Vigorous preparation for college and beyond

Offering a sequence of challenging foundational courses, Honors, and Advanced Placement courses, as well as semester-long electives, the Upper School program provides students with opportunities to explore each academic discipline and then to pursue specialized areas of interest as they prepare for college and for life.


Upper School students take a yearlong academic art class during any one of the four years and explore interests and develop talents through a wide range of both visual and performing arts electives. Students are encouraged to continue experimenting with new disciplines; at the same time, the Visual and Performing Arts Departments present opportunities for students to pursue their art at the highest level. The yearlong options include history and application courses (Visual Art, Studio Art Fundamentals, Theatre, Western Music, Film, Music Theory). Electives include Drawing, Painting, Silkpainting, Graphics, Film, Photography, Sculpture, Enameling, Ceramics, Woodshop, Intermediate Drawing and 2-D Design, Orchestra, Chamber Music, Jazz Ensemble, Vocal Ensemble, Pit Orchestra, Intermediate Acting, Acting Ensemble, Advanced Acting Ensemble, Technical Theatre, Advanced Technical Theatre, Musical Production, Beginning Dance, Intermediate Dance, Advanced Dance, and Tap Dance). Additionally students may apply to take AP Studio Art Drawing and AP Studio Art 2-D Design. There are many performance opportunities throughout the year (musical and dance concerts, productions of plays and a fully staged musical) and visual arts student exhibitions.


Because language is the primary medium through which we negotiate our understanding of ourselves, of others, and of communities, the English Department emphasizes the expressive power of language, an appreciation for literary art, and the mastery of critical thinking, reading, writing, and speaking. The department emphasizes class participation, close reading skills, and personal interaction with the ideas. Texts range from traditional canonical works such as The Odyssey and The Great Gatsby, to emerging canonical works such as Things Fall Apart and Tattoos on the Heart, as students write both analytically and creatively about their readings. After freshman year, students may elect to take creative writing courses; juniors and seniors may elect to take Advance Placement courses as well. All students may participate in co-curricular activities, such as writing for the school newspaper, reading their work in the Writers’ Center salon, participating in speech and debate, and competing on the SLAM poetry team.


The History Department provides a solid grounding in history, the social sciences, and global studies. Courses are offered on both western and non-western topics and are designed to help students understand the breadth of human experience, the evolution of ideas, the role of cause and effect in events, and the interconnectedness of geography, economics, politics, religion, and other related subjects. Through analytical reading, research, writing, and oral expression, students develop lifelong learning skills. Students study a world culture in ninth grade, the history of western civilization in 10th grade, and United States history in 11th grade, with an option to take an Advanced Placement course. In senior year, students have the opportunity to explore their own interests by taking semester electives, such as economics, ethics, international relations, modern China, globalization and human rights, and world history through sport.


The rapid advances in computational technology in recent years have called into question the need for extended instruction in certain areas of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, while it has expanded the range of meaningful problems that we can explore with our students. Through a carefully structured program of guided exploration, data analysis, and mathematical modeling, students understand that mathematics is not merely a body of knowledge, but a problem-solving enterprise in which creativity and intuition go hand in hand with factual knowledge to produce effective solutions to significant problems. Students entering the Upper School at the beginning of ninth grade will be placed in one of two tracks: the accelerated track or the Honors track. Courses include geometry and algebra with transformations, analytic geometry and functions with transformations, functions, trigonometry, and advanced algebra, advanced algebra and pre-calculus, advanced topics and introduction to calculus, calculus AB, statistics, and two Advanced Placement courses in calculus AB and calculus BC, as well as a math elective in introduction to engineering.


Science education at Polytechnic School helps students become scientifically literate, appreciate and enjoy their understanding of nature, and acknowledge the intrinsic self-correcting nature of science. Students come to understand science as a dynamic social phenomenon and are able to evaluate the vast and changing body of information, responding intelligently to objects and events in nature and influencing aspects of their personal environment and destiny in order maintain and improve our planet and the human condition. The department offers year-long lab-based courses in conceptual physics, biology, AP biology, chemistry, AP chemistry, physics, and AP physics. The department also encourages students to pursue their interest in electives, including such classes as environmental science, psychology, global health issues, and AP computer science, advanced topics in human anatomy and physiology, and a course entitled astronomy, cosmology, and relativity.

World Languages

The World Languages Department provides a comprehensive course of study of modern languages and Latin to foster global awareness and an understanding of different cultural values, perspectives, and traditions in the ancient and modern worlds. Students develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills through a variety of learning resources and activities, including textbooks, videos, authentic documents, audio materials, computer software, and ultimately unabridged works of literature in the studied language. From beginning through Advanced Placement courses, students may study French, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. Students may also elect to study two world languages.

Learn More

  • Upper School Course of Study 2020-21
    Poly's 2020-21 Upper School Course of Study provides up-to-date information about our academic policies and in-depth descriptions of each of our course offerings for the upcoming school year.

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Pasadena, CA 91106 | Phone 626.396.6300 | Fax 626.796.2249
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