Upper School Program Overview 

Calhoun’s Upper School is a vibrant, welcoming and engaging community. In keeping with the school's progressive and humanistic mission, it is a place where students are firmly at the center of their education, experiencing the world in a variety of direct and authentic ways.  

Our innovative schedule engenders a holistic, interdisciplinary and integrated approach to teaching and learning. Students and teachers are able to thoughtfully and thoroughly examine myriad questions, issues and topics both inside and outside of the classroom. Students are able to engage in meaningful exploration of New York City's diverse neighborhoods and its wealth of resources--including museums, landmarks, parks and arts venues.  These excursions are in addition to several extended, on-site learning opportunities offered to students in the Upper School--science and ecological explorations at Black Rock Forest in upstate New York; cross-disciplinary, paleontological and cultural studies at Badlands National Park in South Dakota; a foreign exchange with students from a school in Bordeaux, France; and one- or two-week home-stays at member schools partnered with the Network of Complementary Schools.

Course offerings--including required classes and an extensive selection of electives across all disciplines--represent the expertise and talents of Calhoun's faculty, and the truly personalized nature of the work we do here. We are, at once, musicians and physicists, playwrights and historians, athletes and mathematicians, social activists and artists, giving students great opportunities to develop as individuals and community leaders. The curriculum is also reflective of a commitment to connect with and deepen our appreciation for a variety of local and global cultures and perspectives.

A critical part of our work in the Upper School occurs during our demonstration days, when students make their work public for the community to experience and enjoy. Students also participate in many exciting programs that allow them to become increasingly independent and self-directed as they progress through the Upper School. These include Junior WorkshopSenior Work internships, and community service learning

A strong advisory system underscores the school's deep commitment to supporting, nurturing and challenging each individual to find his/her own voice and become the best s/he can be. That is, in fact, at the heart of a school culture that is defined by the deep respect that exists between our students and all the adult members of our community--teachers, administrators and staffers alike.

I encourage you to browse the Upper School's program, look at examples of "Learning by Doing" projects that reflect our progressive approach to education; read about our Arts programs, with videos and photos of student work and performances; read the latest News Mashup to get a sense of who we are. Of course, the best way to experience Calhoun's Upper School is to visit us in person!

Program FAQs

Advisory & Cluster System

Each student is a member of a cluster, a group of eight to ten students who share the same advisor and gather daily with the advisor for announcements, attendance, and some group activities. Every student has a private weekly meeting with the advisor to discuss academic and social progress and issues. These weekly conferences are the basis of an advocacy system in which the cluster advisor represents the student, stays in touch with individual faculty and serves as a contact for parents. Parent/student/advisor conferences are held at least twice per year for all students.

Academic Requirements

Minimum requirements and guidelines for credit provide a framework that a student should use to plan his/her curriculum program. The expectation for graduation is that a student will present a fully balanced program each year, under the direction and approval of the cluster advisor and the Upper School Director. We assess academic credits by simply counting each mod as 1 credit. To qualify for a Calhoun diploma, students must successfully complete a minimum of the following:

English: 12 Credits (12 Mods)
Social Studies: 12 Credits (12 Mods)
Mathematics: 9 Credits (9 Mods)
World Languages: 9 Credits (9 Mods - must be in a single language)
Science: 9 Credits (9 Mods)
Fine Arts: 9 Credits (9 Mods)
Physical Education: 8 Credits (2 credits per year)
Life Skills: 1 credit (beginning with the Class of 2012)
Workshop/Junior Project: 1 credit (4 Mods)
Work/Senior Project: 4 credits (2 Mods)
Community Service: 60 hours (no credits)

All students take at least 4 classes per module, 20 per year. In addition, they take PE and may opt to take performance music classes in the E-Block.

Calhoun requires a minimum requirement of 60 hours of community service during the Upper School years for graduation. Students are encouraged to earn at least 15 hours each school year. At least 30 of the 60 hours must be earned outside of the school community. Students entering Calhoun after the ninth grade may complete a pro-rated number of hours. The volunteer agency must be a non-profit organization and it may not be a paid job. All service performed both in and outside of school should be documented on an evaluation form or letter from the agency supervisor in order for work to be credited. Evaluation forms and/or letters should be given to Debbie Aronson, Community Service Director, immediately following the completion of the service work.

[See Schedule for a look at the Block Schedule as well as frequently asked questions.]

Assessing Student Progress

Letter grades are used to evaluate scholastic progress throughout the Upper School. In those few courses in which a different reporting pattern may be used, students will be informed in advance of the procedure used by the teacher. Letter grades and comments are used to indicate cognitive progress on Upper School reports and transcripts; numbers are used to indicate affective performance.

Two basic dimensions of a student's educational development are evaluated: the cognitive and the affective. Criteria for evaluation of cognitive development are defined by each department with the expectations made as age-appropriate as possible. Criteria for evaluation of affective performance are the same for most departments and reflect organization, motivation and commitment.
Self-evaluation is a process in which students are sometimes asked to complete a written assessment of their performance in particular classes. These may be reviewed with the cluster advisor.

Reports and Conferences

Families begin every school year with a one-on-one conference with their child's advisor. This gives the student a chance for a personal introduction while at the same time affording parents and students the opportunity to ask questions, discuss concerns and understand expectations.

There is at least one more conference held mid-year. Parents and students may also request conferences with teachers throughout the year.. Teachers invite ongoing lines of communication with parents—by telephone, email or in person.  Students have regular individual meetings  with their advisors every six days, and are encouraged to meet with subject teachers during community time, before or after school. 

Parents and students receive reports --all of which are posted online--at the end of each of the five mods. Reports include cognitive and affective grades along with narrative comments by teachers.

Lorenzo Krakowsky

Lorenzo Krakowsky
Upper School Director

Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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