Curriculum

We believe that our curriculum should help students develop intellectual abilities and interests, social awareness, personal competencies, and a code of ethics. Hence, students explore courses in a variety of areas. The sequence of course requirements provides a balance between gaining a solid knowledge and learning foundation, exploring a wide range of inter-connected subjects, and obtaining needed skills for success in high school, college, and careers. The curriculum is designed to provide students with a wide range of opportunities and experiences, expanding their neurological capacity for life.

Explore our East Campus Curriculum

Departmental Information

Computer Science

The goal of the Computer Science Department is threefold. First, we strive to develop students’ problem solving skills through project-oriented courses that are designed to teach creative and methodological approaches to solving both quantitative and non-quantitative questions. Second, we aspire to increase students’ awareness of and facility in using computer applications that allow imaginative and productive self-expression. Third, we work with students to assist them in building and integrating these new tools and skills into their academic lives, while also discussing issues that accompany technology. Addressing the requirement for strong technology skills in today's society, we assist our students in becoming active, confident, and thoughtful users of technology, who can use both creativity and logic. Our ultimate goal is to teach students the thought processes, critical thinking, and technology skills that will help them at Brentwood School and beyond.

A course in Computer Science is strongly recommended in the Upper School. Students are encouraged to take a Computer Science course during their 9th or 10th Grade year for maximum benefit; however, students may take Computer Science courses at any time from 9th through 12th grade. Two Advanced Placement courses (AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles) are available.

Joon Kim

Joon Kim

Computer Science Chair, Upper School

English

The central focus of our English curriculum is to heighten students' command of and sensitivity to language and literature. In pursuit of this goal, students are encouraged to expand their awareness of, respect for, and originality in language, both written and spoken, through a systematic study of vocabulary, grammar and syntax, works of literature, composition, literary analysis, and criticism. The English faculty members encourage students to meet with them to discuss writing and reading assignments and to explore ideas beyond the classroom. The English Department feels that we must, as E.M. Forster encourages, "only connect"; thus, we hope to stress connections between form and content, themes and historical context, and the literature and the lives of individual students.

Four years of English are required for graduation from the Upper School. Honors and Advanced Placement courses are available; eligibility is determined by grade prerequisites and department recommendation.

  • Students with a straight A and teacher approval may be eligible for Honors or AP from a regular English course.
  • Any student who is not recommended for Honors or AP may appeal, regardless of his or her current grade in the course. The department will review appeals as a team.
  • Students with an A, A-, or B+ and teacher approval in Honors or AP may be eligible for AP or Honors in the next grade level. Otherwise, students must appeal.
Jessica Chaintreuil

Jessica Chaintreuil

Dean, Class of 2022; English, Upper School
David Foote

David Foote

Dean of Students; English, Upper School
Lesley Gouger

Lesley Gouger

English, Upper School
Amara Graf

Amara Graf

English, Upper School
Timothy Haehn

Timothy Haehn

English, Upper School
Susan Katz

Susan Katz

English, Upper School
Claire Mittleman

Claire Mittleman

English Chair, Upper School
Judith Beerman O'Hanlon

Judith Beerman O'Hanlon

English, Upper School
Deborah Stokol

Deborah Stokol

English, Upper School
Catherine Zusky

Catherine Zusky

Director of Student Life and Service Learning, Upper School, Dean, Class of 2019;

Language

The goal of the foreign language curriculum is to develop our students' proficiency in the four major areas of language acquisition: listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing within the cultural context of the target language.

It is our view that acquiring second language skills involves learning not only a set of grammatical rules and syntactical structures, but also developing the ability to communicate effectively and comfortably with people from other cultures and traditions. We emphasize in our classes that language and culture are inseparable and include literature, fine arts, media, history, geography, customs, and different worldviews. By stressing the development of linguistic skill within a cultural context, we develop our students’ awareness of cultural diversity while engaging them in dialogue and active communication. In order to encourage colloquial pronunciation, everyday vocabulary and conversational style, we offer authentic written and spoken material and require that all modern language classes (French, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish) be conducted in the target language to the fullest extent possible.

To graduate from Brentwood School, students must take three levels of the same foreign language. Beyond the three level requirement, they have the option to continue studying their language of choice through the Advanced Placement level (with approval of instructor), to learn another language altogether, or to study two languages concurrently.

DEPARTMENTAL POLICIES

Because foreign language study is a cumulative process, we require that students earn a minimum grade of C- in order to advance from levels I, II, and III on the regular track. To proceed from level III to V on the regular track, students must earn a grade of B, along with the instructor's approval. Due to the greater rigor and higher expectations of honors and A.P. level courses, only the most proficient and serious students will be accepted. They must earn a minimum of A- in level II and have the recommendation from their instructor and departmental approval in order to be considered for the honors track.

Placement examinations must be taken at the beginning of the academic year by students who have begun their foreign language study outside of Brentwood School. Such examinations are reviewed by the teacher of the course in which the student desires to be placed and by the department chairperson. A determination of appropriate placement is made after this review is completed.

Credit for foreign language course work completed outside Brentwood School (through summer or other work) may be given only upon special, advanced petitioning, review by the department chairperson, and a satisfactory grade on a placement examination completed at the end of the course work.

Enrollment in honors and AP level courses is contingent upon departmental approval.

Credit for independent study may be given to students who have completed their foreign language requirement and do not find a course that meets their needs in the foreign language curriculum. Such independent study is set in a contract approved and signed by the Upper School Director, the department chairperson, and the instructor who directs the study.

Students whose learning differences significantly impede their ability to learn a second language will be exempt from taking level III of their chosen foreign language contingent upon: a) documented proof of the student’s difficulties throughout levels I and II of the language, b) recommendation by a certified educational psychologist (approved by the school), c) review by the in-house educational psychologist, foreign languages department chairperson, and final approval by the Upper School Director.

Nicole Bali

Nicole Bali

Latin, Upper School
Lynn Gelfand

Lynn Gelfand

Foreign Language Chair; French, Upper School
Asako Kurosaka

Asako Kurosaka

American Sign Language & Newspaper, Upper School
Helen Li

Helen Li

Mandarin Chinese, Upper School
Christina Makdisi

Christina Makdisi

French, Upper School
Judith Beerman O'Hanlon

Judith Beerman O'Hanlon

English, Upper School
Edgardo Palomino

Edgardo Palomino

Spanish, Upper School
Harold Pleitez-Guerra

Harold Pleitez-Guerra

Spanish, Upper School
Marc Schuhl

Marc Schuhl

History, Upper School
Militza Urdaneta

Militza Urdaneta

Spanish, Upper School
Tana Waldren

Tana Waldren

Spanish, Upper School

History

The mission of the history department is to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for engaging in our modern world. Each course is designed to excite students' curiosity through rich materials, thought-provoking discussions and experiential activities while covering the key political, cultural, social, and economic forces of the period. Examining complex historical patterns and considering the multiple viewpoints of past events will help students better understand the rapid changes and increased globalization of the decades to come. Coursework emphasizes the critical analysis of both primary and secondary sources as well as the development of carefully structured arguments for analytical writing. In coordination with the library program, students will also practice responsible research techniques using both electronic and traditional resources.

Six semesters of history are required for graduation and must include:

  • 9th Grade - World History I: Ancient and Medieval
  • 10th Grade - World History II: Modern (regular or honors)
  • 11th Grade - U.S. History (regular or AP; also offered during the summer session)

A student's eligibility to take an honors or AP-level course is contingent on meeting the minimum grade requirement along with a teacher recommendation. Any student who does not meet the grade requirements for honors/AP may appeal, regardless of her or his current grade in the course. The department will review appeals as a team. Due to the condensed format of the class, eligibility for students who completed summer U.S. History will be based on semester grades in their previous yearlong history course when they were balancing a full course load. AP level courses and electives are open to 11th and 12th graders only unless special permission is given by the department.

Semester-long electives are offered every 1-2 years depending on enrollment.

Andrea Drobnick

Andrea Drobnick

Dean, Class of 2021; History, Upper School
Elissa Isenberg

Elissa Isenberg

History, Upper School
Hank Koransky

Hank Koransky

History, Upper School
Katherine McKellar

Katherine McKellar

History Chair, Upper School
Robert Michelson

Robert Michelson

History & Economics, Upper School

Coree Newman

History, Upper School
Andrew Park

Andrew Park

History & Service Learning Liaison, Upper School
Marc Schuhl

Marc Schuhl

History, Upper School
Hasani Sinclair

Hasani Sinclair

History, Upper School

Mathematics

The mission of the mathematics department is to instill in our students an appreciation for the beauty and value of mathematics and to provide them with the tools necessary for independent critical thinking and reasoning. We address the diverse interests of our student population by offering foundational mathematics for students pursuing careers in business, social and life sciences, and advanced courses for careers in mathematics, engineering, and physical sciences. We will meet this mission by: contextualizing the topics of mathematics as they relate to the world around us, teaching students to look at their surroundings mathematically by using real-world models, and developing our students’ cognitive skills by challenging them to justify their conclusions and encouraging them to work outside their comfort zones.

9th Grade mathematics provides an introduction to Euclidean geometry. For perhaps the first time, students develop a self-contained system of theorems and results, all built upon a few fundamental axioms and postulates. The concept of proof and the art of mathematical writing are also presented more than in previous courses.

10th Grade students continue their study of algebra at a more advanced level, and their algebraic skills are reviewed and refined during this year.

Though two years of algebra and one year of geometry fulfill the school's minimum requirement for a diploma, Brentwood School students most often pursue mathematics beyond this point.

11th Grade students study mathematics courses that cover Precalculus; these courses return again to more algebraic topics and prepare our students for the Math SAT IIC. A comprehensive coverage of topics provides solid preparation for college-level coursework in AP Calculus or AP Statistics. These topics include analytic geometry, sequence and series, functions, polynomials, trigonometry, and exponents and logarithms.

12th Grade students cover, according to their ability and background, either the AB or BC Advanced Placement Calculus syllabus. This is our culminating course and its foundation consists of all the algebraic, trigonometric, and geometric skills that students have learned in their previous courses. Both groups study derivatives and integrals of algebraic and transcendental functions. Derivative applications include tangents and normals, curve sketching, and related rate and max/min word problems, while area under and between curves and volumes of revolution are studied as applications of integrals. The BC group studies advanced integration techniques, differential equations, and sequence and series as well. A select few students that started Algebra AB in 7th Grade can continue on to Multivariable calculus as seniors. AP Statistics is offered as an alternative to (for some students an addition to) a course in Calculus. In this course, students explore data and interpret patterns (and departures from patterns) by observing graphical displays of distributions. They plan a study, decide what and how to measure, use random sampling, and determine the error inherent in their survey. They also anticipate patterns and produce models using probability and simulation, and then use statistical inference to confirm the models that they produce.

View the Math Sequence.

Billy Kaplan

Billy Kaplan

Dean, Class of 2022; Mathematics, Upper School
John Lynch

John Lynch

Mathematics, Upper School
Jessica Mirch

Jessica Mirch

Mathematics, Upper School
Amy Page

Amy Page

Mathematics, Upper School
Fred Rible

Fred Rible

Dean, Class of 2020; Mathematics, Upper School, Dean, Class of 2020; Mathematics, Upper School
David Svec

David Svec

Mathematics Chair, Upper School
Michael Workman

Michael Workman

Mathematics, Upper School

Performing Arts

The Department of Performing Arts has created its curriculum to support the idea that the joy of performing comes from disciplined practice, mastery of technique, ensemble collaboration, and repetition. The paradox of performance is that creative expression and freedom emerge not from just expressing one's self, but from skills-based training. The more skills one develops, the more vocabulary the performer has with which to create original work. Therefore, two-thirds of classroom activity in each division is devoted to learning skills and the discipline of rehearsal and practice. Instruction in theory and history are woven into the practical work in the classroom. Historical figures in Dance are studied as specific techniques are taught. Music theory is taught in the context of learning to sight-read music. Shakespeare and Moliere are taught in the context of preparing scenes from classical works of theater. But the emphasis remains on the doing, the development of very particular skills. Preparation for performances occupies the remaining third of classroom activity. Performance is the culmination of a semester's work that is given to and shared with an audience. Performances are then viewed and discussed to further increase learning.

Michael Cottone

Michael Cottone

Music, Upper School
Susan Deeley Wells

Susan Deeley Wells

Performing Arts Chair; Technical Theater, Upper School
Lauren Hall

Lauren Hall

Dance, Upper School
John-Kevin Hilbert

John-Kevin Hilbert

Music, Upper School
Kala Savage

Kala Savage

Theater, Upper School
Christina Schwinn

Christina Schwinn

Production Manager, East Campus

Physical Education

Physical Education is a model program that focuses on developing a positive attitude about oneself and on the importance of physically, emotionally, and intellectually challenging experiences. The Physical Education Department is dedicated to providing a well-rounded program that is comprehensive and structured to meet the needs and interests of all students in an energetic environment that promotes personal confidence and individual growth. The program encourages students to discover active pursuits that are fun and stimulating enough to become a regular part of their lives. The total program is more than the education of the physical body. Some will choose to participate in interscholastic athletics while others will fulfill their requirement through Physical Education classes.

9th through 12th Grades: Students have choices of Weight Training & Cardio Fitness and Dance. These classes stress lifetime fitness, skill acquisition, cooperation, and an understanding of good health practices. Participation in a particular class is subject to the student’s academic schedule, as not all activities are offered in every track. In addition, participation on an interscholastic athletic team fulfills the Physical Education requirement for one semester. The graduation requirement is 4 semesters of Physical Education, and all freshmen are required to take one semester of PE.

Claire Bauer

Assistant Athletic Trainer
Rob Bowie

Rob Bowie

Aquatics Manager; Physical Education, Varsity Swim & Water P
Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown

Physical Education Chair, Upper School

Linda Drucker

Assistant Athletic Trainer
Amanda Kelson

Amanda Kelson

Athletic Director, East Campus

Alma Ranous

Lifeguard, East Campus
Riki-Ann Serrins

Riki-Ann Serrins

College Counseling Athletic Liaison, Assistant Athletic Director, Assistant Athletic Director
Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Varsity Girls Basketball Coach, Physical Education Teaching Assistant, Middle School, Physical Education Teaching Assistant, Middle School
Robert Teager

Robert Teager

Administrative Assistant, East Campus Athletics
Amanda Zamani

Amanda Zamani

Head Athletic Trainer

Science

In the Brentwood School Science Department, students establish a solid foundation in the scientific method so that their understanding of the physical and biological world around them evolves. There is an emphasis on skills acquisition through research, laboratory work, presentations, and report writing, in addition to content learning and collaboration. The Science curriculum encourages students to broaden their worldview and find applications of science content and skills beyond the classroom.

REQUIREMENTS

Students are required to take Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. During their junior and senior years, a variety of courses are available, including yearlong Advanced Placement courses - Physics 1 and C: Mechanics, Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Science, and other semester electives - Advanced Topics in Science, Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy, Comparative Zoology, Forensic Science, Food and Nutritional Science, and Marine Biology. Semester electives are offered on a rotating basis from year to year.

HONORS AND ADVANCED PLACEMENT

Placement in Honors and Advanced Placement courses depends on many factors including, but not limited to, performance in previous science and math classes, recommendations from previous science and math teachers, and placement tests into the course. Though eligibility may be granted following the first semester's work, enrollment in the course is contingent upon continued performance in the second semester, and a student's eligibility may be reconsidered based on the quality of work. Since the amount of material covered in Honors and AP classes is significantly greater than in regular courses, a student's past record of commitment and interest is also considered. Students taking science coursework over the summer may have additional requirements to enter accelerated and advanced courses. Seniors receive priority over juniors in accelerated courses provided pre-requisites have been met. All students enrolled in AP classes must also take the AP exam in the spring in order to earn AP credit for the course.

Judy Adler

Judy Adler

Science, Upper School
Elaine Chao

Elaine Chao

Mathematics & Science, Upper School
Sabrina Erickson

Sabrina Erickson

Science Chair, Upper School
Laura Feucht

Laura Feucht

Science, Upper School
Michael Grasso

Michael Grasso

Science, Upper School

Jeff McLeod

Science, Upper School
David Pope

David Pope

Chemistry, Upper School

Dawn Roje

Science, Upper School

Visual Arts

The mission of the Visual Arts Department is to guide students through the creative process while teaching visual language within a personal, contemporary, historical, cultural, political, and social context. All classes are taught following the University of California VPF (“f”) subject requirement guidelines that hold students to a high standard of learning about the creative process through a wide range of 2-D and 3-D disciplines. Emphasis is placed on projects and discussions that invite a greater understanding of equity/equality, current events, and the importance of diversity. Courses encourage students to develop concepts; practice skills, problem solve, and eventually reach an impressive degree of mastery. Learning opportunities include a variety of hands-on approaches that teach students how to identify, and apply the elements of art and the principles of design. In each discipline, students will engage in expressing their artistic vision using contemporary practices, while working in observational, abstract, realistic, functional, and imaginative ways. As practicing artists, our faculty models artistic mastery and excellence. Each teacher provides a supportive atmosphere where students feel safe to confront the uncertain process of individual decision-making and creative challenges. It is our hopes that through the journey of creating art, students will not only evolve into accomplished young artists, but will also gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the ever-changing world in which we live.

Note: Students continuing in the advanced levels of Visual Arts courses (IV – VIII) will participate in teacher led exercises and assignments that follow a course of study designed to further develop and explore aesthetic concepts, technical skills, critical thinking, and a personal investigation and response to visual ideas and concerns in their chosen medium. These students are expected to be self-motivated and to work independently.

Alyssa Champagne

Alyssa Champagne

Visual Art, Upper School
Michael Knight

Michael Knight

Visual Art Chair, Upper School
Michele Ogilvie

Michele Ogilvie

Visual Art, Upper School
Kiley Piercy

Kiley Piercy

Photography, Upper School
Adam Preskill

Adam Preskill

Film, Upper School

Graduation Requirements

Brentwood School requires students successfully complete the following courses prior to graduation from the Upper School. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure the completion of all graduation requirements:

  • English: eight semesters
  • Math: six semesters
    (including Algebra I, II and Geometry)
  • History: six semesters
    (including Ancient World, Modern World, and U.S. History)
  • Language: (four semesters in the same language, including at least through the 3rd level of the language)
  • Science: six semesters
    (including Physics, Chemistry, and Biology)
  • Arts: three semesters
    (including courses in two different Arts disciplines)*
  • Physical Education: four semesters
    (each team sport equals one semester; the P.E. requirement must be completed before graduation)
  • Human Development: one semester in 9th Grade
  • Community Service: (please see “Senior Service Project” in the Family Handbook)

A student must complete satisfactorily at least five academic courses each semester - excluding P.E. and Independent Study courses. The Upper School Director may approve an exception to this requirement.

*Arts disciplines include dance, drama, technical theater, choral music, ceramics, drawing, stained glass, orchestra, photography, digital photography, jazz band, and music ensemble. The three semester graduation requirement for Fine Arts must be completed by taking two semesters in one discipline and a third semester in a different discipline.