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Why We Do What We Do

What We Do

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE is central to what we do. In ERB testing we perform above the independent school average in 75% of the categories evaluated. 94% of our graduating class of 2012 was accepted into their first or second choice high school. However, we believe that academic success, while important, is a basic requirement, and that is why we offer much more.

We are committed to cultivating the UNIQUE GENIUS IN EVERY CHILD. Rather than expecting the same skills of each student, our faculty believes in finding your child’s passion and inspiring them with the confidence and mastery to pursue it. At the same time, we make sure that they excel in all subject areas. 

Our students develop a BROAD VIEW OF THE WORLD. We have a full time Community Based Learning specialist who works with the children so they engage meaningfully in the real world around them through ongoing partnerships and dialogues with local organizations. And our leading farm and garden program teaches valuable lessons about the wider context of our ecosystems.

Families consistently tell us that they experience FAMILY AND CHILD HAPPINESS at CDS. Alongside their children, parents and guardians find that they too grow, as parents and as community members, in this learning environment.

How We Do It

Our COMMUNITY is one of our greatest strengths and has been for our 32 years of operation. It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child, and at CDS we enjoy a series of traditions that bring families together, from the annual rituals of Fiesta and Country Fair to the ever-popular “Friday Coffee in the Yard,” where parents gather to watch assembly and catch up with one another.

We are very proud of our diverse community; 48% of our students self identify as students of color, 10% are from LBGTQ households and 11% of our families are single parent families. In addition, we advocate for access. That is why 31% of our students receive sliding scale tuition. We are a leader in socioeconomic diversity among San Francisco independent elementary schools.  

The footprint of our founding CAMPUS at 333 Dolores comprises a sunny, protected 1.2 acres in the Mission District. On any day you’ll find students working in the garden, cooking in the kitchen, conducting a science experiment, practicing athletic skills or building outdoor art.  The Middle School Campus at 601 Dolores, completed in April 2015 and just three blocks from 333 Dolores, houses a media lab, science lab, sustainable roof garden, innovation lab, and a student common room and includes beautiful performance space where the whole community can gather.

With the addition of 601, our learning canvas has grown extensively and the two large, vibrant campuses allow us to offer a CDS education to more and more students.

CONSTRUCTIVISM is our teaching philosophy. Born of “learning by doing,” it is how we achieve excellent academics while also identifying each child’s unique gifts.

In preschool we guide children through in-depth studies of real world topics that integrate all curriculum strands into one large topic of study (such as snails, families, rocks, birds or baseball). This approach emphasizes concrete experiences and exposes children to a wide range of learning opportunities as children explore a topic using social studies, math, art, literacy, Spanish, science and other curricular areas.

In the elementary grades constructivism comes to life in classroom projects such as the first grade study of neighborhoods and discussions about how the neighborhood serves its members. In second grade, students study Bay Area marine life through beach clean ups and examine the impact of environmental changes on our oceans and marine life.

In middle school students engage with real world issues like generating a petition in support of Southern Sudan, partnering with a school in Pakistan, creating voter information pamphlets for a “get out the vote” campaign, or corresponding with the White House around issues that are relevant to the students.

Why Do We Do All This?

Simply put, we believe that passionate citizens change the world.

Passionate citizenry is why our teachers come to school every day. It’s why they teach other teachers, present at the National Center for Youth Education, post lessons on YouTube or venture further afield to participate in Teach with Africa.

Passionate citizenry motivates our students to:

  • start programs such as the Green Task Force which promotes environmentally-friendly commutes to school and waste-free lunches
  • coordinate a Blanket Drive for homeless people in our neighborhood
  • work to restore native habitats in the Presidio and beyond
  • collect food for the San Francisco Food Bank
  • participate in a cultural exchange with Huruma Kings Academy in rural Kenya

Passionate citizenry is what motivates our amazing families to come together and combine their collective talents to build a wonderful, warm and inventive CDS community.  

It’s as simple as this: “If you can find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” * This is the kind of happiness we all wish for our children. If this resonates with you, then perhaps it’s why you should be here too.

 *Attributed to both Confucius and Bob Marley. Take your pick.