Roughly Half of Potrero Hill High School Students Graduate

in / by

Downtown High School’s four-year graduation rates compare favorably to the San Francisco Unified District’s (SFUSD) average rates for the 2021-2022 cohort, while San Francisco International High School’s fell short. However, San Francisco International High School’s grads received more recognitions related to multilingualism and command of multiple subject areas than Downtown High School.

The schools are a mile from each other, located on Potrero Hill campuses originally constructed as elementary or middle schools. Their students are largely Hispanic/Latino who live outside the neighborhood. According to the California Department of Education’s DataQuest and, Hispanic/Latinos make up 59 percent of Downtown High School’s 134 students.  Seventy-five percent of San Francisco International High School’s 293 students are Hispanic/Latino. Hispanic/Latinos make up 28 percent of SFUSD’s overall student population.

The schools have distinct niches. Downtown High School focuses on addressing each student’s specific needs, relying on project-based learning that prioritizes development of life skills, including critical-thinking. San Francisco International High School similarly offers a variety of internships and access to college classes but is specifically designed to support youth who recently immigrated to the United States, including with intensive English language training.

DataQuest reports indicate that SFUSD had a 48 percent systemwide graduation rate for its 2021-2022 class, down from 58 percent for the previous cohort. Statewide, the 2021-2022 graduation rate was 87 percent, up from 84 percent.

Downtown High School achieved a 60 percent graduation rate for the class of 2021-2022, an improvement from the 53 percent rate for the 2020-2021 cohort. San Francisco International High School’s rates fell to just 43 percent for this year’s class, from 46 percent for the 2020-2021 cohort. The two schools averaged a 52 percent graduation rate for their 2021-2022 cohort. 

Apart from the 2019-2020 year, when the rate dropped to 45 percent, Downtown High School’s graduation percentages have steadily increased since the 2016-2017 cohort’s 29 percent. After a two-year rise, which brought the school to a 2018-2019 graduation rate of 74 percent, San Francisco International High School has consistently fallen below the 2016-2017 class’s 53 percent.

Data for populations with fewer than 10 students isn’t publicized for privacy reasons, limiting information on how graduation rates varied among different demographics. At Downtown High School, 61 percent of Hispanic/Latino students and 47 percent of African American students counted among the 55 students who graduated in 2022. Only 39 percent of Hispanic/Latino students graduated from San Francisco International High School that year, with a 73 percent rate for Asian-Americans. 

Student honors paint a different picture than graduation rates for each of the schools. While Downtown enjoyed greater success than San Francisco International in terms of graduation rates in 2021-2022, San Francisco International saw more accomplishments from its graduates that year. None of Downtown High School’s alumni met University of California (UC) / California State University (CSU) requirements or earned a Seal of Biliteracy, an endorsement of a graduate’s significant speaking, writing, and reading skills in at least one tongue besides English. Only one of its 55 graduates got a Golden State Seal Merit Diploma, awarded to those “who have demonstrated mastery of the high school curriculum in at least six subject areas,” according to the California Department of Education. 

San Francisco International High School experienced a steep decline in the number of students who obtained these achievements between 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Still, of 42 graduates from San Francisco International, 24 – more than half – met UC / CSU requirements, two earned a Seal of Biliteracy, and 10 received a Golden State Seal Merit Diploma.

California high school graduates are guaranteed admissions to the UC system if they rank in the top nine percent of high school students. San Francisco International High School boasted the fourth highest UC acceptance rate achieved in 2021-2022 by San Francisco’s public high schools, with Mission High School having the highest rate, 90 percent. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, out of the 17 San Francisco International students who applied to a UC, 84 percent got in, including 78 percent of the school’s Hispanic/Latino applicants; 80 percent of Asian-American candidates. The average acceptance rate from San Francisco schools was 70 percent, with the statewide average just below that.

The average grade point average of San Francisco International High School graduates who applied to a UC was 3.71. Out of a total of 14 graduates admitted to UC from the school, just two enrolled; one at UC Davis, one at UC Santa Cruz.

When asked about initiatives that the schools are taking to improve outcomes, Laura Dudnick, SFUSD Interim Communications Director, offered a general response. 

“SFUSD has developed and implemented systems to better identify and track the progress of students towards graduation including the development of on-track off-track measures for early intervention,” said Dudnick. “SFUSD has also implemented a portfolio of credit-earning options for students so if a student needs to make up a course, they can do so without falling further behind.” 

Dudnick also mentioned “real-world career learning” opportunities for students and “evidence-based programs to strategically support English Learners and African American students.”