Graduation Requirements

Send by email

All students must complete minimum core requirements. In addition, they may choose elective courses. Students and their advisors plan as broad a program as possible, taking possible college requirements into consideration.

A diploma from Catlin Gabel indicates successful completion of four years of high school experience or its equivalent. For most students this means completion of a minimum of 18 academic courses, including the departmental requirements outlined below and electives. Departmental requirements may be waived upon petition. In addition, departments reserve the right to grant credit for work outside normal departmental requirements. Student are expected to take a minimum of four academic courses at any time.


Graduation Requirements

English: Four years, including Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior English and a year of senior electives.

Math: Successful completion of our two-year integrated Algebra II/Geometry curriculum.

History: Three years, including Human Crossroads, The Modern World, and United States History.

Science: Three years, including Science I, Science II, and a year of electives.

Language: Three years of the same language.

Arts: Two years of coursework in music, theater, and/or the visual arts.

In addition to the academic requirements, students must complete an annual community service requirement and the following credits in physical education and health:

PE and Health: Students are required to take nine trimesters of physical education and health courses over four years, including Health 9, Health 10 and Lifetime Fitness. Several PE classes are offered during and after school each trimester. Offerings include Outdoor Leadership and Adventure, CPR/First Aid, Rock Climbing, Ultimate Frisbee, Indoor-Outdoor Games, and Beginning Tennis. Additionally, student may earn credit through participation on Catlin Gabel athletic teams, or they may apply for independent PE credit. Rules for independent PE can be found at

OSAA rules require students to be enrolled in and passing five academic courses to play interscholastic sports, both while they are participating and during the prior term.


Curriculum and Grading Policy

Catlin Gabel offers a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. All seniors work beyond core requirements in two to four academic disciplines (English is required). Students may choose from a variety of elective offerings; the school does not offer standard AP courses.

Honors classes are offered in the following areas: Chinese V, French V, Japanese V, Spanish V, Genres, Advanced Play Production, Advanced Film Production, Honors Art Seminar, Senior History Electives, Accelerated Precalculus, Calculus I, Calculus II, Statistics, Accelerated Algebra II / Geometry, Advanced Biology, Advanced Chemistry, Advanced Physics, Advanced Computer Science, Advanced Topics in Computer Science, and Accelerated Science I & II.

Catlin Gabel's educational philosophy de-emphasizes letter grades, and student academic work is evaluated primarily through frequent conferences with faculty and through narrative reports. Letter grades (A+ through F) are given once per year in yearlong courses; courses lasting for one semester are graded at the semester's end. We do not rank our students, nor do we calculate and report a GPA on student transcripts.


Course Selection and Scheduling

Registering for Courses

Students may take as few as four or as many as six academic courses at any one time. In unusual circumstances, a student may petition the faculty to take more than six. Academic courses include English, history, math, science, modern language, computer science, and the arts. Re-enrolling students register for courses early in the spring term. After conferring with the advisor regarding recommended courses and graduation requirements, students take a preliminary schedule home for discussion with parents. Course offerings are sometimes based upon student needs brought to light by the registration process. Adjustments in teaching assignments are sometimes necessary, and the resulting information is compiled for the academic schedule by the registrar.

During the admission process, prospective students indicate their choice of modern language, and computer and arts classes. Those choices, along with transcript information, enable the departments and registrar to forecast an academic program for each newly enrolled student; the forecast is sent home for approval.

Conflicts between courses do sometimes arise, and students are encouraged to participate in resolving the problem.

Changing Courses

Students wishing to change their programs may arrange to do so when they sign up for the following year or within the first week of each new term. An "add/drop" slip is required to record each schedule change to:

Add or drop a scheduled class
Change from credit to audit or independent status
Drop any discipline

Students must participate in the class they are arranging to drop (attend the class and do required work) until they have obtained signatures from the teachers involved as well as from their advisor and the Upper School Head, and until the course teacher has been notified of the change by the registrar. If a student is dropping a discipline, the parent's signature is required to complete the drop procedure, as well as a college counselor's signature of approval in the case of juniors and seniors.

Independent Studies

Independent Study is an integral part of the Upper School educational experience, students may pursue independent study projects. These may be undertaken several times in a student's career and may be of short or long duration. Students may be excused from some or all scheduled classes, depending on the exigencies of the project. A participating student works closely with his or her advisor and the director of off-campus programs. A student who has identified a potential project chooses a project advisor, and they confer to prepare a written proposal for the independent study. The proposal must include the subject goals, scope, length of time, and location of the project. The project advisor may be a faculty member or a qualified person outside the School. In the latter case, it is advisable to have a faculty coordinator as well. The project advisor and student then arrange for a meeting with the student's teachers, the C&C advisor, the Upper School Head, and parents to discuss the proposal.

Independent Study in the Arts

Independent study in the arts is for students to extend their learning beyond the two-year arts requirement of the Upper School. It is not possible to substitute a non-Catlin arts course for something already offered in the curriculum to meet academic requirements. For example, it is not possible to take a beginning acting course at the NW Children’s Theater for academic credit at Catlin. It is the school’s belief that engagement in two years of on-campus arts experiences furthers our mission to educate the ‘whole student’ and enables students to build a well-rounded understanding of themselves as artists, learners and community members. The Arts Department offers two types of independent study. 

The first is a school-faculty facilitated study where the student pursues learning in an arts discipline that goes beyond current course offerings. Past examples have included honors visual arts students who wish to add portfolio-relevant ceramics to their portfolio and thus pursue study with the ceramics instructor, or a filmmaking student who wishes to produce a documentary on a topic of their choosing in partnership with a Catlin media instructor. For the majority of these students, their commitment to deepening their knowledge in an arts area and/or exploring new terrain requires the student to write a prospectus, research an area of study and maintain an ongoing commitment to studio practice or rehearsal in collaboration with Catlin faculty. These students are thus awarded a full academic credit. 

The second opportunity is a faculty-supervised pursuit of advanced study in the arts outside of Catlin Gabel. Typically students engaged in advanced instrumental study seek this option. Occasionally a student may pursue something outside the academic curriculum along the lines of darkroom photography. These students generally practice their artform with an organization outside of school and the level of their in-school engagement is limited to a periodic check-in with a supervising faculty and two community performances / exhibitions per calendar year. For these students, they may earn .5 credit per academic year. Any student engaged in an independent study is required to maintain a weekly blog, documenting their work in process in order to remain metacritical about their artistic growth and to maintain transparency with supervising faculty.   

Finally, individual teachers have the right to decline to supervise an independent study if a student’s proposal does not fall within one of the two paradigms above and/or if supervision / instruction of the independent study takes the instructor appreciably beyond their teaching load.

For more information about graduation requirements or class scheduling, please contact:

Robyn Washburn, registrar
503-297-1894, ext. 316