San Francisco University High School seeks to provide each student with a broad background in the liberal arts and sciences. The curriculum represents a combination of required courses thought to be fundamental to a liberal arts & sciences education, a rich selection of elective courses aimed at meeting the needs and interests of a diverse student body, and a variety of opportunities to pursue independently tailored programs of study.
Please check out our 2021–22 Curriculum Guide in the right-hand sidebar for a complete listing of courses offered this year!
- The Arts
- PHYSICAL EDUCATION
- INDEPENDENT STUDY
- Blend_Ed Consortium
The Arts program is designed to fulfill two functions in the student’s growth and development. The first is to develop an understanding of the richness of the arts; the contributions that they have made and continue to make to humankind; and the basic elements that are the foundations of visual arts, music, and theater. The second function is to offer students an opportunity to participate directly in the creative process through entry level courses in each discipline, as well as through upper level courses for those students who wish to pursue depth and mastery in a particular art. The arts curriculum is designed to allow students to develop in both the understanding and the creation of the arts.
The foundation of the student’s understanding of the arts is provided by Western Civilization: History of the Arts, an interdisciplinary course which is required for sophomores and is taught by a team of teachers representing the fields of art, music, and history. The history, cultural concepts, theories, elements, and facts presented in this course are echoed in the studio and performing classes in the analysis of works and in student project designs.
The arts curriculum also offers a rich selection of studio and performing courses in visual arts, music, and theater and focuses on building skills which will enable students to fulfill their creative visions. Students may take any entry-level course in the three disciplines, as well as pursue greater depth and skill development through upper-level courses such as the level III studio courses, the upper division performing ensembles, AP Studio Art, Theater Production II: Advanced Projects, AP Music Theory, and AP Art History.
The graduation requirement includes two semesters of arts courses, in addition to Western Civilization: History of the Arts.
The graduation requirements of University High School include four years of English.
In their freshman and sophomore years, students take a core program that emphasizes reading, writing, and critical thinking. They read a wide variety of literary works and write and revise continually in response.
In their junior and senior years, students take semester-long electives, choosing from a variety of options each term. All the electives offer sustained instruction in analytical writing, and many of them require creative or personal writing, as well. To make the writing process as accessible and as individualized as possible, each major assignment goes through multiple steps of prewriting, writing, and revising, with frequent opportunities for constructive criticism from teachers and peers along the way.
The English Department has chosen the electives model to allow students to pursue topics of particular interest and to go into more depth with each than would otherwise be possible. We also believe, however, that the electives approach allows students to be exposed to a diverse array of texts and to a variety of contexts in which to read them. To encourage students to take advantage of the breadth available to them, we recommend that they think about their choices in light of what they have already taken and what they hope to take. Some courses are organized around a genre, such as poetry, while others take a theme as a guiding principle. Still others focus on the literature of a region or nation. It is our intent that, as juniors and seniors, our students will discover increasingly wider circles of their own interests and that they will be inspired to make connections among these interests.
The study of history is an essential part of University’s comprehensive program. To deepen our students’ understanding of the world past and present, as well as to build and refine their skills in service of historical inquiry and analysis, the History Department offers a four-year curriculum of core courses and electives.
History I: Non-Western Civilizations introduces students to the practice of historical inquiry and to area studies and is required of all freshmen. The multidisciplinary course, Western Civilization: A History of the Arts, although housed in the Arts Department, furthers sophomores’ study of history. All students must take United States History in their junior or senior year, and may elect to sit for the Advanced Placement examination in that subject. The capstone is our rich elective program, which allows juniors and seniors to do further investigation and skills refinement in area studies and/or in theme-based courses.
The study of language and culture offers new dimensions to students’ lives, as it opens doors to the world; it also provides them with the opportunity to gain new perspectives on their own languages and cultures. For students to achieve such understanding, we encourage them to study a language other than what is spoken at home.
To graduate from UHS, a student must complete level three or three years of study (whichever comes first) of one of four languages offered: Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish. Students benefit most from language study when they pursue the same language as far as possible. Therefore, if they choose to enroll in a second language, we recommend doing so only after they complete an advanced level of the first.
A shared goal of all language study at UHS is the close reading and interpretation of a range of texts in the target language, with special emphasis on literary texts as windows into diverse philosophical and cultural points of view. In the case of the modern spoken languages, an equal goal is to ensure that students can communicate fluently and that they have a broad understanding of the countries and cultures where the language is spoken. In so doing, we seek to empower students to attain the linguistic precision, cultural empathy, and sheer enjoyment that come from the spirited pursuit of knowledge.
The Mathematics requirement for graduation consists of a three-year sequence of courses: Mathematics I, II, and III. These courses emphasize modes of mathematical reasoning and techniques of problem solving through the traditional topics of algebra, geometry, and right-triangle trigonometry. Students who wish to continue their study of mathematics have a variety of electives to choose from. Precalculus, Statistics, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, and AP Computer Science are offered every year. There is also a changing menu of various special electives that are offered occasionally, including Non-Euclidean Geometry, Chaos Theory, Discrete Mathematics, Evolution of Mathematics, and Decision Theory.
University High School requires that each student complete two years of a science for graduation. For students in the Class of 2019 and before, this requirement is met by the biology and chemistry sequence in ninth and tenth grades. Starting with the Class of 2020, the requirement will be met by ninth-grade physics and tenth-grade chemistry, respectively. However, all students are strongly encouraged to leave UHS with a foundation in all three fundamental sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics). The advanced electives that we may offer in upcoming years include Astronomy, Geology, Physics, Physics Honors, Advanced Projects in Physics, Advanced Topics in Modern Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, and three courses under the heading of Advanced Topics in Biology: Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Physiology. Industrial Design is offered in conjunction with the Arts Department. Any elective with an “AP,” “Advanced,” or “Honors” designation is considered a “college-level” course. Permission to enroll in some advanced courses is granted at the discretion of the instructor and the science department as a whole and will be based on a student’s past record in science classes. Taking more than one science course at a time requires permission of the department and space in the desired course. In scheduling classes we will accommodate all single-course students first.
The principal objectives of the Physical Education program are to stimulate interest in physical education and physical fitness and to provide students with an opportunity to participate in activities that may be of ongoing interest to them throughout their lives.
With physical education, the year is divided into thirds (trimesters) to match the athletic program seasons (fall/winter/spring). Students must meet a PE requirement each semester of their four years (12 trimesters). A student may fulfill this requirement in one of three ways: 1) participation on an interscholastic team, 2) enrollment in a physical education class, or 3) participation in the Alternate Activity program.
Most students at UHS participate on one or more interscholastic teams. This breadth of offering would compare favorably to many college programs. UHS encourages all students to participate in interscholastic athletics and over 90% of our students do participate on at least one team during their years here. The spring season in particular sees about 60% of the student body playing on one of 17 teams. For more information about UHS sports teams, see the Athletics pages or contact the Athletic Department staff.
Students not participating on a team in a particular season often enroll in a PE class. Classes meet one-two times a week, almost always after school. Class sizes are generally small, permitting instructors to offer individual students a considerable amount of personal guidance and attention. The following activities are traditionally offered in the Physical Education program: archery, badminton, bowling, fencing, fitness training, lacrosse (co-ed), rock climbing,* running club, squash,* softball, strength and conditioning, urban hiking, and yoga. *Additional fee involved.
Strength and conditioning classes are offered by the school’s in-house S&C coach and are integrated into interscholastic team practices and also available separately for out-of-season athletes. The classes are designed to reduce the risk of injury and to build stronger foundations for athletic development. They are offered most days of the week after school on campus.
The Alternate Activity program is designed to accommodate students who wish to pursue physical activities and interests outside the school’s core program. Each year the list of accepted activities is long and varied. Typical examples might include ballet, cycling, figure skating, gymnastics, horseback riding, ice hockey, martial arts, or pilates. Athletes playing on outside club teams receive PE credit through this program as well. Any student interested in participating in off campus activities must submit a completed contract to the director of physical education at the beginning of the trimester. The student must also take responsibility for submitting completed logs to the PE Department at designated deadline dates.
Through this three-pronged approach to physical education, we hope that all UHS students will find their own passion for athletic activities, will learn how to develop and maintain a desired level of physical conditioning, and will leave UHS more likely to have an ongoing interest in physical fitness and sports for years to come.
Outside of the PE program, the Athletic Department also offers an extensive intramural program during lunch time. Activities have included: badminton, volleyball, indoor soccer, dodgeball, and basketball. Intramurals provide a fun way for students and the faculty to interact in friendly competition.
To provide students opportunities to pursue self-directed learning, the School offers a rich program of independent study. Following our belief that students learn best when they become architects of their own education, the program encourages students to pursue independent study by awarding transcript credit for a variety of self-initiated projects. Independent Study project proposals are approved by the relevant sponsoring academic department. Full-semester credit is offered for tutorial-style courses that require regular faculty interaction and workloads comparable to an ordinary semester-length class. Half-semester credit is offered for projects with lighter workloads. All Independent Study projects are evaluated on a credit/no credit basis, not with a letter grade.
From the Bay Area BlendEd Consortium website
The Bay Area BlendEd Consortium was founded in 2013 by The Athenian School, The College Preparatory School, Lick-Wilmerding High School, Marin Academy, and The Urban School in order to jointly offer a set of blended classes combining face-to-face and online instruction. Our membership expanded to include The Branson School in 2019-2020 and then the San Francisco University High School in the 2020-2021 (Cycle 7) school year – 7 school partners for our 7th year of BlendEd! Together, we are committed to making the most of online learning, remarkable teacher-student connections, and Bay Area resources.
As the ways we teach and learn continue to be influenced by the use of digital technology, The BlendEd Consortium combines demonstrated best practices for online learning with our schools’ proven strengths in direct classroom instruction and experiential learning. By creating a blended model, where students access the curriculum and teachers online as well as through regular face-to-face meetings, we help our students prepare for the changing methods of instruction and communication they will see in college and in the workforce while preserving the core relational culture that lies at the heart of our schools’ educational missions.
We are excited to pool the considerable talents that exist in each of our schools for the benefit of student learning. Through our careful work to develop a program that allows students to reach beyond the confines of our schools while benefiting from their strengths, we model both the collaborative spirit that is our hallmark and the creative and innovative thinking that this century demands.