KO core curriculum prepares students for college and more

Under the Radar

Have you ever sat in a class and wondered how what you were learning was going to help you in the future? Have you ever come home from a sports game on a Wednesday night to a huge pile of homework sitting on your desk that you wish you didn’t have to do? Have you ever wondered how all of your high school experiences were going to benefit you once you left high school?

KO’s ultimate mission is to not only inspire its students to excel in the courses that they take but also lead lives of responsibility and engagement after their time in high school. KO seeks to accomplish this goal by nourishing its students’ talents in a community full of teachers, friends, and families. At KO, students don’t fall through the cracks. In some ways, this can seem burdensome because it can be hard to slack off or go under the radar, but it also means that teachers and students get to know each other well.

In our curriculum, students are constantly forced to collaborate with others, advocate for themselves, and learn how to communicate with adults. These skills  can be a byproduct of attending a small, private school where your science teacher often doubles as your athletic coach who you can talk to whenever you need to.

In order to graduate from KO, one must fulfill the following  requirements: four full-year credits in Upper School English, three full-year credits in an Upper School lab science, three full-year credits in Upper School mathematics through Form 5, three full-year credits in Upper School history through Form 5 (one year must be U.S. History), three consecutive full-year credits in a foreign language (modern or classical), one and a half credits in Upper School creative arts, two and a half credits from other courses (for a total of 20 credits), 30 hours of community service and also satisfactory completion of athletic requirement.

KO’s curriculum is composed of a variety of exploratory subjects: English, Mathematics, Modern Languages, Science, History, Creative Arts, and the Classics. Senior Mia Seymour said that the variety of classes and extracurriculars that KO offers has truly allowed her to not only explore new areas of interests, but also the areas in which seemingly disparate subjects overlap.

“All of my classes have challenged me to consider the greater impact or meaning of what I was learning, which is a satisfying connection that I think can be made across the curriculum,” she said.

Mia greatly appreciates the curriculum that KO has to offer, but she did say that one thing that she personally struggled with was taking advantage of the electives that KO offers.

“I think that it can be difficult to fit in interesting electives when your core course load is already rigorous,” she said “However, it’s not something that can’t be done and I wish that I had taken more of the electives offered here.”

The English department’s goal is for students to understand the power of language. The English curriculum challenges students to read a variety of texts that depict a range of different perspectives  and points-of-view that often let them reflect on experiences that they have endured in their very own lives. They are able to do this in classes ranging from the Baird Senior Symposium class to a freshman English class that is simply revolved around telling each other stories. Weekly assignments include blog posts, critical analyses, poems, and more. Each English class allows its student to practice their public speaking and listening skills, which help tremendously for effective communication within the community. Students are able to learn how to keep an audience engaged while building their confidence as well through a variety of harknesses, speeches, formal debates, and presentations.

Many students find themselves constantly pondering why they must take a math class, but whether it is managing money or baking a souffle, math is everywhere! Math creates discipline by strengthening students’ reasoning skills. Students are able to develop these skills, as well as creative-thinking, in a learning environment that fosters perseverance, self-discipline, and participation. These skills often appear in math classes, ranging from Algebra I to Multivariable Calculus.

Although it is very difficult to learn, studying a modern language helps keep you connected to the outside world. Knowing more than one language opens a window of leadership opportunities, personally and globally. In addition, knowing more than one language allows one to participate in genuine communication both in and out of the classroom. KO’s options for modern languages include French, Spanish, and Chinese that differ in levels such as regular classes to AP.

In a variety of lab classrooms, KO students are able to improve their evidence-based outlook of modern science in a first-hand curriculum. Each science class is designed to teach  each student entry to primary principles of the scientific process.

Students are even able to take part in foreign travel and study-abroad programs in order to practice what they have learned and experience the culture.

In history courses, teachers bring modern meaning to events that occurred in the past. Students learn how to enjoy as well as analyze historical events. The curriculum teaches students to to read closely, write adequately, to think objectively and to speak authoritatively.

The Classics Department help students learn how to translate original works in Latin and Greek from some of Rome’s greatest authors (such as Cicero, Caesar, Catullus, Ovid, and Vergil) while still building strong language skills. Students that take Latin or Greek learn how to approach the fundamental components of Latin grammar and vocabulary.

KO is also a member of Global Online Academy (GOA), an organization that allows students from independent schools around the world to pursue their passions through a digital classroom. The classes are taught by experienced faculty and students are able to learn with peers from around the globe. Some GOA classes are Arabic I, II, and III, Japanese, Creative Writing, Medical Problem Solving I and II, Abnormal Psychology, Bioethics, Comparative Politics, Filmmaking, Game Theory, and Poetry.  

Moreover, KO has many clubs that students can participate in that allow them to explore their interests. These clubs include: Model UN, Mock Trial, Investment Club , Forensic Union, KO News, GSA, SGA, Orange is the New Grey, Green Team, Shatterproof, United Students and more.  

Gabrielle Ruban ’18, a first year at Emory University just outside of Atlanta, Georgia,  said that KO facilitated and catalyzed emotional, intellectual and social growth for her.

“I was able to enter college having had a lot of experience in knowing how to email faculty and also how to properly articulate questions and discussion points with my professors,” Gabrielle said. Gabrielle added that while her friends at school are extremely hardworking and intelligent, they are awestruck at the idea of writing a five-page paper double-spaced in a week. “We were writing easily more than that almost every other week in Ms. Schieffelin’s sophomore Honors English class,” Gabrielle said.

Ambika Natarajan ’17 is another KO alum who currently attends Emory as a sophomore and is pursuing a major in chemistry. Ambika said that the rigor at KO is somewhat representative of what she sees in college. “The college classes are harder and require more work,” Ambika said. “I feel like I had more time to work in high school because of the structure opposed to now in college,” she said.

Vivian Goldstein ’17 is a writing major at Ithaca College and said that while she knows you can’t get rid of the core curriculum, she wishes there had been more opportunity to focus on what interested her during her time at KO. She said that almost every math and science course she took was effectively useless to her in college. “Sophomore year geometry was never helpful. Sophomore year biology played no role. Junior year chemistry never came up, not even for a second. And so, for me personally, those parts of the curriculum were useless,” Vivian said.

Furthermore, she said when she took a placement test of her “math readiness level,” she was placed in the highest bracket despite consistently being in the lowest possible math classes in high school. “Kingswood Oxford talks about college readiness but doesn’t actually address what this means to each individual,” she said.  

Junior Alyssa Pilecki said that the curriculum here has helped her to become a more creative thinker and fluent speaker, taught her about responsibility and time management, and allowed her to take initiative for her learning. “Overall I feel like it’s preparing me for college and the real world,” Alyssa said. Additionally, she said that while there are some aspects that she thinks could improve, she genuinely enjoys coming to school and couldn’t imagine herself at another school.

“Personally, I have stuck with Mock Trial and the KO News, and I also joined Model UN this year,” Alyssa said. “I really enjoy being a part of all the clubs, they all have helped me to learn more about the current world, expose me to new experiences, and develop real-world skills.”

Classes at KO are difficult, and you have to study a lot, but it’s worth it because you’re prepared for life after high school. Also, most of the teachers here are open and kind and are willing to give out extra help when it’s needed.

“I’m really proud and happy to go to KO,” Alyssa said.