Austin affirms district’s stance on Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra


Sophomore Aleksey Valouev speaks during the open forum section of an April 18 school board meeting regarding the Palo Alto Unified School District’s removal of Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra as dual-enrollment classes. Valouev was one of over 50 students involved with the writing of an open letter to the district commenting on their perceived unfairness of the change and advocating for its appeal. In the meeting, Valouev said Multivariable and Linear Algebra are an integral part of the math pathway for students pursuing advanced math courses past high school. “This decision has affected each and every single one of us on an individual level,” Valouev said. “[It’s] severely limiting our options for continued math learning during our junior and senior years.” (Photo: Screenshot of PAUSD School Board Meeting Youtube Video)

Brennen Ho and Avi Srinivasan

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 11:48 p.m. on May 9 to accurately represent the current number of signatures on the most recent multivariable calculus open letter.

In a second open letter to the Palo Alto Unified School District, parents and students continue to challenge Superintendent Don Austin and the school board’s reasoning behind the district not providing advanced math classes such as Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra.

The open letter, signed by over 380 parents and students, claims that there is no valid reason to cancel advanced math classes within PAUSD.

Despite the revised open letter and complaints, Austin said the district will maintain its position on removing the class.

In an April 28 press conference with The Paly Voice, Austin said PAUSD removed Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra as dual-enrollment courses after identifying an issue with credentials of the Foothill College instructor who had been teaching the course for the past few years.

“For high school credit, you have to have a high school teaching credential,” Austin said. “Because this [Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra] would be a dual enrollment course they have to have the California credential.”

When following up Saturday, Austin stated in an email to The Paly Voice that regardless of the credentialing issue, the current Foothill instructor is unable to teach Multivariable Calculus or Linear Algebra due to scheduling conflicts.

“The Foothill instructor was never able to add a second (or more) section. They were never able to teach within our bell schedule due to their own schedules,” Austin stated. “Given those two facts in writing from Foothill, the credentialing issue is now the least important. It’s important to remember that, with the exception of the grade not calculating in the high school GPA, there is absolutely no difference between next year and this year. It is exactly the same.”

Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra were previously offered as dual-enrollment classes for students wishing to pursue higher-level math courses after completing AP Calculus BC — the most advanced math course offered at Palo Alto High School. 

Dual-enrollment courses are college classes offered at high school that students can take for both high school and college credit. Previously, Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra were online classes offered outside of Paly’s typical bell schedule and taught by a Foothill College math instructor. 

As a result of the removal, a group of students drafted the first open letter on April 14 to the school board detailing their frustration. Additionally, students and parents alike have voiced their anger with the change during the open forum sections of multiple school board meetings in the past few weeks.

According to sophomore Aleksey Valouev, one of the students involved in writing the first open letter and coordinating students to speak at board meetings, after the removal of Multivariable as a dual-enrollment class students wishing to take the class through Foothill College are now placed at the bottom priority. 

Valouev said the change places students who are currently advanced in math in a difficult situation, despite being able to accommodate them in the past.

“We’re asking for them to reinstate, in some form be in person or online Multivariable Calculus, which has been offered for a decade in the past, and so they’ve set a new precedent by taking it away,” Valouev said. “And this isn’t something that’s very unique to PAUSD, where the districts and the surrounding area continue to offer dual enrollment multivariable calculus courses, while PAUSD in order to refocus the resources on those who are behind in math are instead taking resources away from those who are already ahead.”

Austin said conflicts between community colleges and high schools regarding dual enrollment classes are common due to a lack of overlap between rules at each school.

“Our number one priority for the state of California is around dual enrollment, partly because the rules conflict so much and the community colleges and us don’t necessarily align,” Austin said. “They have to work through academic sentence. They have to approve our teachers. I think the issue we have right now won’t be an issue in a couple years, I think it would get worked out … but for right now we’re gonna play by the rules that we have.

According to Austin, PAUSD didn’t want to take away the courses but needed to abide by the state guidelines.

“While some people are trying to say that we in some way wanted to cut the course, the correspondence that you’ll see going back a few months ago was that we actually requested a second section, not to eliminate the one that we had,” Austin said. “We asked for a second [class section] and we asked for it to be during the bell schedule day. That’s before the credentialing issue arose. … For right now we’re gonna play by the rules that we have.”

Despite the credentialing issue, Austin said the Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra classes offered by Foothill College remain the same. Students interested in pursuing advanced math classes can still register for these courses directly with Foothill College and submit a separate Foothill College transcript as part of their college applications.

“It keeps getting framed up as a question of choice, like we’ve made a decision,” Austin said. “The only thing that I can see that’s changing since 2019 is that without the awarding of dual enrollment credits, the grade earned will not calculate into your PAUSD transcript. That is the only change. Same teacher, same delivery model. Same college course from the same college. Nothing else has changed.”

Austin said the issues with Multivariable Calculus resulted in controversy due to the ambiguity surrounding the guidelines.

“If you make 10 calls to the CDE [California Department of Education], you’re gonna get eight different people with slightly different interpretations,” Austin said. “We called them yesterday and said, ‘How’s this getting mixed up? We have parents and people calling in they’re telling us that you’re saying this.’ And we talked it through with them.”