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 each individual student is challenged and engaged and can play an active role in shaping his/her education. At Beaver, every student is well known and appreciated for his/her unique passions and abilities. Our x-block and office hours period also offer opportunities for individual check-ins and support throughout the week.
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 find the experience of taking one course two out of three terms a year. 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. Courses are planned with built-in review time, and teachers are available to work with any students to make sure they feel comfortable and well prepared for the transition following a gap term.
How does our schedule work?
Each course meets a total of five times a week: one long-block meeting (125 minutes), three regular (1 hour) meetings and one x-block period, which is a flexible fifth meeting time focusing on feedback and extra help. 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.
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 assessed and graded?
Teachers use a variety of differentiated assessments, from tests and papers to performance-based assessments such as inquiry-based projects and debates. Upper school students receive letter grades and narrative comments at the end of each of the three terms and have access to online feedback and grades throughout the term through our PowerSchool platform. Parent-teacher conferences and parent-student-advisor meetings are also part of our school practice.
How much homework can students expect?
Time spent on homework varies by student and course load. Upper school students who manage their time well in school usually have up to two hours of work at home. Our schedule offers opportunities for students to complete some of their homework and to connect with their teachers for feedback during the day. We believe that balance is important to healthy adolescent development and that quality, not quantity of homework, should 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 once or twice a week, and advisors and students may schedule additional one-on-one meetings anytime. The advisor guides the student’s academic and co-curricular development and is the first point of contact for teachers and parents.
How are students sectioned – are there honors classes?
Students are carefully considered by the faculty in each discipline. They are grouped by ability and achievement in mathematics and science to attend either honors or standard courses. 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.
Are electives available?
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 art elective for ten 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 studies 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, the Syrian Civil War, and the politics of environmental justice.
What are the graduation requirements?
In most cases, two-term courses count as ten credit units, and one-term courses and independent studies count as five credit units. Students must take English all four years and are required to complete at least 225 credit units in grades 9 through 12 to graduate.
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 (Seniors playing on a spring team or participating in the spring musical still attend all practices and rehearsals). In January seniors submit a detailed proposal describing their interests and goals, and a schedule detailing what they will be doing throughout the internship. 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 that give students the opportunity to delve deeper into a particular passion of theirs. All seniors come to school for a regular check-in and progress update with their senior internship advisor.
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 to facilitate appropriate support. In addition, academic support is offered for students who wish help with writing assignments, math, and basic organization and time management.
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 two 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.
Are there school assemblies?
Yes, students gather for Upper School Meeting weekly and an All-School meeting occasionally. We also have grade meetings run by Student Council representatives and the Grade Team Leaders. Our meetings provide time for student presentations and performances, guest speakers, and community building.
What opportunities are there for parents to meet teachers?
There are many ways parents can connect with teachers and advisors, starting by attending the parent-advisor conference a few days before the start of school. Open Studio Night (our version of a “Back to School Night”) in September is a good way to connect with teachers and experience our curriculum. 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 recap the year’s progress. Teachers are readily available by e-mail and by appointment if needed.
What is the afternoon program?
The afternoon program takes place daily after the end of classes and typically runs from 3:40 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. It encompasses team sports, performing arts, visual arts, robotics, and other activities such as spinning, adventure series, strength and conditioning, and core strength. Ninth and tenth graders are required to participate in the afternoon program all three terms. Eleventh and twelfth graders are required to participate in the afternoon program two out of three terms. If a student is committed to an activity off campus, families may request a waiver.
What are the Upper School's hours?
Upper School classes begin at 8:00 a.m. every day except Monday. On Monday, classes begin at 9:05 a.m. to allow for faculty meetings beforehand. Students may arrive as early as 7 a.m. every day and eat breakfast and study in the Dining Room. Classes end at 3:25 p.m. every day. Most students will be involved in the afternoon program until approximately 5:30 p.m. If a student has an away sports game or a late drama rehearsal, they may not be able to leave until later in the evening.
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-related activity at least one term each year. Most students exceed the requirement. Please see the Athletics section of our website for more information on our sports program.
What is the Hiatt Center?
In 2005, the family of Beaver alumna Anne Hiatt ’47 made a generous donation to Beaver Country Day School to create The Hiatt Center. The Hiatt Center is fully integrated within Beaver’s educational strategy. The Center’s program areas of leadership, civic engagement, and social justice intersect with the school’s emphasis on technology, coding, creativity, entrepreneurship, and race and equity work. Every student has the opportunity to experience the programming in the classroom and beyond. Teachers partner with and consult with Hiatt Center staff to enrich their curriculum with leadership, civic engagement, and social justice examples.
The Center’s overall approach to civic engagement focuses on quality, not quantity. Success is measured in terms of the transformation of the student and the community rather than hours served. Community partnerships are mutually beneficial, long-term, multi-faceted, connected to curriculum, and an extension of the school’s values. This approach moves Beaver from a mindset of traditional service to a mindset of strengths-based community empowerment.
Read more and see examples of the work on Beaver’s website and the Hiatt Tumblr.
What does Civic Engagement look like at Beaver?
The Hiatt Center’s overall approach to civic engagement focuses on quality, not quantity. Success is measured in terms of the transformation of the student and the community rather than hours served. Community partnerships are mutually beneficial, long-term, multi-faceted, connected to curriculum, and an extension of the school’s values. This approach moves Beaver from a mindset of traditional service to a mindset of strengths-based community empowerment.
Read more about civic engagement at Beaver here.
What are affinity groups at Beaver?
To support all students in the Upper School and build an inclusive community, Beaver hosts gatherings of different affinity groups throughout the year. These voluntary meetings provide students with a safe place to explore identity, discuss and share current events, and encourage and challenge one another. For those who attend, gathering with a group of students who share an important part of their identity while engaging in thought-provoking activities helps frame their experiences at Beaver and the outside community. This cultivates confidence, a sense of belonging, and often translates to engaging in other aspects of school life: academics, sports, the arts, civic engagement, and clubs. These meetings are facilitated by faculty and often led by seniors.
We have affinity groups for Asian Pacific Americans, Latina/o/Hispanic, African American/Black/Afro-Caribbean, White Students Challenging Racism, Biracial/Multiracial, LGBTQ students, Adopted Students, and a Gay Straight Student Alliance (GSA).
What other programming opportunities are there for students?
On Fridays, we have time allotted for additional programming. During this time, we provide a rotating set of programs that students can opt into. 9th graders often participate in Freshmen Session during this time, which brings the grade together throughout the year for community building activities and intentional workaround self-advocacy and health/wellness. The Hiatt Center runs workshops designed to deepen students’ understanding of leadership, civic engagement, and social justice issues. Affinity groups, the Students of Color Group, the White Students Challenging Racism group, and girlCODE also rotate through our programming time. We add additional types of programming to support events or needs.
Does Beaver have a student newspaper?
Yes. Students write and edit an online newspaper called The Beaver Reader.
What clubs are offered?
Clubs are designed and led by students. Clubs meet weekly during “club block.” They can run for the entire school year or by term. Students have the opportunity to apply for the creation of a new Club at the beginning of each term. Likewise, students may choose to stay in one Club for the entire year or switch into different Clubs for fall, winter, and spring terms. A signup form is sent to students at the beginning of each term.
The following is a representative list of the clubs and student associations at Beaver in recent years:
- 3D Modeling and Casting Club
- Art Club
- Art for Awareness
- Acoustic Coffee House Club
- Badminton Club
- Beaver Film Festival
- Beaver Gives Back
- Beaver Outing and Environmental Club
- Business Club
- Chess Club
- Del Sol (Multicultural Dialogue)
- GSA (Gay Straight Alliance)
- The Heliconian (Literary Magazine)
- Jewish Culture Club
- Math Club
- Microfinance and Global Philanthropy
- Model United Nations
- Science + Engineering
- Sports Debate
- Taste of Culture
- Women and Gender Issues
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 the tuition. The lunch menu includes a hot lunch (with a vegetarian option and a soup), a salad bar, cold cuts, sun 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).