Academic Guidebook

A reference to help navigate course selection.
LWHS offers an engaging Head, Heart, Hands curriculum, with a wide array of unique learning experiences. This handbook explains many of the policies governing the curricular program, and is designed to be a resource for students navigating decision-making around course selection.

Scheduling Process

List of 8 items.

  • 1. How to Register for Courses

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  • 2. Course Request Forms

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  • 3. Policies and Priorities During the Scheduling Process

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  • 4. Course Load Requirements

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  • 5. Viewing Student Schedules

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  • 6. Adding, Dropping, or Changing Courses

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  • 7. Auditing Classes

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  • 8. Exceptions and Exemptions

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List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Randy Barnett

    Randy Barnett 

    Assistant Head of School

Academic Support

List of 5 items.

  • Overview

    We offer a number of academic support mechanisms to help students thrive during their time at LWHS. A sampling of such support systems include:
  • The Center for Civic Engagement

    Read More
  • Learning Strategies Center (LSC)

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  • Mastery of Educational Tools for Achievement Program (META)

    Read More
  • Student Support Services (SSS)

    Read More

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • What should students consider when selecting courses?

    • Students should select courses that reflect their interests, challenge them appropriately, and enable them to maintain social and emotional well-being through a healthy balance of academics, extracurriculars, and free time.
    • Students should check their transcript to make sure they are on the right path to fulfill all graduation requirements.
    • Frosh should think carefully about enrolling in an eighth class, as maintaining a free block can be important for students with busy extracurricular lives.
    • Juniors and seniors should consider college aspirations in course selection. Most selective colleges expect juniors and seniors to:
      • maintain a schedule of five courses spread between History, Math, World Languages, English, Science, and at least one course either in the Technical Arts, Performing Arts, or Visual Arts.
      • challenge themselves with an appropriately rigorous course line up. College counselors inform colleges about LWHS academic policies. There is no predetermined number of Honors or Accelerated courses that a student must take for college admission. Students should consult with parents/guardians, college counselors, teachers, and advisors in order to determine the most appropriate - and appropriately challenging - courses. 
      • show evidence of interests beyond traditional academic classes. Students should demonstrate meaningful breadth, and depth by advancing through courses in the Performing Arts, Technical Arts, and/or Visual Arts, as well as participating in extracurricular activities such as clubs, athletics, and service.
  • How many courses are students allowed to take in a semester?

    9th graders are required to take a minimum of seven courses in a semester. They may choose an 8th course from Performing Arts or META.

    10th, 11th and 12 graders are required to take a minimum of six and a maximum of seven courses 
    in a semester, with five from each of the following departments: Math, Science, World Languages, History, and English. This is a basic requirement for most selective colleges. Seniors who have completed graduation requirements in an academic discipline may take a second from another of those departments or choose to take only four, with approval from the Assistant Head of School and consultation with their College Counselor.

    Sixth and Seventh classes 
    • 10th graders may select from Performing, Technical and Visual Arts departments, BlendEd offerings, Philanthropy, Social Entrepreneurship, Creative Writing and Journalism as their sixth and optional seventh class. 
    • 11th graders have the same selection as 10th graders, with the addition of Science classes designated as "G," college preparatory electives. 
    • 12th graders may take any available class for which they are eligible as their sixth class. Note that a request for a second class in a single department (doubling) will be granted only after all first class requests have been fulfilled. Students may not concurrently take three classes from a single department. 12th graders choosing to take the optional seventh class may take any of the classes listed in the 10th grade bullet above (no a-e classes).
    A Teaching Assistant (TA), Independent Study (IS), or PPP cohort may count as a seventh course, but not a sixth course. These are open to 11th and 12th graders, and to 10th graders with the approval of the Assistant Head of School.
  • Where can I find out about courses for the upcoming school year?

    Please refer to the course catalog to gain a fuller understanding of the curriculum at LWHS. The course catalog is updated each spring, before the student course signup process begins. All courses that will be offered in the school year are listed by department in the online course catalog, which can be found on the LWHS website > Curriculum > Course Catalog.
  • How is a student’s GPA determined?

    LWHS uses an unweighted GPA for all students. To learn how to calculate a GPA at LWHS, please read the information in the green “Downloads” box on this page.
  • What type of academic advising is available to students?

    LWHS offers several resources for supporting students in their course selection process. Students should begin by talking to their teachers to receive advice in specific disciplines. Other resources include info sessions  for each class, student panels, drop-in meetings with college counselors, and help desks run by the Deans. A student's advisor, the Academic Scheduler, Deans (Dean of Students and Grade Level Deans), and Assistant Head of School are available for one-on-one counseling as needed. Since parents/guardians best understand their student’s personality, study habits and out of school commitments, it's important that they discuss course selection, including questions such as:
    • Should the student have one or two free periods?
    • How many Honors courses should the student take?
    • Should the student take a sixth homework-heavy course?
    For further information about the types of year-round academic support that are available, please see the Academic Support box on the right side of this page.


List of 2 frequently asked questions.

  • What should students do if a course they request is full?

    We use a priority system for scheduling classes to ensure equitable access. It is critical that students rank several choices on their course signup form so that if they can't get into their first choice the scheduler will have alternative options.
    Occasionally, students may feel it is important to let colleges know that they could not get into a certain course because it was full or conflicted with other courses. In this case, they should discuss it with a college counselor, who can make this information available to admissions officers through their letter of recommendation.

    Continue reading the next FAQ about the add/drop period.
  • What is the Add/Drop period?

    When students receive their schedules on Mon, July 1, they should only contact the school if there are errors, such as only having five classes, being put into a class they’re not qualified for, et al. All other schedule changes should be during the Add/Drop period in the first four days of each semester. Requests are not guaranteed, but the school will do its best to accommodate course requests made during the Add/Drop period using the same priorities that were used during the scheduling process. Students may not drop year long courses at the end of a semester.

    When students fill out the Add/Drop/Change form they should follow all instructions, clearly state the reasons they are requesting a change in their schedule, and then list the courses that they are willing to “give up” in order to accommodate the request. Students will not be contacted directly, but will see changes that have been granted on their online schedule within 24 hours. Students need to follow their existing schedule until any changes are made.

    Students will not be allowed to drop a course after the Add/Drop period, unless there are special circumstances (usually health related) and the drop is approved by Student Support Services. Dropping a course will usually result in a Medical Withdrawal or Withdrawal notation on the transcript. If students or parents/guardians have questions regarding course scheduling or the Add/Drop procedures they may contact Assistant Head of School Randy Barnett.


List of 3 frequently asked questions.

  • Why does the school choose not to offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses?

    LWHS is proud to have been one of the first schools to phase out its AP courses. The school arrived at this decision in 2011, after a highly participatory, yearlong conversation with students, faculty, parents/guardians, trustees, and college admissions officers. This change occurred, in large part, because LWHS teachers felt they could create innovative, rigorous courses that are (1) relevant, compelling, and impelling, (2) aligned with current knowledge and best practice in their fields, and (3) reflect teachers’ particular passions and the school mission. LWHS knows, both from experience and research literature, that teachers are most successful at engaging students when these three goals frame the work they do. It is also the case that LWHS programs have, for many years, been truncated and eclipsed by the intrusion and distraction of AP exams during the first three weeks of May, well before the school year is over.
    Further, the pro AP argument that AP credits allow graduates to skip introductory college courses and, perhaps, graduate in less than four years, is no longer valid for two reasons: (1) increasingly, colleges and universities are abandoning the practice of granting automatic promotion based on AP scores, (2) entering college frosh are generally welcome to take placement tests if they seek admission to upper level courses.

    In sum, we found that the AP program had become a limiting, rather than an enriching, factor in the school’s determination to provide a true 21st century educational experience for the 21st century students.
  • What should students be aware of regarding the SAT and ACT?

    All students will take the PSAT on campus in 10th and 11th grades. We also offer a mock SAT or ACT in the junior year. All students should then take the ACT or SAT in the late winter or spring of junior year. We recommend students wait to begin official standardized testing until that time to ensure sufficient preparation and optimal results, and to prevent over-testing.

    Please visit the College Board and ACT websites for more information about each test.
  • What is the relationship between LWHS graduation requirements and the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) admission criteria?

    By fulfilling LWHS graduation requirements and maintaining a 3.0 weighted GPA (3.0 for the UCs, or a 2.0 GPA for the CSUs) in UC/CSU approved courses, every student will be eligible for admission to the UC and CSU campuses.

    To satisfy the
    UC and CSU A–G Subject Requirement, students must complete a minimum of 15 of these “A–G” college preparatory courses, with at least 11 finished prior to senior year. Please see the UC/CSU A–G Subject Requirements in the green “Downloads” box on this page. LWHS’ graduation requirements surpass the UC and CSU requirements.

    Competitive eligibility
    at the more selective UC and CSU campuses can be achieved by exceeding the A–G Subject Requirements, and achieving a GPA higher than the minimum.

    The UCs and 
    CSUs calculate a weighted GPA for each applicant, giving an extra point to Honors, college-level, and AP classes.

    Most LWHS classes are UC approved. The list of UC approved courses can be found on the University of California website.

Course Request Policies

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • Can students select their teachers and/or the block that they would like to take a course?

    Due to the complexity of the scheduling process, LWHS does not make accommodations for teacher preference or scheduling elegance. The only exceptions to this policy are given to students with diagnosed learning differences who work with the Learning Strategies Center Director Winifred Montgomery, or to students under active consideration by the SSS (Student Support Services) team. The SSS team takes into account any recommendation made for teacher preference by the LSC Director, and the team makes a recommendation to the Assistant Head of School. Generally, this occurs before the course signup deadline in the spring.
  • What do students need to know about Independent Study and Teaching Assistant (TA) courses?

    Independent Studies provide a way for individual students to explore topics not offered in the LWHS curriculum. They can be a way to demonstrate to colleges the depth of a student’s interest in a particular subject. Students work with a faculty advisor, meeting at least once per rotation. Being a Teaching Assistant in a class gives a student the opportunity to develop leadership skills and to continue to engage in a subject they enjoy.

    Independent Study and TA courses are
    considered electives, not alternatives to the six required courses. Students may take an Independent Study as a seventh course.

    Independent Studies are to be treated as formal courses that
    take up at least one regular block on a student’s schedule in a rotation. TA courses meet either during the class session or during the teacher’s free block, as in the case of science teachers who work with a TA to set up labs.

    Independent Study and TA courses are
    graded Pass/Fail, are semester-long, and will appear on a student’s transcript.

    Independent Studies can be requested during course requests in the spring and/or the Add/Drop period during the first two days of each semester.

    Students submit a proposal for an Independent Study or TA to the cooperating teacher, the sponsoring Department Chair, and the Assistant Head of School. Independent Studies are generally
    meant for individuals and not groups, but students may request an exception.

    TAs must have previously taken the course for which they plan to TA.

    Teachers choose,
    on an individual and departmental basis, whether or not to participate in an Independent Study project. A teacher may sponsor one independent study per semester. Teachers may have up to four TAs but not more than one per class/free block.

    Public Purpose Program (PPP) Independent Studies allow students to work in groups on topics featuring a service element, and this is
    one way of satisfying the junior/senior PPP requirement. Proposals should be directed to the Public Purpose Director, Alan Wesson Suárez.
  • Can a student “double” in a content area?

    (i.e. take two courses concurrently in Science, History, Visual Arts, etc.)

    Yes, juniors and seniors may take a second course concurrently in a given department, if there is space available after all students are enrolled in their required courses and first choices are granted for non-doublers. Students who have exhausted a program in one academic area (such as World Languages) and need a fifth course will be given priority during course scheduling. We do not allow students to take three classes concurrently from a single department.
  • Can a student sit in on a class that they are not formally enrolled in?

    No. A student may not take a course that is not on their own course schedule. In order to maintain a fair student to teacher ratio, LWHS does NOT permit students to audit courses.

Department Specific

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • Do any LWHS courses have prerequisites and/or require auditions?

    Yes, certain courses require that students take an introductory (prerequisite) course, or receive permission from the instructor before they can enroll.

    See the math flowchart in #10and read the Course Catalog to learn more about policies on Math placement and sequence of courses.

    Performing Arts
    Auditions and/or permission from the instructor are required for Advanced Combo, Big Band, Chamber Orchestra, Dance 2, Dance Ensemble, and Vocal Ensemble.

    All upper-level science courses require the prerequisites of Biology in the 9th grade and Chemistry in the 10th grade. Students interested in taking Honors Physics must have also successfully completed Physics and Precalculus. Any questions regarding the Science prerequisites or which Science courses are best suited for a particular student’s interests and skills can be directed to the student’s current science teacher and/or to Science Department Chair Don Rizzi.

    Technical Arts—Students must pass the core requirement Design & Technology to be eligible to enroll in Technical Arts offerings. To enroll in Jewelry 2 or Sewing and Textile Arts 2, students must pass level 1 of the respective course. Students can take courses multiple times for credit with the instructor's permission and when space in the roster is available. The school requires all students to take a minimum of four semesters in Technical Arts. Besides taking Design & Technology in ninth grade, students must choose two other semester-long courses that meet in the various shops—Computing, Wearables (Jewelry and Textiles), Wood, Metal, Digital Fabrication, and Electronics. One of the two additional required Technical Arts classes must be from the "Design & Craft" category, while the other must be from the "Design & Engineering" category.

    Visual Arts
    Students must pass the core requirement Contemporary Media and Art to be eligible to enroll in Visual Arts offerings. Students must successfully pass level 1 offerings to be eligible for level 2 offerings such as Photo 2 or Architecture 2. Students may choose to repeat a level 2 course or a course in the department without a second level, but priority will be given in scheduling to students who have never taken the course.

    World Languages
    After third quarter grading, teachers will notify students about advancing to accelerated or honors courses. Students must meet the minimum grade average in the course that they are currently enrolled in. For more information see the World Languages fact sheet on Honors/Accelerated courses in the green “Downloads” box on this page. Questions about the World Languages placement process can be directed to World Languages Department Chair Ivonne Hernandez.
  • What does a student need to know about course sequences for Math?

    • A test is given to incoming students to determine their appropriate placement.
    • Students who earn less than a C– in a prerequisite course are required to repeat the course at LWHS prior to advancing in the mathematics curriculum. Repeating with a summer course is possible with department approval. 
    • Students need to demonstrate success in Algebra 2 or Precalculus in order to move to Precalculus or Calculus, respectively.
    • Students who are deciding between Precalculus, Applied Mathematics, and Statistics Honors should consult with their teacher, advisor, or Math Department Chair Annie Mehalchick.
    The following is a visual representation of the possible paths in the Math program:
  • What should a student consider when selecting a Science course?

    As in all disciplines, student course selection in Science should be driven by interest, passion, curiosity, and future academic/work ambitions. For specific questions related to individual Science courses, students should talk to their current science teacher and/or Science Department Chair Don Rizzi. ?

    Points to consider in course selection:
    • Both biological and physical sciences are appropriate for admission to college.
    • Students who are considering a science or engineering degree or a career in medicine are strongly encouraged to take a Physics course.
    • Psychology: Brain and Behavior is a social science course. For the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU), it qualifies as a "g" college preparatory elective, but not a "d" laboratory science.
    • Please see the UC/CSU A–G Subject Requirements in the green “Downloads” box on this page.
  • When should a student fulfill their Technical Arts requirement?

    The school requires all students to take a minimum of four semesters in Technical Arts, beginning with the year-long core requirement Design & Technology in ninth grade. Before graduating, students must choose two other semester-long courses, one from the "Design & Craft" category and one from the "Design & Engineering" category. See the Course Catalog to learn about offerings in each category. To enroll in Jewelry 2 or Sewing and Textile Arts 2, students must pass level 1 of the respective course. Students can take courses multiple times for credit with the instructor's permission and when space in the roster is available.
  • What does a student need to know about course sequences for World Languages?

    Accelerated and HonorsIn order to enroll in an Accelerated or Honors course it is important for students to read the Course Catalog descriptions and requirements carefully. See the World Languages fact sheet in the green Downloads box on this page for more specifics about the process to enroll in an Accelerated or Honors class.

    9th graders who enter LWHS with a significant fluency in a particular language are encouraged to begin study in a new language. They will not be placed in Spanish or French level 4 honors course for developmental and pedagogical reasons.

    Grade requirement to advance to the next language levelIn order to advance to the next language level in the World Languages department, students must earn a C- or higher at the end of their second semester. A student with a second semester grade lower than a C- will need to repeat the course or take an accredited summer school course. The World Languages Department strongly recommends that a student who earns a C- for the second semester take a summer course to be better prepared for the next language level.
    Number of Required Years of StudyStudents must take at least three years of courses within the World Languages department and must complete a level three course. Students who attain level 4 their sophomore year will be required to take one year of a new language.

    Placement Exam
    Incoming students wishing to be placed at a level other than the introductory first-year course must take a placement examination.

Non-LWHS Courses

List of 2 frequently asked questions.

  • Can a student take courses outside of LWHS?

    LWHS does not allow outside credit. Students sometimes take courses outside of LWHS for enrichment or credit recovery, but the grades earned will not be factored into a student’s grade point average and the courses will not appear on the LWHS transcript. The exception to this rule occurs when students take a semester away from LWHS. Courses taken during the semester away may count towards fulfilling LWHS graduation requirements, in consultation with the Assistant Head of School. However, the courses and grades will not appear on the LHWS transcript.

    Per student request, the College Counseling Department will forward copies of non-LWHS transcripts directly to colleges. Once the course has been completed, students should have the institution mail an official transcript directly to our Registrar Kelleigh Trowbridge.
  • What role does a summer school course play in the LWHS curriculum?

    While summer courses may be desirable and useful for personal academic enrichment, a six week summer course can rarely provide the academic depth of an entire year. However, summer school can be useful for the following reasons:
    1. A student fails a required course such as English 1. They may take an accredited summer school program to recover credit and enter the next course in the sequence in the Fall, with a passing grade.
    2. A student receives a C- or less in a World Languages class or a D+ or less in a Mathematics course will not be allowed to proceed to the next level. A passing grade in a summer school course, along with a satisfactory placement test score, will enable students to enter the next course in the sequence.
    3. A student receives a grade of less than a C- on any course. While a D+ or D is passing at LWHS, it is not for UC’s and students are strongly encouraged to take a summer school course for credit recovery.
    4. A Math student places into Algebra 1 as a 9th grader and would like to take Calculus upon graduation. They have two options for using summer school to skip ahead in the sequence:
      1. Algebra 1 students who earn an A may take a department-approved summer geometry class, allowing them to enroll in Algebra 2 as 10th graders.
      2. 11th grade Algebra 2 students who receive an A may take a department-approved summer Precalculus for placement into Calculus.
    Note that students may not skip any other LWHS Math course.

    All students completing summer work must provide LWHS with a transcript in the summer class AND must take a LWHS placement test to determine advancement.

    Students considering summer work should consult with the Math Department Chair Annie Mehalchick, and indicate in the appropriate section of the course signup form that summer work is planned. Some colleges do consider summer school courses and grades by calculating a student’s grade point average to reflect all course work completed while in high school.

    Please see FAQ 12 for more information about transcripts and how courses are reported to colleges.

Lick-Wilmerding High School

755 Ocean Avenue | San Francisco, CA 94112 | 415.333.4021
A private school with public purpose, Lick-Wilmerding High School develops the head, heart, and hands of highly motivated students from all walks of life, inspiring them to become lifelong learners who contribute to the world with confidence and compassion.