one of these elite universities would be afforded access to a High School education that would adequately prepare him or her to gain admittance and excel.

It would be interesting to know the statistics regarding where students applied, compared to where they were accepted. Principal Reilly's data only lists acceptances and where the graduates ultimately enrolled. There is no information as to how many students applied to each institution and how many were actually accepted. If no students were accepted to Stanford because none applied, that is a very different story than 10 students applying and none being accepted.

Posted by Izzy
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

From James Lianides, Ed.D., Superintendent, Sequoia Union High School District via e-mail at 2:06 p.m. today...


Dear Sequoia Union High School District Parents,

You may have been reading and hearing lately about "Waiting for Superman" — a new documentary about public education in America. In the film, five students are profiled as they pursue an alternative to the traditional public schools in their communities. Four of the students come from inner city neighborhoods and the fifth student is a Roy Cloud student, Emily, who was pursuing an alternative school in our district when the movie was filmed in Spring 2009.

The filmmakers reportedly chose to include Emily's story due to the claim that she "would have unwillingly been put on a non-collegiate track." We know that, had Emily enrolled in any of our comprehensive high schools, she would have been registered in college preparatory classes meeting UC/CSU A-G requirements, like all freshmen (other than students with special needs and those requiring focused interventions). At any of our comprehensive high schools, Emily would have had multiple options for developing an academic program tailored to her individualized needs and interests, and she would have been offered a quality college preparatory program - as rigorous as she desired - at the same time enjoying unparalleled opportunities for enrichment, on a campus with some of the best facilities and faculty anywhere.

On average across the district's four comprehensive high schools, 95 percent of graduates in the Class of 2010 planned to pursue college following graduation. The remainder choose military service, travel and other "gap-year" experiences, employment or other paths.

When the filmmakers were in the area following Emily's story, they declined our offers to learn about our schools. Had they spent any amount of time with us, they likely would have avoided some of the mischaracterizations in the film and realized that, unlike the four other students profiled in the film, students in the Sequoia district have nothing but quality options from which to choose as all of the traditional and alternative schools in the Sequoia district are of high quality. In the film, Woodside High School is singled out and misleading data is presented relating to student outcomes. I am working with the administration of Woodside to correct the record and to help ensure public perceptions accurately reflect the school's high quality and academic success.

We will continue to take pride in all of our distinguished, award-winning schools and our ongoing pursuit of even higher levels of achievement for greater numbers of students. We will continue in the current year and beyond to offer our richly diverse student body a quality education, stellar preparation for college, and an enriching high school experience.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm

The drop out and graduation statistics can be difficult to find and even more difficult to interpret.

I went to the Woodside High School's web site and they have a link that discusses their dropout rate and graduation rate. The most recent statistic they show was the number of graduating students for the 2007/08 academic year when 327 students graduated from the twelfth grade.

If you go to the official California Ed-Data website at you will find that four years earlier, Woodside High's ninth grade class was comprised of 528 students.

Therefore, out of the 528 students entering this class, 327 of them graduated four years later. These are probably not precise numbers - I'm sure there were some transfers in and out - but they're the best numbers I could find.

The data would indicate that 61.9% of this freshman class made it through to graduation (not college, just graduation). Even considering Mr. Reilly's comment that some students don't graduate because of other reasons (military, year-off, travel, etc.), that would still leave a greater than 30% drop out rate (over 200 students out of 528) for this class.

This was the school's official data. I don't know if my analysis is correct and I welcome opposing interpretations.

Posted by I'm In
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 2, 2010 at 6:07 am

When talking to my friends about this subject, I was reminded of a child who is from one of the ultra rich families of our community. She was an excellent athlete, marginal student, (struggled with school work when outside the classroom), but loved the social aspect of school. Not a trouble maker. As a junior, I asked her where she was thinking about applying. She said she wasn't sure. After chatting a bit more, she said "I'm not sure what I'm doing after school, my dad has more money than he could ever spend. I don't HAVE to do anything"....You could hear the crickets after that statement. When I was talking to her father, he confirmed his child's perspective. They had worked to save their family from the toils of everyday life. Hmmmm, not in line with my view of education, but it's not my child either. Like so many she will have to figure out her own path which may or may not include advanced education, but will result in a failure to advance educationally after high school (statistically, which seems to be the evidence for this thread).

So it's not just the "other side of the 280" as mentioned above. There are many reasons not to elect to go to college. We haven't even touched on the graduation rate of the kids that were accepted to these institutions.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 2, 2010 at 9:11 am

This thread isn't about motivating the children of the rich or whether those admitted to college will eventually graduate. Somehow, I think the children of Larry Ellison and Bill Gates will manage to get by. And even if they aren't very motivated in high school, they will probably end up in Harvard anyway (think George Bush and Al Gore...).

So first things first. "Waiting for Superman" is about the failure of our public school systems and the evidence they present is compelling. If we don't fix our high schools, we need not worry if someone will eventually graduate from college or whether a rich kid is motivated.

As I've said, our public schools seem to do quite well with gifted or highly challenged students... but not so well with the 80% of students who comprise the middle. For our society to squander the potential that resides within this enormous group is tragic.

Posted by Statistics and the Media
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2010 at 11:20 am


Mr. Boyce, the media LOVES the stats of how many kids are taking the AP at charters. (SUMMIT #5 in the state!!) I agree that it's a noble goal to allow "middle" students a chance to take AP courses. It would be great if ALL students arrived at high school having completed Algebra and then all of them could progress to calculus like all of us back in the good ol' days used to do! (? yeah? and the numbers were... what back then?!)

Here's my question. How can it be a GREAT thing that the stats show more kids getting 1's, than 2's, than 3's, than 4's than 5's. Passing the test might show that the job is really being accomplished. data shows that in 2009 the stats are not all that super. I'd be happy if a majority of the kids passed. Without that happening I have to ask about how good the curriculum really is. It certainly isn't the student's fault! Take a look how many schools don't even have AP's. Look at where our schools rank. Should we have charters? Sure. Should we be complaining to the whole nation about how bad our schools are? Well, we'll see after a few years of taking equivalent state tests, how we compare.

Agreed, there seems to be a "drop out" problem. Why did the State of California stop it's attempt to give all students a state student number so they could really be tracked? Where was the media attention on that huge failure?? If a school can show a student has reenrolled elsewhere, that is not deemed to be a dropout. There's no incentive for a family to report re-enrollment back to a school currently, and yet schools are being punished when this doesn't happen.

Congrats on your attempts to help turn the public education system over to private companies! Shooting down Woodside High School will be key to that effort. All hail the free market!

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Oct 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm

@ Statistics and the Media
> If a school can show a student has reenrolled elsewhere, that is not deemed to be a dropout. There's no incentive for a family to report re-enrollment back to a school currently, and yet schools are being punished when this doesn't happen.

quite the opposite, there is huge incentive: if a student transfers schools, their files and prior classes go with them. If there is no records transfer, then yes they have likely dropped out (or they've started over somewhere else). If one asserts that there are scores and scores of transfers, then verify with the transfer of records.

> Congrats on your attempts to help turn the public education system over to private companies! Shooting down Woodside High School will be key to that effort. All hail the free market!

Straw man Web Link
First step in improving public education is recognizing when there is a problem. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is not a path to improvement

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 2, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Observer -

Wouldn't you have to assume that, on average, a school would gain as many students as they lose from that pool of "lost" students?

Lost students and re-enrollment is not a one-way street. Doesn't a school "benefit" from those lost students who have re-enrolled at THEIR school?

What evidence is there that a school like Woodside loses more than they gain?

Posted by Manipulated
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

I am glad that we are talking about public education, but keep in mind the movie is just that - a movie - not a fully investigated documentary. It is being told from the perspective of the director AND it is being promoted by Meg Whitman. Timing is everything. Just like the "discovery" of the illegal working for Ms. Whitman, no wonder we heard no advertizing earlier by Brown, he had a "smoking gun" so to speak.

I think this election year has sunk to a new low - exploiting students and the illegal hispanic population, neither of which has a voting voice. It will be a dartboard election picking the lesser of two evils. Make sure your up and coming elected officials have some longevity because neither of these bozos should be in the Governors mansion too long!

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Manipulated -

Just wondering of you thought "An Inconvenience Truth" was also just a movie and not a fully investigated documentary?

Just curious...

Posted by bob
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 4, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Comment to POGO the facts of an inconveinent truth are still being debating by brilliant scientist who differ greatly on the "facts" presented in the movie. So I would not take the position that all documentaries are fact. Facts can played with, so just because it is called a documentary does not mean it is a !00% true and to refer to Woodside as a wealthy silicon valley is a joke that would be Menlo or Sacred heart .

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Bob -

I did not pick An Inconvenient Truth at random to make my point.

Both An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman were directed and written by the same person, Davis Guggenheim. It is Guggenheim, not me, that maintains that both of his films are faithful representations of reality.

If you believe his expose about global warming, why would you doubt his expose of our education system?

Still waiting for your answer, Bob...

Posted by Manipulated
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 5, 2010 at 4:48 am

However unfortunate, I do not know the authorities involved with telling me the story of Earth's woes, BUT I know that the reknowned director not only failed to include valid information, but refused to meet with the players most intimately involved with the population of his documentary. Oh sorry, except for his own choices. Throws into question his other movies, yep, they are now just MOVIES. He has EXPOSED himself.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Oct 5, 2010 at 9:52 am

The information is considered invalid because it is disliked. Dismissing this issues as "just a movie" is slipping the blinders back on.

Looking forward to the local opening of the documentary so people can make their minds up for themselves ... but also so that they'll be galvanized to be involved in improving outcomes across all schools

Posted by Bob
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Pogo all you told me was that the person made both films. All this tells me is that uses the facts he wants to use to make his point , while ignoring other facts. I did not say I believed him. I think both "documentaries' are based on the conclusions he wants to reach and he does not have an unbiased opinion.

Posted by Woodside Graduate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I am a 1979 graduate of Woodside and now reside in Menlo Park. Many of my graduating class went on to fine Colleges and Universities including Stanford, Cal, Harvard, and Princeton. Many did not, myself included. The public high schools are doing the best they can with the hand they've been dealt. Unfortunately many kids attending these schools don't come from 'traditional' families and have daily struggles that most of us here can't begin to understand. Bottom line is that the motivated student will do fine anywhere - Woodside, MA, Sacred Heart, or Menlo. On the other hand, if you have a child that struggles with their school work and your family has the means, I would choose the private school without question.

Posted by Ol' Homeboy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 5, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I'd like to hear from more parents of Woodside High students who are impressed with the education their children are receiving. And I'm not just talking about parents of students in the AP classes. I was lucky enough to attend M-A in the '60s when the entire school curriculum was considered "College Preparatory". My two daughters also graduated from M-A in the 2000s and both were fortunate to attend and graduate from Pac-10 Universities, however, I could already see the "less-than-inspiring" curriculum heading South. We chose to enter our youngest in the lottery for Summit Prep, primarily because he was always the youngest in his class (now changed by CA new law, signed this week) and we knew by his middle school grades, that he would be place on the lower track (no AP classes). His name was selected, and we've been forever grateful. While most of his friends went on to M-A, Woodside, Sacred Heart and Menlo, they have all remained good, close friends. What he has missed, is good, well-financed sports programs and facilities — but that's it. He has excelled in his classes, played varsity basketball for three years and made wonderful, new friends — all from very diverse cultural, racial and economic backgrounds, and most importantly, he has learned to advocate for what he believes. The icing on the cake, is that he is confidently applying to 4-year colleges starting today.
The point the movie trys to make in the case of Emily, is that Summit Prep was the absolute best alternative for Emily. I know it was for us and our son, and I'll wager every parent of every Summit Prep student has the same opinion of their child's experience there.
Can our district high schools get claim the same level of positive, parent reviews? Let's hear from them.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm

It's interesting how the topic of schools tends to generate a lot of traffic on this site. I'll add a few more thoughts to my earlier post (some 20 or 30 above):

1) the maker of the film has an agenda so of course through his editing and presentation of "facts" he is trying to present a compelling narrative regarding education.
2) While much is made of the Summit/Woodside issue and Emily going to Summit rather than Woodside, rather than seeing this as a total indictment of Woodside (I see some evidence of both Woodside fans and critics using creative statistics to make their cases), I would take away the message that the educational system in general, even in Silicon Valley, has not progressed to the point where it is able to address students as individuals.
3) The major point of including Emily is not to trash Woodside, but to point out that the problems of public schools are widespread. It may be that Woodside is not Harlem, but overall, there is need for improvement in both places and there is no "safe" place.

4) There is a celar need for improving the results of our education system in general as we are on the track to get blown away by other countries. We can debate the cause, but as with global warming, we need to acknowledge there is a problem and be open to creative solutions.
5)The entrenched education establishment appears to have set up a structure that has put stability and teacher interest ahead of students. What I mean by that is that the current system discourages innovation and does not allow for teachers to distinguish themselves.
6) I'm not going to say that for an individual that Woodside or Summit would be better, but what I can note is that the district has opposed charters (Summit, Everest, and others) at virtually every turn. The prior superintendent to an outside observer, did everything in his power to prevent these schools from opening, then once open, to make it difficult for them to succeed. That aspect of the film does ring true to the Summit/Woodside interaction in this area. Rather than embracing Summit and taking credit for any success as a district public school, the SUHSD has attacked the charter schools. Ironically, the more the district has tried to take away choice from the parents, the more demand has increased.

My take away is that Woodside is a fine school for some (I went to a larger public school in another area and have done just fine) and I suspect I would have thrived at Woodside, there are others that won't, and having another choice keeps Woodside and other district schools on their toes.

Posted by Graduate of WHS
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I am very interested to watch this film. I graduated from WHS in the early 90s and went onto an out of state 4 year, private college. My younger sister graduated from WHS in 2009 and is attending a local, private 4 year college. I must say that my experience at Woodside was great. However, we had A LOT of parent involvement. This is a key, critical piece to help children thrive and encourage them to have goals and dreams. The majority of my teachers at WHS were influential and in some cases, served as role models, however they can not parent these children once they leave the class room or campus.

Although WHS is on the outskirts of a tremendously wealthy community, most students attending are from middle class to low income households. We live in an area where it is rare to have one income family living comfortably. Our private schools in the area have enormous amounts of money to help their children thrive and the parent support to be sure it gets done.

More importantly, who would want to attempt to go to a Cal State or UC college at this point? They denied many accepted students in 2008 due to lack of funds for classes and housing. These kids that work so hard to graduate and go on to college are left scrambling to get their core college classes and keep their fingers crossed to graduate in 4 years.

It is very unfortunate that this film is thought to discredit the good that is done at WHS. The campus has always been known to have diverse student community. However, we do not live day in and day out in these children's shoes. We have no clue what type of expectations, living conditions, support, etc they have or lack when they get home from school. Teachers are here to teach, not to parent.

Another observation to make is to watch the parent involvement at schools like Woodside Elementary and Corte Madera. The children and parents thrive, however most of these children do not go onto Woodside High or MA, and they tend to go to the private schools in the area that then benefit from the incredible parent involvement. Many of the postings slam the district, but I have to ask what is the community doing to improve the situation? The easy route is to pay to have your child go to a private school or go to the prep schools mentioned in earlier postings. It's unfortunate that many of you have given up helping and making a change to your local, public school.

Posted by Woodside Alumni
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I too am a graduate of WHS of the 90's. Woodside was a much different environment then than it is today. We didn't have patrol cars at our school everyday, gang bangers roaming the hallway instead of being in class, the internet, and the phones with cameras. Back then most of the teachers were role models to us students to aim for a higher education. But I also think that our parents expected us to go on to college, and we saw our peers also reaching for that goal that it made us want to follow in their paths and not be left behind. I'm sure those same goals are instilled in many students today, but there are so many working parents in today's society then there was 20 years ago.

I agree that parent participation is crucial to our children's education. There is only so much that teachers can do to encourage our kids to focus on their education. As parents, we need to interact with our children, know what they are studying, who they are friends with, be there to support them in their efforts, and steer them in the right direction. There are too many parents that do not participate in the kids' dialy lives and assume that because they are teenagers, they are not needed as much to nuture their lives. This is totally the opposite, as teenagers they need more guidance in their lives to stay away from tempting situations.

I now have a high school student of my own, and although we live in the Woodside High boundaries, I chose to send my child to a private school. We are a middle class family, but our child's education is our first priority. We felt that a college prep high school could offer him a better education than the local public school. In private school, the kids are monitored closely by their counselors, and this is not a voluntary action. Where as in public school, you only saw your counselor if you made the attempt to actually see if you were in the right track towards college. Parent participation is also mandatory, so you know the campus, the kids that your child goes to school with, and the teachers. It makes such a big difference when you are comfortable with the familiarity of the school. You are more likely to ask questions, and participate in making that community better.

We have a nephew the same age as our son, who attends WHS, and he is not doing well at all. He is failing in half his classes, is taunted by other kids at school for his looks, and has no ambition in attending college at all. Granted I know a lot has to do with his actions, but that's where parent participation comes in. I know his parents only care that he passing the classes, meaning a D is okay, and as long as he graduates they will be happy. If he doesn't graduate, I don't think it will faze them either. Sad I know, but that's the reality of parents not caring about their children's education. They are too busy in trying to live their lives, that their teenager is left to fend for himself.

Society has changed their priorities, and our children are no longer in the top five. We as a whole need to change and make an effort to be their for our kids.

Posted by WSH Parent
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Oct 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

My daughter graduated in 2009 from a private elementary school and was lucky enough to have choices to attend Notre Dame, St Francis, Summit, Everest or Woodside High. She shadowed at all these schools and decided on Woodside High. The most compelling reason for her is its diversity reflective of the community we live in. I helped her understand that she is accountable for her decisions, and that she needs to value education and life long learning, not just 4 years of college. Her goal is to become a productive member of society and to affect positive changes. My daughter is happy and thriving at Woodside High. She is having a great high school experience -- academically and socially. I do feel that my daughter is well prepared for the future with the academic preparation and life skills gained during these crucial formative years.

The Principal, the Administration, Faculty and Staff at Woodside High are the Supermen and Superwomen that deserve our support and praises!

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 9, 2010 at 8:54 am

The last few comments on this thread substantiate my assertion that the comprehensives work quite well for the most gifted (who would probably survive in a war zone) and the most challenged (who are recipients of incredible resources).

Unfortunately, they do not seem to do so well for the 80% in the middle.

Posted by PV Mom
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 13, 2010 at 6:21 am

Just an update to Graduate of WHS. The information we received at Corte Madera shows that approximately 1/2 the graduating 8th grade class has gone public (half to MA and half to WHS) then the rest are scattered amongst the charter and private schools with about 7 represented. I am sure you can call to find out the truth rather than assuming.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 13, 2010 at 6:50 am

PV Mom -

How is what you've said in conflict with Graduate of WHS's point?

I think you substantiated it!

Posted by PV mom
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 14, 2010 at 9:27 am

Graduate of Woodside said "however most of these children do not go onto Woodside High or MA, and they tend to go to the private schools", I was just clarifying, not trying to square off with Graduate. The fact is that, at Corte Madera, the two most selected schools are Woodside and MA for high school. They have very strong parent participation, with meetings off campus for the parents to strengthen their relationships and brainstorm how to imporove.

Did you know Woodside just completed College Day yesturday? ALL the students participated in college prep activities - NO CHARGE. The freshman were bussed to either Stanford or Cal for a morning of tours, sophomores and juniors took the PSAT and the seniors took the SAT - ON CAMPUS, AT NO CHARGE. Sounds like college prep to me.

The opportunites for ALL students to go to college exist at the local public schools. Even the kids with parents who don't participate.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 14, 2010 at 10:17 am

PV Mom -

Thank you for your reply.

With all due respect, your comment that "Corte Madera shows that approximately 1/2 the graduating 8th grade class has gone public (half to MA and half to WHS)..." is not in conflict with Graduate of Woodside who said "most of these children do not go onto Woodside High or MA."

Not that the origin of the idea matters much, but the charter schools started College Day by taking all students to Stanford on the first full day of the school year. Also for no charge...

Yes, I think it's a great idea and I'm glad WHS did this!

Posted by Current Student at Woodside
a resident of Woodside High School
on Oct 14, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I'm a current student at Woodside high school, and love the environment that it offers. I am currently in an advanced english class as well as a basic geometry class (I will admit math is not my strongest subject). My geometry class is helping my needs while my advanced english class is helping me get ahead at what I am strong at (I grew up a spanish speaker, so this is no easy task). If I were to go to a charter school, I am not sure I would be getting my current B in geometry. The campus is very diverse and we all come together in time of need, which is a time like this. We are all trying to deal with the fact that, not only is the school getting a bad name, so our it's students. Woodside high school, and it's administrators overall care tremendously about their students.

Posted by PV Mom
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm


I am not trying to refute anyone's statement. I would simply like the public to go to the proper authorities rather than watch a movie (made for $$$) or get their info on the internet.

Good luck to all parents and remember to ask the right people, the right questions to find the right answer. THEN remember it is all from THEIR perspective and you must insert YOUR values and perspective mixed in with your knowledge of your child to find the right fit.

Posted by Woodside Alumni
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2010 at 12:47 am

PV Mom I see what you are getting at, but again you are the exception when it comes to parent participation. I'm sure there are meetings held off campus for parents to brainstorm on how to improve the school community, almost every school has a PTA or Parent Board. But tell me this, of those parents who attend and actually participate with you, how diverse is that parent line up? The majority of the kids at WHS are Latino, how many of those parents are attending your meetings? I would say very little, as most are probably English as a second language parent. I would say most of the parents attending are those who live in the PV, Woodside, Atherton zip code,s who already know the importance of parent participation and have the time and resources to help out. It's people like you who actually care about their children's education, that make any school work well whether it be public or private. It's always the same parents who participate!

Of course, every student has the opportunity to go to college. But if they are not self motivated and have no parental guidance leaning and encouraging them towards that goal, they will fall through the cracks and never graduate. Everyone has their reasons for wanting to graduate, and I'm sure the majority of incoming freshman have that as their goal. Yet what happens to them in the course of the four years is solely up to them and the choices they make whether it be classes, friends, clubs, and sports. We as parents need to provide them with that voice of reason, be the little birdie telling them the right thing to do, and giving them knowledge about life and what it all brings.

As for the College Day, I don't think every student attended these bus rides. Again it was the students who actually wanted to attend because they are motivated enough to want to attend college or those who just wanted a day off campus. And for the PSAT and SAT, that's offered at almost every high school fee of charge, public or private. My nephew took that test and said his teachers told him it wasn't important because it's not even looked at by colleges. Same for my son who goes to private school, but the difference is my son knows anything he does in high school counts towards getting him into college. Plus his counselor will go over the results with him, and let him know if he is on the right track or what he needs to strengthen in the next coming years. Does WHS do a mandatory follow up with their students or is that voluntary? I'm assuming it's the latter. Anyone ever check with their students?

Posted by PV Mom
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 20, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Woodside Alumni:

"The majority of the kids at WHS are Latino, how many of those parents are attending your meetings? I would say very little, as most are probably English as a second language parent."

There are certain families that are not right for public high schools. The perspective reflected by you in your statement is definitely not conducive to using ALL of the resources of the community. The first principle of a parent groups supporting the schools is that ALL backgrounds bring relevence to the table and allow educators to better connect with their students.

Posted by A.Romanoff
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Why the 'Woodside mom' sounds positively racist in her conclusion that the parents of the Latino students are not bilingual. Sad.
Those meetings do little to further the bright, smart Latino students who may be at the top of their classes and may want to go to, perhaps an Ivy School (where they are very broadminded.)
Apparently, Woodside mom doesn't realize that 70% of the graduate students at Stanford are foreigners; and not that much of a head count difference in the freshman classes.
Those meetings make little diffence to the students needing every one of their parents attending when it is the fairness and is absolutely correct in saying a mixture does bring "relevance to the table".
People seem to forget, especially in California, that by 2050, their kids, in middle age, might be married with your grandchildren all of different skin colors.
It is well substantiated but more delineated on the Pacific Coast where our border with Mexico upsets so many, but not all of those former "Californians" are of pure Mayan descent.There are many who have European blood, and also are, bilingual or trilingual.
Most people who resent the Latinos are people who have been caught lying, like Meg Whitman, who only think of her housekeeper/friend and her other "help" as servants without minds.
Does Meg speak Spanish? No one has ever asked as far as I recall.
IOW, PV mom speaks with a lot more integrity than the Woodside person on this subject.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 20, 2010 at 3:35 pm

First, the post did not come from "Woodside Mom," it came from "Woodside Alumni." Given the use of this pseudonym, I would assume it to be a recent graduate and bravo to this person for posting.

I don't view the comment as racist at all, but a reflection that some ethnic and economic groups appear to have higher parent participation rates than others. This is hardly newsworthy and everyone on the thread seems to acknowledge this disparity.

But I do take issue with the comment that because "70% of the graduate students at Stanford are foreigners" that this shouldn't concern us. Yes, because some foreign students got into Stanford doesn't mean that we should ignore other foreign students. The very fact that they are Stanford students means that this group has already been filtered by their academic excellence. But they are hardly an accurate reflection of the academic capability of the incoming class of Woodside High. That's like saying a high school basketball team should perform like an NBA team because they have similar racial profiles. Wanna bet?

The comment by A.Romanoff that "those (PTA and other parent) meetings do little to further the bright, smart Latino students who may be at the top of their classes. Perhaps this is true, especially of the gifted students (whose parents are likely already involved). But this completely misses the point that parents of other, less capable students are NOT attending these meetings and are NOT engaged in their children's education.

And that's the big problem.

Posted by PV Mom
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 20, 2010 at 4:22 pm

My experience has been that the parents attending support meetings for the school are often parents of well adjusted kids, regardless of the child's school performance (ie "college acceptance" level of academic achievement). They are the parents that can afford the 2-3 hours that these meetings often take. That means, my kids need to be doing well enough to not need my assistance or structure when doing homework or putting together a project (regardless of the language in which I deliver it).

Get it? Just because a parent is not attending school support meetings does not mean they are evading their parental responsibilities. They may be fully engulfed in them! We need parents doing that too.

I applaud ALL of they ways that parents help their children integrate into society. It may not be the choices I would make, but I don't believe my opinion is necessarily relevent to the life they choose to live. If EVERYONE wanted to become a doctor, then who would be the lawyer that sued them (could insert actor to entertain them, facilities staff to keep the place tidy, IT guy to keep records see where I'm going? Everyone has a path to success somewhere in front of them)

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Attending parent-teacher meetings and back-to-school nights are just one indicator of parent involvement. But it is, obviously, a pretty important one. For many parents, it's the only time they will visit their child's school.

In my experience, which includes Woodside High and a few private schools, I have seen variations in parent attendance from both rich and poor. The rich may be traveling, working late or at the gym, the poor may not have child care or a ride. And sometimes, they probably just don't care.

But somehow, an interested parent - rich or poor - will usually find a way to show up to such an important function.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Oct 21, 2010 at 8:01 am

PV Mom wrote: " Sounds like college prep to me."

sounds like a good start ... but let's keep an eye on outcomes. To its credit, Woodside is now above the district average for graduates completing the entrance requirements for the CSU system. (52% ready for Woodside vs. 49% ready for the district) whereas in prior reporting years Woodside has lagged by 10 points.

What do you think is the appropriate goal?

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

That's a really good question, Observer.

I think the best way to do this is to canvass the entering freshman class about their desires and objectives. I may think all students should go to college, but this is about their aspirations, not mine.

I'd like to know the graduation rates for those entering freshman who expressed a desire to graduate and I'd like to know the college admission rates for those entering freshman who said they wanted to go to college. It would be nice if the rates actually exceeded 100% (ie, students who didn't want to go to college decided to!).

Isn't that the true measure of success?

It would also be interesting to know the percentage of entering freshman who thought they would drop out. Did the actual number increase or decrease as the students progressed through school?

All are good metrics and none should be difficult to obtain. All it takes is a first day of school survey.

Posted by PV Mom
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:25 am

Let me be more clear about what I am talking about with regard to "parent participation". I am talking about the "extra effort" meetings. The meetings for groups trying to work with teachers, coaches, administrators to make the school a better place for the students. Perhaps it is brainstorming about an after school program to offer food and a safe place to study after school and before parents come home, or funding new uniforms for a sports team.

I believe apathy by parents is a bell shaped curve with regard to back to school night, open house etc (socioeconomically speaking, with well off and poor parents attending the least by choice or circumstance and middle class having one and sometime both parents attending- just my observation). Directed parent-teacher conferences seem well attended when required.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:37 am

We're obviously talking past each other. My point is that if parents want to be involved, they will be and their children will perform better with that involvement.

The rich will always have their priorities and the poor will always have their challenges. People from every economic class make time to do things that are important to them.

I can think of very few things that are more important than my children's welfare.

Posted by PV Mom
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 11:19 am

I think the idea that all parents need to be on campus in support is not necessarily helpful. Many kids just need to take life down a notch. Have meals at home with family, talk with family and friends, not be so "connected" - that means online or yackin at the corner store. Backing away from school activities and focusing just on the items required might be the thing to propel a struggling student to a performer, then perhaps successes in a subject might open the door to a star achiever.

"Involved" to me means paying attention to the kids, whatever that may be for your family. I believe, the reason public policy on education at the State level is so difficult is that success can not be measured by what a politician says, but rather by what the clients, our communities families, want. Unfortunately, the only "clients" that give input are the ones actually showing up. And you are right, their kids are probably doing just fine and they want to generalize their lifestyle to the population at large. That is the first mistake.

A questionnaire at each grade level "roundup" is a great first step.

Posted by Ano Nymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm

[Portion deleted]

From what I have read, even in your liberal publications, Meg Whitman fired the maid [Portion removed; terms of use] as soon as she was made aware of her illegal status. The only thing I would possibly critize her for is not having the maid deported. So in a way, the "Latino's" should be on her side on this one.

Posted by PV Mom
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Ano Nymous:

??? A few more sentences to clarify please...

A. Romanoff was obviously very wound up by the racist remarks sited earlier, but you get the gist of what was said, but your comments are more attacking than on topic. This is an interesting thread, if you would like to contribute.

Posted by Ano Nymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm

[Post removed, terms of use.]

Posted by Ano Nymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Sorry, PV Mom,

Tried to respond, but the censors at the Almanac have been busy little beavers!

Posted by Ano Nymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Just curious: Has anyone tried to match up these three curves?

1) Decreased performance in California schools.
2) Increase in money going to California schools.
3) Increase in illegal alien population.

Thanks in advance!

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