Upper School Curriculum Guide
- Introduction & Overview
- Course Selection Opportunities
- Upper School Course Requirements
- Managing Time and Wellness
- On Taking Six Courses
- Four Year Planning Guide
- Course Selection Sheets
At Rye Country Day School, April is the month of course selection for the next year. If there is one area where parents/guardians can be of important assistance to their Upper School children, it is in the arena of course selection. Parents/guardians can encourage their children to take the “long view,” while considering the diverse commitments and responsibilities that our students have both at school and outside of school.
First of all, I would encourage all parents/guardians and students to view the grade-appropriate course selection presentation. These videos will give parents/guardians and students some perspective on the key issues that should be discussed when selecting courses for next year. We have produced three different presentations, depending on the upcoming grade of your child:
Principal's upper school course selection overview:
Presentation for students entering the ninth grade:
Presentation for students entering the tenth grade:
Presentation for students entering the eleventh or twelfth grade:
In these presentations, we review the various course selection resources available to our families, discuss grade specific considerations, and discuss how students might go about balancing their academics with their other in-school and outside-school obligations.
After families have had a chance to view the presentations, the Grade Deans and Principal will host Question and Answer virtual meetings to address specific questions about course selection.
Course selection is an interesting combination of hopes and dreams, reality checking, reaching high, taking stock, and realizing what works best. The more time and effort that students, parents, advisors, deans, and other faculty members put into course selection, the more likely we are to put our students in an appropriately challenging course load in which they can be successful. This process is an art and not a science. Faculty and administrators have tremendous experience working with hundreds of students, while each student is a unique individual with unique abilities and passions.
The online Upper School Curriculum Guide, which can be found on our Upper School landing page under the Academics heading, has important information about each department’s program including the criteria and prerequisites for our courses. The Course Selection Paperwork and Advice page within the Curriculum Guide contains a great deal of information and advice about course selection and our academic program.
Advisors will communicate with their advisees about course selections. Advisors will input each advisee’s course selections into our system. The Upper School Principal and Deans will communicate the deadlines for this process. After Advisors input their Advisees’ selections, each Department will review the selections and carry out the approval process. Advisors will circle back with families in the event that an alternative course selection is required. While changes in course selection do occur during the spring, we do rely on timely and thoughtful decisions by our students and families to support us as we build next year’s master schedule during the spring. It is important that each student puts a great deal of thought into the process. The ultimate goal is the best possible schedule for each student. Again, we want our students to be in a challenging program in which they can be successful. We also want all students to be in a program that supports their health and wellness.
Course selection is an art and not a science. It is also a highly individualized process. What may be perfect for one student might miss the mark for another. This document is designed to highlight a few opportunities, subtleties, and new approaches that may be overlooked by many students. It has been produced with an eye on some new courses and some common misperceptions. Information is power, and this is another piece of important information.
Did you know that we are now offering a year-long String Orchestra elective in addition to Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble that will earn 1 credit (1 unit) towards the arts requirement?
We are! This is a new opportunity. If you are interested, click here for a full course description.
Did you know that there are both performing and non-performing classes in the Music Department?
There are! In addition to the year long band, string, and choir classes, which offer a full credit towards the arts requirement, there are also semester-long Music Department courses geared to students who are interested in music, but not in performing. Studio Arranging and Composing, Explorations in World Music, Basic Musicianship and Music of the Moment are just a few of the semester long courses that will fulfill a ½ credit (½ unit) toward our arts requirement. Please have a look at all of these interesting and engaging course descriptions by clicking “COURSES” here.
Did you know that there are SEVERAL courses that fulfill the Computer Science requirement? You don’t necessarily have to take Introduction to Computer Science, but you can, of course!
There are! We even have a new semester long offering called Computer Science Exploration and Creative Computing that offers a gentler introduction for students! As in past years, we also offer wonderful semester courses in Computational Biology (Grades 9 through 12), Web Applications and Development (for those with some experience), and Introduction to Computer Science. Each of the aforementioned courses meets the Computer Science requirement! For a complete listing of our outstanding Computer Science offerings, please click here.
Did you know that the English program for 11th and 12th Graders now includes semester-long honors seminars?
It does! Beginning this coming year, juniors and seniors can choose to take an Honors English Seminar in the fall and spring semesters or can choose to take AP English Language and Composition or AP English Literature and Composition for the year. These engaging Honors English Seminars will break free of the limitations of the AP curricula while integrating the signature initiatives of the school and focusing on building in our students the characteristics described in Portrait of a Graduate through the use of traditional texts as well as contemporary literature. The seminars will allow RCDS students to move faster and push deeper. Thus, the Honors English Seminars will become the department’s honors track while the AP classes will be the department’s regular track. For more details about this exciting program, please click here.
Did you know that our Modern Language Department is offering a new, dynamic approach to our Advanced Spanish and Advanced French programs?
It is! In Spanish and French, ALL students who finish level 3 may pursue advanced, engaging coursework that is not part of the AP program.
- 2021-2022 Offerings
- The Caribbean and Spain: Cultural Identities in the 20th Century
- Modern Culture and Media in the Francophone World
- 2022-2023 Offerings
- Environmental Issues in the Spanish Speaking World
- Comics and Cinema: Exploring the 7th and 9th Art Forms in the French World
All of the aforementioned courses are appropriate for level 4 and/or level 5 students! For more details please click here.
Did you know that the Yearbook course earns 1/2 credit (1/2 unit) towards our arts requirement?
It does. Beginning in the 2019-2020, we made that adjustment! The year-long Yearbook course is a collaborative, community building opportunity. Each year of participation earns the 1/2 credit (1/2 unit). For a more detailed description of the Yearbook course, click here.
Did you know that we revised the graduation requirements for the Class of 2024? Why did we do that, and does that change impact other classes?
We did! The subtle change that we made for the Class of 2024 was to move the Humanities graduation requirement from 2 credits (2 units) to 3 credits (3 units). The large majority of our students earn 3 or more credits within our Humanities Department. Students investigate World Civilizations in 9th or 10th grade and US History in 11th or 12th. The other two high school years offer them a fascinating investigation of Modern World History in 10th grade and a wide variety of wonderful electives in 11th or 12th. For more details on our terrific Humanities offerings please click here.
The other graduation requirement adjustment is in the Science Department where we expect one unit of biological science, one unit of physical science, and, beginning with the Class of 2024, one additional unit of science.
The New York State Education Department is undertaking a statewide review of all non-public schools. A recent article on this review can be found here. Part of our motivation to officially adjust the requirement in Humanities was this statewide review. Rising 10th graders (Class of 2023) are encouraged to plan to take 3 credits of Humanities as well. They can either take Modern World this year, or plan on taking advantage of one of our electives during the 11th or 12th grade.
Did you know that the Visual Arts Department offers 25 different elective courses every semester?
That means there is something for everyone! The range of offerings includes drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, digital photography, videography, graphic design, and even digital painting. The department offers beginner-level through AP-level classes in most disciplines. If the AP is not for you, you may enroll in one of our Advanced Topics classes and even repeat it for credit! The unique blend of rigor and fun means that all students feel welcome and challenged. Whether you’ve been making art for your whole life or want to give it a try for the first time, there are opportunities to meet your interests and experience. For more details on our engaging Visual Art offerings, click here.
Did you know that by participating in the Upper School Winter Musical, all first-time participants receive a 1/2 credit (1/2 unit) towards the Arts Requirement needed to graduate?
All student performers who participate in the Upper School Musical for the first time will receive a 1/2 credit on their transcript towards the Arts Requirement. Any student who participates in the musical for subsequent years will receive a participation notation on their transcript, but the credit required towards graduation is only given during the first year of participation. All students who perform in the musical will also receive their Winter PE Credit for as many years as they participate. Please note: students cannot participate in the Upper School Winter Musical and play a Winter Sport due to time conflicts. For a complete listing of our outstanding Dance and Drama offerings, please click here.
|Grade 9||Grade 10||Grade 11||Grade 12|
|Math||Math||(Math)*||- - - - - - - -|
|Biology||Chemistry||%Science Elective||%Science Elective|
|World Civ||#Modern World||US History
|Language||Language||(Language)*||- - - - - - - -|
|Arts course option||Arts course option||Arts course option||Arts course option|
|^Computer Science course option|
|(Sixth Course)||(Sixth Course)||(Sixth Course)||(Sixth Course)|
* Some students complete their Mathematics, Classical, and Modern Language minimum requirements in 10th grade, others in 11th grade.
@ Some students fulfill their US History requirement in their 12th Grade year.
% Beginning with the Class of 2024, students will be required to earn 3 credits in the Science Department.
# Beginning with the Class of 2024, students will be required to earn 3 credits in the Humanities Department.
^ Students in the class of 2023 and beyond may complete the Computer Science Requirement freshman through senior year.
Within this 4-year schedule, please remember that students are required:
- To earn 1.5 units by taking courses in 2 of the following disciplines: Visual Arts, Music, Yearbook, Dance, and Drama OR the student may earn 2.0 units by taking courses in 1 of the following departments: Visual Arts, Music, Yearbook, or Dance and Drama
- To take Life Skills during their 9th grade year & Health during their 10th grade year
- To allow time for Physical Education each year
- Beginning with the class of 2023, to earn 0.5 units by taking an approved course within the Computer Science department
- Health and Computer Science may be taken during RCDS Summer Session
- Sixth courses are optional. A student may decide to take a “Homework Bearing” course as a sixth course, but such a decision creates a significantly increased nightly workload and students must think very carefully about their own schedules and ability to absorb this work before making such a decision. Students who can handle the rigors of six “Homework Bearing” courses are the exception, not the rule.
In thinking about the whole day and the whole child, we ask you not to consider course planning in a vacuum. The reality of high school is that you do not do just academics, and individual classes must be considered in the context of other academic courses, co-curricular activities, extra-curricular activities, and out of school pursuits. It is in this spirit that we put together this worksheet, so that students, parents and advisors can add this important discussion to the course selection process.
Homework bearing courses: (In general, students find that five homework bearing courses work well for their individual schedule.)
For the majority of our students, five homework bearing courses is the correct academic load in any given semester. Through the years, we have seen more of our students take a 6th homework bearing course. This is not for everyone!. Remember, the standard homework bearing course will average between 30 and 45 minutes of homework per night. AP and Honors classes will be on the high end of that range each night. Also keep in mind that our students will tend to spend more time on preparation for assessments like tests, essays, and quizzes. Students who take a sixth homework bearing course are preparing for 20% more assessments and increasing their nightly workload significantly. Again, for most students, this is not wise.
If a student is thinking about a 6th class, I suggest an elective that does not have daily homework (or no homework!). Visual Art, Music, Drama, some CS electives, and more fall into this category. These courses provide the students the opportunity to think creatively and work collaboratively during the school day. They build problem-solving abilities in different ways. They provide students opportunities to discover new passions or more fully explore existing ones. Personally, I’d love to see all 400 upper schoolers take advantage of these courses each semester!
As students contemplate their course selection for the upcoming year, they need to keep their overall schedule in mind. What are their commitments outside of school? What extra-curricular opportunities will they be pursuing in the coming semesters? As they progress through the Upper School, how will their responsibilities grow in terms of advanced classes, or roles on teams, in clubs, or in casts? I remind all students that they must preserve time in their lives for family obligations, socializing, sleep, downtime, and the unforeseen obstacle. No student should feel overwhelmed returning to school from a sick day, but if they are over programmed, this can happen.
Some students select courses with an eye on what other students are selecting. This approach is misguided. Just because there are few students for whom 6 homework bearing courses work, does not mean it is right for the rest of the students. Course selection is an individual process. We want students to find appropriate challenge and joy within their schedule. Their course selection should support their health and wellness. Advisors, Deans, Grade Deans, College Counselors, and I are here to help as students contemplate their course selection. Please reach out to us.
Upper School Principal
Not all of these courses are offered each year, but they do exist regularly within our curriculum. Sixth courses tend not to have homework that has a major impact on students’ study plans, but one needs to consider the amount of homework major courses require each evening.
|Examples of sixth courses with less or no homework:||Ex. of Homework Bearing (5th or 6th):|
|All Visual Arts Classes (Except AP)||AP Art History|
|Many Computer Science Electives||AP Computer Science A and Principles|
|All Drama Classes||AP Environmental Science|
|All Music Classes (Except AP Theory and Music Theory Intensive )||AP Music Theory|
|Expository Writing||AP Studio Art|
|All Science Electives|
|All Humanities Electives|
|Honors Intensive Languages or Language electives|
|Music Theory Intensive|