Ohlone School Profile

Ohlone Elementary School in 2013

for presentation at China Education Conference

Palo Alto, California

Principal: Bill Overton

Ohlone Elementary School is a Palo Alto Unified School District public alternative school with voluntary enrollment from throughout the district. Ohlone adopted an “open education” approach in 1976 and has since gained wide recognition as an innovative school.  We are guided by the Common Core standards, but approach them using our own Core Values.

Out of 514 students, 50% of the children represent racial or ethnic minorities (50% White-Not Hispanic, 23% Asian- American, 9% Latino-American, 1% African-American, and 17% other). Collectively, in addition to English, Ohlone families speak more than 28 different languages at home.

We embrace a philosophy built on the uniqueness of every person, the trust and respect that every person deserves, and the need to develop the whole child. As a result, we spend a proportionate amount of time giving students the tools to navigate life, as well as the academic curriculum. We actively give our students opportunities to be trusted, learning from their errors in “teachable moments.” We also call each other by our first names since we realize that respect is something that is earned and not given due to a position. These are just a few examples of how the philosophy can be witnessed. At the root of our philosophy is a set of guidelines called the “Core Values“. 

Ohlone’s core values distinguish it from other neighborhood schools and form the basis of its educational and community structure. The Core Values Committee provides Ohlone families and the larger community with a deeper unstanding of and commitment to the Ohlone approach to educaucation and how it is practiced.

Ohlone Core Values: the Foundation of the Ohlone Alternative

  • Trusting and Respecting Each Individual

  Mutual respect, honesty, and personal responsibility are key elements

  • Developmental Approach

  Each student’s curriculum acknowledges the uniqueness and developmental level of that individual.

  • Growth and Assessment

An ongoing process of observation and feedback is utilized, designed to recognize individual growth and change.

  • Meaningful, Relevant Curriculum

  Ohlone provides a “training ground for real life” so that each student becomes a self-directed, thinking, lifetime learner.

  • Multi-dimensional Learning

  Optimal learning focuses on the whole child: Social, emotional and academic development are of equal importance.

  • Cooperation and Collaboration

  Students of multiple ages work together on projects designed to help them share strengths, accept support & communicate ideas.

• Student-Teacher-Parent Partnership  Students, teachers, and parents are partners who work together to support the students and school .

 One of the cornerstones of the developmentally based education at Ohlone is the Ohlone Farm, which provides a place where children can interact with and learn about nature. A physical embodiment of Ohlone’s Core Values, the Farm helps foster an awareness of the environment, nurturing and caring of animals, cooperative learning, social interactions between children of differing grades, and respect for living organisms. Activities on the Farm help give children a sense of accomplishment, promote self-esteem, and allow for exploration and discovery in a peaceful, inviting, intellectually stimulating and safe environment.

The Mandarin Chinese Dual Immersion Program at Ohlone is designed to develop full bilingualism in 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 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