PAUSD parents2parents

math advisory

This page shares information  on the math placement process and options at the secondary schools (starting 6th grade)  at Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD)  as of fall 2019 .  At the bottom of this page we have images from 2021.  There has been a large change in the pathways.   We clarify important issues  that are not conveyed well in the  official district math placement document so that parents can calibrate  their expectations from the school programs and  better support their students.  Another goal is to advocate improvements to the program so that all students are supported better at school.  The information here is based on the experience of dozens of parents, mostly from Greene and JLS  middle schools,  on discussions with administration and district staff, and on analysis (included) of 2018 CAASPP data and other data comparing PAUSD with neighboring districts. 

Why the focus on math?  Math is unique among academic subjects.   Math is fundamental to all STEM and allowing students to realize their potential is important not only to their success and satisfaction as individuals but also benefits the economy and society.   

Math instruction poses some unique challenges:  Similar to foreign languages,  continued growth  during childhood and adolescence when the brain is developing is essential (here is one example study). In math, concepts build on each other so  it is important for both student confidence and development  to stay on track or ahead.  Appropriate level of challenge is needed to facilitate both growth and appreciation of math.  Finally, as in any developmental axis, students of the same physiological age can have a wide range of aptitudes (natural learning pace) and levels.  But unlike other topics,  it is not possible to support a wide range in a rigid traditional classroom where all students are required to follow the same lessons.  

Below are the pathways that were in place before the "Math Reboot", implemented after 2019

The chart (from official document) shows the PAUSD organic secondary school math pathways. 

Information resources for middle school parents 

REVISED AS OF 2021: SB 359

PAUSD Math Placement Recommendations for Students and their Parents/Guardians to Guide their Math Course Choices

20-21 –Revision: Mar 3, 2021

(Living Document; revisited annually)

This document applies to students currently in the sixth grade and enrolled in Foundational Math and students in the younger cohorts. For cohorts of students currently in 7th or 8th grade, please refer to the previous math pathway documents. We expect that the High Schools will further adjust course offerings and sections as this cohort enters High School, thus this is a Projected Flow or Pathway. It is expected that High Schools will collect feedback and data on how the students are doing and adjust according to student performance and course sign-ups. There are also opportunities in HS to switch lanes, some of which require summer school. There is a full placement document that addresses these options.