Berkeley High School (California)

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Berkeley High School
Berkeley Jacket.png
Old Berkeley High School (Berkeley, CA).JPG
Berkeley High School is located in Oakland, California
Berkeley High School
Berkeley High School
Berkeley High School is located in California
Berkeley High School
Berkeley High School
Berkeley High School is located in the US
Berkeley High School
Berkeley High School
1980 Allston Way
Berkeley, California 94704
United States
Coordinates37°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 typePublic
School districtBerkeley Unified School District
PrincipalErin Schweng
Teaching staff162.41 (FTE)
Enrollment3,113 (2015-16)[1]
Student to teacher ratio19.56
Campus typeUrban
Color(s)Red and gold         
Athletics conferenceWest Alameda County (WAC)
AccreditationWestern Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
NewspaperBerkeley High Jacket
Feeder schoolsKing Middle School
Willard Middle School
Longfellow Middle School
NRHP reference #07001350
Added to NRHPJanuary 7, 2008
Berkeley High 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, United States. 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.[3] 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 right) of the damage in his famous report issued in 1908.[4]

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 on the Berkeley High campus. On May 23, 1952, Paul Robeson sang, despite a small McCarthy-era furor.[5][6] In 1957, Stan Getz was one of the featured performers of the Berkeley Jazz Festival.[7] Beginning in the late 1960s, many bands and singers performed at the Community Theater, 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 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.[8] The campus included a Black Students Union, Chicano Student Union, and Asian Student Union (formerly called the Oriental Student Union). In 1971, Berkeley High students elected a homosexual 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.[9]

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]

Small schools[edit]

In 2000, in an attempt to better serve its diverse community and close the achievement gap between white students and students of color, BHS began experimenting with the idea of small schools.[10][11] In 2005, Berkeley High School officially established four small schools and a comprehensive program, Academic Choice.

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)

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)

After several years, it was clear that the learning communities model had made little progress in closing the academic achievement gap between students at BHS.[12] In 2015, administrators began discussions about reorganizing the high school.[13][14][15] The Berkeley Redesign Project involved teachers, staff, students and parents. The first major change was to switch to a "universal 9th grade," in which freshmen will be placed in core groups of 120 students, with the choice of learning community beginning in tenth grade. This is intended to counter the occurrence of freshmen choosing their learning community based on stereotypes within the school.[16] Originally slated to start in the fall of 2017, the program is now expected to begin in Fall 2018.[17]

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):[18]

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%

Independent ratings[edit]

Berkeley High School has been rated by several independent organizations. It currently receives a rating of 8/10 by GreatSchools, which utilizes test score, college readiness, course offering, equity, and discipline data to evaluate schools. It receives a grade of A+ by Niche, which utilizes public data and user reviews.

Departments, parent and student organizations[edit]

  • African American Studies Department[19]
  • Academic Choice Advisory Council[20]
  • Athletics: basketball,[21] badminton, crew,[22] cross country,[23] football,[24] women's lacrosse,[25] men's lacrosse[26]
  • BHS Athletic Fund[27]
  • Computer Technology
  • English and World Language
  • History
  • JSA[28]
  • Mathematics
  • Journalism, which produces the locally prominent school newspaper, the Berkeley High Jacket[29]
  • Physical Education
  • PTSA[30]
  • Science
  • Special Education
  • Visual and Performing Arts: Jazz Ensemble [31]
  • Youth & Government[32]

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. The first cornerstone was laid in 1901, and the complex has been under almost continuous construction ever since, except for a decade around World War II.[33] 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 through Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program the WPA.[34] They are embellished with sculptural reliefs by Robert Boardman Howard, Jacques Schnier and Lulu Hawkins Braghetta.[35]

Notable people[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Berkeley was the subject of "School Colors", an episode of PBS's Frontline about racial politics at Berkeley High School. The documentary was filmed throughout the 1993-1994 school year and aired on October 18, 1994.[36]

In the 2011 Isabel Allende novel El Cuaderno de Maya, the title character Maya Vidal attended Berkeley High.[37][38]

Nancy Rubin, who taught the class "Social Living" at Berkeley High for several decades, published a 1994 book titled Ask Me If I Care: Voices from an American High School which addresses teen social issues and is compiled from journal entries by anonymous Berkeley High School students written during their Social Living classes.[39]

Berkeley High School students compiled and published a dictionary of youth slang.[40]


Berkeley High demographics, as of the 2014-2015 school year, out of 3182 enrolled students:

  • 631 (19.8%) African American, non-Hispanic
  • 6 (0.2%) American Indian or Alaska Native
  • 255 (8.0%) Asian
  • 33 (1.0%) Filipino
  • 688 (21.6%) Hispanic or Latino
  • 7 (0.2%) Pacific Islander
  • 1,235 (38.8%) White, non-Hispanic
  • 322 (10.1%) identifying as two or more races
  • 5 (0.2%) with no reported ethnicity
  • 934 (29.4%) received free and reduced price meals[41]

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 received free/reduced lunch.[42]

In the 2009-2010 school year, Berkeley High was 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.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Berkeley High". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  2. ^ "Search for Public Schools - School Detail for Berkeley High". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Alameda County History; Chapter XIX: Berkeley". Past and Present of Alameda County, California. S. J. Clarke Pub. Co. 1914. Archived from the original on 2007-02-19. Retrieved July 5, 2018 – via
  4. ^ California State Earthquake Investigation Commission (1908). "The California Earthquake of April 18, 1906: Report of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission". Carnegie Institution of Washington. plate 119. Retrieved 20 March 2015 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 1952
  6. ^ "Berkeley Board of Education Meeting minutes" (PDF). May 1952. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-09-27.
  7. ^ Oakland Tribune, August 2, 1957
  8. ^ Fountain, Aaron G., Jr. (Summer 2015). "The War in the Schools". California History. University of California Press. 92 (2): 22–41. doi:10.1525/ch.2015.92.2.22. Archived from the original on 2018-07-06. Retrieved July 5, 2018 – via
  9. ^ "Fate of Berkeley High African-American Studies Program Unclear". The Daily Californian. Retrieved September 26, 2008 – via[dead link]
  10. ^ "Unfinished Business: Closing The Achievement Gap At Berkeley High School (first chapter)". In Motion Magazine. Archived from the original on 2017-09-24. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  11. ^ Noguera, Pedro A.; Wing, Jean Yonemura (2006). "Unfinished Business: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in Our Schools". Archived from the original on 2015-03-28. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  12. ^ Swan, Rachel (11 March 2009). "Separate and Unequal at Berkeley's Small Schools". East Bay Express. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  13. ^ "Archival Info on School Redesign/U9" (PDF). Berkeley High School. Berkeley Unified School District. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  14. ^ Dinkelspiel, Frances (6 June 2016). "Berkeley High may overhaul schedule, classes to address achievement gap". Berkeleyside. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  15. ^ Sampson-Eves, Millicent (14 March 2017). "Teachers Plan School Redesign". Berkeley High Jacket. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  16. ^ "Berkeley High taking action to close academic achievement gap | The Daily Californian". The Daily Californian. 2016-05-17. Archived from the original on 2018-09-21. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  17. ^ "BHS Universal Ninth Grade". Berkeley High School. Archived from the original on 2018-02-20. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Berkeley Unified School District High School Data Analysis" (PDF). April 25, 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  19. ^ Peng, Cindy (February 28, 2005). "Berkeley High Program Connects Students to Past: African American Studies Department Widens Historical Scope". The Daily Californian. Archived from the original on March 27, 2006. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  20. ^ "Academic Choice Advisory Council (ACAC) Meeting Minutes" (PDF). May 5, 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-23.
  21. ^ basketball Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ "Berkley High Crew".
  23. ^ "Berkeley High School Cross Country". 28 October 2009.
  24. ^ football[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ women's lacrosse Archived 2005-09-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ men's lacrosse Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ BHS Athletic Fund Archived 2005-08-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ JSA Archived 2008-06-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ "BHS Jacket". Archived from the original on 2015-03-18. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  30. ^ PTSA Archived 2005-11-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  31. ^ "BHS Jazz". BHS Jazz. Archived from the original on 2015-09-27. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  32. ^ "Youth & Government | YMCA-PG&E Teen Center | YMCA of the Central Bay Area". Archived from the original on 2015-09-27. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  33. ^ "History of Berkeley High - Berkeley Unified School District". Archived from the original on 2018-04-16. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  34. ^ Smith, Harvey L. (2014).Berkeley and the New Deal, p. 51.
  35. ^ Smith, pp. 70-73.
  36. ^ "Continuing the Discussion: School Colors". WGBH/PBS. Archived from the original on September 6, 2005.
  37. ^ "Author Isabel Allende enlightens Berkeley audience". San Jose Mercury News. May 2, 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-01-12. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
  38. ^ Warwick, Mal (May 9, 2013). "Isabel Allende's new novel has a Berkeley twist". Berkeleyside. Archived from the original on 2016-01-12. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
  39. ^ "Ask Me If I Care: Voices from an American High School" (Review). Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 2016-01-12.
  40. ^ May, Meredith (April 29, 2001). "Talkin' off the hizzle with homeys / Berkeley High dictionary can help parents translate latest slang". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2016-01-12.
  41. ^ "California Department of Education". Archived from the original on 2016-01-12. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  42. ^ "WASC Self Study Report". 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
  43. ^ "Welcome to Berkeley Unified School District". Archived from the original on 2010-11-02. Retrieved 2011-10-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • Berkeley, California: the story of the evolution of a hamlet into a city of culture and commerce by William Warren Ferrier, Imprint Berkeley, Calif. (1933)
  • Berkeley: The Town and the Gown of It, by George A. Pettitt, Howell-North Books, Berkeley (1973)
  • Sanborn Insurance Map: Berkeley, California, Plate 83 (1911)

External links[edit]