Upper School (Grades 9-12)

castilleja school academics high school

Upper School students explore challenging subjects with fearless curiosity while learning the importance of having strong mentors and friendships.

Every Upper School student deepens her learning by making connections, addressing real-world issues, and taking ownership of her unique learning journey. Our Interdisciplinary Content Areas (ICAs)–Design and Innovation, Environmental Sustainability, Social Justice, Emerging Technologies, Global Systems, Truth and Beauty, and Women in the World–offer a context within which students can apply their thinking and learning. With inclusion and wellness guiding the student experience, girls come to understand how to support themselves and each other as they explore deep ideas and build confidence, compassion, and capacity. 

In the fall of 2020, Castilleja completed a thoughtful and intentional transition to an Advanced Topics (AT) curriculum in the Upper School. First taught in the 2012-13 academic year, AT courses are designed by Castilleja faculty and grounded in research into how adolescent girls learn best, what college faculty expect entering students to know, and what skills are essential for success in upper-level college courses. Since then, our selection of Advanced Topics courses has grown in number and in scope. As the most rigorous courses available in each academic discipline, AT courses are designed to replace the Advanced Placement® (AP®) curriculum, exploring topics in greater depth and emphasizing experiential learning. Like many of our peer schools, Castilleja has created our advanced curriculum to empower students to make decisions about and extend their own learning in ways that will prepare them for college and for life-long learning.

We are especially excited that we will continue to see new offerings at the AT level as every department has the freedom to design courses driven by the passions their faculty share with students; our faculty remain committed to designing and teaching an excellent and engaging curriculum. As happens now, some AT classes will continue to offer students the option of taking an AP® exam at the end of the year, while others will not.


Every girl will learn life-changing lessons about herself as she defines and explores her own leadership style.


Through community engagement, students will discover how to use their learning to become agents of change.


With academic curiosity as a driving force, students choose topics, explore questions, and develop projects that guide discovery.


The creative process allows students to use design-thinking and their imaginations to build confidence, develop empathy, and seek new solutions.

Critical Thinking

The ability to examine your thought process can be far more important than your final results.

In the Company of Girls

The all-girls environment means that all leadership roles will be filled by girls, all courageous questions will be asked by girls, and all brave paths will be charted by girls.