By Braden Cartwright
Daily Post Staff Writer
Parents and students aren’t backing down in their fight to get an advanced math class reinstated at the Palo Alto Unified School District.
Nearly 400 people have signed a petition calling for the district to offer multivariable calculus on campus next year.
“To rectify this, you need to put us first. We need to be listened to,” junior Benjamin Vakil told the board on Tuesday.
Math teachers announced in late March that high school students would no longer be allowed to take multivariable calculus for high school credit.
Instead, students were told they could register directly at Foothill College.
The change affects about 80 students who are set to finish Advanced Placement calculus by the end of their junior year and want to advance to another level in the fall.
“Failure to enroll in these classes and therefore not being able to study math for a year will undermine the development of STEM-aspiring students,” the petition said.
Multivariable calculus was offered on campus at Paly or Gunn until 2020, when the class shifted to an online offering.
Foothill College instructor Park Lee taught the class to all high school students right after their regular bell schedule. Student Luca Manolache said Lee would accommodate them by, for example, moving tests from the middle of AP testing season.
The petition calls for a return to in-person multivariable calculus – the same offering as high schools in Mountain View, Los Altos, Woodside, Menlo-Atherton and Sequoia in Redwood City.
The petition says that the district “has given a series of morphing reasons for the cancellation of the classes.” Superintendent Don Austin’s latest explanation – that the instructor needs a high school teaching credential – doesn’t line up with the California Department of Education’s rules, according to the petition.
Austin said the board will talk about dual enrollment classes at the June 6 board meeting.
Board members couldn’t talk about multivariable calculus because it wasn’t on the meeting agenda, but Todd Collins said they hear the public.
“We know people are upset about this,” he said. “We know people really care about math, and particularly this class.” The fight over multivariable calculus comes amid another battle over advanced math.
Four parents have successfully sued the district for allegedly holding students back from advanced math in ninth grade, and the district is working on complying with a judge’s order to approve an objective math placement policy that complies with state law.
It took a petition with 400 signatures and somehow PAUSD was able to request an in person class the following day. The change is welcomed by parents but it’s painfully obvious this didn’t need to take nearly 2 months. It only happened because of the pressure from parents and students. PAUSD would have been perfectly happy to sit complacent if folks hadn’t spoken up. And realistically the timing of this section isn’t going to work for a lot of our kids with after school activities since it runs so late (7pm!).
The request in the open letter was for a class during the school day, and it was for good reason. If you look at the numbers there’s now 30 kids at each high school eligible to take this class next year, which is very different from a few years ago. The class started during the school day but spilled into after school hours since there was only one section for both Paly and Gunn kids so one group had to commute to the other high school. Now there’s plenty of students for one class at each school. The number of kids on track to finish BC calculus before senior is only going to grow as more kids take Geometry during the summer. The right solution is to have one class at Paly and one at Gunn during the school day. There’s no change of practices required to do this unlike what some board members have claimed. These classes took place during school hours in the past. The only practice that changed is the new PAUSD administration actively wants to make BC calculus the “highest math class” at the high schools at the expense of advanced math students. Maybe it’s about stress, or maybe it’s really about propping up other groups of students for college apps for “equity”. Either way this is just one of many attacks on accelerated math.