Program of Study



The Upper School Academic Handbook contains a complete description of the academic program of the Upper School, Grades 9-12. In order to provide parents and students 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. 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.

Students should first read the Academic Handbook and discuss their interests/options with their parents and then seek the guidance of their advisor. Enrollment in certain courses must be approved by the relevant department. Grade 8 faculty recommendations are made for entering Grade 9 students. Initial program approval is granted by the advisor. Final approval is issued by the appropriate Grade Level Dean and Principal.

Graduation Requirements

Graduation Requirements

For graduation, a minimum of sixteen units is required. For promotion to the next grade, a minimum of four academic courses must be passed. A senior must complete a minimum of four 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 academic courses a year is expected. Any student choosing to take more than five homework-bearing courses needs parental approval on the Course Selection Sheet.

The typical program of study is five units per year in Grades 9-12. Successful completion of all requirements is necessary for graduation.


  • Visual and Performing Arts: 1.5 units in at least two of the art departments (Visual Arts, Music, Dance and Drama, or Yearbook) or earn 2.0 units in one of those departments to be completed over the four years.
  • English: 4 units + 1 writing lab (Gr. 9).
  • Foreign Language: must complete Level 3 of French, Spanish, Chinese, or Latin.
  • Health: 1/4 unit (Gr. 10).
  • Humanities: 2 units (World Civ. in Gr. 9 or 10); US History in Gr. 11 or 12).
  • Life Skills: (Gr. 9).
  • Mathematics: Must complete Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra II/Trig.
  • Natural Sciences: 2 units in laboratory-based sciences (1 physical, 1 biological)
  • Physical Education: 4 years, must pass each trimester unless granted an exemption (although required, Physical Education is not a credit-bearing course).
  • Computer Science: Beginning with students in the graduating class of 2023, 1/2 unit

Specific Courses to be completed by end of 10th grade:

  • Algebra 1 (1)
  • Foreign Language (completion of 1st year)
  • English 9 & 10
  • World Civilizations
  • Health (1/4, Gr. 10)

Specific Courses to be completed by Graduation:

  • Algebra 2 & Trig. (1)
  • Geometry (1)
  • Foreign Language (completion of 3rd yr.)
  • English 11 & 12
  • U.S. History (1)
  • Visual & Performing Arts (1.5 or 2.0)
  • A physical science with lab (1)


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 school 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 Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education require that pupils demonstrate competency in the basic skills of reading, writing, and mathematics in order to obtain a high school diploma.

Competency in reading and writing may be demonstrated by passing the Regents competency tests in each of these subjects, by passing the Regents comprehensive examination in English, or by obtaining minimum acceptable scores on the College Board's Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing Program (ACT) tests.

Competency in mathematics may be demonstrated by passing the Regents competency test in mathematics, by passing any Regents examination in mathematics, including business mathematics, or by obtaining minimum acceptable scores on the SAT or ACT.

Academic Evaluation

Academic Evaluation


At all marking periods, letter grades are issued. (Numerical grades may be used for tests and papers.) The numerical equivalents are as follows:

A+ = 100-97 (98)

B = 86-83 (85)

C- = 72-70 (71)

F = Below 60

A = 96-93 (95)

B- = 82-80 (81)

D+ = 69-67 (68)

A- = 92-90 (91)

C+ = 79-77 (78)

D = 66-63 (65)

B+ = 89-87 (88)

C = 76-73 (75)

D- = 62-60 (61)

Academic Credit: 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.

Written Comments: 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.

Academic Distinction: 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.

Academic Research: 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.


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 P/F course a student is taking at the time.
4.The student is taking at least five courses.
5.The Pass/Fail option is only available to juniors and seniors.

Students taking a Pass/Fail course will receive regular grades on their 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 his or her decision to take a course Pass/Fail after the published deadline has passed.

Anyone seeking exception to the above criteria must place his or her request (either in writing or through his or her advisor) before the Academic Affairs Committee. The Academic Affairs Committee, excluding its student representatives, will vote based on whether or not 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.

Changes to Academic Program

Changes to Academic Program


Approximately four weeks after the beginning of a course is the deadline for dropping a semester length 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.


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 January 31. In individual cases, policy may be appealed directly to the Principal and the Grade Level Dean.

Homework Guidelines

Homework Guidelines

Students should anticipate 30-40 minutes of homework per course, per night for class preparation. Assessment preparation (studying for tests and quizzes, writing papers and lab reports, etc.) does not fall under these guidelines.

Senior Term

Senior Term and Senior Projects

The Senior Term: 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.

Senior Projects: 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 2nd 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 12th grade deans to set up their internship or community service program.

Honors and AP

Honors and Advanced Placement

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: Any student requiring regular assistance (once or more per week) from a tutor to maintain a minimum grade should reconsider the appropriateness of the honors 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 already enrolled in AP classes are required to take the AP examination in the class, and the school takes the responsibility of signing up these students for the AP examination. If a student is NOT enrolled in an AP class and still wishes to take the AP, the student needs to communicate this to his/her current teacher, the Department Chair, and the AP Coordinator by filling out an AP request form by the day before Spring Break.

Special Opportunities

Special Opportunities

The overwhelming majority of Upper School students will select the courses that make up their program of study from those that appear on the following pages.


The Independent/Guided Study program offers juniors and seniors the opportunity to complete work, for RCDS academic credit, in an area of study that lies beyond the breadth or depth of the RCDS curriculum. 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; the student must reapply if he or she wishes to continue the same project for a second semester. No Independent/Guided Study is eligible for AP distinction on a student’s transcript.

Note: All Independent/Guided Studies are offered at the availability of the faculty member acting as advisor to the project. 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 completed 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 may submit a proposal to the Independent/Guided Study Committee via the form 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 teacher (examples include the study of a foreign language not otherwise offered or a study of advanced topics in any given field that are not covered by the curriculum). If an RCDS faculty member has the expertise 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 form 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.


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 can submit transcripts from colleges and online programs as part of applications for study beyond RCDS. Those needing assistance should consult the College Counseling Office.



The Upper School Schedule is a six day rotating schedule with 8 different "blocks." Two of the blocks, A and B, meet for 40 minutes every day and six of the blocks, C-H, meet five of the six days with one class being 70 minutes long and the other four classes being 40 minutes long.

Most Upper School classes fill an entire block, but some courses, such as writing lab, health, and some electives meet fewer than five times a cycle.