The Upper School represents the final stage in a program that develops a student’s confidence in herself and in her growing skills in a range of disciplines. The focus of the Upper School years is a rich and vigorous academic, athletic and artistic curriculum, centered in a strong community that supports students in their selfdiscovery and produces resourceful young women who are prepared to find their places in the world outside of Brearley.
As they learn to make academic choices, students may take advantage of conversations with a wide range of adults who help them assess their interests and talents and encourage them to take appropriate risks. The curriculum of the Upper School provides many choices, both in subject area and among elective topics, within each discipline. Although most students in Classes XI and XII take five courses, some girls, especially those with heavy extracurricular commitments, choose to take four. All students fulfill basic requirements:
1. English through Class XII.
2. Mathematics through Class XI.
3. Biology plus two additional years of science, one of which must be a full laboratory course.
4. Four-credit sequence in one foreign language or three credits in one language plus two credits in a second language. (A language begun in the Middle School receives two points of credit if continued through the end of Class IX.)
5. Twentieth-Century World History, US History and one history elective with a research component.
6. Studio Art, Drama or Music in Classes IX and X. There is no prerequisite in either year.
7. Physical Education through Class XII; Health in Class IX, including CPR/First Aid.
8. Community Service in Classes IX–XI and Junior and Senior Seminars.
Students have many opportunities to pursue their interests beyond the curriculum. The School offers arts activities—photography, sculpture, ceramics, dramatic productions, orchestra and chorus, for example—in addition to the regular courses. Students in the Upper School may be admitted to the Columbia Science Honors Program or to Brearley’s Science Research Seminar; they may also participate in math, robotics and engineering clubs or join Interschool advanced math courses as juniors or seniors. Seniors who have exhausted the offerings in a particular discipline are eligible to apply for an independent study program. Acceptance depends on a student’s capacity for extended work on her own, the availability of an appropriate teacher and the nature of the proposed study. In the spring of senior year, most students petition to create their own program, which may include dropping some academic courses to sample new topics in minicourses taught by faculty or to concentrate on one particular subject through individual independent study. A student may also pursue an extracurricular project or internship that worthily replaces some or all of her academic work.
Each year, a few members of Class XI spend a semester in New England, either in the Mountain School program of Milton Academy in Vershire, Vermont, or in the Maine Coast program of the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset, Maine. Juniors may also study in France, Spain, Italy, China or Vietnam under the auspices of School Year Abroad. Selected students in Class IX may have the opportunity to take part in an exchange program that Brearley maintains with the Godolphin and Latymer School in London. Students entering Classes X, XI and XII may apply to join a June travel/study program in either, India, Vermont or China.
In the Upper School, students assume increased responsibility for themselves and others. Heads of student organizations participate in leadership training sessions and learn to encourage the younger students who will eventually succeed them. Students learn to lead in other arenas as well—as athletic team captains or stage managers of the drama productions, for example. The major school publications are run by members of Classes XI and XII and are staffed by members of all the classes.
Head of Upper School Student Life