Palo Alto Unified School District’s (PAUSD) Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) Program, an innovative and unique opportunity for PAUSD students in grades 10-12 to engage in original research in an area that matters to them, has garnered attention from an organization of Santa Clara County elected officials. The Santa Clara County School Boards Association (SCCSBA) recently announced the 2017 winners of its prestigious Glenn W. Hoffmann Awards, naming AAR as one of the four programs county-wide that significantly impact student success in Silicon Valley.
“Wow! This is such a great honor,” expressed Superintendent Dr. Glenn “Max” McGee upon learning of AAR selected as a Hoffmann Awards winner. “Our students do a superb job in AAR and they continue to impress us year after year. We are grateful to our Board of Education for their continued support of this growing program, to our devoted teachers, and our fantastic and supportive community members for dedicating their time to mentoring our great student-researchers. AAR is truly a gem, which provides our students access to what can be considered graduate-school-level work, and we are delighted that other educators are recognizing the hard work of our students.”
Students from both of the school district’s high schools, Gunn and Palo Alto high schools, are paired with volunteer mentors who are experts in the field of the student's choosing in locations as close as PAUSD schools and distant as Singapore. It also welcomes other community engagements. The program strives to fulfill PAUSD's district’s mission of nurturing student interest and igniting student passion through real world, hands on research, enabling students to explore career pathways in a wide variety of disciplines including humanities and social sciences, business, science, and engineering.
An educator in the sciences leads PAUSD’s AAR program. As a chemistry researcher, Dr. Jeong Choe, AAR coordinator, explains how PAUSD and its community both benefit from the partnership through the AAR work. She explains, “While AAR provides our students with a much needed opportunity to explore an area that is of their interest, it also provides the PAUSD community with programming that brings students and community members together under a shared endeavor: to prepare students to find, study, and solve complex problems that do not yet exist by giving them opportunities and access to pursue research that generates new knowledge or substantive work products. AAR strives to fulfill our PAUSD mission of ‘nurturing curiosity, creativity, and resilience,’ through real world, hands-on research in a wide variety of disciplines.”
PAUSD launched AAR during the 2014-15 school year with 11 student participants, expanding to support 73 students during the 2015-16 academic year, and 181 students investigating various research topics in 2016-17. During the 2015-16 school year, the California Department of Education (CDE) presented the school district with an award of $905,617 to help expand AAR and enhance opportunities for Palo Alto high school students to nurture those interests in hands-on real world settings and encourage career possibilities.
AAR, along with three other winning programs, will be honored at a ceremony on April 26 and will receive a $500 award. One of the four programs will also receive the Kristi Porter Outstanding Program Award with an additional $500 award. The Kristi Porter Award winner will be announced at the April 26th ceremony.
The Hoffmann awards honor Glenn W. Hoffmann, who served as the superintendent of Santa Clara County schools from 1967 to 1984, and believed that leadership is a key factor in educational reform.
A committee of school administrators and school board members scores entries from Santa Clara County school programs. Awards are given to only those programs that receive the highest scores. A total 15 program applications from eight districts were submitted this year. The AAR program was the only submission on behalf of PAUSD.