Doane Stuart

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Upper School

Commitment, Preparation and Success

Upper School students appreciate our intellectually rigorous academic programs; our large variety of courses and extracurricular activities; our challenging public service offerings and mentoring by a caring teacher. Our graduates regularly report back on their excellent preparation for college. Students also have access to many opportunities outside the classroom: our community service program, independent internships at a variety of local companies and institutions, courses at area colleges, the Senior Honors Interdisciplinary Program (SHIP), and much more.

As a result, our students are among the most productive in the Capital Region. They graduate with their own passions, their own intellectual curiosities, their own confidence —and a worldview that prepares them to make the most of the challenge and the journey to come.

Doane Stuart’s tradition of community service is one of the foundations of the school, reflecting our commitment to the values of the work and care for others, both in and beyond the classroom. Students and faculty engage throughout the year in reading and conversation about community service experiences. Community service helps our students to understand more about the world around them, and more about themselves and their place in the world.

Our hope is that our students will develop a habit of service to others that will become a permanent part of their lives. Finding time for community service can be a challenge for all of us, particularly for students who are trying to balance extracurricular activities with a rigorous academic schedule. As part of our effort to ensure that the community service program remains a central and meaningful part of each student’s experience in the Upper School, we make available many service opportunities on campus, and provide information about off-campus options.

Doane Stuart’s Philosophy on Advanced Placement (AP)

In 2007, the College Board made a change to its AP program – in order to be considered “AP,” course syllabi would need to be vetted by their organization. Doane Stuart faculty met and discussed whether they, as passionate and committed educators, wanted their curriculum to be dictated by an outside organization. Their unanimous decision? No.

Doane Stuart prepares students for success in college and life, not by teaching to a test, but by challenging them to take charge of their education and develop critical thinking skills. An Advanced Biology class might spend a week on genome sequencing. For English, juniors and seniors choose from semester-long electives, in which they write analytical papers and discuss literature around seminar tables.


Doane Stuart is part of a growing movement of schools (both independent and public) that have opted out of Advanced Placement for philosophical reasons. In a joint statement by eight Washington DC schools in 2018, for example, they noted:

“AP tests loom so large, faculty teaching these courses often feel pressed to sacrifice in-depth inquiry in order to cover all the material likely to be included on the test. This runs counter to the fact that college courses demand critical thinking and rigorous analysis.”

Schools choosing to drop APs often cite the increasing need for experiential, collaborative, and interdisciplinary courses. By doing away with APs, schools hope students will feel less compelled to take an AP for its status and instead pursue a course more to their interests. The ability to think independently and the ability to consume and memorize produce different outcomes. It is the ability to gauge the value of an idea or fact in the most expansive sense that propels a student to success by ensuring they are lifelong and self-reliant learners.

Here’s the reality – if you attend a high school with AP classes, selective colleges want to see that you’ve taken them. At Doane Stuart, you are free from participating in what can be an arms race that comes at the expense of learning and exploring. Our college list is evidence that our students are admitted to a wide variety of selective colleges all over the United States. 

Colleges are seeking students who have challenged themselves – and Doane Stuart students show this with rigorous, unique classes not found elsewhere (Advanced Cell Biology, Dystopian Narratives, The American Civil War – to cite a few examples).

We invite you to learn more about whether our liberal arts experience is a match for your child. 

Upper School Course of Studies