2023-24 Upper School Curriculum Guide
- Graduation Requirements
- Academic Evaluation
- Changes to Academic Program
- Honors and Advanced Placement
- Homework Guidelines
- Special Opportunities
- Senior Term and Senior Projects
The Rye Country Day School Upper School Curriculum Guide contains a complete description of the academic program of the Upper School, Grades 9-12. In order to provide parents/guardians and students with guidelines for selecting courses at each grade level, we have included the School's requirements and suggested programs for each year of study. Advanced Placement, Independent Study/Guided Study, and the Pass/Fail option are explained here, as well.
Students should read the Curriculum Guide and discuss their interests/options with their parents/guardians and then seek the guidance of their advisor. Enrollment in certain courses must be approved by the relevant department. The Middle School administration will make recommendations for students entering Grade 9 from the RCDS Middle School. For students joining the Upper School from another school, we utilize placement assessments to support course selection. Initial program approval is granted by the advisor. Final approval is issued by the appropriate Grade Level Dean and Principal.
Please note: We occasionally withdraw a course when there is insufficient enrollment or when there is a change in faculty. Students will be notified if they need to make another selection.
For graduation, a minimum of sixteen (16) units is required. (For the Class of 2027 and beyond, a minimum of 20 units is required.) For promotion to the next grade, a minimum of four (4) academic courses must be passed. A senior must complete a minimum of four (4) full credits during the senior year in order to receive a diploma and must be enrolled in at least four classes during each semester of the senior year. Credit is granted at the completion of the course. A minimum of five (5) academic courses a year is expected. Any student choosing to take more than five homework-bearing courses needs to carefully consider this decision, and parental approval is required on all course selections.
The typical program of study is five to six units per year in Grades 9-12. Successful completion of all requirements is necessary for graduation.
SUBJECT AREA AND MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
- Visual and Performing Arts: 1.5 units in at least two (2) of the art departments (Visual Arts, Music, Drama and Dance, or Yearbook) OR earn 2.0 units in one (1) of those departments to be completed over the four years.
- English: 4 units
- Foreign Language: Must complete Level 3 of French, Spanish, Chinese, or Latin.
- Health: 1/4 unit (Grade 10)
- Humanities: 2 units (3 units beginning with the Class of 2024). (World History I: Foundations in Grade 9 or 10; U.S. History in Grade 11 or 12; beginning with the Class of 2024, 1 other Humanities unit).
- Life Skills: Required in Grade 9.
- Mathematics: Must complete Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra II/Trig.
- Natural Sciences: 2 units (3 units beginning with the Class of 2024). (2 units in laboratory-based sciences—1 physical and 1 biological; beginning with the Class of 2024, 1 other Science unit.
- Physical Education: 4 years, must pass each trimester unless granted an exemption. (Although required, Physical Education is not a credit-bearing course.)
- Computer Science: 1/2 unit
No credit towards graduation is given for summer work except in making up a failed course, nor is the "F" removed from the transcript. Two exceptions to this rule are that a student may attend the RCDS Summer Session to fulfill the Health requirement and/or the Computer Science requirement.
Students seeking changes in their course placement as a result of summer work need to obtain permission from the appropriate Department Chair in advance of enrolling in summer work. The Mathematics Department has a specific course bypass/level-change policy that involves submitting a request by April 15 and gaining approval before completing summer work (see the Mathematics Department section).
At all marking periods, letter grades are issued. (Numerical grades may be used for tests and papers.) The numerical equivalents are as follows:
Statistically, the median grade for academic courses is B+. A grade below C- indicates that the student is having difficulty with the material. An F indicates that a student has not met the minimum standard for a particular course and will receive no credit.
In addition to the letter grades, written comments are made available on a scheduled basis throughout the year. Teacher-initiated Interim reports may be written whenever a teacher is concerned about an individual student's performance on a given assignment, test, or over a short period of time.
After careful discussion and evaluation, Rye Country Day School has decided not to have an honor roll, a dean's list, or academic societies. We do not encourage students to compete against each other for grades. Rather, they are encouraged to work up to their potential and to improve and to achieve on their personal best. Consequently, we do not rank our students.
Research skills and the formal research paper are essential elements in the college preparatory curriculum. College-bound students need to know how to express personal opinions cogently in both writing and speaking. They should be able to find, summarize, synthesize, and acknowledge information available to them from a variety of sources. In each of the four grades in the Upper School, students will gain some practice with research. They should have experience with different kinds of research strategies, and they should be aware that research findings may be presented in different ways—the traditional paper, the oral report, multimedia presentations, portfolios, and so on.
PASS/FAIL OPTION FOR JUNIORS AND SENIORS
The Pass/Fail option is only available to juniors and seniors. A junior or senior may choose a Pass/Fail grading option if all of the criteria listed below are met:
1. The course in question is not an AP or Honors level course.
2. The course is not part of the Upper School required curriculum.
3. The course is the only Pass/Fail course a student is taking at the time.
4.The student is taking at least five courses.
Students taking a Pass/Fail course will receive regular grades on the tests, papers, and quizzes of their Pass/Fail course, but the grade recorded on quarter and semester grade reports will be limited to a P or an F. A student may not reverse their decision to take a course Pass/Fail after the published deadline has passed.
Students seeking exception to the above criteria must place their request (either in writing or through their advisor) before the Academic Affairs Committee. The Academic Affairs Committee, excluding its student representatives, will vote based on whether the change in grading option makes a positive impact on the student's program. In order for a student to receive approval for a Pass/Fail option from the committee, the student’s request must receive support from more than fifty percent of those committee members.
Approximately two (2) cycles after the beginning of a semester-length course is the deadline for adding such a course. Approximately four (4) cycles after the beginning of a year-long course is the deadline for adding such a course. Students should discuss the addition with their advisor, the Grade Level Dean, or the Principal. Exceptions to this policy require the approval of the Department Chair, the Grade Level Dean, and the Principal.
Approximately four weeks after the beginning of a semester-length course is the deadline for dropping such a course. Approximately seven weeks after the beginning of a year-long course is the deadline for dropping this course. A course dropped after the applicable deadlines will result in a "Withdrew/Fail" or "Withdrew/Pass" on the student’s transcript. Students should discuss the drop with their advisor, the Grade Level Dean, or the Principal.
CHANGING COURSE LEVEL
A student may change level at any point before the first quarter grades are published, and the grade of the first course is simply dropped. If a student changes levels any time after the first quarter, the student needs to take the major assessments that the student has missed from the start of the second quarter to the point of entering the new class. Students may not change levels after December 1. In individual cases, policy may be appealed directly to the Principal and the Grade Level Dean.
DROPPING/CHANGING COURSES & ACADEMIC DISHONESTY CONSEQUENCES
If a student receives a zero on a particular assignment due to an academic integrity violation, the student cannot avoid the implications of that violation by dropping the course or changing course levels. If the student decides to drop the course, the course will be noted as a “Withdrew/Fail,” irrespective of the timing of the drop. If the student decides to change course levels, the student must still complete each required make-up assignment and the zero will be applied to the appropriate assignment—at the discretion of the teacher, Dean, Dean of Students, and/or Principal—in the new course.
Each department evaluates individuals who request Honors or Advanced Placement. The criteria for such placements are written in the departmental sections of this guide. Note: It may be important for any student requiring regular assistance (once or more per week) from a tutor to maintain a minimum grade to reconsider the appropriateness of the honors or advanced placement level placement.
For the very able student, the opportunity to gain college credit and/or placement for work done in the secondary school exists in English; Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish; Calculus and Statistics; United States Government, Economics, United States and Modern European History, and Psychology; Biology, Environmental Science, Chemistry, and Physics; History of Art, Photography, and Studio Art; Music Theory; and Computer Science. Advanced Placement (AP) courses are designed for students who have demonstrated a high level of ability in, and enthusiasm for, a given subject. Such courses make college level texts, pedagogies, and ideas available to high school students who have shown that they can handle them. These courses often require students to spend an hour or more on homework each night, take an active part in class discussions, and occasionally take over responsibility for teaching a class. Successful completion of the course and exam may lead to the granting of college credit by institutions where RCDS AP graduates matriculate, or placement into sophomore level courses in freshman year of college, or both.
Students who attempt and complete an AP-level course earn the AP designation on their RCDS transcript. Sitting for the AP Exam is not required to earn the AP designation on the student's RCDS transcript. If a student is NOT enrolled in an AP class and still wishes to take the AP, the student needs to communicate the intent to their current teacher, the Department Chair, and the AP Coordinator. The AP Coordinator will share, well in advance, deadlines with the student body with regards to this process. RCDS AP exams are only administered to currently enrolled RCDS Upper School students (Grades 9-12). Non-Upper School RCDS students are not permitted to take AP exams at RCDS unless they are enrolled in the appropriate AP course at RCDS.
The Independent/Guided Study program offers juniors and seniors in good academic standing the opportunity to complete work in an area of study that lies beyond the breadth or depth of the RCDS curriculum for RCDS academic credit. No student may undertake an Independent/Guided Study on material already offered anywhere in the RCDS curriculum; students who cannot fit all courses that they would like to take into their program for any given semester must choose among options that fit their schedule. Students may engage in only one Independent/Guided Study of any kind per semester, unless expressly approved otherwise by the Academic Affairs Committee. Proposals for Independent/Guided Study are approved for only one semester at a time; students must reapply if they wish to continue the same project for a second semester. No Independent/Guided Study is eligible for AP distinction on a student’s transcript.
Note: No Independent or Guided Study may proceed without a willing and able RCDS Faculty advisor. No RCDS faculty member is permitted to advise more than one Independent/Guided Study per semester.
An Independent Study is a student-defined and student-directed course of study to be undertaken with the willing and able supervision of a member of the RCDS Faculty, who is qualified in the relevant area of investigation. Any junior or senior in good academic standing may submit a proposal to the Independent/Guided Study Committee via the application designed by that committee, which is meant to help students define their goals, course of study, and expectations for their projects. Each semester, the Chair of the Independent/Guided Study Committee will communicate due dates for applications to students via RCDS email.
A Guided Study has its genesis in student interest, but is distinguished from an Independent Study in that its subject matter requires consistent direction by the project advisor (examples include the study of a foreign language not otherwise offered at RCDS or a study of advanced topics in any given field that are not covered by the curriculum). If an RCDS faculty member has the skills and willingness to teach this subject, a junior or senior may apply to study it in a Guided Study. Any junior or senior may submit a proposal to the Independent/Guided Study Committee via the application designed by that committee, which is meant to help students define their goals, course of study, and expectations for their projects. Each semester, the Chair of the Independent/Guided Study Committee will communicate due dates for applications to students via RCDS email.
ONLINE AND COLLEGE COURSES
Students are certainly welcome to take courses online and at local colleges, but in no case can such a course appear on a student transcript as if it were an RCDS offering. Students may submit transcripts from colleges and online programs as part of applications for study beyond RCDS. Those needing assistance should consult the College Counseling Office.
This program provides an opportunity for seniors to pursue a self-directed independent project, an internship, or community service work as a culmination of their experience at RCDS. Senior term should challenge students in ways above and beyond their classes and allow them to pursue an area of dedicated individual interest in greater depth over the final weeks of the academic year.
By taking a lead role in planning and implementing work of their own design, students create a meaningful learning experience that allows them to apply the skills and interests they have cultivated throughout their career at RCDS. Senior Term invites students to engage in an authentic exploration of relevant real-world issues and personal development.
Students are offered the chance to apply to complete an individual project. These projects can either be academic or personal in nature. Students apply for a senior project in their SECOND semester, and the review process for these projects is stringent.
Students not completing a senior project have the option of either engaging in an internship or a community service experience off campus during senior term. Students will work with the Grade 12 Deans to set up their internship or community service program.