693 Vermont Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
Downtown Continuation High School is one of two continuation schools in the San Francisco Unified School District charged with serving students who have not experienced success in the district’s comprehensive high schools. We offer a small-school environment and a staff dedicated to serving students with a variety of needs, ability levels, academic deficiencies, talents, and aspirations.
Students are referred to us by the district if they are severely truant, are not on track to graduate on time because they failed multiple courses, or if disciplinary or safety issues necessitate a transfer. All of our students have been placed with us because they have been largely unable to fulfill the expectations of their former traditional, academic, or charter high schools; Downtown High represents a second chance for students to succeed and, often, their last chance to graduate from high school. It is our job to meet the needs of these severely at-risk students by offering an educational experience that enables them to re-engage with school, find meaning in learning, and achieve academic success.
Ourmethod of addressing such challenges makes us unique in San Francisco: school-wide implementation of project-based learning as our primary instructional delivery system. Each Downtown teacher—usually with a partner—is responsible for developing a thematic, self-contained, interdisciplinary, semester-long, project-based curriculum. This semester, for example, students were able to choose from projects focusing on such topics as astronomy, systems of oppression, cultural identity, and environmental protection. In order for our particular student population to succeed, we must challenge each student to grow academically, while at the same time caring for every individual’s emotional well-being. We have found that our integrated, project-based curriculum in small closely-knit teams—with an emphasis on real-world connections, hands-on activities, and relevant field experiences—engages and motivates students better than traditional methods. Moreover, Downtown teachers have the freedom to design curriculum in which our own passions are central, teaching in a way that inspires us as educators as we work to inspire our students.