Answers to the most commonly asked questions about Beaver Upper School are answered here.

How much individual attention do students get?

Beyond our low student-to-teacher ratio, our teaching style provides “differentiated” instruction so that each individual student is challenged and engaged and can play an active role in shaping his/her education. At Beaver every student is known well and appreciated for his/her unique passions and abilities.

How does the trimester system work?

Students take their six major courses (English, history, language, math, science, and arts) for two of the three terms. Thus, a typical student would take four major courses each term. Many classes are offered as one-term courses.

Prospective families often ask how students deal with taking a course two out of three terms a year, potentially having a “gap” winter term if they start a course in the fall term and resume it in the spring. First, some courses will be scheduled with two concurrent terms (fall-winter or winter-spring). Our pedagogy intentionally focuses on in-depth learning and skill mastery over rote memorization and cramming for exams, so that students will retain and keep applying what they’ve learned long after the course ends. That said, teachers are readily available to work with any students who need extra help or review to get back up to speed following a gap term.

What are long block classes?

Every course meets in a long-block period one time a week (2 hours with a short break mid-way). The long-block allows more time for in-depth discussions, in-class projects and presentations, the use of multiple teaching strategies, guest speakers, and field trips. Each course meets a total of four or five times a week: one long-block meeting, three regular (1 hour) meetings and a flexible fifth meeting (X Block, last period) that can be used for extra help or group work.

X-block is an integral part of our effort to provide feedback and support to all students. Checking in with teachers, collaborating with peers on projects, and working independently or as a whole class are all important aspects of our x-block period. Students are encouraged to delve deeper into and be creative with the material, to seek feedback from teachers and peers, to inquire about their progress, and to work and reflect upon their learning process.

How are students sectioned - are there honors classes?

Students are carefully considered by the faculty in each discipline and grouped by ability and achievement in mathematics and science courses, and are placed in either honors or standard sections. Regardless of the section, all courses are college preparatory. Students are heterogeneously grouped in arts, history, English, Modern Language, and in some science courses. However, in English, history, and Modern Language students may opt to take a course for honors credit. In addition, we offer Honors Advanced electives in math and science to juniors and seniors.

Read a detailed explanation of our honors placement policy.

What does Beaver offer in place of AP courses?

For students seeking the highest level of challenge, Beaver offers intensive honors or advanced classes in all disciplines. We offer Honors Advanced courses in science and math as well as honors sections of all required math and science courses. The Honors Advanced courses explore a topic (such as organic chemistry or calculus) in greater depth than a typical AP course. Our courses ask students to construct innovative solutions to complex real-world problems. We also offer upper level elective courses in all disciplines that are college-level in their approach and expectations. Our school profile clearly indicates to college admission offices that students in our advanced and honors courses have taken the most demanding course load offered (colleges won’t penalize these students for not having taken “APs”).

When can US students begin to take electives?

Once they have completed their required courses, students begin to take electives, normally in their junior or senior year. Forty-five units of electives are required to graduate. For example, a junior might take a two-term arts elective for 10 credits, while a senior might take electives in history, math, language, and science.

Can students pursue independent studies?

Yes. All academic departments at Beaver offer the option of independent study for academic credit to students who wish to pursue a topic that lies outside of or beyond the existing curriculum. Independent study may not supplant or replace an existing course offering. Students, typically juniors and seniors, may submit a proposal to work closely with a faculty advisor, subject to approval by the administration. Topics of recent independent studies include: linear algebra, virology, comparative philosophy, Web programming, renewable energy, life drawing, and Civil War history.

What are the graduation requirements?

The minimum diploma academic requirements are:

  • English: 40 units
  • History: 30 units
  • Mathematics: 30 units
  • Science: 30 units (20 required in laboratory science)
  • Modern Language: 30 units (in a single language, in the Upper School)
  • Arts: 20 units
  • Other required and elective courses: 45 units

In most cases, two-term courses count as 10 credit units and one-term courses count as 5 credit units. Students must take English all four years and are required to complete at least 225 credit units in grades 9 through 12 in order to graduate.

Seniors are required to complete 55 credit units during their senior year, passing a minimum of 15 credits per term in graded courses (i.e., courses not taken on a PASS/NO PASS basis). The college counseling office recommends that all seniors take 20 credits per term.

In addition, students are required to participate in and successfully complete the required community service (40 hrs.), and afternoon program requirements.

How are students assessed and graded?

Upper school students receive letter grades and narrative comments at the end of each of the three terms. Progress reports are shared with parents in October (midterm report), November (end of Term I), January (mid-term) March (end of Term II), April ( mid-term), and June (end of Term III and year).

Is there an Honor Roll?

Yes. Upper school students may qualify for the Honor Roll or High Honor Roll based on all their final grades for the entire year. Honor Roll is a B+ average with no grade lower than a B. High Honor Roll is an A- average with no grade lower than a B+.

What is the Cum Laude Society and how are students selected for it?

Cum Laude Society is an international honor society that recognizes outstanding academic scholarship and personal character. Membership is limited to no more than 20% of the graduating class. Each year the faculty members of the Beaver chapter evaluate candidates on the basis of their academic records, as well as their intellectual motivation, character, and integrity. The inductees are announced at the Cum Laude assembly in spring of their senior year.

Is there a senior project/internship opportunity?

Yes. In May (the last 4-5 weeks of school), seniors are required to participate in a senior internship for at least 30 hours a week in lieu of attending classes. (Seniors playing on a spring team or participating in the spring musical must still attend all practices and rehearsals) In January seniors submit a detailed proposal describing their goals and how they will spend their time. We have developed a network of alumni, friends and parents who serve as project mentors. Most students participate in internships during this time. A select few create self-designed projects. All seniors must come to school for a regular check-in and progress update with their senior internship advisor..

How much homework can students expect?

Time spent on homework varies by student and course load. Upper school students who manage their free time well in school usually have up to two hours of work at home. Ninth graders may complete some of their homework during one of their four required study hall periods a week. We believe that balance is important to healthy adolescent development, and that the quantity of homework should not be used as a measure of intellectual challenge.

How does the advisory system work?

Students are assigned a faculty advisor in ninth grade, and the 6-9 students in that advisory group stay together all four years. Students attend group advisor meetings twice a week, and advisors and students may schedule additional one-on-one meetings at anytime. The advisor guides the student’s academic and co-curricular development and is the first point of contact for other teachers and parents if a student shows signs of struggling either academically or socially.

What opportunities are there for parents to meet teachers?

There are many ways that parents can connect with teachers and advisors, starting by attending the parent-advisor conference a few days before the start of school. “Back to School Night” (we call Open Studio) in early October is a good way to get an overview of the curriculum and to hear presentations by teachers and department heads. At Parent-Teacher Conferences in late October and January, parents have an opportunity to meet individually with the students’ teachers. In the Spring, parents, students and advisors meet to discuss classes for the following year and re-cap the year’s progress. If a student is struggling, there are opportunities for parents to meet more frequently with teachers and/or advisors. Teachers are readily available by e-mail and by appointment, if needed.

What are the Upper School’s hours?

Upper School classes begin at 8:00 a.m. everyday except Monday. On Monday, classes begin at 9:05 a.m. to allow for faculty meetings beforehand. Students may arrive as early as 7:15 a.m. every day and eat breakfast and study quietly in the Dining Room. Classes end at 3:25 p.m. every day. Most students will be involved in the required afternoon program until approximately 5:30 p.m. every day. If a student has an away sports game or a late drama rehearsal, he/she may not be able to leave until later in the evening.

What is the afternoon program?

The afternoon program takes place daily after the end of classes and runs from 3:40 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. It encompasses team sports and other activities, such as visual and performing arts, yoga/pilates, fitness/weight training, and robotics team. Ninth and tenth graders are required to participate in the afternoon program all three terms (at least one of which must be a fitness activity). Eleventh and twelfth graders are required to participate in the afternoon program two out of three terms (at least one of which must be a fitness activity).

What is the athletic requirement?

Ninth and tenth graders must participate in a fitness-related afternoon activity at least one term each year. Eleventh and twelfth graders must participate in a fitness activity at least one term each year. Most students exceed the requirement. Please see the Athletics section for more information on our sports program.

Is there a community service requirement?

Yes. All students must complete at least 40 hours of documented service to graduate. Many students far exceed the requirement. The requirement may be fulfilled by devoting at least one term to an independent community service project as an afternoon activity, participating in a school-sponsored service trip, or through volunteer work outside of school. Our Hiatt Center can help identify opportunities for Beaver students to volunteer in the community.

Does Beaver have a student newspaper?

Yes. Students write and edit an online newspaper called The Beaver Reader.

What clubs are offered?

Student clubs form at Beaver as a result of student interest and initiative. Clubs meet weekly during “club block.” Most of the clubs have been sustained over many years, while a few vary year-to-year based on student interest. Anyone wanting to start a club must submit a club proposal and find a faculty advisor. It is the job of the student leader of the club, however, to organize and plan meetings and activities with the support of a faculty advisor. At the beginning of the year, students learn about clubs and a sign-up period takes place.

The following is a representative list of the clubs and student associations at Beaver in recent years:

  • Asian Culture
  • Cheering, Dancing, and Stepping
  • Claymation
  • Dance
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Environmental
  • Future Farmers of America
  • Gay Straight Alliance
  • Heliconian
  • Hip-Hop
  • Jewish Culture
  • Mock Trial
  • Model United Nations
  • Online Art Gallery
  • Science and Engineering
  • Sketch Comedy Club
  • Social Action
  • Speech
  • Spirit
  • Yearbook

Are there school assemblies?

Yes, the upper school gathers for an Upper School assembly called “Upper School Meeting” one day a week, an all-school assembly on a rotating basis (5-6 times a term). We also have grade meetings on assigned days (5-7 times a term). These assemblies provide time for guest speakers or performers, student presentations and announcements.

When do students eat lunch?

Upper School students are assigned a lunch period between 12:10 p.m.and 1:15 p.m. Lunch is covered in your tuition. The lunch menu includes a hot lunch (with a vegetarian option and a soup), a salad bar, cold cuts, peanut butter, and bread for sandwiches, and fresh fruit. Breakfast (cereal, toast, yogurt and bagels) is offered before classes begin (starting at 7:15 a.m. daily). There are several vending machines with healthful snacks such as energy bars, sports drinks, and bottled water (no soft drinks or candy bars).

What resources are available for students who need extra support?

Extra help is available before school and after school, during X-blocks, or in free periods during school hours. For a student requiring more assistance than a teacher’s schedule can allow, sessions with a tutor, usually from outside the school community, sometimes can be arranged during the school day. Although the charge for such services is arranged between the tutor and the family, a request for tutoring should go to academic support services who can facilitate appropriate support. In addition, the Enrichment Center is open daily on a drop-in basis or by appointment for students who wish help with writing assignments, math, and basic organization and time management. The “Bibliotech” staff are available to help students with research questions.

Students with diagnosed learning disabilities may qualify for extra time on their tests and examinations. In order to take advantage of our test accommodations, students must have a learning disability diagnosed by an accredited professional, and this document must be on file with us. To ensure validity and relevance, we recommend that this evaluation be updated every three years. Families should be in touch with our Director of Academic Support Services regarding accommodations for students with diagnosed learning disabilities

What counseling services are offered?

Beaver has 2 school counselors who are available to meet with students to discuss more sensitive personal issues and to offer support and counsel. The counseling department functions within a preventative and wellness model. Its primary role is to serve and support students, families, and faculty and to help create an environment that allows students to be successful in school.