In 1982, Foss became the first school in Washington State to introduce the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program
In the fall of 1987, the school population nearly doubled, with the change of the Tacoma School District going to a 4-year high school program as opposed to the three as was in the past. Foss had experienced major growing pains, adding many trailer buildings throughout the campus, in order to accommodate the additional population.
At the start of the year, each student is assigned a "Team", based on that students strengths, "Team-A", was primarily those students who were in accelerated college prep programs such as the I.B. Program. The average student was assigned to "Team-B". "Team-C" was mainly for those students, that had difficulty learning. "Team-9" was the newest addition to the Team format, to accommodate, incoming Freshman class.
In the spring of 2001, the school was selected by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as an Achiever High School in Washington State. The school received a $9 million grant to restructure college preparation efforts, and an additional $100 million in scholarships.
Among the efforts funded by these grants were a restructuring of the school into smaller "academies". This created some dissension among faculty and students. In April 2004, a group of Foss sophomores threatened to boycott the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) tests if the school board did not promise to retain pre-IB honors courses in English and history. The principal and school board did promise to offer these honor classes in the academies, and the boycott was called off. However, against her promise, Principal Sharon Shauss removed the pre-IB classes and replaced them with Honors courses.
In March 2006, the faculty voted by a 60-40 margin not to apply for a renewal to the grant program; those opposed argued that the Gates Foundation grant "destroyed good programs" in the school, including the IB Program and the "team teaching" structure. Shortly after, Tacoma Schools Superintendent Jim Shoemake directed the school's principal to override this decision and apply for a grant extension.
"The mission of Henry Foss High School is to develop dynamic learning opportunities through a caring and safe environment."
On January 3, 2007, at 7:20 a.m. PST, 18-year-old Douglas S. Chanthabouly entered the school hallway, and shot 17-year-old Samnang "Sam" Kok in the face, and then fired over him twice. Kok was pronounced dead at the scene. The school proceeded to enter lockdown. Students were moved to the school's gymnasium until police secured the building at approximately 9:00 a.m. Some students were bused across town to Wilson High School, but were later taken back to Foss, causing some confusion and stress to parents. The nearby school of Bellarmine Prep was also put on high alert.