The O’Farrell Charter School
San Diego, CA
Grades: K – 12
2015 America’s Best Urban Schools Award Winner
The O’Farrell Charter School began as a middle school in 1994 and now serves nearly 1,800 students in K-12 at their elementary, middle and high school. Their focus is high standards for academic excellence, strong relationships, and character development. The “Falcon Way” is the expectation for all students: Focus, Attitude, Leadership, Citizenship, Organization, and Non-Violence. The “secret sauce” at O’Farrell is Home Base. Each student is paired with a small group of students and a teacher, who meet daily to discuss goals, address social/emotional needs and resolve concerns. Students are known to call their teacher, “mom” or “dad” and their peers in Home Base “their brothers and sisters.” College prep is central at O’Farrell. Students begin hearing about college in kindergarten and, as seniors, participate in a signing day to celebrate students’ postsecondary education plans. In 2012, O’Farrell became the second charter school nationally to earn the AVID National Demonstration School designation and, in 2018, the middle school was redesignated and the high school was validated. A schoolwide focus on AVID strategies including academic vocabulary acquisition, writing, and inquiry-based questions support student achievement and college readiness. Collaboration among staff is essential to achieve their goals, they both meet to discuss student progress and teaching techniques to continually improve- one reason why they are in the top 7% of high schools in California and top 15% in the nation.