Author Archives: Editorial Staff

New homework survey

Community member Chris Zaharias has created a high school homework survey for Paly and Gunn students, which asks our high school students about how much time they spend on homework and the like. Thank you Chris!

If you are at Paly or Gunn, please take the survey to add to the data set.  It is very short.  You can access the homework survey here.

Here are the homework survey results based on 50 respondents, 80% from Paly, 20% from Gunn, 50% seniors, the rest underclassmen. 74% average more than 10 hours of homework per week; 48% average 15 hours or more per week. 20% average 17-20+ hours per week.

76% of respondents say their teachers don’t ask how long homework takes, 24% say sometimes, 0% say often.

78% say their teachers don’t work together to manage the homework load; only 4% say yes to this; the rest don’t know.

Here is a link to BP 6154, the district’s homework policy, as well as AR 6154, the administrative regulation implementing it.

It’s time to rethink our high schools

Cathy Kirkman, a 1980 graduate of Paly, has written a guest opinion, “It’s time to rethink our high schools” for the Palo Alto Weekly, posted on PaloAltoOnline.  It proposes rethinking our schools to make them more humane learning environments, as well as deconstructing and analyzing what we mean by “rigor” in our system. It closes with a call to action to parents to step up and take ownership of the problems and solutions, and references the initiative at Gunn as well as this initiative here at

Michelle Obama’s Reaching Higher

Today Michelle Obama announced her new Reaching Higher Initiative, as part of the College Opportunity Day of Action. We had feet on the ground in D.C. today for this event:

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“The Reach Higher initiative will help make sure all students understand what they need to complete their education, including:

  • Exposing students to college and career opportunities
  • Understanding financial aid eligibility that can make college affordability a reality
  • Encouraging academic planning and summer learning opportunities
  • Supporting high school counselors who can help more kids get into college

“The Reach Higher initiative is the First Lady’s effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.


“In today’s economy, a high school diploma just isn’t enough. Students have to reach higher, which is why the First Lady is working to rally the country around the President’s “North Star” goal — that by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

You go Michelle!  Folks: if you haven’t visited the Tap Room at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, New Jersey, home of her alma mater, it’s lovely to see her picture up there along with all the famous white guys and one other woman, Brooke Shields.


Kudos to “Save the 2008”

Students at Gunn have launched a new initiative called Save the 2008.  It’s “a grassroots campaign on behalf of Gunn’s students and teachers – all 2,008 of them – to create a healthier life at Gunn High School.” It was announced by student Martha Cabot and former teacher Marc Vincenti at a recent school board meeting, per coverage in the Palo Alto Weekly.  Cabot made a YouTube video about student stress at Gunn that went viral, and Vicenti wrote a guest opinion in the Weekly about student challenges in our rigorous environment. The initiative identifies “Six Simple Steps to Sanity at School.”

1)  Downsize classes.

2)  Rightsize homework.

3)  Rightsize course loads.

4)  Turn off, tune in.

5)  De-grade grading.

6)  Rightsize academic fraud.

Welcome to

Welcome to, a grass-roots site whose mission is to provide an unofficial guide to our district.  Our goals are (i) to help families better navigate the schools, the curriculum, and the many options available to them, and (ii) to deconstruct the attendant policies and practices so we can understand them better, discuss them, and drive change where needed.

Like the Harvard Q Guide, we intend to explore the various course offerings at our schools, so our students can have a better understanding of their choices, and so we as a community can critique the educational experience our kids are having.  Our aim is to change from a culture of anecdotal information, which benefits insiders and requires each of us to go it alone, to a culture of perfect information, which benefits everyone and enables social optimization and collective action.

What we need are volunteers to help with this from all stakeholder groups,  including without limitation students, alums, experienced parents, staff, administrators, retirees, new parents, scholars, experts, college students, mental health professionals, non-profit stakeholders, people from neighboring communities, or anyone else who wants to get involved.  We hope to have subject matter editors for different aspects of the schools and curriculum, and drive this process by crowd sourcing the content.  To ensure the quality of our work product and to avoid anonymous agendas, contributors will post either under their own name or else as a editor, with their identity validated by our editorial board.

Interested?  Get involved, email us at

Need help on something? Write to and we’ll get right back to you!

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