Upper School

Creating self-determined, independent thinkers.

To better understand the nature of our mastery-based academic program, we recommend reading through the About Us section of our website (specifically the pages on Forms, Not Grades, Study Technology and The Delphi Program) before diving into this Academics section.

It is also beneficial to read the earlier page in this section covering Our Approach, so the basics of our philosophy, as well as how these basics are implemented in each school, Lower through Upper, is understood prior to reading about each.

Upper School Program

The word program is defined as "a planned, coordinated set of actions, activities, or procedures for achieving some result or purpose." At Delphian, a student program is a set of planned and coordinated actions (courses, seminars, projects, apprenticeships, etc.) designed to guide individual students toward the completion of their form.

Saying that every student's program is individualized can be misleading. Although these statements are true generally, they can give the impression that students are doing "different" programs and that the school doesn't have clear standards in a broad range of subjects. In fact, every student is on a form, and each form program is fairly standardized, addressing common requirements to be met.

At the same time, each student's program is tailored to their strengths, weaknesses, academic needs and interests. The phraseology that most accurately represents what is happening is each student is being programmed as an individual. Student programs are designed to empower the student.

Delphian's graduation requirements are generally stated in terms of abilities, not time spent and tests "passed." Even when the requirements are the same for every student, the route to achieving them is quite often unique, since academic programs are tailored to the individual.

Delphian Upper School students learn to function in a caring, professional manner; experience the value of living responsibly; learn to work as part of a team as easily as they are able to lead it; come to understand the value of service; and gain the academic knowledge and practical skills needed to confidently and competently tackle whatever their next step in life will be. A Delphian graduate walks forward into higher education with a great deal of certainty in his or her abilities.

Learn more about how we accomplish these points below:

Academic Freedom

An Environment of Academic Freedom

Delphian School Student in Upper School Classroom

In a lecture on education, Mr. Hubbard said:

"Academic freedom is one of the most fundamental subjects in education. It is a simple concept. It concerns the basic right of a student or faculty member to pursue knowledge without fear of arbitrary interference or restriction from an authority. ...It is directly opposed to the best interests of education and a society to give force to any opinion of whatever kind and to force that opinion upon any student or individual.”

One of the most important ways Delphian supports this idea of academic freedom is by empowering students with superlative study and research skills. As a student acquires understanding of and facility with these skills, he should also gain an increasing understanding for the meaning and value of academic freedom.

But along with the student's freedom to avail himself of knowledge, he must also be free to observe what he observes and decide for himself on the subject's value and use. A high level of personal integrity is a senior quality sought in a Delphian graduate, and we recognize that opportunities for a student to safely communicate on topics from their own viewpoint are important stepping stones in the development of that integrity.

Critical Thinking

Developing Critical Thinking

In addition to emphasizing application, the Delphi Program encourages critical thinking and logic skills in an environment of free and open inquiry. Every student is often not just encouraged but required to do further research, to explore different views, to form his/her own opinions and to back them up with a well-written explanation.

As they advance through the program (and more increasingly in the high school), students will discover that the research and essay questions they encounter have been designed specifically to avoid a right answer; instead, requiring the student to develop his/her own viewpoint and back it up well.

Among other points considered as a student progresses through the program, the supervisor will be looking to ensure the following:

  1. Students are increasingly able to use their wealth of comparable data and practical experiences to evaluate new experiences and information.
  2. Students are knowledgeable and experienced enough with the subject of ethics to provide a foundation for their lives, and
  3. Students have had their knowledge frontiers opened on many fronts and have the ability and interest for pursuing knowledge.

Empowering Community

Empowering Community

It's a unique side-effect of the Delphi Program that the phenomena generally common to high schools—cliques, criticalness, fighting and hazing—are simply not present among our student body.

In part, this is due to our educational approach, where students are given the keys to their own educations and allowed to drive themselves towards graduation. But it's also a byproduct of the forms system, which eliminates grades and the status that can often accompany this.

Moreover, the individualized nature of our program encourages peer-to-peer interaction. All of our students from the Elementary School up become responsible, to some degree, for ensuring that their classmates truly understand and can apply the subjects being studied. And because they themselves are growing to understand the value of education, they typically do their best to ensure that their classmates are studying and learning along with them.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more mutually encouraging and supportive student body.

Global Outreach

Our goal: a society based in reason.

Delphian’s goal has always been to effect change in the world for the better. We encourage the concept of our worldwide community as a team that works together to make our society function, and our global outreach initiative invites our upperclassmen to consider their part in that.

Delphian's academic practical program requires seniors to organize and run large community service projects to the benefit of others. To fulfill this requirement, many of our seniors choose to participate in global outreach projects via an established volunteer organization of their choice.

Where and how they conduct these service projects is up to them. What's important to us is that our seniors are learning global citizenship and seeking ways to contribute to the world community at large.

Read more about Delphian's Global Outreach program here.


Upper School Program

In addition to challenging academic studies in literature, mathematics, writing, science, history and government, Upper School students gain practical understanding and experience in subjects of leadership, integrity, public speaking, and logic, as well as management and organization.

Tailor-Made Academic Programs

Delphian's forms structure is designed to focus attention on individual student progress and the full achievement of specific abilities as represented by graduation requirements. In this structure, each student can move through the program at his own optimum pace, taking more time when needed and moving more rapidly whenever possible.

Program is defined as “a planned, coordinated set of actions, activities, or procedures for achieving some result or purpose (from Greek: programma, public notice in writing; pro-, forward, outward, graphein, to write).”

A student program is a set of planned and coordinated actions (courses, seminars, projects, etc.) designed to guide individual students toward an achievement, usually the completion of a form. Programs are designed to take into account each individual student's interests, goals and needs while also including core academic courses.

Program individualization gradually increases as a student moves through the high school, such that by the latter part of high school, students should be mostly designing their own programs around the core curriculum. Planning for their higher education also becomes an important factor at this stage.

Upper School student academic programs will be highly individualized, and at the same time, each student’s ownership of the educational process will be, by design, exceptionally high.


Emphasis at all Upper School levels is on reading competence and exposure to a wide range of literary works, broadening our students' framework for understanding the culture and civilization. At the upper levels, the literature program covers literary works that embrace philosophy, art, history, biography and science.

Delphian students are not permitted to use Sparknotes or other summaries but learn to read and understand the original work in its totality.

Prior to beginning each book, students engage in background research of that historical period, including relevant social and political issues, putting each novel, play or epic poem in proper context. Extensive writing assignments while reading the book focus on evaluating the ideas and viewpoints expressed in the literary work and comparing them against the historical, social and political period, as well as against the student's own experiences.

Advanced Placement courses include English Literature & Composition.

Form 6 (9th-10th Grade)

Form 6 Literature Seminars (small focus groups) read and discuss The Odyssey and Romeo and Juliet, ensuring students delve more deeply into these classic texts and are able to integrate the materials with their studies of history, government and philosophy.

Additional Form 6 books read and evaluated in writing with multiple essays requiring supervisor approval include, among others:

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare

The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck

Inherit the Wind, by J. Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith

The Sword and the Circle, by Rosemary Sutcliff

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

White Fang, by Jack London

The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Rocket Boys, by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.

Up from Slavery, by Booker T. Washington

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

In addition to the books above and others not listed, students are also required to read between 10 and 15 elective books, chosen from a prepared list (number varies according to length and difficulty of books chosen).

Form 7 (11th Grade)

Form 7 Literature Seminars (small focus groups) read and discuss Dickens' David Copperfield, as well as a work from Shakespeare, which could include The Merchant of Venice, MacBeth or Hamlet. Reading such materials in a seminar format ensures students delve more deeply into these classic texts and are able to integrate the texts with their studies of history, government and philosophy.

Additional Form 7 books read and evaluated in writing, with multiple essays requiring supervisor approval, include, among others:

Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

Sea Wolf, by Jack London

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

I, Claudius, by Robert Graves

The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone

Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo

Autobiography, by Benjamin Franklin

Form 8 (12th Grade)

Form 8 literature seminars (small focus groups) take up Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry and The Republic by Plato, ensuring students delve more deeply into these classic texts and are able to integrate the materials with their studies of history, government and philosophy.

Additional Form 8 books read and evaluated in writing, with multiple essays requiring supervisor approval, include, among others:.

Selected Dialogues of Plato, by Plato

Candide, by Voltaire

Common Sense (selections), by Thomas Paine

Rights of Man (selections), by Thomas Paine

Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville

A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen

Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw

Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak

1984, by George Orwell

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

Antigone, by Sophocles



Being able to trace influential ideas through time and see the relationship between historic and current events constitutes the emphasis of Delphian's curriculum in this subject area. During their first year of American history, focus is placed on enabling students to understand the geographical and historical context of national current events.

In their second high school year, students take three World History courses covering ancient Egypt through the fall of the Roman Empire; the Middle Ages through the American Revolution; and the French Revolution through present day. Rather than focus on memorization of dates, places and names, students are asked to evaluate major world events in modern times against a growing understanding of their historical roots.

Three advanced history courses are available to students with a specific interest in the area. These are research-intensive courses that deal with major historical ideas and developments relative to present day.

Students also take courses on world geography to augment their understanding of history.

Civics & Leadership

As part of the second year program, students will study the structure and function of the U.S. federal government, including reading and gaining a thorough understanding of the founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.

Courses are also available in Criminal and Civil Justice.

Current Events

All students participate in current events seminars (small focus groups) to raise their awareness and responsibility regarding their relationships with their country and the world. These seminars result in students developing an interest in improving the survival potential of humankind, and an improved orientation to their world and the ideas that shape it.

Current events seminars are held weekly, often supplemented with guest speakers. Students participate in research and discussion on significant issues of the day. Seniors participate in Headmistress Tea, an advanced current events seminar where students are given topics to research and present to the rest of the group each week. Presentation and critical thinking skills, as well as research integrity, are challenged in the ensuing group discussion and debate.


One of the most important senior level sections in the Delphi Program covers leadership. In this area, students learn the difference between good and bad leadership, how to be an effective leader, and the relationship between ethics and effective leadership.

Involvement in activities such as student council and community service projects gives students practical experience in leadership and its accompanying responsibilities.

Marriage & Health

In their junior year, students will address marriage, sex, family and children, and how to create and maintain successful relationships. In their senior year, students will take a brief course on health where they will discover how to research, plan and execute their own health program for the purpose of achieving optimum health.

World Religions

In their senior year, students study the major religions of the modern and ancient world. The course covers doctrine and practices found in Christianity, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Students read from the Old and New Testaments, the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita and from the writings of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) and Confucius.

Emphasis is on familiarizing students with key religious thoughts and ideals and comparing them against each other. The students' ability to interact responsibly within a context of religious freedom and religious tolerance is also addressed.

Philosophy & Logic

In their first course in Delphian's Logic Series, students are introduced to a basic logical structure for evaluating facts. They also learn how to determine reliable information and use it to make effective decisions and implement correct solutions.

In their second course on Logic, students learn to properly trace down the root cause of problems and implement realistic solutions based on a thorough logical analysis (using the structure learned earlier).

In the advanced course of Delphian's Logic Series, students begin to refine their investigatory abilities while building on earlier evaluation skills gained. They learn how to use critical thinking skills to refine broad facts into salient points of illogic requiring further investigation, and they gain the know-how to discover the correct reason for any decline or failure.

Life Skills, Ethics & Integrity

Focus is on ethics and the value of living a moral life, while developing a very high sense of integrity.

The first introduction the Upper School students have to the subject of Ethics is a section of the program that deals with applying integrity and ethics to one's own life, also covering common sense points for living productively and successfully.

The second section on Ethics addresses precise tools one can use for decision-making, overcoming weak areas and planning toward greater ethical growth and success in various aspects of the student's life.

The final section is an apprenticeship with the school's Ethics Advisor, where the students have an opportunity to work under a school counselor using tools learned in this subject to help their fellow students.

Philosophy of Education

Mid-way through their Upper School program, students take a course on education, which is predominately a focus on evaluating methods and practices of education. Study in this area enables students to design an educational program for themselves, or for others, based on an understanding of workable educational principles.

Through doing this course, students gain more self-determination toward their own education. They learn the importance of understanding what is being studied, of finding a purpose and use for subjects, and of evaluating the data against other data already known.

Mathematics, Business & Technology


Fundamentals in high school level mathematics are the focus here. Our Upper School math curriculum has been designed with a stress on the usability of the subject data in real-world applications.

Geometry and algebra is the initial level of mathematics mastery required in Upper School. A firm foundation in pre-algebra must precede this, and remedial study will be done prior to Algebra I if the student's understanding and application is lacking. Students will not only gain a thorough understanding of basic algebraic concepts and nomenclature but will also become adept at practical application of these concepts in a variety of settings.

Students interested in pursuing a career in any of the math or science fields are encouraged to take additional advanced math courses, including trigonometry and calculus.


All Delphian Upper School students study courses on management, planning and organization, and personal finances. These courses help students gain an understanding on how groups function and how to achieve their life goals using planning and organizing tools.

Business Seminar

Throughout their tenure in the Upper School, students have the opportunity to attend weekly seminars that focus on basic economic and business principles. Each seminar meeting typically addresses one or two specific types of businesses. Lectures, group discussions and classroom activities with successful businessmen are often combined with lengthy 10-14 day field trips that have included New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Silicon Valley, and Southern California, as well as Oregon.

As part of students' initial study of mathematics in the Upper School, a special section in practical math is included on every student's program. Practical math primarily addresses personal finances—calculating interest rates, taxes, budgeting, etc.

Additional Study

A wide variety of courses are offered to students interested in pursuing additional study in business. They include: The Basics of Organization; Financial Planning, Management by Statistics, Business Law, Record Keeping, Principles of Economics and Strategic Planning.

An honors-level economics class is available for students interested in preparing for the AP Microeconomics or Macroeconomics exams.


Delphian's three technology and computer labs provide students with a wide array of technology resources for use on classroom and project activities.

All students learn basic computer usage, including word processing and spreadsheet applications. For students with particular interests in technology, additional courses, seminars and clubs are available, including: robotics, coding, video game development and computer design, among others.

Delphian’s tech lab is a place that allows students to explore their curiosity and interests in the field of technology and receive one-on-one assistance to explore that interest. Learning in the tech lab is free form. Students can initiate any project they want and use the personnel and resources in the technology lab to help them.

Delphian's media studio supports students’ interests in digital media creation. From digital photography and filmmaking to graphic design and animation, students have a wide array of equipment and software at their disposal. Equipment includes top-of-the-line iMac workstations equipped with Adobe Creative Cloud, Canon and Panasonic DSLR cameras, and a variety of lighting and audio gear. The entire campus is open to students to film or photograph, in addition to a modest sound stage for a more controlled environment. The Media Studio hosts afternoon classes for students, and is available to students during their free time as well.

While Upper School students are required to own their own laptop computers, there are also many computers available for students to use throughout the campus, as well as a range of audio and video equipment for multimedia projects.

Advanced Placement

Delphian offers exams on the following subjects for Advanced Placement credit:

  • AP Biology
  • AP Calculus
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Computers
  • AP English
  • AP English Literature
  • AP Macroeconomics
  • AP Microeconomics
  • AP Music Theory
  • AP Physics
  • AP Studio Art

Download the Delphian School Graduation Requirements Handbook for a complete listing of requirements for graduation from each Form.