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Middle School Education

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) middle schools are committed to providing effective and intellectual experiences to our students. We have three middle schools that offer several choice and alternative programs to engage students at all learning levels. Our middle schools are organized around guidelines approved by the Board of Education and aim to provide:

  • Increasing academic challenges as students progress from grade 6 to grade 8
  • Supportive, safe, and secure environments that encourage experimentation and risk taking
  • Clear academic and behavioral expectations with support from staff and parents
  • Organizational practices that connect students and adults closely
  • Ongoing communication channels among students, parents, and staff that demonstrate mutual respect and caring

Through our curriculum and our teaching, we work to ensure that students develop a set of competencies and qualities outlined in our Expected School-wide Learning Results (ESLRs).


Our middle school curriculum serves as a bridge between elementary school and high school and is designed to educate young adolescents in a way that meets their unique developmental needs. All students take seven periods of class. Clubs, athletics, lunchtime activities, and service projects provide many opportunities for students to be involved in school.

Sixth grade students spend the day in self-contained teams with two to four teachers, focusing on core studies. Music and physical education are taught on alternative days. The Exploratory Wheel course cycles students through six-week introductory instruction in subjects they may choose as electives in 7th and 8th grades.

Seventh and eighth grade students choose elective classes to complement their core studies. Students take four core studies and two elective courses.

Core Studies

  • English/Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • History/Social Studies

Elective courses

Elective classes vary by school and year. Details are provided in school course catalogs. Some frequently offered electives include:

  • World Languages (French, German, Japanese, Spanish)
  • Creative Writing, Journalism
  • Home Economics
  • Computer Keyboarding
  • Web Page Design, Computer Applications and Programming
  • Video Production
  • Public Speaking & Debate
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Intramural Sports

Students at all grade levels can participate in a wide variety of intramural activities during and after school. We have a "no cut" policy to give all students the opportunity to participate in sports activities. After-school intramural sports teams are run in partnership with the City of Palo Alto Recreation program.

Visual and Performing Arts Program

Our Visual and Performing Arts program continues the instruction provided in elementary education and gives interested students the opportunity to further their skills and expression. Classes are aligned with state and District Visual & Performing Arts Standards.

  • Art classes cover a variety of 2- and 3-D skills and processes and are offered at beginning and advanced levels.
  • Drama is available to beginning and advanced students and by audition for after-school dramatic and musical productions.
  • Music participation in band, orchestra, or choir is required of 6th grade students. In 7th and 8th grades, music becomes an elective course, and students can participate in Concert Band, Advanced Band, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, Orchestra, or Choir. Students in 6th grade may audition for after-school All-City Honor Groups. Rehearsals are held after school from October to May.

Course Catalogs

Middle school course catalogs include information about courses offered at individual schools during the current year, graduation requirements, and support programs. These catalogs are available at the respective school websites.