Frequently Asked Questions

To Focus on Success means we: recognize our talents and interests, visualize our dreams, set long and short term goals, identify our obstacles, develop strategies and skills for achievement, celebrate our victories, and most of all, make conscious choices.

What is the  Focus on Success program?  This is a course designed to support students in their academic classes by providing study and life skills lessons, time to do homework, and the opportunity to work with tutors.

When does the class meet and will students get credit for it?  Focus on Success is offered during the regular school day and students receive five units of elective credit per semester. 

If students take Focus on Success, will they still be able to complete all their required courses for graduation?  Yes, the students have plenty of spaces in their schedule for Focus on Success and other required courses.  Talk to the academic counselors for more details about an individual student’s four year plan. 

How long do students take the class?  Students may take the course for anywhere from a semester to four years.  The average is two years.

How many students are in a class? 15 maximum, of mixed grade levels.

What do you do in the class?  Each class opens with a 15-20 minute life or study skills lessons.  The teacher checks to make sure that students have written down their homework.  Then students have time to organize their binder and backpacks, do homework, prepare for tests, and work on projects individually, in small groups, with the teacher, or with a tutor.  Occasionally we have speakers for the whole period.

What do you teach in the opening lesson?  In our lessons, we focus on motivation, goal setting, study skills, self-knowledge, test taking skills, healthy lifestyles, college and career preparation, building relationships with teachers, and time management and organizational skills.  We design the lessons to meet the needs of a particular class. 

Who are the tutors and can you guarantee tutors for the students?  Our tutors are Palo Alto community members, Gunn parents, retired teachers, and upperclassmen.  We do not always have a tutor for every subject, every period, of every day.  If we don’t have a tutor in Focus on Success, students can sign up for free tutoring at lunch, after school, or during their prep period in the Academic Center.  

What kind of support materials do you have in your class?  We have copies of almost all the textbooks used in the school, plus general office supplies for homework and projects.  We have computers with word processing programs and access to the internet.

Do you contact the students’ other teachers?  We send out a list at the beginning of every semester informing teachers of who is in our program and inviting them to contact us at any time with compliments and concerns.  Also, two to three times a semester, between warning notices and quarter grades, we send out forms to teachers asking for grade updates.  However, not all teachers return the forms. 

Do you always know how students are doing in their other classes?  If students are not honest about what they have and have not done and teachers do not return forms, we may not know how a student is doing. Parents are always encouraged to make direct contact with teachers and then pass on key information to Focus on Success teachers.

How are students recommended for the program?  Students are identified by their middle and high school academic counselors, by the school psychologist, and by teachers, but parents also recommend the program to other parents and students to other students.

Who qualifies for Focus on Success?  Any student not enrolled in any other special program who is likely to be more successful with the support of Focus on Success is eligible to apply.

What is the application process?  The Focus on Success coordinator or a Focus on Success teacher will interview a parent/guardian over the phone or in person and interview the student one-on-one in person.  

What happens in the student interview?  The interviewer will explain the program; ask the student about goals, strengths, interests, and challenges; confirm that the student wants to be in the program; and go over the Focus on Success contract.

Is everyone accepted?  No matter what a student’s background, he/she will be accepted if he/she is honest in the interview, genuinely wants to be in the program, and signs the contract committing to attendance, to making progress, and to supporting other students.  

Are students ever dropped from the program?  Students in the Focus on Success program are only allowed one unexcused absence.  After that time, they will be put on an attendance contract.  Following cuts may result in being dropped from the program.   Students who are unable or unwilling to make good use of the homework time will also be dropped.  Students who are in Focus on Success but whose grades are not improving with our level of support may be recommended to other programs.     

What if a student wants to drop Focus on Success, but the parents and/or counselors think the student should stay in the program?   Focus on Success is a student choice program, so students may drop at any time.

If students are on 504 plans, can they still drop or be dropped from Focus on Success?  Yes.

Is Focus on Success the same as Study Skills class?  Study Skills is the course offered through our Special Education Program.  Although our classes are similar, teachers in Study Skills are certified in Special Education, have smaller classes, have more regular contact with teachers, and have classroom aids.  If you would like your child tested for Special Education, contact his/her counselor. 

Students’ schedules say AVID/FOS.  Is Focus on Success the same as the AVID program?  At Gunn, our AVID and Focus on Success Programs have been combined.  AVID students comes from a group traditionally underrepresented in college and have high standardized test scores, the willingness to enroll in honors classes, and the desire to go straight to a four year college.  We do use AVID-like curriculum; however, we accept a broader range of students and provide more homework time.  The majority of students in Focus on Success do want to go to a junior or four year college, and we work to prepare them for that goal.      

What kind of progress do students make?  In the worst case, students do forty more minutes of homework a day than they would have otherwise.  In the best case, student identify their goals, change ineffective behavior patterns, experience success, and make progress toward their dreams.

How can I learn more or set up an interview?

Email Kristen Owen at kowen@pausd.org or contact your student's academic counselor.