The Palo Alto Unified School District established Hoover Elementary School in 1974, during a time of progressive and alternative educational experimentation district-wide. At the more unstructured end of the educational spectrum, Ohlone Elementary School offered students an "open classroom" environment, and Ventura School gave families the choice of sending their students to a progressive school based on the "school without failure" philosophy of Dr. William Glasser. Likewise, many neighborhood schools reflected the open classroom and progressive educational movement of the 1970s.

Some parents felt that these programs did not meet the needs of their children. These needs included having clear expectations for both academic performance and behavior, a consistent school philosophy, single-grade-level classrooms, as well as regular homework and writing assignments. These parents asked that the district balance its offering of elementary alternatives by including a model that was described as "more structured" to accommodate those students who performed best in that environment.

The PAUSD agreed to work with the community to establish an elementary school with a consistent structured program that would be built around instruction in basic academic skills. Hoover Elementary was established and began enrolling its first classes on May 4, 1974.