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The Case for Action

The founders of San Francisco University High School believed in the educational value of diversity and pluralism, imagining a school that drew upon the exciting variety and resources of San Francisco and that developed creative, capable, and socially responsible leaders.

They envisioned a school that would achieve both equity and excellence, encompassing the arts, academics, athletics, and community engagement. Two years after the opening of UHS, that same vision led to the creation of Summerbridge, a pioneer in preparing ambitious middle school students from under-resourced circumstances to enter and thrive in college preparatory high schools. The work of these early leaders resulted in a powerful catalytic context that continues to nurture a community of inquiry, risk-taking, collaboration, and personal and intellectual growth for both students and teachers.

Forty years later, that catalytic context has produced generations of graduates who have distinguished themselves by making meaningful contributions in all sectors of society, and in doing so, built an outstanding reputation for the school. Indeed, within the current model of highly selective, academically rigorous high schools, UHS can count itself among the very best.

Against this background, the Strategic Design Committee launched a two-year process that involved far-reaching institutional reflection, meaningful collaboration within our school community, and profound discovery.

In our initial exploration, we found that compelling new insights from many sources suggest a clear need for schools across the country to evolve.

For example, cutting-edge research in adolescent development is redefining our understanding of what is necessary for teenagers to thrive. Well-respected voices from a range of fields and disciplines assert the benefits of innovative, collaborative approaches to learning. At the same time, colleges and universities across the nation report troubling levels of anxiety and depression among their most accomplished and well-prepared freshmen.

In dialogue with all of the school’s core constituencies, we identified particular areas where UHS could evolve to better meet these challenges, including examining our pace, our assessment practices, our program, and our physical plant, to name just a few.

Ultimately, these two years of reflection and study resulted in a bold conclusion: we have an opportunity to reimagine what makes an outstanding school, and we intend to do so.

This Strategic Direction positions UHS to be a national leader in shifting school culture— affirming our fundamental commitment to intellectual challenge and vitality while simultaneously responding to the demands and opportunities of today.

Our strategic direction charts the school’s direction for the next era, building on a legacy of excellence while remaining institutionally reflective and continually poised to respond to our changing world.