Middle and Upper School Academics
The Byrnes Schools provides an academic program in the Middle and Upper School that strives to "motivate students toward academic excellence," as Byrnes' Mission Statement says.
In the Middle School, grades seven and eight, the curriculum reflects the increasing independence of the seventh and eighth grade student. Instead of the self-contained classroom of the Lower School, Middle School students now have four primary teachers and must change classes. More emphasis is put on abstract thinking skills; students are increasingly responsible for their own learning. As its name suggests, the Middle School is designed to serve as a bridge both academically and emotionally between the Lower and Upper Schools.
In the Upper School, grades nine through twelve, the curriculum is designed to prepare students for four-year colleges and universities across the United States. The curriculum consists of courses that meet College Board and the South Carolina Independent School Association guidelines. Students who take Byrnes' most rigorous offerings and perform at high levels will meet the expectations of the most selective of American colleges and universities.
Upper School students take a rigorous course load of standard, honors, and/or Advanced Placement college preparatory classes which stress the mastery of the fundamentals of English, mathematics, science, history and foreign language. Reading, writing, speaking, listening, mathematics, reasoning, and study skills are emphasized at all levels.
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Year at a Glance
Byrnes' school year operates on the semester system, with examinations at the end of each semester. The first term runs from August until December, and the second from January to May. Each semester is divided into two nine-week grading periods; grades are issued to parents four times per year at the end of each grading period. At the mid-point of each nine-week grading period, parents receive progress reports for any subject in which their student is performing poorly.
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The Academic Day
The school day begins at 8:00 a.m. and concludes at 2:45 p.m. There are six class periods each day of 50 or 55 minutes in duration. Three days a week, there is a short morning break between second and third periods; twice a week Town Meetings (assembly program) and Clubs and Activities separate second and third periods. Sixth through eleventh graders have lunch after fourth period; senior lunch is after fifth period.
Standard Course Load - Middle School students take five core courses, plus several "specials" classes. Students in ninth through eleventh grades carry six courses per year. Seniors are required to carry only five courses, with six highly recommended.
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Upper School Graduation Requirements
Every student who successfully completes Byrnes' graduation requirements should be in good stead to gain admission to many colleges and universities across the United States. Students wishing to earn admittance to the nation's more selective colleges and universities, including Clemson University and the University of South Carolina, will need to exceed Byrnes' minimum requirements by taking courses from among Byrnes' advanced offerings, especially in laboratory science and foreign languages.
In order to graduate from Byrnes, a student must have completed 24 Carnegie units in the Upper School, broken down as follows:
5 units of English
3 units of History
4 units of Mathematics
3 units of Science
2 units of Foreign Language
1 unit in Physical Education/ Health
6 units of Electives
Byrnes strongly recommends that students take four Carnegie units of history, four or more units of science, and three or more units of foreign language in the Upper School. Students may receive credit for up to five Carnegie units in eighth grade: English I, Algebra I, Physical Science, Spanish I, and Physical Education/ Health.
The minimum mark credited toward graduation is 70 (see Grading Scale and Uniform Grading System. In order to be eligible to graduate, a student must have made application to at least one four-year institution. Byrnes does not participate in early graduation programs. All Byrnes students must complete four years (ninth through twelfth grade) of formal high school education.
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Upper School Course of Study
English - Students are required to take a formal English class each year in ninth through twelfth grades (English I - V). In addition, all ninth graders take Freshmen Composition, an intensive writing, rhetoric, and public speaking course, which is designed to complement the English II curriculum. In addition to English V, seniors must take either Senior Composition (a course designed to sharpen student reading, writing, research, and critical thinking skills in preparation for college) or an upper level foreign language course.
History - Byrnes requires three credits in history in ninth through twelfth grades: World History, U.S. History, and Government/ Economics. Members of the class of 2005 and beyond will take four units in history in the ninth through twelfth grades: Ancient World History, Modern World History, U.S. History, and Government/ Economics.
Mathematics - Students must take one unit of math per year in eighth through twelfth grades, through at least Algebra III. Algebra I taken in eighth grade will be granted one Carnegie unit of credit; however, one course per year in grades nine through twelve must still be taken. Highly selective colleges and universities require math through the level of Pre-Calculus; the most competitive applicants to these schools take AP Calculus in high school.
Science - Byrnes requires three credits in science in ninth through twelfth grade: Biology, Chemistry, and one other science course. Beginning with the class of 2008, and in keeping with the entrance requirements of the University of South Carolina and a number of other selective colleges and universities, Byrnes mandates that all students take and pass three units of laboratory science. The only science course offered to ninth through twelfth grade students at Byrnes which does not fulfill this requirement is Physical Science. Byrnes highly recommends taking four years of science in high school.
Foreign Language - Students are required to complete two years of the same foreign language, both of which must be taken in the ninth grade or later. Clemson University and many other selective colleges and universities require that three years of a foreign language be taken in the eighth grade or later; the most competitive applicants to these schools take four or more years.
Physical Education/ Health - One unit of Physical Education and Health is required. Most students take this course in the eighth grade.
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College Prep, Honors, and AP Courses
Byrnes has two programs of study in the Upper School, both of which are college preparatory in nature: 1) college prep and 2) honors or Advanced Placement. Students may be placed in all college prep courses, all honors or Advanced Placement courses, or a combination of the two.
College prep (CP) courses are challenging classes which demand up to 30 minutes or so of preparation time for every class period (even more when tests, essays, or projects have been assigned). When students successfully complete a college prep course, they receive a credit towards Byrnes' graduation requirements.
Honors (H) courses are more rigorous than college prep classes. Designed for students demonstrating superior skills and motivation in a particular subject, honors courses demand more preparation time than college prep classes (they may require more than 30 minutes of homework for every class period, with significantly more preparation time needed when tests, essays or projects, have been assigned). Those who successfully complete honors courses may later be eligible to take Advanced Placement courses, when offered.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses follow the curricula prescribed by the College Board and culminate in an internationally administered AP examination. Students who score at an acceptable level on an AP examination (3, 4, or 5 on a 5-point scale) receive college credit from most American colleges and universities (some colleges and universities do not grant credit for AP exams; some selective institutions accept scores of only 4 or 5). Students enrolled in AP courses can expect more than 45 minutes of homework per class period, with significantly more preparation time required when tests, essays or projects have been assigned.
For the 2005-2006 school year, Byrnes is offering AP courses in English Literature, European History, U.S. History, Calculus (level AB), Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. AP Spanish will be offered beginning with the class of 2008.
Criteria for Honors/AP Courses: In order to offer a wide range of honors courses in a school with a relatively small enrollment, Byrnes requires that students taking honors or AP English be simultaneously placed in honors or AP history, and that students taking honors or AP mathematics be simultaneously placed in honors or AP science. Students are placed in honors or AP courses based on academic qualifications, teacher recommendations, parent input, and the discretion of the Upper School Dean, Mr. Jack Hopkins.
In English and history, students may be moved into honors or AP courses or taken out of honors or AP courses from year to year or in the middle of a year, depending on performance. Honors or AP courses in mathematics and science may be taken only if a student is enrolled in accelerated math. Students earning very high grades in college prep math classes can advance to honors math and science by enrolling in a Geometry course in an accredited summer school program following ninth grade, or, if scheduling permits, by enrolling in Geometry and Algebra II simultaneously in tenth grade.
All honors and AP courses are designated as such on students' transcripts and receive additional weighting when students' Grade Point Ratios are computed. Some honors courses may offer students the option of taking an AP exam; such courses will receive honors, not AP, weighting.
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Middle School Curriculum
In the Middle School, Byrnes students take five core academic courses: Language Arts (English), Social Studies (History), Mathematics, Science, and Spanish. These five courses are all counted for the purpose of tabulating honor rolls. Also required are specials courses: music, and physical education/health. While these courses are given a grade, the grade is not used to tabulate honor rolls.
Honors courses are available in the Middle School in seventh and eighth grade math and science. Honors science may be taken only if a student is enrolled in honors math. Students are placed in honors math after sixth grade based on academic qualifications, standardized test scores, teacher recommendations, and the discretion of the Middle School Dean, Mr. Jan Bays. Students enrolling in Byrnes after sixth grade may be required to take a placement test. Students in standard math and science may accelerate to the honors program after the ninth grade.
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Elective classes are available, including year-long courses such as Spanish IV, AP European History, Yearbook/Journalism, Creative Writing, Drama, and Psychology.
Honor Graduates & Commencement Exercises
Participating in graduation exercises and receiving the Byrnes diploma are contingent upon a student's satisfactory completion of all graduation requirements and being in all respects in good standing with the school. Unless the Headmaster grants an exception, all graduating seniors are required to participate in commencement exercises.
The Valedictorian and Salutatorian will be honored at commencement as the top two students in their senior class, based upon seven semesters of high school work and continued high performance in the final semester. To be eligible for Valedictorian and Salutatorian, a student must be in good standing with the school and must have been enrolled at Byrnes for at least the five consecutive semesters prior to graduation.
Also recognized at commencement are Honor Graduates, those students who have a 4.0 Grade Point Ratio (GPR) after seven semesters of high school studies and who are in good standing with the school.
Five junior marshals, top-achieving juniors who serve in an official capacity during graduation, are chosen each year from among the top-ranking students in the junior class. In order to be eligible, juniors must be in good standing with the school and must have been enrolled at Byrnes for at least the three consecutive semesters prior to the event.
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In order to receive credit for a year-long (two-semester) course, a student must complete and pass the course for the year, based on the average of the two semesters. Successful completion of a one semester course will earn a student one-half credit.
Promotions & Summer School
In order to be promoted to the next grade, an Upper School student must 1) pass English and math, 2) pass three other courses, and 3) be able to fulfill all graduation requirements by the completion of the anticipated senior year. A student failing English or math must remediate the course in a manner approved by the Upper School Dean if he or she is to return to Byrnes. It is generally not possible to make up more than one or one and a half credits in public or private summer schools in South Carolina. In general, students who are not promoted will not be invited to return to Byrnes for the following year. It would be very unusual for a student to be allowed to repeat a grade in the Upper School.
Middle School students must pass math, language arts, and either science or social studies to be promoted. A student failing language arts or math must remediate the course in a manner approved by the Middle School Dean if the student is to return to Byrnes.
If a student attends and passes a Byrnes-approved summer school program, credit will be recorded on official records with a special notation of summer school attendance. In the event that a student fails a course at Byrnes and makes up the course in summer school, only the original course taken at Byrnes will be counted in the compilation of the student's Grade Point Ratio (GPR). Failed courses may be made up at Byrnes, if demand warrants and a teacher is available, or at another credit-granting institution approved by Byrnes. Courses taken in summer school must be comparable with the original course at Byrnes and must be approved in advance by the Middle or Upper School Dean.
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Examinations & Exemptions
All students in grades seven through twelve are required to take exams in all academic subjects, including most electives. Middle School enrichment courses and Upper School Physical Education/ Health are exceptions to this, as is second semester Senior Composition (seniors write a research paper in lieu of this exam).
Upper School exams are two hours in length; Middle School exams are somewhat shorter as appropriate to grade level. In the Upper School, the weight of an exam is 25 percent of the student's semester grade. In grade seven, exams count 10 percent of the semester grade; in grade eight, exams count 20 percent.
In the Upper School, students are not required to be at school during exam periods in which they have no exams. Parents should make arrangements for transportation, if necessary.
Seniors may exempt a second semester exam in a course if the average of their third and fourth nine-week grades in that course is an 85 or higher and if they have missed no more than five classes - whether excused or unexcused - that semester.
Students enrolled in AP classes who take the AP exam are not required to take the second semester exam.
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Middle & Upper School Exam Schedule, 2005-2006
First Semester 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 14 First Period Second Period
Thursday, Dec. 15 Third Period Fourth Period
Friday, Dec. 16 Fifth Period Sixth Period
Second Semester 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 23 Fourth Period Fifth Period
Wednesday, May 24 Sixth Period First Period
Thursday, May 25 Second Period Third Period
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Byrnes uses the South Carolina Department of Education's Uniform Grading System (UGS). All public schools and virtually all independent schools in South Carolina use this grading system in order to ensure that their students meet the eligibility requirements for South Carolina's Hope and Life Scholarship programs.
The UGS mandates that numerical grades rather than letter grades be assigned. Numerical grades of 93-100 are considered in the A range; 85-92, in the B range; 77-84, in the C range; 70-76, in the D range; and 69 and below, F.
The transcripts of any new students whose previous schools use other grading systems will be converted to the UGS using a formula developed by the South Carolina Department of Education.
Note that the GPR is reported each semester on students' report cards beginning in the ninth grade. GPR figured in sixth and seventh grades is used for the purposes of determining honor rolls and honor societies, but will not be considered part of the cumulative GPR on a student's transcript. Any courses earning Carnegie credits in the eighth grade will count towards a student's cumulative Upper School GPR.
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Report Cards, Mid-Semester Reports, Progress Reports & Transcripts
Report cards are issued four times per year, at the end of each nine-week grading period. For 2005-2006, the four grading periods end October 21, December 16, March 2, and May 25, and report cards are mailed soon thereafter.
Every Middle and Upper School teacher writes formal mid-semester reports on each of his or her students twice a year, at the end of the first and third nine-weeks (these are included with the nine-week grades and mailed the week of October 24 and March 6). At the mid-point of each nine-week period, teachers also write progress reports on any student who has an average at that point of 79 or below. For 2005-2006, these reports will be mailed the week of September 19, November 14, January 30, and April 3.
The transcript, the cumulative academic record of each student, reports year-end grades for each course a student takes, and is updated annually. In the college admission process, the final transcript is the most important document a Byrnes student possesses.
Confidentiality - It is Byrnes' policy that all student records are kept confidential. Only personnel needing the records to carry out their assigned duties have access to student files, except in cases where the law provides to the contrary. All requirements outlined in the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act of 1974 shall be met when records are transferred to or from Byrnes.
Note that report cards, mid-semester reports, progress reports, and transcripts may be withheld pending a student's completion of course work or returning of library books, or a family’s payment of school tuition and fees.
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Establishing positive parent-teacher communications is critical to Byrnes' mission. Most parents find it easiest to contact teachers by telephone or voice mail when they have questions or concerns. Many parents find it helpful to establish e-mail communications with their student's teachers on an as-needed basis.
Parents are also encouraged to set up teacher conferences any time they feel this might be helpful; parents should contact the individual teacher to set up such a meeting. In addition, if a parent wishes to meet with all of a student's teachers at the same time, due to academic, social, or behavioral concerns, the parent should call the Middle or Upper School Dean to arrange a conference.
When dealing with academic problems, parents are urged to contact their child’s teachers first. If this does not solve the problem, parents should contact the Middle or Upper School Dean. If the problem lingers, the Deans may involve the Headmaster.
The School Counselor, Ms. Trudy Sauvageau, may also be of assistance in helping address a student’s academic, social, and behavioral problems. Parents are encouraged to contact her directly as necessary.
Byrnes will not provide class rank to students or parents, except at the end of the senior year to announce valedictorian and salutatorian. Class rank will be provided to colleges only when they require such information for the purpose of awarding scholarships. Byrnes sends a cover letter with college applications stating that because of the school's small size and because all students enrolled here are in a college preparatory program, class rank is not indicative of a student's academic standing or intellectual promise.
There are two honor rolls at Byrnes: the Headmaster's List and the Honor Roll. They are computed as follows:
Headmaster's List - GPR of 4.0 (on the UGS 5.87 scale) with no grade below 85.
Honor Roll - GPR of 3.5 with no grade below 80.
In the Middle School, all core subjects are used to determine honor rolls. In the Upper School, all subjects are used to tabulate honor rolls except Physical Education/ Health.
National Junior Honor Society
Students earning a superior academic record in seventh and eighth grades may qualify for the National Junior Honor Society at the end of the eighth grade. The names of those students who meet rigorous academic qualifications will be submitted to a Faculty Review Committee, which will select recipients based on high standards of good citizenship and community or school service. New members are inducted in the spring.
National Honor Society
Students earning a superior academic record in grades nine and beyond may qualify for the National Honor Society as early as the second semester of the tenth grade. The names of those students who meet rigorous academic qualifications will be submitted to a Faculty Review Committee, which will select recipients based on high standards of good citizenship and community or school service. New members are inducted in the spring.
Academic Achievement Awards
Academic achievement awards are presented to students in grades six through twelve who accomplish an outstanding academic achievement beyond the normal requirements of the curriculum. Byrnes students have the opportunity to receive the following recognitions and awards:
Headmaster's Award: voted by the faculty and awarded to the senior whose academic and extracurricular contributions to the school are extraordinary and who best embodies the school motto of "Achievement, Courage, Loyalty."
Scholarship Award: given to the student in each grade with the highest GPR for work in a given year through the third nine weeks.
Citizenship Award (Upper School only): voted by the faculty and awarded to the student in each grade who exhibits the highest standard of citizenship and demonstrates the most exemplary attitude.
Upper School Excellence in English, History, Mathematics, Science, and Foreign Languages: determined by the faculty and awarded to the senior in each academic discipline who has exhibited the most profound mastery of the subject matter over the span of his or her high school career.
Upper School Academic Achievement Awards: presented to the student in each core course in grades eight through twelve who has attained the highest average for the year. (Where both honors and college prep sections are offered, only students in the honors section are eligible.)
Betty L. Brodhun Dean's Award: presented to the Middle School student who best exemplifies the spirit of the Byrnes Middle School.
Other academic honors include College Scholarship Awards (seniors only), Governor's School (juniors only), Boys' State (juniors only), Girls' State (juniors only), Talent Identification Awards (Middle School only), and Perfect Attendance Awards (Middle School only).
When a student is experiencing difficulty in a course, a paid tutor can be helpful, but tutoring cannot replace good note-taking and class preparation. Teachers at Byrnes may not tutor one of their own students for a fee, but they are permitted to tutor another teacher's students.
College Placement and Guidance Services
Byrnes provides a college guidance program as part of its services to Upper School students and their parents. The formal counseling process begins in the junior year and continues until each senior has made application to colleges, received admission to one or more colleges, and chosen the college he or she will attend. Throughout the process, Byrnes' College Guidance Counselor, Ms. Trudy Sauvageau, maintains a calendar of meetings for students and parents to attend and deadlines for families to follow.
Each year, the Counselor prepares a College Admissions Handbook which spells out procedures and recommendations from the initial college search to final acceptance. Note that as Byrnes is a college preparatory school, the school requires students to make application to at least one four-year institution.
In the last five years, virtually all graduating seniors have been accepted to at least one four-year college. The 25 graduates of the class of 2004 received 68 acceptances from 36 different colleges and universities and attended 10 institutions in five states. Members of the class of 2004 were offered academic, athletic, and special achievement scholarships valued at $631,000.
Middle School students take the Stanford Achievement tests in March as mandated by SCISA. Seventh and eighth grade students take the OLSAT achievement test in March. There is no charge to parents for these tests.
Byrnes requires seventh through eleventh graders to take the PSAT on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005 at Byrnes. In addition, eleventh graders are required to take the SAT in the spring (Saturday, April 1, 2006) and twelfth graders are required to take the SAT in the fall (Saturday, Oct. 8, 2005). SAT's are administered at various public schools in Florence and Darlington. The College Board charges fees for both the SAT and PSAT; these fees are not included in the Byrnes tuition and fees.
As a part of the Byrnes curriculum, English and mathematics teachers provide ninth through eleventh graders with PSAT and SAT test-taking strategies and practice.
The College Guidance Counselor coordinates test registration.
Byrnes provides students with hard-bound textbooks and some soft-bound materials. These remain the property of Byrnes and must be returned at the end of the school year. Any student who damages a textbook will be required to pay a damage fee or replacement fee, depending on the extent of the damage. Report cards will be held at the end of the year until such fees are paid.
In addition, Middle and Upper School students are asked to purchase expendable workbooks and paperback books in English and other courses. Depending on what courses their child is taking, parents can expect to purchase four to eight of these books each year. The school makes every effort to keep the cost of these items at a reasonable level.
Upper School students will be subscribing to Newsweek, which they will be using for the current events portion of their history classes. There will be a small charge for this as well.
The use of the library is a privilege which all Byrnes students have as long as they exercise common courtesies and use it for its intended purposes. The library is a room for doing reference work and research, securing materials required for preparing assignments, and satisfying reading interests beyond textbooks. Books may be checked out for two weeks with renewals permitted. Reference books may not be checked out of the library.
Report cards and course credits may be withheld for students who have overdue books and/or outstanding library fines. No library materials may be taken from the library without proper authorization from the librarian. Fines may be levied by the librarian for the above infractions.
Students are responsible for getting all assignments missed while they are absent from school for any reason, and they must make sure they make up work in a timely fashion. When students know in advance that they will miss classes, they must notify their teachers and work out a strategy to make up all work in a timely fashion. Students who miss an extended period of time because of illness should meet with each teacher upon their return to establish a schedule for making up work.
If a student is absent from school the day of a test, he or she should plan to take the test upon the day of returning to school. If a student misses school the day before a previously announced test, the student should plan to take the test with the rest of the class.
Byrnes encourages students to seek jobs in the community during the school year as well as the summer. However, it is the faculty's observation that some students work so many hours at their jobs that they fail to get adequate sleep or to prepare adequately for their classes. Therefore, Byrnes urges students to limit their jobs to two hours or less each school day, or even better, limit their hours to weekends only.
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