Upper School Overview

In Calhoun’s Upper School, students are firmly at the center of their education. Our students are highly engaged learners who participate eagerly, and whose voices are heard and respected.

Course offerings – from required classes to a wide range of electives – are taught by our talented, expert faculty. Students are supported by a strong advisory system, and given ample opportunities to develop as individuals and community leaders. Our curriculum reflects our commitment to integrated, place-based teaching, as well as social justice. Students' learning is further enhanced by our innovative schedule.

Our signature programs such as Junior Workshop and Senior Work allow students to become increasingly independent and self-directed, and to take on significant leadership roles. 

At Calhoun, students are encouraged to examine questions and issues both inside and outside of the classroom. They take advantage of New York City's diverse resources through regular excursions, go on science expeditions to Black Rock Forest, and participate in a foreign exchange program with students in France.

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.