Course confusion: District changes to classes explained


Art: Polina Van Hulsen

A lawsuit? No more off- campus courses in your GPA? Being able to skip high school classes? Multivariable Calculus canceled? What in the world is going on in the Palo Alto Unified School District? 

A parent lawsuit filed in 2021 claimed that PAUSD violated the California Math Placement Act of 2015. The district allegedly “intentionally and systematically targets talented math students and denies them earned opportunities to be exceptional,” according to Palo Alto Online. 

Judge Carrie Zepeda ruled in favor of the parents on Feb. 6, according to Palo Alto Online. Zepeda also ruled that PAUSD had 30 days to submit a new math placement policy to the board. As of early May, the district has yet to submit the new policy.

These [the math lawsuit and other class policies] are all connected.

— Johannah Seah, PAUSD school board representative

According to Palo Alto High School senior and PAUSD school board representative Johannah Seah, the lawsuit led to, but did not directly cause, closer examination of other policies.

“These [the math lawsuit and other class policies] are all connected because … they’re now looking at other policies as well, and the other policy that they’re looking at is off-campus courses,” Seah said. 

Following a closer examination of state law, PAUSD changed its policies around what can appear on a transcript and be weighted into the student’s GPA. 

“Courses off campus will transfer as a credit/no credit onto the Paly transcript and only fully WASC [Western Association of Schools and Colleges] accredited institutions with UCOP lists, which is a UC list of approved classes, will be accepted,” Paly Assistant Principal Michelle Steingart said. 

Calculus conundrum 

The closer examination of the policies also affects Multivariable Calculus, a course previously offered by Foothill College as dual-enrollment for students who had completed Advanced Placement Calculus BC. According to Seah, Multivariable Calculus is a single credit course, meaning it is designated for colleges only and therefore cannot be on high school transcripts. 

In protest, a group of students drafted an open letter with signatures from over 380 students and parents. It was addressed by Superintendent Don Austin in a press conference on April 28, according to The Paly Voice. In response, according to an email sent to The Campanile by Austin, an in-person Multivariable Calculus class will be taught by a Foothill College instructor on the Paly campus after school for the 2023-24 fall semester. 

New policy to challenge courses

As of March of 2023, according to the PAUSD Policies and Regulations, students will be able to test out of a course through a combination of written and oral tests and lab demonstration. According to policy 6155 AR, challenging weighted courses such as Honors and AP, Physical Education, and Living Skills are not allowed; this policy is designed for students to demonstrate mastery of a course in order to move on to the courses in later sequential order, such as math. Phew! So many changes! Did you catch all of them?