Curriculum - Upper School - McDonogh School


In Upper School, we honor our commitment to rigor and to life preparation by providing the highest, most challenging educational experience possible to meet the realities of a changing world. We preserve the tried-and-true elements essential to a McDonogh education, while at the same time preparing our students to graduate knowing how to communicate effectively for a range of audiences. Additionally, they understand the great sweep of human history and the complexities of mathematics and science, appreciate the beauty of art and the written word, and discover their place in the wider world by studying languages from around the globe. McDonogh presents these core curricular elements to students in ways that are both motivational and timely.

Course Credit Requirements

Students are required to earn at least five credits each year from among the course offerings of the English, Visual and Performing Arts, World Languages, History and Social Studies, Mathematics, Interdisciplinary Studies, Computer Science and Robotics, and Science Departments. At least one of the credits must be in English. While courses vary in their meeting patterns, those that are equivalent to three 70­-minute and one 100­-minute class periods per seven­-day rotation for the entire school year earn one credit. Semester courses satisfying the above criterion earn one ­half credit. Semester and year courses that do not have the equivalent of daily meetings have their credit offerings listed after the course title in the Course Description Guide. Click here to see the courses offered to Upper School students. 

Subject Credit Requirements

  • English: 4 credits
  • History & Social Studies: 3 credits (2 in World History, 1 in U.S. History)
  • Mathematics: 3 credits (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II)
  • Science: 3 credits (Physics, Chemistry, Biology)
  • World Languages: 3 credits 
  • Visual & Performing Arts: 1  credit 
  • Wellness/Wellness Lab/Health: 1 credit 
  • Additional Electives: 3 credits

Community Service Requirements

At McDonogh, students continue the tradition of our founder John McDonogh to “strive in the course of one’s life to do the greatest amount of good.” Upper School students are involved in numerous service projects that go well beyond fulfilling the 40 hours required for graduation. In addition to planting, weeding, and harvesting crops at Roots Farm, much of which is donated to the Maryland Food Bank and other outreach organizations, students work directly with those in need. Through community service, students learn many important life lessons as they expand their horizons.

Senior Project Requirement

For more than 25 years, McDonogh Senior Projects have provided remarkably exciting and varied opportunities for students to pursue interests not available during the course of the normal academic day. The projects are completed during the last three weeks of their McDonogh experience under the supervision of a mentor. The projects commonly fall within the following categories: career exploration, fine or performing arts, community service, travel, and special group projects initiated by the seniors.

Extracurricular Opportunities

While the primary task of the Upper School is intellectual development, we recognize that young people also need ample opportunities to explore talents and interests that lie beyond the academic realm. A variety of athletic, informational, artistic, social, travel, and service activities provide continuing opportunities for self-­discovery. Faculty-advised but student-led clubs and activities are a testament to our students' eagerness to continue working with one another and with teachers after the academic day is over.

Upper School Course Description Guide

The Upper School Course Description Guide is a detailed guide to the academic program and course offerings. Click here to see the complete course listing for the 2024-2025 school year.