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Choice Schools & Programs

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) offers several choice schools and programs to our students. All students are eligible to attend. Admission is granted through a lottery system. Parents are responsible for providing their children's transportation to and from school.

All students, even if they are applying to a choice school or program, must register with the Central Attendance office for their neighborhood school.

If interested in proposing a large-scale alternative program please review the following Guidelines for Developing Large Scale Alternative Programs

Jump to:
Elementary school  |  Middle school

Elementary School Programs

Admission to elementary-level choice schools is granted through a lottery system. Lottery application forms and information are available at individual school offices. You must have PAUSD-approved proof of residence to apply. For more information on enrolling in a Elementary Choice Program/School review a Parent's Guide to Enrolling in a Choice Prgram/School at the Elementary Level.

When vacancies arise in choice schools, offers for admission are made first to siblings of attending students and then to students chosen through a lottery. Spaces may become available at any time during the school year. Offers for kindergarten are given in February prior to the start of the school year.

  • Hoover Elementary School
    The Hoover approach to learning includes a balance of explicit direct instruction coupled with structured, student-centered activities that increase the depth of student learning and the complexity of their thinking. Student success is fostered through the clear articulation of academic expectations combined with differentiated support and the routine practice of effective communication skills and study habits. Staff and parents also collaborate to provide varied social and emotional learning experiences intended to support each child in realizing his/her full potential.

  • Ohlone Elementary School
    Ohlone's open school philosophy focuses on developmental education. Classrooms emphasize open-ended activities, personalized instruction, and peer tutoring. Teachers facilitate academic, social, and emotional learning.

  • Mandarin Chinese Dual Immersion Program PDF Mandarin Version PDF
    The Mandarin Chinese Dual Immersion Program at Ohlone is designed to develop full bilingualism in both Mandarin and English. English-speaking students and native Mandarin speakers are taught together using Mandarin and English instruction to develop bilingual academic fluency. The program will begin in the fall of 2008 with two K-1 classes at Ohlone and will continue through fifth grade. The program aims to:
    • Develop bilingual proficiency and literacy in Mandarin and English
    • Promote academic achievement at or above grade level in both languages
    • Foster positive cross-cultural attitudes

  • Spanish Dual Immersion Program
    The Spanish Dual Immersion Program at Escondido is designed to develop full bilingualism in both Spanish and English. English-speaking students and native Spanish speakers are taught together using Spanish and English instruction to develop bilingual academic fluency. The program begins in kindergarten and continues through fifth grade or middle school. The program aims to:
    • Develop bilingual proficiency and literacy in Spanish and English
    • Promote academic achievement at or above grade level in both languages
    • Foster positive cross-cultural attitudes
  • Young Fives
    The Young Fives program at the Greendell school site is for children who are age eligible for kindergarten but are not ready to enter kindergarten. The program is designed for children who exhibit signs of immaturity or youngness that may prevent them from succeeding in kindergarten and future school years. Parents participate one day a week in the classroom and attend monthly discussion sessions in the evening. Parents apply for the program and the children are selected based on an observational screening process.


Middle School Programs

PAUSD offers several choice programs for grades 6-8. Admission is granted through a random selection process, if the number of applications exceeds the available spaces. Information packets are sent to parents of 5th grade students in January-February time frame. Applications are usually due in late March.
  • Direct Instruction (6-8th grade offered at Terman).
    Direct Instruction is an instructional strategy where a majority of instruction comes directly from the teacher through lecture and structured discussion.  The emphasis is on student acquisition of knowledge and academic skills.
    • Teachers provide the majority of instruction in the core academic subjects in the discrete, single-subject areas of English, mathematics, social studies, and science as distinguished from an interdisciplinary approach, where multiple subjects frequently are taught in combination.
    • Teachers give systematic, sequential instruction in the core academic subjects. Teachers have a commitment to spend the majority of class time on direct instruction and explicit teaching in which the teacher guides the lesson and responds directly to questions, as distinguished from coaching or facilitating.
    • Classroom activities are initiated and directed by the teacher.
    • Teachers use a structured approach to teaching basic skills while also providing opportunities for problem solving and creative thinking.
    • Emphasis is on the accountability of individual students, as distinguished from groups of students, for scholastic achievement.
    • The curriculum follows a definite progression, building on skills and abilities acquired at each level.
  • Connections (3 year program offered at JLS)
    The Connections program takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching core subjects. A "village" of teachers, students, and parents within the larger school community focuses on interactive, project-based, experiential learning through hands-on experiences and field trips. The program emphasizes:
    • Connections among various disciplines—teachers have a block of three to five periods to focus on an interdisciplinary approach to topics
    • Connections among students and student-centered learning—students are responsible for their own progress by setting goals and assessing their progress while teachers serve mainly as guides and mentors
    • Connections between curriculum and students' lives—core curriculum and student interests are enhanced with examples from current events and field trips
    • Connections between curriculum and community—community and environmental service projects are part of the curriculum
  • Spanish Immersion (3 year program offered at Jordan)
    The middle school Spanish Immersion program is a continuation of the bilingual curriculum of elementary Spanish Immersion. We accept students who have been promoted from the elementary-level as well as other students who demonstrate grade-level bilingual fluency in Spanish and English.


Revised July 2013