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Upper School Curriculum

Grades 9–12

At Durham Academy Upper School, students engage with complex ideas and diverse perspectives across a robust curriculum designed to reveal and deepen their intellectual passions.

Core courses provide students with the foundational knowledge and analytical skills they need to be confident, critical, independent thinkers. In their four years at the Upper School, each student charts a unique academic journey in which they both follow their interests and discover new ones. Because our most challenging coursework is not limited by the AP program, students ask genuine, relevant questions and then pursue those questions with depth, rigor, scholarship and creativity. With students at the center of their learning, that learning becomes meaningful and enduring — and serves as a launch pad for success in college and beyond.




An Advanced Math Modeling student works on a problem on a whiteboard.

Advancing Beyond APs

While Advanced Placement courses may have once provided an elite-level academic experience, an ever-growing number of top independent schools, including Durham Academy, have recognized that they can offer their families a more robust learning experience. 

DA Upper School will fully transition to our Advanced curriculum in 2024–2025, with several Advanced courses piloted in the 2023–2024 school year. This internally designed curriculum will comprise our school's most advanced, rigorous, globally relevant courses that emphasize depth over breadth and that teach students to synthesize complex information and apply knowledge and skills to real life.

Learn More About the Transition to DA's Advanced Curriculum

Student Support


College Counseling

Our college counseling team helps students make smart choices for course selections and activities — with an eye toward eventually finding their "perfect fit" college or university. 

Explore Our College Counseling Program


Learning Support

Durham Academy is committed to supporting students with learning differences. Our Upper School faculty includes a dedicated learning specialist and learning support coach who guide students toward confidence and self-advocacy, while helping them gain a better understanding of their learning strengths and weaknesses. 

Learn About DA Learning Support


Graduation Requirements

20 credits are required for graduation.

One credit is awarded for a year-long course; one half-credit is awarded for a one-semester course. The minimum course load is five courses each semester. Physical education courses are not counted toward the minimum load or toward the 20-credit requirement; nor is a course that is being repeated. Students must pass the equivalent of eight semester courses (four year-long courses) in the senior year.

Global Online Academy

Durham Academy is a member of Global Online Academy (GOA), a consortium of leading independent schools from around the world. As a student at a GOA member school, you will have the option of taking high-level online courses with classmates from around the globe as part of your Durham Academy Upper School coursework.

GOA courses are our courses, taught by experienced faculty from DA and renowned peer schools all over the world. This is a new kind of online class in which relationships and connections drive students to share their perspectives and learn from those of others.

Explore GOA at Durham Academy