Day and Boarding; Grades 6-12



Course Catalog 2019–20

To see course offerings by department, please use the department links in the lower left column.


The academic program in the Upper School is designed to prepare students for college and offers students in grades 9 through 12 a traditional curriculum in all major academic subjects. Students who demonstrate academic excellence are encouraged to pursue Honors and Advanced Placement courses, which are available in all academic disciplines.

Students at Pennington are expected to take six academic classes: five core subjects and one elective. With permission from the Dean of Academic Affairs and a proven record of academic achievement, students may take more than six classes. Students in the Upper School receive two to three hours of homework each day. We ask students to make purposeful progress not only toward a common set of graduation requirements but also toward a higher level of personal excellence in all areas.


In every academic term students at The Pennington School are permitted to take one study hall period. One (1) credit represents a year’s successful study in one subject. In order to graduate, a student must accumulate a minimum of 20 credits. Students in grades 9 through 11 are not permitted to have more than one study hall. With permission of the Dean of Academic Affairs, students in Grade 12 may request an additional study hall, provided that all graduation and college entrance requirements are satisfied.

Required credits are distributed among the following disciplines:

English, 4 credits
History and Social Studies, 3 credits (including United States History)
Science, 3 credits (including Biology and Chemistry)
Mathematics, 3 credits (including Algebra II)
World Languages, 2 credits (in the same language)
Religion, 1 credit (including Religion in America)
Arts, 1 credit
Health, .5 credit (Health and Wellness)
Technology, .5 credit
Public Speaking, .25 credit

Typical Course of Study


Welcome to Pennington’s Upper School! As you begin your high school years at The Pennington School, you will be faced with a series of challenges and opportunities, all of which are intended to help you develop a well-rounded, high-quality education in preparation for college study. In the first two years of your time at Pennington, you can gain an excellent understanding of the world and yourself.

The freshman year will provide you with a course of study that looks at the world through a variety of academic departments. This multifaceted approach allows you to understand various aspects of the human experience, giving you a “big picture” understanding of the world, with plenty of supporting ideas. Your freshman year will include a foundation-level arts course of your choosing and a required technology course.

General Course of Study*

Introduction to Literary Forms and Critical Writing
World History
Algebra I or Geometry
Language (French, German, Latin, or Spanish)
Arts (foundation-level)
Solving Problems with Technology or Introduction to Programming
Elective or Study Hall
Participation in Peer Leadership

*Select students may advance to an Honors level, or proceed to the next course in sequence, if approved by the Dean of Academic Affairs.


In your sophomore year at The Pennington School, most of your studies will focus on the United States and western culture. English and history classes will cover similar topics and themes. You will learn about major American religious traditions in “Religion in America.” Your science classes will explain important principles of matter and energy as you consider technological and environmental issues facing our society. You will also learn to participate in a longstanding formal western tradition: public speaking. Finally, as you approach the midway point of your Upper School years, you will study health issues that affect your personal wellness and decision-making.

General Course of Study*

American Identities
United States History
Chemistry or Physical Science
Geometry or Algebra II
Language (continuation of study)
Religion in America
Health and Wellness
Public Speaking
Elective or Study Hall

*Select students may advance to an Honors level, or proceed to the next course in sequence, if approved by the Dean of Academic Affairs.


In your junior year at The Pennington School, you enter your most significant proving ground. Although you may have worked through some times of adjustment in freshman and sophomore years, this year provides you with an opportunity to show your academic maturity. As a junior, you may choose from a wider array of course offerings than in previous years. As you work hard to learn all that you can in preparation for your senior year, you will also keep an eye on those graduation requirements, which will support a well-rounded education.

General Course of Study*

Perspectives in World Literature
History and Social Studies
Physics, Environmental Science, or Chemistry Concepts
Algebra II or Precalculus
Language (continuation of study)
Elective or Study Hall
College Guidance Seminar

*Select students may advance to an Honors/AP level, or proceed to the next course in sequence, if approved by the Dean of Academic Affairs.

Senior Year

In your senior year at The Pennington School, your earliest thoughts will undoubtedly involve the college search. Your first-semester performance will be your last opportunity to present your academic record to college admission officers, who will expect you to maintain your level of academic rigor and success throughout the rest of the year. It is important at this time to keep a steady eye on your work and maintain a determination to finish well. Your academic successes at Pennington will serve you well in college, as will the lessons you have learned in study habits, time management, and personal expression. The culmination of your Pennington experience begins in May, when all seniors participate in the Horizon Program.

General Course of Study*

English Electives
History and Social Studies
Precalculus, Statistics, or Calculus
Language (continuation of study or Chinese I)
Any Remaining Graduation Requirements
Two Electives or Study Hall

*In many courses, select students may advance to an Honors/AP level, or proceed to the next course in sequence, if approved by the Dean of Academic Affairs.


Students in grades 9, 10, and 11 meet with their parents and advisor for an Advisory Conference each spring. During this conference, the Upper School Course Catalog is reviewed, and the advisor takes initial requests for courses. These requests may be adjusted at any time before May 1. Parents may submit changes through their child’s advisor.

To guide this process, this Course Catalog should be used as a reference providing graduation requirements for each academic department, course descriptions, and prerequisites and co-requisites for many courses. All course placements are subject to the approval of The Pennington School and availability of the course in the daily schedule. Final course offerings may be modified based on student interest and faculty availability. A student schedule for the full school year will be sent home over the summer.

Through the study of a variety of disciplines and the careful guidance of instructors, each student learns skills essential to success in college. The full program of study for each student is prepared in consultation with the advisor, Class Dean, department chairs, Dean of Academic Affairs, and, in the later years, the college counselors.

While Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses are often requested to enhance the apparent rigor of a transcript, the School will determine whether placement in such challenging courses is appropriate. In addition to grades from previous years, work ethic, expressive skills, academic habits, placement tests, standardized test scores, and demonstrated commitment to learning guide the School in making course-placement decisions. Student accounts will be billed in September for the $95 AP exam fee charged by the College Board for each AP course taken each year.