Beginning in fifth grade, the grade levels expand to 36 students in two sections. Students have discipline-specific teachers and they move on their own through the Upper School campus during a six-period schedule that allows for a healthy pace and deep learning. Meaningful student-teacher relationships are the foundation of our effectiveness. Teachers are both guides and mentors. They give equal attention to academic content, skills, and social emotional learning. Our graduates leave prepared to be meaningful contributors to and leaders of their future communities.

List of 12 items.

  • History

    From their opening class, students are taught to consider themselves historians, responsible for developing their own perspective and understanding of the topics they encounter. Units are organized around essential questions and students frequently engage in project work as they develop background knowledge. In all four grades there is an emphasis on critical thinking, responsible research, and the effective communication of ideas and opinions. Fifth and sixth grade history is oriented around ancient civilizations and US history. Seventh and eighth grade history uses current events as a backwards springboard with which to understand Middle East history and U.S. Government.
  • Science

    We believe that science education should utilize the curiosity, creativity, and wonder innate in all boys. We push them to channel their curiosity in the world they observe by asking “why” and “what” and “how.” Our program is inquiry-based and guided by Next Generation Science Standards. Though multi-disciplinary at each grade level, there is an emphasis on Earth science in Grades 5 and 6, physics and chemistry in Grade 7, and ecology and biology in Grade 8. By teaching them the fundamentals of being a scientist, we help them use their questions, experiments, and observations to derive their own meaning. Our students develop a meaningful understanding of foundational scientific concepts. We believe that through science boys can see the beauty of Earth more clearly, feel the glory of her laws more deeply, and resolve to protect her integrity more ferociously.
    Upper School field trips include Chabot Space & Science Center, Exploratorium, California Academy of Sciences, iFLY indoor skydiving, UCSF Medical Center, and local farmers markets. In our Outdoor Education program, students learn about crop rotation and sustainable agriculture at Rancho Siempre Verde, and kayak at Moss Landing State Beach while studying otter conservation efforts in the Bay Area.
  • English

    The English program in the Upper School is literature-based and designed to teach boys to think and write critically. They are exposed to a variety of genres that provide a diverse view of the world, and their writing assignments lead them to understand the value of a systematic writing process. Throughout their four years, students are given a strong foundation in grammar and writing conventions, and they practice their writing skills with a variety of genres. Our teachers strive to have their students leave Cathedral as lifelong readers, capable of handling any text they encounter in high school.
  • Math

    The Upper School math program begins in fifth grade with the final year of the Bridges Math curriculum utilized in the Lower School. The fifth grade course balances skill development and problem solving and introduces the structures and habits of mind that will guide them through their subsequent years at Cathedral. Beginning in sixth grade, we use a process of consistent formative and summative assessments to create flexible ability groupings for our math classes. All math classes for a given grade level meet at the same time, allowing each student to work with classmates at comparable proficiency levels. The three-year program in sixth through eighth grade provides students access to a thorough Algebra 1 experience that positions many to place into Geometry (or higher) as high school freshmen.
  • World Languages

    We offer Mandarin and Spanish in the Upper School. Students spend a portion of the fifth grade year in each language, so that they can make an informed choice for their course of study throughout the Upper School. In addition to learning about Chinese and Hispanic culture, students learn to read, write, listen, and speak in their language of study. Our teachers make language study fun, while providing a rigorous program that prepares students for level 2 language study (or higher) in high school. All students are encouraged to take part in an immersion program for their language in either seventh or eighth grade. Recent trips have taken students to Guatemala and China.
  • Advisory

    Advisory in the Upper School serves as a student’s primary “family unit.” Advisories consist of one or two faculty advisors and between eight and ten students. Students spend the first ten minutes of each day with their advisor, and this time is used to help instill a feeling of belonging and connection from the first moment a boy is on campus. Attendance, announcements, and informal check-ins take place during this time. Once a rotation, advisors meet with their advisees in a class setting, and through these meetings we deliver our advisory curriculum. The advisory curriculum comprises three domains: Academic Behaviors, Cultural Humility, and Social Emotional Learning. Our curriculum draws from many nationally-renowned programs (such as Teaching Tolerance, Responsive Classroom, and Institute for Social Emotional Learning), but we revise their content to make it population-specific and to provide our boys with relevant support and information that meets them where they are in their development.
  • Art

    A vehicle for understanding the self and broadening one's worldview, the Upper School art program encourages practice in a variety of expressions, techniques, and artistic media. The goals of the program include growing self-awareness, resourcefulness, perseverance, and disciplined work habits; finding respect for all forms of art; discovering insight and understanding through the expression of ideas, feelings, and beliefs; fostering a commitment to work; and developing abilities related to the proper use of tools, materials, and processes. Personal sketchbooks, art critiques, student exhibitions, and field trips to local museums are integral components to the curriculum.
  • Performing Arts

    The Upper School performing arts program is a vital, energetic, and wonderfully creative element in the lives of our 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Built on the School’s commitment to provide every student with opportunities for a yearly on-stage experience, the program features a wide variety of musical and dramatic performances. Whether the boys are playing handbells in the Cathedral, staging Word-for-Word plays, developing and presenting original musicals, or participating in the joyous music making of the Cathedral School for Boys Band, each student develops a better appreciation of the value of the performing arts, now, and as an integral part of a life well-lived.
  • Technology

    Our approach to technology in Upper School is multi-disciplinary and emphasizes the use of devices as tools that can support learning, foster creativity, and prepare students for the demands of high school and beyond. Building on fundamental skills learned in K–4 classes, Upper Schoolers begin to apply these skills in ways that challenge them toward being not only competent but also innovative users of technology. Students use iPads to create multimedia presentations in History and English class, program micro:bit controllers in Science, and develop experiential digital artwork in Art class. While there is an intentional and balanced approach to technology and device use in Upper School, it is also one of the many ways through which students thrive as learners and creators at Cathedral School. Students also have additional opportunities for coding, 3D printing, and maker projects in STEM Club.
  • High School Counseling

    The high school counseling process can feel daunting, and 8th-grade families are anxious to find the high school that will be the next step in their son’s educational journey. Our small size allows Cathedral to offer personalized guidance for each boy and his family, beginning in the spring of 7th grade. Cathedral aims to find a “just right” match for each graduate, while simultaneously developing important life skills, such as interviewing and time management. High schools know that a Cathedral education offers rigorous academic preparation as well as a focus on character.

    Graduates from Cathedral School for Boys matriculate to excellent independent day and boarding schools, private Catholic schools, and public high schools in the Bay Area and beyond. Below is a list of schools to which Cathedral graduates have matriculated in the past five years.

    American School in LondonInternational High SchoolSt. Andrew's School (DE)
    Bentley SchoolJackson Hole Community High School (WY)St. Ignatius College Prep
    Branson SchoolJewish Community High SchoolSt. Paul's School (NH)
    Brentwood College School (BC)Lick-Wilmerding High SchoolSterne School
    Brewster Academy (NH)Marin AcademyStevenson School (CA)
    Brooks School (MA)Milton Academy (MA)Stuart Hall High School
    Cate School (CA)Montgomery Bell Academy (TN)Taft School (CT)
    Choate Rosemary Hall (MA)Nueva SchoolTamalpais High School
    College PrepPhillips Andover Academy (MA)The Athenian School
    Drew SchoolRiordan High SchoolThe Bay School
    Duke Ellington School for the Arts (DC)Sacred Heart Cathedral PreparatoryThe Thacher School (CA)
    Dunn School (CA)San Domenico SchoolThe Urban School of San Francisco
    Episcopal High School (VA)San Francisco University High SchoolWestminster School (CT)
    Hawaii Preparatory Academy (HI)Woodberry Forest School (VA)
  • Intersession

    For a week each year, traditional classes cease and the Upper School participates in Intersession. During this time, we run off-campus trips for seventh and eighth grade outdoor education and language immersion. On campus, we hold classes that allow students to take a deep dive into one subject for the entire week. Classes are designed and taught by Cathedral faculty and include a significant experiential learning component. Students learn “by doing,” and by actively applying their acquired skills and knowledge in authentic endeavors. In many instances, they will spend significant portions of the week on off-campus field trips.
  • Outdoor Education

    At Cathedral, we believe that environmental stewardship is a crucial aspect of becoming a socially responsible citizen. We believe that the best way to instill a sense of responsibility is to expose the boys to genuine and authentic outdoor opportunities. Not only does this promote a respect for nature, but it is also a valuable tool for building camaraderie among the boys. In the fifth and sixth grades, we take fall trips with the entire grade. Boys are pushed to develop their independence, teamwork, and resilience as they engage in outdoor activities over the course of four-day, three-night camping trips. For older students, outdoor education is optional for those that want a more rigorous experience. Recent trips have involved week-long camping and hiking excursions to Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai, HI.
Chad Harlow
Director of Upper School


Cathedral School for Boys

Located in San Francisco, California, Cathedral School for Boys is an independent elementary school for boys in Kindergarten – Grade 8. Our mission is to provide an excellent education through intellectual inquiry and rigor that is centered in the Episcopal tradition and is respectful of and welcoming to people of all religious traditions and beliefs.