Advanced Authentic Research

Social Science

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Improving Effective Use of Existing Technology in Public Schools

The "digital divide" refers to the gap between privileged and underprivileged people as seen through their access to technology. Although technology has become more affordable, there is a lack of understanding of how to use it to its full advantage. Palo Alto High School provides students with Chromebooks, but these machines are dependent on wifi and lack significant standalone computer software. Perhaps a study that investigates the effects of using current technology resourcefully could remedy this situation. Access is not just about "having a computer." Factors like access to software programs, wifi at home, and support from parents can help make using technology actually effective.

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Mental Health in the Juvenile Justice System

Youths who have gone through the Juvenile Justice System are often underrepresented and overlooked. These youths often face irreversible changes to their mental health, such as the development of mental health disorders or the worsening of pre-existing conditions. Using data collected through a series of interviews and focus groups, we are going to create a proposal to submit to the city on how to improve the treatment of kids during and after their incarceration.

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The Voluntary Transfer Program and the Racial Achievement Gap in PAUSD

The “achievement gap” is the persistent disparity in educational performance among various groups and is a commonly discussed issue in today’s society. In reality, there are numerous achievement gaps: the gender achievement gap, socioeconomic status achievement gap, learning disabilities achievement gap, and the racial achievement gap. When people talk about a generic achievement gap, it is generally assumed that it is the racial achievement gap. But why is race inevitably linked to underachievement?

Many people fail to see that this racial achievement gap started hundreds of years ago and is a result of historically discriminating against minorities. Just because we no longer support discrimination laws does not mean we are suddenly a color-blind society.

“Historical conditions create a social and psychological environment for African American students, including peer sanctions for ‘acting white,’ that causes disengagement from or devaluing of school and therefore poorer performance,” (Fordham and Ogbu 1986). In other words, our country’s history of discrimination has created a negative learning climate for African American students. When they value academic success or other “white values,” they are looked down upon or given a penalty by their peers. Economic discrimination and inequality are caused by an unbalance in things such as job availability, wages or prices of goods and services. This, along with national health and housing policies that put minority children and their families at risk, are forces that drive minority academic underachievement. “Roughly a third of the black-white achievement gap can be attributed to measured family characteristics” (Jencks and Phillips 1998), which are factors such as income, education level, and race. “We cannot talk about children at risk without making those connections, without recognizing the pervasive, negative effects of racism on our educational institutions and on the children those institutions must educate. For educational disparity is part of a social web of inequality” (Jacob, 1991).

“Because high-minority schools are low achieving on average, the concentration of minority students in these schools may perpetuate racial achievement gaps and especially harm high-achieving minority students” (Hanselman, 2014). When students feel that the general consensus of the larger community is that minority students are underachieving, they are more likely to have lower expectations for themselves and consequently perpetuate the negative stereotypes.

The questions guiding this research are: “How does busing minority students out of their home district affect their self-identity and self-confidence?” and “How does busing minority students out of their home district affect the racial achievement gap in the district to which they are bused?”

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How Destructive Female Friendships Relate to Competition Between Women for Relationships and Professional Success

This project's goal is to look at unhealthy female friendships and to determine whether negative behaviors that can often arise between girls—such as the exclusion of "friends" and gossiping—are intentional or subconscious. This project will also study the differences between male and female friendships, for better or for worse, and what causes these differences. Through the examination of data from student surveys and interviews, conclusions on the state of female friendships at Palo Alto High School will be made, and these conclusions will be published in an attempt to inform students about these toxic behaviors and to promote healthy friendships between girls.

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Comparison of Left-Behind Children in Rural China and Immigrant Chinese Students in the United States

In recent years, China’s population of left-behind children (i.e., children who have at least one parent who has migrated to an urban area in search of employment to support the family) is on rise. Researchers have found a general trend of left-behind children’s emotional well-being and academic performance suffering negative effects due to the resulting lack of parental care. Also, as an increasing number of Chinese families decide to send their children abroad to the United States to receive better education, many find it difficult to assimilate to American culture. This hinders their academic achievements and community involvement. This project will investigate the impacts of lack of parental care on Chinese immigrant students' emotional well-being and academic achievements and compare the results to those of the left-behind children in rural China.

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How Political Isolation Affects Political Polarization

Our project analyzes political polarization in America. We built an algorithm that used phrases typically associated with Democrats or Republicans to try to determine which party a speech sample belongs to. We will run speeches from politicians that are in the minority political party in their state and see how accurate our algorithm is in determining the party of the speaker. We will compare this accuracy rate to the accuracy of our algorithm when presented with speeches that are in the majority political party.

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Increasing Access to Higher Education for Low-Income Students

There is a college access problem for low-income students. Nationwide efforts have been made to increase access to higher education, and nationwide efforts have been made to increase access, but “while half of all people from high-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families do” (Bailey, Dynarski, 2011). This negatively impacts low-income students, because college degrees are becoming increasingly necessary in order to increase socioeconomic standing.

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Creativity in Education: Creativity Carts

Creativity carts are carts filled with arts and crafts supplies that are used in PAUSD elementary schools during creative sessions or lessons. I am going to administer surveys to teachers who participate in the creativity carts program to determine what additions can be made to the creativity carts to maximize their effectiveness, and how the creativity carts enhance the education of elementary school students. The goal of this project is to improve the creativity carts and increase their usage by students and classrooms.

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Environmental Racism

Environmental racism is about the deliberate placement of environmental hazards such as toxic waste and treatment plants for toxic waste in minority and low-income neighborhoods. Despite federal laws that protect these people, environmental racism is still a factor in moder American life. This research project will examine federal laws pertaining to racial discrimination and environmental hazards, diversity in environmental organizations, minority neighborhoods, and health effects of living nears waste treatment plants and incinerators.

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How Different Kinds of Media Affect Perception of Mental Health

I put together a podcast about mental health, which includes interviews about people's personal experiences. A focus group will be surveyed about their perceptions of mental health. Then, the podcast will be played to the same focus group, and they will be surveyed on their perception of mental health after the podcast. The two sets of surveys will be compared to determine whether and how the podcast changed people's perception of mental health.


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