Upper Division Curriculum Guide

School Mission

Stevenson School has long been committed to three aims:

  • to prepare students for success in school and life beyond school;
  • to foster their passion for learning and achievement;
  • to help them shape a joyful life.

Course Selection Goals

Careful attention to the process of selecting courses is an important way that the Stevenson faculty fulfill all three aims of the School’s mission. We have designed a process that encourages conversation between students and many of the adults in their lives: parents, teachers, department heads, advisors, and the registrar. In order to achieve our aims, we give consideration to the student’s academic interests, past experience, and non-academic commitments and interests, to craft a balanced life for the coming year that includes the greatest possible opportunities for learning, health, and engagement in the community.

On this page

Course Selection Calendar


Resources and Support

  • Course Selection Resources
    • Four-Year Planning Worksheet
    • Course Map 2022–2023
    • Placement in Courses
    • Academic Load Review
    • Honors & AP Courses
    • Summer Courses
  • Scheduling and Scheduling Changes
    • Course Scheduling
    • Course Availability
    • Adding or Dropping Courses
    • Deadlines for adding, dropping, or changing courses
  • Course Selection Support
    • Registrar
    • Advisors
    • Faculty
    • Academic Department Heads
    • Head of the Upper Division
    • Co-Directors of College Counseling and College Counselors

Course Selection Calendar

The dates below are for those new students who enroll in early March. Those enrolling later will accomplish the same steps but at later dates.

Timeline Action
Mid-March Students and parents receive communication from the registrar with information about the course request process. The student works with their parents or guardians to complete the course request form online. This form serves as a starting point for discussion with the registrar regarding course selections.
Early May Students enrolling from another school complete placement exercises to assist in course placement. Students may complete a math placement exercise if they wish to qualify for an honors course, and those wishing to start in level 2 or higher of a world language do a placement in that language.
May Department heads work with the registrar and the faculty to review the requests in light of the student’s file and the placement exercises.
Late May Students and parents receive an approved course list from the registrar.
Approximately one week before classes begin Students and parents receive information about viewing the student’s schedule. The schedule will include class periods, teachers, and the name of the advisor.
Timeline Action
Week of March 1 Students and parents receive communication from the registrar with information about the course request process, teachers share information with their classes about course options in their department for the coming school year, and departments share information about course offerings with which the students might not yet be familiar.
Week of March 8 Students meet with their advisors individually to review the courses approved for them and make selections.
Late March, April,
and Early May
Department heads work with the registrar and faculty to review students’ selections. The head of the upper division completes the academic course load review (see the Academic Load Review entry in the Course Selection Resources section of this page).
Late May Students and parents receive an approved course list from the registrar.
Approximately one week before classes begin Students and parents receive information about viewing the student’s schedule. The schedule will include class periods, teachers, and the name of the advisor. 


Diploma Requirements

To qualify for a diploma, students must be currently enrolled and in good standing in the School, and must satisfy the various departmental requirements regarding level of study and proficiency.

Teachers, advisors, and the registrar will work with students to make sure that they will meet Stevenson diploma requirements and complete a challenging, comprehensive course of study that complements their interests and talents.

Students should have:

  • completed four or more years of high school

  • earned 20 course credits, where:

    • Yearlong course = 1 credit
    • Semester-long course = 0.5 credit
  • participated in after-school activities each season

  • earned a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher

  • spent their grade 12 year on campus

Subject Requirements

To qualify for a diploma, students should have grades of D- or better in:

One Credit

Those applying to UC or Cal State colleges must choose both semesters in the same discipline (music, radio, theater, or visual arts).

Four Credits

English must be taken at Stevenson each semester.

Three Credits

The requirement includes one year of US History.

Three Credits

Those applying to UC or Cal State colleges must have a year of geometry, or the equivalent in integrated courses.

Three Credits
Level 3

Students entering Stevenson in grade 11 or grade 12 who are not on track to complete a level 3 world language course by the end of grade 12 will be asked to fulfill the requirement as best they can, which may mean completing only level 1 or level 2 of a world language. Students with language-based learning disabilities may have this requirement waived but still need to meet the overall credit requirement.

Course Load Requirements

Students are required to take:

  • Five or six courses each semester.

    While a student may petition for a seventh, no student may take eight courses in a given semester. (please see the Academic Load Review entry in the Course Selection Resources section on this page)

  • English each semester

  • No more than three honors/AP courses in a semester.

    While a student may petition for a fourth, no student may petition for five. (please see the Academic Load Review entry in the Course Selection Resources section on this page)

  • Grade 9 students participate in Community Forum and either Skills for Academic Success or Collaborative Study Hall during some of their open study periods.

Resources and Support

Course Selection Resources

Placement in a course is determined by the department head in consultation with the classroom teacher following placement requirements detailed in links from each department’s course listing below. These guidelines are also communicated to new students by the registrar and to returning students by their classroom teacher.

Honors and AP courses are more challenging than regular courses. Stevenson limits the number of honors and AP courses that a student may take at a time. Students are not required to take any honors or AP courses at Stevenson.

Students taking an AP course are generally expected to take the AP exam or submit the AP portfolio in May. Students are not permitted to take an AP exam at Stevenson if they are not enrolled in that AP course.

If a student wishes to take more than six courses or more than three honors/AP level courses, the student must petition the head of the upper division for approval before the next year’s academic schedule is constructed. The petition consists of a written statement from the student stating the rationale behind their request. The head of the upper division will solicit the opinion of the student’s advisor, contact the current teacher if indicated, and consult with the associate head of the upper division and the registrar before deciding whether to approve the petition. In reviewing each petition, the head of the upper division considers the student’s academic record, the work each proposed course requires, and the student’s anticipated co-curricular obligations.

Stevenson does not support students wishing to prepare independently for AP exams during the school year. We strongly discourage this practice as it distracts students from full engagement with their Stevenson curriculum. We do not register students for AP exams other than those associated with courses taken during the school year. Exceptions to this policy may be made in exceptional circumstances after a review of a student petition by the head of the upper division. A petition will be denied if it is felt that the student’s request is deemed excessive, unrealistic, or unhealthy.

Approval of a petition does not constitute a requirement that a student take all of the requested courses or AP exams. It is also possible that even if the petition is approved, not all of the requested courses will actually fit into the schedule. Thus, an approval is not a guarantee that the student will be able to take all of the courses.

Students interested in taking courses outside of Stevenson should consult with the registrar, Mrs. Liz O’Hara (lohara@stevensonschool.org). Stevenson supports summer study for three purposes.

  • ACCELERATION Each academic department has its own policies regarding course acceleration. Students who wish to take a summer course in order to accelerate through a department’s sequence of study must first inform the registrar and receive advance approval from the appropriate department head and the head of the upper division.
  • CREDIT RECOVERY Students seeking to recover credits lost to course failures or withdrawals should consult with the registrar before proceeding to enroll in summer programs at other institutions or online.
  • ENRICHMENT Students often choose to take courses at other schools during the summer for their own enrichment.

If a student is successful in a summer course taken for a grade and credit at an accredited school, Stevenson will include a note on the student’s transcript indicating the title of the course, the school at which it was taken, and the grade and credit earned.

Note that the successful completion of summer courses taken elsewhere does not count as Stevenson course credit and cannot replace a low grade in a Stevenson course. However, these courses can count for placement. Students taking a summer course are still expected to take a full academic load during the school year.

Scheduling and Scheduling Changes

The registrar builds the master schedule and assigns students to course sections during the summer. The complexities of scheduling make it impossible to guarantee that every student will be able to take all requested classes. When conflicts arise, courses required for the diploma are given first priority. Further priority is given as the student requests during the course selection process. While most students are able to take all requested courses, the registrar will make adjustments for some students while building the schedule. These adjustments can include choosing a replacement for a semester course that does not fit or dropping a course that is not needed to fulfill a requirement. Students and parents will be made aware of any potential adjustments in midsummer. This leaves time for students to explore other options with the registrar.

The information resulting from the course selection process is compiled for the creation of the master academic schedule by the registrar. Course offerings are sometimes adjusted based on student needs brought to light by the registration process. Under-enrolled courses may be closed or postponed to a future year.
Requests for adding or dropping courses should be addressed to the registrar. All changes must abide by the diploma and course load requirements and the departmental placement requirements. These requirements are described elsewhere on this page.

During the summer, students may freely add, drop, and change courses by contacting the registrar. Once classes have started, students must also seek permission from the appropriate faculty member(s) when requesting an add or drop. The registrar facilitates the process of seeking permission. After the start of classes students may request an add, drop, or course change by completing a form on their Pirate Page.

Semester electives in English, history, math, science, and world languages are capped. Students will be asked to rank their preferences in the spring and will be placed with consideration to those choices and other scheduling constraints. Once placements are made, students may request a change and will be granted this change if the class has not reached its capacity. If a class is full, students will be placed on a waitlist. For semester electives in English (called English 4), the waitlist closes and choices are finalized the day before the first day of classes. For all classes other than English 4, students may request to change subjects or add a course until the Friday after transition reports are released.

To drop a course or change levels within a subject, the deadline is the Friday following Family Weekend. This deadline allows for discussion during Family Weekend conferences. A change in level might entail moving between an honors or AP level class and a regular class or changing levels of a world language. After this deadline, the next opportunity for students to change levels will be just after the end of the fall semester, and there is no opportunity to change levels during the spring semester of a yearlong course (unless you successfully complete a Petition of Exceptional Change of Course schedule— see below).

For semester courses in the spring, students may request to add, drop, or make a change only in the first days of the term, with the exception that it is not possible to add or change an English 4 course once the spring semester begins.

A course dropped during a semester prior to these course change deadlines does not appear on the transcript for that semester. Additionally, in the case of exceptional circumstances (such as medical leave or personal crisis), students may complete a Petition for Exceptional Change of Course Schedule on their Pirate Page to drop a class and remove it from their transcript. Approval of such a petition is granted by the head of the upper division.

Desired Change Deadline for Change
Add or change a fall semester English 4 course
The day before the first day of classes, Tuesday August 23, 2022.
Add or change any course other than fall semester English 4 course, including changing from one subject to a different subject Friday after fall transition reports are released, Friday September 23, 2022
Drop any course or change to a different level of the same subject, if you want the change to take effect during the fall semester  Friday after Family Weekend, Friday October 21, 2022
Petition for an Exceptional Change in the fall On approval of a Petition for Exceptional Change of Course Schedule
Add or change a spring semester English 4 course Last day of the fall semester, Tuesday December 20, 2022
Add, change, or drop a course for the spring semester other than English 4, drop an English 4 course, note that you may not join the spring semester of a yearlong course unless you are doing so as part of a change to a different level of a subject you have been taking Friday January 20, 2023
Petition for an Exceptional Change in the spring On approval of a Petition for Exceptional Change of Course Schedule
The registrar may not consider requests to change from one section to another within the same course to seek or avoid a particular teacher or a particular period.

Course Selection Support

Stevenson offers academic support and counseling services to help students and their families choose the learning path that is best for them. The School believes accountability, independence and good communication are critical components of an exceptional education and are the building blocks for becoming a successful adult. We hope students will embrace this philosophy and take charge of all communication about their academic paths, or at least be involved in that communication.

There are many people available to communicate with and support students as they select courses for the coming school year. If you are not certain who is the best person to approach with your question, reach out to the registrar, Mrs. Liz O’Hara, at lohara@stevensonschool.org.

The registrar has a broad knowledge of the School’s offerings and of factors that students should take into account when choosing courses at Stevenson, and welcomes conversations about course selection. She maintains a perspective on the whole of a student’s academic life at school. In addition, she oversees class scheduling and graduation requirements. Students are encouraged to speak with the registrar about any questions involving course planning. The registrar is Mrs. Liz O’Hara, and she can be reached at lohara@stevensonschool.org

For returning students, advisors have more personal relationships with the students and families than the registrar does, if less knowledge of the big picture of Stevenson’s course offerings and requirements. They are a valuable resource for students wishing to discuss which of several options to choose.
Teachers are the experts in the demands and natures of the courses they teach. For returning students, teachers also have an extensive knowledge of each student’s interests and abilities in their departments. They are the first point of contact for returning students during the course selection process, and an excellent resource throughout. Teachers may be involved in course placement for new students if there are questions with which the registrar needs assistance.
Academic department heads are the individuals with the best sense of the demands and flow of the courses in their departments. They are ultimately responsible for all course placement in their departments.

In cases of appeal of a course placement, the ultimate decision resides with the head of the upper division, Dr. Dan Griffiths, who can be reached at dgriffiths@stevensonschool.org

The college counselors, under the guidance of the co-directors of college counseling, work with students in many ways, including discussing the appropriateness of their course selections for their college goals. Rising grade 12 students work with the college counselor assigned to them. Students in other grades who have questions should address them to one of the co-directors of college counseling, Ms. Martha Allen (mallen@stevensonschool.org), or Mr. Jon Burke (jburke@stevensonschool.org)