The Williams School combines the excellence of a classical education with a commitment to preparing students to thrive as they engage the challenges of our rapidly changing world. In the context of a reading and writing intensive curriculum emphasizing process and product, outstanding teachers spark and nurture students’ intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and imagination. While elective courses are available throughout the program, older students enjoy even more flexibility in creating personalized schedules to help them pursue their passions and achieve their goals. Furthermore, in addition to Honors and Advanced level work, several seniors each year qualify to take courses at Connecticut College.
At Williams, all community members collaborate to perpetuate an open atmosphere of mutual respect, providing a supportive context that encourages students to take meaningful, developmentally appropriate risks as they pursue their own academic, artistic, and athletic goals. In the classroom, students analyze and integrate complex material, find comfort in ambiguity, and are expected to avoid generalization and facile thinking. Through the arts, service, and athletics, students stretch themselves, knowing that their efforts will be recognized, supported, and appreciated by their peers. In all of these endeavors, students learn that only with collaboration, empathy, and self-discipline, is the excellence they seek attainable.
The Williams School is proud of its academic reputation. A course catalog offers only a glimpse of what it means to be a student at the school, but it does offer a window on the academic life. Graduation requirements, expectations and descriptions of courses follow. The faculty is committed to developing approaches to teaching that meet the needs of students and that engage them in the process of learning. They use many forms of instruction ranging from traditional lectures and demonstrations to seminars, group work, laboratory experiments, field trips, performances, and technology explorations.
The Williams School seeks to help students realize their potential. At its most pragmatic level, the aim of the program is to equip students with the skills necessary for success in college and in life. At its most idealistic, the aim is to encourage intellectual curiosity and the love of learning. At every level the teachers never lose sight of the formation of character. The curriculum puts its faith in the civilizing effects of the humanities and of the arts and in the power of the scientific method. Teachers put their faith in their students and in their disciplines, believing in the potential of the students and in the importance of the subjects taught. Ours is a traditional curriculum, enhanced by technology, which stresses the connections among the various subjects. The faculty members are also learners who try to bring to the program effective pedagogy and scholarship. We believe a Williams graduate is well taught, well informed, and ready for a demanding college program.
Students may embark on independent studies for academic credit when time, circumstance, and student and teacher workloads provide for them. There is no guarantee that a course or project will be approved simply because a student wishes to take one. The process for approval of independent studies should be completed in the spring semester prior to the intended year of study.
The interested student or teacher should refer requests for independent study to the relevant Department Chair. If the request passes this initial stage, it will be referred to the Assistant Head of School and the Department Heads, who serve as the curriculum committee. A rationale for the study, a syllabus, a statement of scope and sequence, and an outline for assessment and evaluation should be provided to the Department Heads by April of the year preceding the intended study. The student’s advisor, as in the yearly selection of courses, must also approve. The Department Heads will decide if the course/study will be taught and if it may be awarded credit by the school.
Department Heads and the Assistant Head of School will have responsibility for the monitoring of the effectiveness of the independent study programs.
To receive a diploma from The Williams School, a student must have earned a minimum of twenty credits in the Upper School courses listed below. These are minimum requirements and do not include Co-curricular Credits; most students earn more than twenty credits.
The minimum load for any academic year is five credits; should a student be enrolled in courses totaling exactly five credits, he/ she may take a maximum of two courses in the arts. All students, however, are expected to take as full a program as they can manage. A student is considered eligible for graduation when he or she has successfully fulfilled the Upper School minimum academic and athletic requirements, and has maintained a C-minus or better average during the senior year. A failing grade in a course in the second semester of the senior year will prevent a senior from graduating.
The schedule of classes varies according to a seven-day rotation of the timetable. Unless otherwise indicated, classes meet for the full year and are worth one credit.
Minimum requirements in each discipline are as follows:
English 4 credits
one course each year
Mathematics 3 credits
study of math through 11th grade including a full credit Precalculus course or four years of math in the Upper School
Foreign Language(s) 3 credits
• successfully completing 3 consecutive years of a modern or classical language (and a one year exposure of the alternate);
• Latin I for all students who enter Williams through the 10th grade year; Latin 7 & Latin 8 in the Middle School
• French I or Spanish I—either Spanish 7 & 8 in the Middle School or French I or Spanish I in Grade 8 or the Upper School;
• the completion of Latin I should take place as early as possible in the student’s career at Williams.
Laboratory Science 2 credits
two courses, including one biological and one physical science; all graduating seniors must have completed at least one year of science at The Williams School.
History 2 credits
Modern World in 10th grade and US History in 11th are required
Fine Arts 1 credit
Co-Curricular Credits* 2 credits/year
(completed in the Upper School)
* Involvement Requirements: Each year Upper School students will be required to earn two Co-curricular Credits (Middle School students are responsible only to earn one). While these are often achieved through participation in athletics teams (one Co-curricular Credit per season), they also can be received for participation in school activities such as the Fall Play, Spring Musical (including Pit Band), a Williams dance class, and Compchorea (with prior approval from the Athletics and Arts Departments). Only one Co-curricular Credit per year may be earned through the Fitness Center or independent athletics outside of Williams.
The Senior Project is designed to be the culmination of the academic experience at The Williams School. It is a privilege accorded to seniors that challenges them to take ownership in their education and development as life-long learners. The Senior Project provides students the opportunity to merge interests, passions, and curiosity with the skills they have learned throughout their career at Williams. Moreover, it is an opportunity to create an independent experience beyond the classroom, focusing on inquiry and personal growth.
Students who take on a Senior Project will plan, organize, implement, evaluate, document, and represent a sustained and transformative life experience through experiential learning. Projects may be related to career choice, a desire to serve the community, a topic for independent research, or a combination of these.
The Senior Project will have four core components: proposal, project, paper, presentation.
To undertake a senior project, a student must be in good standing academically. In “good standing” means that a student’s level of achievement has not diminished appreciably during the second semester and that all assignments have been completed. Students “not in good standing” will be asked to complete all outstanding work before beginning a project OR they may be denied permission to undertake a project.
Throughout the Senior Project Proposal process, it is important for students to remember that they are applying to have a privilege granted. The Senior Project Committee will evaluate the quality of the vision, organization and planning, a clear intent and learning outcome, and sincerity in the approach to the project and this process. The Committee reserves the right to request revisions or more information about possible projects. The Committee also reserves the right to deny proposals that are incomplete or submitted late.
A student who successfully completes a senior project will have a “P” recorded on his or her transcript; those seniors whose projects are approved and do not meet the minimum expectations will receive an “F.” There will also be a brief commentary regarding the paper and presentation included in each student’s report card. Additionally, a project evaluation must be submitted by the Project Supervisor; evaluation forms will be provided by the school. Students who choose not to do a project, who do not qualify academically, or who do not submit timely and appropriate proposals will continue in all classes through graduation. Students who do not participate in a Senior Project will be expected to attend school daily, complete all course material, and take final exams.
January - Senior Project process explained during Senior Seminars.
End-of-January: Preliminary Proposal due - If completed, students are encouraged to submit Preliminary Proposals earlier.
End-of-January - Students will be assigned a Faculty Advisor.
February and March - Students will work with the Faculty Advisor to develop a project and prepare a proposal.
End-of-March - Senior Project Proposals need to be uploaded to the Senior Project Workspace by 3:30 pm.
mid-April - Students will receive notification that the project has been approved OR they will receive feedback and be asked to submit a revised proposal. Faculty Advisor will disseminate feedback.
mid-April - Students who need to revise their proposal should work with their Faculty Advisor to further develop their project and proposal.
End-of-April - Revised Senior Project Proposals due (if needed!). Please upload a revised proposal to the Senior Project Workspace by 3:30 pm. Students are encouraged to submit their revised proposals prior to the deadline.
Beginning-of-May - Students will be notified as to whether their revised proposals have been approved.
3rd Friday in May - Last day of classes for seniors participating in Senior Projects; Senior Assembly
Last week of May & First Week of June - Senior Projects
Second Monday in June - Senior Project Presentations
Upper School Curriculum at a Glance
Upper School Course Plan
Upper School Course Selection
Seventh Grade Language Selection and Middle School Band Elective
Eighth Grade Language Selection and Middle School Band Elective
Upper School Co-curricular Registration
Middle School Co-curricular Registration