Upper School Curriculum - The Heights School

Upper School Curriculum

A Strong Core Curriculum with Rich Elective Options

Each student meets personally with the Head of the Upper School every spring, often more than once, to work out an academic schedule for the upcoming year. Students are encouraged to discuss options with their parents and sometimes parents also join students in meeting to discuss scheduling options. All academic programs are given final approval by the Head of the Upper School. A good schedule is one that follows the requirements outlined below, engages areas of academic interest, and provides the appropriate level of challenge. While the spirit of study intensifies in the classroom, a good schedule will require a consistent average of two to three hours of daily focused study outside of time spent in classes.

School-Profile

Grading, Report Cards, and Transcripts

While grades for each quarter, the mid-year exam, and the final exam show up on a student’s report card, only the final course grade or current average is shown on the transcript that is sent to colleges. A student’s final grade in a course is determined by averaging the two semester grades with each semester grade being the weighted average of the two quarters counting 37.5% each and the exam (either mid-year or final) counting 25.0%. GPAs are given separately for each academic year and a cumulative GPA is given at the bottom of the transcript. In calculating these GPAs a standard 4.0 scale is followed:

Courses by Department

The Core

Each freshman and sophomore takes his English and History class as a block double period taught by the teacher who also serves as his advisor. The literature read in the English portion of the core program complements the history course, which covers from the end of the Roman Republic up to about 1800 for the fresmen, and American history for the sophomores. Each core teacher, as teacher and advisor, develops what the ancients call “presence of mind” in each student, manifest in superior writing and speaking ability.

The Core Classes:

English

Heights English teachers share a common love for the beauty of the written word and appreciation for the wisdom, moral vision, and truth that it can convey. The dynamic literary culture of The Heights School overflows on festival clan days and through several popular extracurricular opportunities, such as reading and discussion groups and other literary societies.  Substantial work is also done on improving each student’s writing.

Freshman Core (Hatch) Presence of Mind—Students study classic works that span the period studied in their history class, including The Aeneid, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare’s Henry V, Robinson Crusoe or Frankenstein, and A Tale of Two Cities. There is continuing work in grammar and vocabulary and a strong focus on improving writing skills.

Freshman Core (Babendreier) Presence of Mind—Students study classic works that span the period studied in their history class, including The Aeneid, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare’s Henry V, Robinson Crusoe or Frankenstein, and A Tale of Two Cities. There is continuing work in grammar and vocabulary and a strong focus on improving writing skills.

Freshman Core (Cardenas) Presence of Mind—Students study classic works that span the period studied in their history class, including The Aeneid, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare’s Henry V, Robinson Crusoe or Frankenstein, and A Tale of Two Cities. There is continuing work in grammar and vocabulary and a strong focus on improving writing skills.

Freshman Core (Hude) Presence of Mind—Students study classic works that span the period studied in their history class, including The Aeneid, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare’s Henry V, Robinson Crusoe or Frankenstein, and A Tale of Two Cities. There is continuing work in grammar and vocabulary and a strong focus on improving writing skills.

Sophomore Core: US History and Literature (10th Grade): Conscience and the Consciousness of Evil — The 10th grade English course continues to review grammar and helps students improve their writing skills and vocabularies.

English III (11th Grade): Mortality and Immortality — This junior course continues to foster the development of superior grammar and writing skills. Students delve into a rich selection of literature including Moby Dick, Njal’s Saga, The Inferno and King Lear.

English Literature AP (12th Grade): Coming of Age:  Claiming Adulthood — This senior course caps an outstanding program with an in-depth treatment of a variety of literary forms: novels, short stories, plays and poetry. Students read Antigone by Sophocles, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet by Shakespeare, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and more. Students work on fine-tuning their writing skills on the collegiate level. Many students will take the AP Literature exam at the end of the course. 

Robert H. Jackson Scholars Senior Thesis Program Named after the School’s first headmaster, this thesis option is available to selected students in the senior class.  Each invited student who elects to join the thesis program chooses to work with a faculty mentor throughout the academic year on a shared topic of interest, producing a substantial written work (30-40 pages) that the student defends before a three-person faculty panel (20-30 minute presentation followed by 20-30 minutes of Q&A).

Mathematics

Math is important for all students, helping them to develop into clear and logical thinkers and to recognize systemic and dynamic relationships in the world. These relationships are closely connected to the order and beauty in creation. Typically, studies in math are a student’s first introduction to abstract thought. This prepares students well for the rigors of later studies in philosophy. The famous inscription above Plato’s academy recalls this relationship between math and philosophy, “If you do not know Euclid, you cannot enter here.”

Classics

The Classics Department at The Heights School seeks to further the human and intellectual development of each boy through the discipline of learning Latin and Greek and through contact with the riches of classical culture. Many students entering the Upper School from the Middle School have already mastered the basics of the Latin language. Regardless of previous studies, Upper School students are required to take at least two years of Latin. The curriculum ends with advanced courses offered on Vergil and other classical authors. Greek may be taken as early as the freshman year in the Upper School. Again, the student is first drilled in grammar and basic vocabulary, then introduced to original texts. It is recommended that students study two years of Latin before taking Greek. The classical languages are seen as the key to the academic curriculum because of their connection pedagogically and linguistically to the liberal arts. The mastery of English is greatly facilitated by the study of Latin and Greek. Students are forced to know the meaning of words and their syntactical use in a sentence. Reflecting the nature of their respective cultures, the classical languages instill Roman discipline, simplicity and clarity and Greek subtlety and harmony into the mental habits of the boys. The classical languages are fixed and clear, naturally leading to superior habits of thought. Finally, they are the conduit of classical culture. They are the “mother tongues” of the western canon, the possession of every educated man throughout western history. They enable the student to speak with the great minds of history on an equal footing.

History

The History Department at The Heights School offers courses that help students understand the riches of the past. The focus is primarily on the western tradition, though not exclusively. Each teacher helps his students to understand and appreciate the common heritage of our past and to improve in research and writing skills. The focus is on history as a narrative story that cannot be explained away by any one perspective, whether economic or political. The course of history is strongly influenced by individuals exercising their freedom, for heroic ends or otherwise.

Religion

The Religion Department at The Heights School provides a full program of Catholic practice and doctrine for Catholic students (and non-Catholics who freely choose to participate) at every grade level. In addition, an Ethics program is available for non-Catholic students in grades 9 through 12. All religion teachers at The Heights School strive to provide solid doctrinal formation in full agreement with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and magisterial teachings. In addition, the Religion Department teaches basic prayers and sacramental practices. In accord with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the spirit of Opus Dei, the Religion Department at The Heights School places emphasis on the reality that all men and women are called to holiness. This focus on the universal call to holiness and apostolate in the Church is rooted in a keen awareness of one’s divine filiation, the realization that we are all children of God.

Religion and Theology:

Philosophy and Ethics:

Science

The science program at The Heights School contributes to a liberal arts education by helping students understand the world around them. Careful observations and thoughtful analysis lead to a sense of wonder at the complexity and order both in nature and in the artifices of man. The Heights science program lays a good foundation for students interested in science, medicine or engineering as possible careers.

Spanish

The Spanish Department at The Heights School offers a variety of Spanish classes for students in grades 7 through 12. All Spanish teachers seek to teach the technical aspects of the Spanish language as well as conversational Spanish and cultural information. Learning Spanish further reinforces knowledge of grammatical structures taught in Latin and English classes.

Art

The Art Department at The Heights School follows a classical approach to art, stressing that art should be based in reality and beauty. Students learn the discipline of drawing using perspective and using color appropriately. Several students excel and develop their natural talents. All classes meet daily for a full credit.

Computers

The Heights School offers elective courses in computers to interested students. Computer programming helps the boys to think analytically, break down a problem into its smaller parts, and provides many practical applications from their math classes.

Music

As one of the four subjects in the quadrivium, music is integral to a liberal arts education. In order to truly be well educated, a man must achieve an integration of his passions with his reason. Music educates the passions and, when done properly, helps one to place them at the service of right reason. Education in music works on many levels, helping to spur intellectual and moral development in a manner that complements other academic subjects.