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Schools place well in nationwide ranking

Original post made on Jun 30, 2010

The schools in the Sequoia Union High School District with graduating seniors were extraordinary in the 2008-09 school year in their success at preparing average students for college-level work, according to a nationwide analysis of high schools by Newsweek magazine.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 12:09 AM

Comments (24)

Posted by Parent of three Woodside Hgh grads
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jun 30, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I know that Woodside High School prepared my child well for college - he received straight A's in his first year at UC Berkeley. I am not sure if any Summit grads were admitted to Berkeley or UCLA, but Woodside High had more admits to these schools than many local private schools. Hooray for Woodside High! Many of the Woodside High grads were also able to skip at least a half, and some a whole, year of college classes (and tuition) because of the many AP tests they passed.

Posted by boardermom
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm

While Mr. Reilly seeks to paint Woodside HS as an egalitarian school that offers AP opportunities for everyone, our family experience was to the contrary. When our child transferred into Woodside as a sophomore, we were told that all AP track classes were full and that the teachers.union would not allow the counselor to put our child into the AS classes which would allow him to take AP classes in his senior year. When I tried again for his junior year, the counselor told me "Time out, Mom. He's not going to a four year college." Mind you, this is a kid transferring from Bellarmine College Prep.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 30, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Parent of three Woodside grads -

I appreciate your post and congratulate you on the success of your child in the UC system.

Yes, our local charter school graduates have been accepted to UC and have done quite well. That accomplishment is not necessarily a sign of success or failure.

But to your point, it is quite clear that our comprehensive high schools do quite well with students at either end of the ability spectrum. Academically gifted and highly challenged students appear to do quite well. Unfortunately, it's the 80+ percent of students in the middle that don't seem to do so well. Their drop out rate approaches 50% and their college-ready test scores are dismal.

The real test of success is how a school does with THOSE students. And by that metric, our comprehensives are well behind the performance of charter schools.

Posted by Woodside Parent
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Dear POGO,
I see that you are an avid supporter of Summit, as evidenced by your presence in these forums. Could you share the source of these stats you list above? I am VERY pleased with Woodside HS, particularly with all of the recent changes due to a new administration who I find supportive of all students, and my child is in the "middle." Woodside has achieved a Similar School Ranking of 10 for the past two years, so your stats seem a bit off the mark and unsubstantiated. We looked at Summit for our daughter, but we thought she would be better off in a larger setting as she wants to go on to a large university.

As for the experience of the ex-Bellarmine student, I have found the administration to be very responsive of all students. I do find it hard to believe that a counselor said this to a student, because I have found the counseling department at WHS to advocate strongly for students to challenge themselves as much as they can. I would have encouraged that parent to contact administration--they act swiftly and they listen to parents. They are extremely responsive.

I am so pleased that all of the schools in the district have made this list, but I do agree with Mr. Reilly that you can not sum up a school with one measure. But to be in the top 6% of ALL schools in the country in this one category is outstanding. We are so fortunate to have so many good choices of schools.

The district has new leadership emerging like Mr. Reilly and a new superintendent who are supportive of all of the schools---I think it is time for Dave Boyce and parents like POGO to rejoice in the successes of all of the schools and to stop fostering all of this contention. I agree with Mr. Reilly that the relationships amongst the schools does not need to be contentious. After all, I found him extremely gracious to the potential of Everest encroaching on his campus.

Cheers to all of the SUHSD schools! And finally to Dave Boyce, I enjoy your articles, but I think it is time for you to move on from trying to foster arguments amongst well-intended administrators. After all, these administrators are public school educators---they are the good guys!

Posted by Summit Parent
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Jul 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I applaud the comments of the Woodside parent above. I had the good fortune of touring Woodside and the principal, Mr. Reilly, spent nearly two hours with our small group of parents. I was very impressed with his attitude towards all students. He is very mindful of some of the school's areas of improvement, and he has already impacted so much positive change in just two years. Also, he was extremely supportive of all of the schools we were considering--Sequoia, Summit and Everest. You wouldn't expect that given the super-competitive climate that has developed in the past few years. He even went so far to encourage us to contact Summit, as he felt our son's needs might be better met in a smaller environment, but also made us feel comfortable that he had programs and structures in place to support our son who really needs someone on him 24/7. In the end we went with Summit, and we have had just an "okay" experience there, but we are considering enrolling our son at Woodside for this upcoming school year due to the magnitude of course offerings and our confidence in the school leadership. I hope that Mr. Reilly sticks around---he is a real gem. I too wish to offer my congrats to the district and also congrats to Summit and Woodside for getting similar school rankings of 10. Great job, folks. I hope that the Almanac can soon move on from fostering contention as the parent above states. It is so clear that the reporter was trying to facilitate an argument between Tavenner and Reilly. Again, I am impressed with the latter for refusing to bite. Kudos!

Posted by Father of Two
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I transferred my two daughters to Woodside from Carlmont and we have been very pleased. One of my daughters is in the "AP-track" and my other daughter is what you all term a "middle" student. They are both served very well. Woodside has really changed for the better with this new administration, which is one of the reasons why we transferred to WHS. Reilly is excellent as is his VP Mazzei--they are on top of things and very approachable. He is a straight talker and straight shooter, and his passion for students really comes through. I also hear that he is tough on teachers in terms of expectations. The good teachers love him, and the poor teachers are afraid, as they should be, but luckily there are just a few of them. The English department is really strong, particularly in the AS/AP track. My "middle" daughter is also challenged in the "regular" English classes. Also, they have a Senior Exhibition Project that requires much of students and that really prepares graduates for college writing.

I am trying to understand the parent above who states that becasue her child came from Bellarmine, that this alone qualifies her child for AP. Why is it relevant? Do more affluent families feel they have a right to get what they want when they want it? It seems that if your student transferred in the middle of the school year, then yes, perhaps the class was at capacity, and I know the school keeps its class sizes low purposely. But if you have a question about placement, contact the administration and they will straighten it out.

I agree with the advice from the other Woodside parent---talk to the admin. They love talking to parents and they are very quick to resolve issues. The doors are open to the AP classes at WHS. I suspect that there was more to the context of that situation than was given.

I think Summit is a great alternative for students who need to be monitored closely and guided through high school in a small environment, but when will the Almanac applaud the achievements of Woodside? This school is on the rise and I am so grateful that my daughters are a part of it!

Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 1:58 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Why not enjoy a little reality check of the school systems by going to this site and seeing what tomorrow holds.....All parents are to blame in every way.

Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Jul 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

The issue in this story is not about how wonderful the Sequoia district schools -- comprehensive and charter -- are or are not. It is a presentation of facts about an important data point for families with children in public schools: the extent to which Sequoia district public high schools are preparing kids for four-year college.

This assumes that Newsweek is right that AP tests foreshadow work at a four-year college. This story uses quotations from relevant officials to illuminate their reactions to Newsweek's findings and to its proposition about AP tests.

Newsweek uses a transparent formula that excludes schools without a healthy number of average students. Numbers speak. The size of Summit Prep's graduating class is a meaningful number, as is the size of Woodside's. The numbers of participating parents at Summit and Woodside are meaningful. The number of socio-economically disadvantaged kids at Woodside is another meaningful number, as are demographics at Summit Prep, which state numbers show as an echo of the district as a whole.

To some extent, it is up to the reader to interpret and consider and compare these numbers and what they imply. There is not adequate space in the newspaper to spell out the implications of every number.

There is apparent disagreement between the two primary sources in this story and among advocates for comprehensive schools and advocates for charter schools as to whether being accepted to a four-year school is on a par, over the long term, with going to a community college. This is a topic for a future story (or stories). There was not enough room to cover it in any depth.

For those who complain that Woodside High is being treated unfairly by The Almanac, I have compiles links to seven stories -- one from 2007, three from 2009 and three from 2010 -- that report positive news about Woodside High. There are two listed below, with the rest in subsequent posts.

There may be as many or more over this time period that present bad news about Woodside High. I don't know. I don't keep track. I can say with some assurance that there are not a comparable number of stories about Summit Prep with either good news or bad.

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Jul 2, 2010 at 3:16 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

Three more links for Woodside High stories:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Jul 2, 2010 at 3:16 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

Two more links to Woodside High stories:

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jul 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

at risk of upsetting the hugfest, too much is made of the "similar schools" ranking of ten. here are the current API numbers for a complete picture Web Link

the similar schools ranking is a booby prize on two levels
a- knowing that others are doing even worse doesn't make the ranking of Woodside's "6" more inviting. It truly matters for everyone's future how students do on some absolute measures of competition.
b- to get the similar schools list of 10, Woodside is being compared to schools on far lower budgets (non basic aid) here is the list of similar schools: Web Link it's frankly not a star-studded list: eg, no schools in Santa Clara County

Second, AP should be open to all who seek the challenge. (and all should be challenged to aim high) Running out of space shows an organizational failure. Here are the courses for 2008-09 Web Link That Summit should have more AP classes than Woodside which is 5x larger speaks volumes about different directions.

Third, four year college readiness should be a minimum graduation requirement (It is for San Jose and San Francisco.) Whether one enters the a four year college or finds success in community college should be the student's and family's choice -- not the fall back thrust upon them by a failure of curriculum. There are great reasons to take a variety of paths: four year college, two year college, apprenticeship, military or startup. Usually those decision shouldn't be made before the student starts high school. An honest assessment would be to compare the college ready graduates against the freshman or sophomore enrollment. That is the scope of the challenge ahead.

I have heard many wonderful things about David Reilly and applaud his progress. There is a great deal of work ahead but his character and energy makes these challenges surmountable.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jul 2, 2010 at 5:57 pm

and R Gordon's link to the power of time connects to a brilliant piece - no matter what your perspective. You really must view it. >applause!<

Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Jul 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

In the state "similar schools" rankings for the past three years, on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best performance, Woodside High had ranks 9, 10 and 10 for 2007-2009.

Summit Prep's ranks were 9, 9 and 10.

Web Link

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Woodside parent -

Just to set the record straight, I'm not "against" comprehensives and I'm not "pro" charters. As I've said many, many times, they each serve a purpose.

I do, however, think the SUHSD used highly misleading statistics, especially about drop out rates. I would think that the drop out rate calculation should begin when students enter their school system and not limited to just those students who enter 12th grade. I'm not sure why the SUHSD believes that students who drop out before entering 12th grade don't count but it sure doesn't reflect their true performance.

Regarding Woodside parent's comment that somehow we are "trying to foster arguments amongst well-intended administrators" at the SUHSD, I would only point out that it is has been the SUHSD that has waged a war against all charters, beginning with Aurora and continuing with Summit and Everest. It would be difficult for anyone to deny that fact since the district doesn't even deny it any more.

I would like to see the district's war against charters stop including disseminating falsehoods such as charters steal money from the district (they don't) and that charters are really publicly funded private schools for rich kids (they aren't). Those trustees at the SUHSD who claim to be so open minded about new methods may have a lot to learn about the success Summit has with a near-identical group of students.

That said, I congratulate all of the schools that have performed well. This is a credit to the teachers, students and their families.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jul 4, 2010 at 12:52 am

David's point is good in the historial record of 9s and 10s in similar schools ... but one should also read against whom each school scored those 9s and 10 - since it differs for each school.

For instance in 2010
WoodsideWeb Link
Summit Web Link
M-A Web Link
Carlmont Web Link
Sequoia Web Link

Look at a county where they all have peers for the similar school ranking eg San Francisco and see how those peers scored and compared.

Woodside: Leadership High (618)
Summit: GW High (785) School of Arts (780)
M-A: Balboa (753) Raoul Wallenburg HS (753)
Carlmont: GW High (785) School of Arts (780)
Sequoia: Leadership High (618) P&S Burton High (620)

scoring a 6 in API ranking, then a 10 in similar schools is like walking to the varsity football locker room, acknowledging a disappointing season, but telling the seniors that they would have looked much better if they played had only played JV teams.

We need to have high expectations for the schools -- just as we need to have high expectations for the students, ie having graduation requirements that actually mean being ready for college. Without those standards, sending graduates to community college because the high school diploma doesn't fulfill college entry requirements is tantamount to saddling the students with high school debt.

Posted by local parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 4, 2010 at 11:43 am

Observer is right: one of the biggest flaws of the comprehensives is that they graduate students who want to go to college but cannot because they have not fulfilled the minimum Cal State/UC requirements. That is a travesty. The charters make sure that all students complete those requirements; they do not look at a 13-year-old and pronounce him/her unfit for college and therefore unworthy of a college track curriculum.

As for community colleges: for some students, they are an excellent choice. The education is outstanding and inexpensive; the transition is easier. The conundrum is that the students who do not complete UC/Cal State requirements in high school are those who are also most likely to drop out of community college for financial or motivational reasons. If you talk to high school counselors, they will tell you that the underserved student population should be directed to a four-year college, not a community college. But the counselors don't set the policy, and for the most part, the comprehensive principals/district don't care what happens to the students once they graduate.

Posted by Two cents
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jul 5, 2010 at 9:32 am

In response to Observer---

The Similar School Rankings take into account SCI--School Characteristics Index, which groups schools based on demographics. If the schools are scoring high, then it seems that the Similar School Ranking indicates that all of our schools, ranking either 9 or 10, are doing well compared to schools with similar demographics and percentages of students on free and reduced lunch. What is interesting is that Summit and Sequoia/ Woodside are in different demographic groups, which is contrary to what many believe.

I also wish to comment on the comments of "Local Parent" who states that "for the most part, the comprehensive principals/district don't care what happens to the students once they graduate." Really? How many of them do you know personally? Do you really feel as though that you know these dedicated people well enough to make statements such as this? I know two of them, and I can tell you that they work hard to ensure that students have options after high school. They care, and I think it is reckless and inconsiderate for you to be making such statements.

I find it interesting that when faced with the accusation of being combative, charters counter with the "district started it" response. Please. I was in one of the groups that was first approached by the Summit Institute during its conception, and I can tell you that the district did not start the negative comparisons. Also, charters do cost more for a district---maybe not in pupil spending, but certainly with facility costs which would otherwise be applied to the existing schools. I guess I have some concerns with public money being allocated to a private, non-elected Board that oversees Summit.

The real "booby" prize as another posting called it is this Newsweek ranking and the real "booby" is anyone who is going to sum up a school's success with a single indicator. Does this Newsweek ranking even consider if the students passed the AP exams? Any school can simply put a test in front of a student and call all of their classes AP, but how they perform on the test seems to me, more important.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside School
on Jul 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Two cents raises some good issues that are worth looking at more closely.

similar schools: the state pulls from many stats Web Link demographics but also class size -- so when a school runs a smaller class size, it is placed in a more competitive pool. As noted above, spending per student is not an element, so basic aid districts have a distinctive leg up here.

combative is not the same thing as comparative. Yes, the charters pointed out some significant shortcomings when they started. It would be irresponsible not to point out the issues and a plan of action. That is different from combative: campaigning to turn down the charter approval, substandard facilities and other road blocks. While two cents concedes that pupil spending really isn't an issue, facility spending raises the question: how many 30+ million dollar auditoriums should be built instead of quality schools?

as to the relative merits of the Newsweek index: the organizer is up front about the advantages and disadvantages Web Link "Participation in challenging courses and tests, on the other hand, can be counted, and the results expose a significant failing in most high schools--less than 6 percent of the public high schools in the United States qualify for the NEWSWEEK list. I think that this is the most useful quantitative measure of a high school. " There are other measures such as what percent of seniors have passed an AP or IB exam - that is what US News uses as their index. you can see it in the right hand column of the Newsweek index titled "E&E" for equity and excellence. Web Link

Woodside 29.2
Summit 74.7
M-A 51.5
Carlmont 33.8
Sequoia 89

Posted by Middle School parent
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Jul 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

The fact that the schools in the district are not compared to the same schools in the Similar School Ranking (Sequoia and Woodside excluded) gives credence to the belief that comparing a school like Summit to Woodside is indeed comparing apples and oranges. Otherwise, they would be in the same cohort, correct?

I think Summit's success stems, in large part, to the 100% parent involvement. I would like to contend that people ought to stop beating up the comprehensives and making wildly irresponsible and unfounded judgments on its principals who have had very little to do with the "battle" between Summit and the district, and start encouraging more parents to get involved in their children's education by tracking their attendance and monitoring homework study. Unfortunately, there are many parents out there who believe that it is time to sit back and relax when their children reach HS. I applaud the Summit parents for staying involved.

Posted by Two Cents
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jul 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I don't think the E&E data is accurate. Sequoia HS does not have 89% of its seniors pass IB or AP exams. The other flaw with this Newsweek poll is that everything is self-reported.

I agree with Middle School parent--why have parents been let off the hook? It seems the schools are easy scapegoat for society's ills these days, meanwhile reading habits and post-HS expectations used to be established within the home when I grew up. Yes, schools play a role, but where are the parents in all of this?

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm

This thread proves at least two things.

1. Statistics can show pretty much anything you want them to.

2. School performance is a very complex issue.

I do think that part of the success of charters is parental involvement. But unlike critics who imply that charters require it, I think parent involvement is one of the CAUSES of their child's admission, not an EFFECT of it. A student with engaged parents is probably more likely to be encouraged to apply. A less fortunate (not less wealthy...) student with unengaged parents probably has to rely on their own motivation if they choose this path. Those contributing factors are not unique to any aspect of life including decisions to join sports teams or watch too much tv. It's not exactly a revelation that parents count.

People should also note that a full 25% of the entering class at SUHSD applied for admissions to charters. The charters must be doing something right that one in four students chooses to seek their education elsewhere. And look for that percentage of students to increase again next year.

Regarding who launched the first salvo, I think the resistance of the district to charter schools is extraordinarily well established. The district discouraged students and parents, rejected the charter applications, challenged them in court, played three card monte with their facilities and most despicable of all (and what turned me against the district) was their misinformation campaign that charters were elitist and stole money from other students. It was only after the charters prevailed at the State Board of Education and in court and proved their success that one trustee finally confessed that they were "a gift" to our community.

And what did the charter schools do to the district as retaliation? Oh, I remember, they sued the district to enforce their statutory rights like getting the district to provide a facility! So if you think the charter school organizers are doing all of this to get rich, you really need to take a basic arthimetic course... preferably at a charter.

And one final word to those of you who cavalierly accuse charters of being "private schools," encouraging "white flight," and "elitism"... please take the five minutes and drive by one of these schools during the school year when they let out their students at the end of the day. I know that you'll never be able to repeat those words again... at least not honestly.

Posted by local parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm

"I think it is reckless and inconsiderate for you to be making such statements."

Actually, not at all. I have done extensive research, including conducting interviews with key personnel at local high schools, both comprehensives and charters. I'm not suggesting that they are heartless folks, but with one notable exception, they don't bother to track students after they graduate (admittedly, it's a tough task).

Schools aren't measured on how well students do post graduation. They don't get any funding for graduating students who have successful educational experiences after high school. Therefore, although they may care in an abstract way, for all meaningful purposes, they don't care. If they did care, comprehensives would require all students to follow a college track curriculum, as the charters do.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jul 6, 2010 at 6:16 pm

@ 2 cents
> The other flaw with this Newsweek poll is that everything is self-reported.

I don't think that's the case ... at least not for AP results: eg Woodside in 2008 Web Link it goes striaght from the College board to the state to publication. The state doesn't publish IB results, so I'm not certain where those Sequoia numbers come from -- perhaps grist for a local news story: terrific news if it is true, scandal if it is not true.

on parents, I think all sides concur on the importance. There is a role (if not imperative) for schools to foster that growth and to engage all parents.

Posted by WP Themes
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 10, 2010 at 12:07 am

Good fill someone in on and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you for your information.

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