The Nueva School began as the dream of Karen Stone McCown and grew from her conviction that each person has a responsibility to make the world a better place. The daughter of two teachers, Karen decided in the early 1960s to make a significant contribution to education, and noted that there was little attention being given to gifted and talented learners.
For five years, Karen met with noted educators, Nobel laureates, psychologists, physicians, and people in business to investigate the needs of gifted learners, the resources within schools, and the needs of society. Her research resulted in the establishment of Nueva in 1967. It opened in an old house and portable buildings in Menlo Park, with only kindergarten, first, and second grades. In 1971, Nueva moved to its present Lower and Middle School site, the former William W. Crocker Skyfarm mansion, on 33 acres in Hillsborough. Nueva currently serves nearly nine hundred gifted and talented learners in prekindergarten through twelfth grade with approximately two hundred and twenty faculty, staff, and administrators. In fall 2013, Nueva welcomed its first class of ninth-grade students to classrooms at the College of San Mateo while it expanded into a high school designed to prepare students for life in the 21st century. The new high school campus in San Mateo opened in August 2014 and is now home to students in grades 9–12.
Nueva provides a strong academic curriculum, emphasizing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The school also stresses affective education: helping students to develop self-esteem, take responsibility for their choices and behavior, and learn the skills necessary for cooperative problem-solving. In the years since it opened, Nueva has become a widely recognized leader in the field of education for the gifted. In 1987–88, 1996–97, and 2010, Nueva received the United States Department of Education Blue Ribbon School award. Nueva hosts numerous outreach programs, including the Innovative Learning Conference (ILC), Design Thinking Institute, Social Justice, Equity & Inclusion Institute and more. The ILC draws over a thousand teachers, administrators, researchers, speakers, and parents from around the world.