Berkeley High School (California)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Berkeley High School
Berkeley Jacket.png
1980 Allston Way
Berkeley, California, 94704
United States
Coordinates 37°52′04″N 122°16′17″W / 37.86772°N 122.27141°W / 37.86772; -122.27141Coordinates: 37°52′04″N 122°16′17″W / 37.86772°N 122.27141°W / 37.86772; -122.27141
School type Public
Established 1880
School district Berkeley Unified School District
Principal Kristin Glenchur
Teaching staff 162.41 (FTE)
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 3176 (2012-2013)
Student to teacher ratio 19.56
Campus type suburban
Color(s) Red and Gold         
Nickname Yellowjackets
Accreditation Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Newspaper Berkeley High Jacket
Feeder schools King Middle School
Willard Middle School
Longfellow Middle School

Berkeley High School is a public high school in the Berkeley Unified School District, and the only public high school in the city of Berkeley, California. It is located one long block west of Shattuck Avenue and three short blocks south of University Avenue in Downtown Berkeley, and is recognized as a Berkeley landmark. The school mascot is the Yellowjacket.


Berkeley High School, rear view of building showing toppled chimneys after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

The first public high school classes in Berkeley were held at the Kellogg Primary School located at Oxford and Center Streets adjacent to the campus of the University of California. It opened in 1880 and the first high school graduation occurred in 1884. In 1895, the first high school annual was published entitled the Crimson and Gold (changed to Olla Podrida by 1899.)

In 1900, the citizens of Berkeley voted in favor of a bond measure to establish the first dedicated public high school campus in the city. In 1901, construction began on the northwest portion of the present site of the high school. The main school building stood on the corner of Grove (now Martin Luther King Way) and Allston Way, where the "H" building is located today. At that time, Kittredge Street ran through what is today's campus site instead of ending at Milvia. The local office of the Bay Cities Telephone Company sat on the site of today's administration building at the corner of Allston Way and Milvia by 1911.

On Arbor Day of 1902, noted naturalist John Muir joined Berkeley's mayor William H. Marston in planting a giant sequoia in a yard south of the new high school buildings. [2] The tree is apparently no longer there, pending results from a future investigation.

The main building of the high school suffered moderate damage in the form of toppled chimneys, broken windows and some weakened walls as a result of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Professor Andrew Lawson of the University of California included one of his own photographs (shown at upper right) of the damage in his famous report issued in 1908. [3]

In 1955, Berkeley High School band director Bob Lutt (who eventually was made executive director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra), founded Cazadero Performing Arts Camp.

In 1964, the West Campus of Berkeley High School was opened in the buildings of the former Burbank Junior High School at Bonar Street and University Avenue. It served all ninth graders while the main campus served grades 10-12, except for an interval from the mid - 1970s to the early 1980s when it was 7-9 to accommodate construction at Willard Junior High School. It was turned over to the Berkeley Adult School in 1986 which used it until 2004. West Campus is currently closed, but the main building is being used as the administrative offices of the Berkeley Unified School District.

A number of famous performers have played at the Berkeley Community Theater which is located on the Berkeley High campus. On May 23, 1952, Paul Robeson sang, despite a small McCarthy-era furor.[4][5] In 1957, Stan Getz was one of the featured performers of the Berkeley Jazz Festival.[6] Beginning in the late Sixties, many bands and singers made the Community Theater their venue, including Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead, The Kinks, Bruce Springsteen, Genesis, Elvis Costello, The Clash, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie.

A significant portion of students and faculty alike were also involved with the various forms of political activism which characterized the Sixties in Berkeley, including protests against the Vietnam War, advocacy for civil rights and third world studies, and supporting People's Park. The campus included a Black Students Union and a Chicano Student Union. In 1971, Berkeley High students elected a gay male African American student as Homecoming Queen.

Berkeley High School has been innovative in its high school curriculum. In the Fall of 1970, a school within a school opened at Berkeley High called Community High School. It was "alternative", in keeping with the sixties culture which permeated life in Berkeley at the time. By 1974 there were several small schools within Berkeley High: Genesis-Agora(formerly Community and Community 2), Model School A, School of the Arts, and College Prep. Berkeley High School was also the first public high school in the United States with an African American Studies department, established in 1969.[7]

The Berkeley High campus was designated a historic district, the Berkeley High School Campus Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places on January 7, 2008.

Administration and organization[edit]


The current principal is Kristin Glenchur. She had been appointed interim principal of Berkeley High School for the 2014-2015 school year. She replaced Pasquale Scuderi, BHS principal (2010-2014), who was promoted during the summer of 2014 to serve as assistant superintendent of Educational Services for the Berkeley Unified School District. Previously, Mr. Scudery had replaced Jim Slemp in July 2010. Slemp had served as principal for seven years. In the years preceding Slemp's arrival, Berkeley High was plagued by the lack of a consistent principal, as well as (unsolved) arson fires. During Slemp's tenure two buildings (A & C) were remodeled, and a new administrative center and food court (D) were constructed.

Small schools[edit]

In 2000, in an attempt to better serve its diverse community, BHS began experimenting with the idea of small schools. Bill Gates, who originally promoted small schools, has since withdrawn his support. Education leaders at the Gates Foundation concluded that "improving classroom instruction and mobilizing the resources of an entire district were more important first steps to improving high schools than breaking down the size.” [8] This point of view was amplified in a study that carefully analyzed matched students in schools of varying sizes. The lead author concluded, “I’m afraid we have done a terrible disservice to kids.” [8]

In 2005, Berkeley High School officially established four small schools and a comprehensive program, Academic Choice. The small schools use the highly controversial Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP)[9] which has come under harsh criticism for failing to prepare students for college. A very detailed analysis of IMP by U. C. Berkeley mathematician Dr. H. Wu led him to conclude that IMP does not meet the needs of "those who plan to pursue the study of one of the exact sciences, engineering, economics or biology, and those who entertain such a possibility." For students "who will not go to college as well as those who will, but do not plan to pursue the study of any of the exact sciences (mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry), engineering, economics, or biology," Dr Wu found that IMP (though not without its serious gaps) can be useful.[9] Berkeley High's four small schools have very different academic standards from the rigorous AC and IB programs which prepare students for college.

The small schools that began the 2005-06 school year were:

  • The Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA)
  • Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS)
  • Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS, originally Community Partnerships Academy)
  • Green Academy (originally School of Social Justice & Ecology)

In addition to the smaller schools, there are two Comprehensive Learning Communities which comprise nearly two-thirds of the student body. Academic Choice (AC) and Berkeley International High School (BIHS)--part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program as of 2007—make up this Comprehensive Learning Community.

  • Academic Choice (AC)
  • Berkeley International High School (BIHS)

Berkeley High School Math and English Proficiency Rates by Learning Community[edit]

The following California Standards Test (CST) data was disaggregated by learning community by the BUSD Department of Evaluation and compares the proficiency rates of Berkeley High School's six learning communities - Academic Choice, I.B., Arts and Humanities (AHA), Communication Arts and Science (CAS) and Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS):[10]

Percent of students “proficient or above” in Math and English California Standards Test (CST) Scores
Small School Enrollment 2011 English 2007 English 2011 Math 2007 Math 2011
Academic Choice (AC) 1,300 67% 57% 36% 30%
Berkeley International High School (BIHS) 900 64% 69% 39% 33%
California State Average 41% 49% 21% 28%
Arts and Humanities (AHA) 240 40% 47% 12% 7%
Communication Arts & Sci. (CAS) 240 42% 31% 5% 6%
Medicine & Public Service (AMPS/CPA) 240 28% 22% 4% 2%
Green Academy (formerly SSJE) 280 36% 30% 7% 6%
Berkeley High School Average 3,200 51% 52% 24% 23%

Departments, parents, and student organizations[edit]

Campus and architecture[edit]

The Berkeley High School campus covers four city blocks between Milvia Street and Martin Luther King Jr Way, and Allston and Channing Ways. It contains several buildings, built between 1901 and 2004, which display a variety of architectural styles.

In the late 1930s, Berkeley High was remodeled and old buildings were replaced with newer ones. The Florence Schwimley Little Theater, The Berkeley Community Theatre, and the G and H buildings are prime examples of the Streamline Moderne style designed by architects Henry H. Gutterson and William G. Corlett. The rebuilding was financed largely in part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program the WPA.

Notable people[edit]

The main article provides a list of individuals associated with Berkeley High School through attending as a student, or serving as a member of the faculty or staff.

Berkeley High in Books, Music, Film, and Theater[edit]

The Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble has gained a reputation for international excellence, with both the big band and numerous combos having won American Jazz festivals such as the Reno, Folsom, Delta, and Monterey international competitions multiple times. In 2011 and 2012, the "A" Combo won the Downbeat Magazine award for Best High School Jazz Combo. Additionally, the Ensemble has made appearances at the Montreux, North Sea, and Tokyo Jazz Festivals, the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba, as well as numerous private venues throughout the Bay Area, Japan and Europe. BHS is also known to be a factory of sorts for world-famous jazz musicians, being the alma mater of Benny Green, Ambrose Akinmusire, Peter Apfelbaum, David Murray, Lenny Pickett, and Joshua Redman. The BHS Jazz Program is divided into 3 tiers of Big Bands - Ensemble, Lab Band II, and Lab Band I. The program is now under the direction of Sarah Cline, a Bay Area trombonist and Berkeley High alumna.

It is mentioned in the Danzy Senna novel Caucasia, when the character Cole Lee reveals on pages 411-12 that she attended Berkeley High in the early 1980s.

Ariel Schrag documented her years at Berkeley High during the late 1990s in her graphic novels Awkward, Definition, Potential and Likewise.

The non-fiction text Class Dismissed by Meredith Maran followed three Berkeley High seniors for the 1999-2000 school year.

Nancy Rubin - taught the class "Social Living" at Berkeley High from 1977 through 1996. She published a book titled Ask Me If I Care: Voices from an American High School by addresses teen social issues and is compiled entirely of journal entries by anonymous Berkeley High School students written during their Social Living classes (a mandatory course at the school).[12]

Yellow Jackets - Berkeley High School is the subject, and setting, for the 2008 play entitled Yellow Jackets. Written by Itamar Moses, Yellow Jackets premiered in August 2008, and ran for two months at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, in a production directed by Tony Taccone. The play focused mainly on the themes of race, multiculturalism in education, and the different facets and flipsides for political correctness.

Additionally, Berkeley High School compiled and published a dictionary of youth slang, available to the greater public.[13]

It was also the subject of an episode of PBS's Frontline about racial politics at Berkeley High School entitled "School Colors". The documentary was filmed throughout the 1993-1994 school year and aired on October 18, 1994. [14]


In the 2011-2012 school year Berkeley High was 37% White, 26% African American, 13% Latino, 10% Native American/Asian /Pacific Islander, and 11% Multiracial. 32.7% of the students receive Free/Reduced Lunch. [15]

The demographics for the 2009-2010 school year were 36.7% White, 29.1% Black, 12.6% Hispanic/Latino, 7.9% Asian, .6% Filipino, .3% Native American, .1% Native Hawaiian, and 12.5% multi-ethnic.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Search for Public Schools - School Detail for Berkeley High". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "The California Earthquake of April 18, 1906". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  4. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 1952
  5. ^ Berkeley Board of Education Meeting minutes, May 1952
  6. ^ Oakland Tribune, Aug.2, 1957
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ a b Wainer, Howard (2009). Picturing the Uncertain World. Princeton University Press. 
  9. ^ a b Wu, H. "Review of the Interactive Mathematics Program". 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "BHS Jacket". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Rubin, Nancy J. (1994). Ask Me if I Care. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 978-0-89815-597-6
  13. ^ Rick Ayers, Berkeley High School "Slang Dictionary"; most recent ed. 2003 (North Atlantic Books); ISBN 1-55643-520-7; ISBN 978-1-55643-520-1.
  14. ^ [2][dead link]
  15. ^ "WASC Self Study Report". 2012. 
  16. ^ "Welcome to Berkeley Unified School District". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]