Honors Program: Expectations & Requirements


New West is known for its rigorous academic courses. The school’s overall program is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Every academic course on campus meets the University of California’s “A-G” requirements for admission.

The vast majority of courses offered in New West’s high school program have a “College Preparatory” and an “Honors” version. College Preparatory classes meet the state and Common Core standards that get students ready for higher education. Honors classes address the same standards but go deeper into the content, at a much faster pace, and have higher expectations for both the quality and quantity of student work. In short, the Honors classes are more rigorous and push student learning above and beyond grade-level. They are designed for students who love learning and seek admission to elite colleges and universities.

Teachers in the Honors programs are committed to challenging students to adequately prepare them for college-level course work. As Honors level courses are more rigorous than regular courses, classes may require additional reading, research, essays and projects. Teachers cover curriculum at a faster pace and in greater depth while incorporating more complex analysis and additional sources.

All New West students are encouraged to challenge themselves with Honors classes.


If You’re Thinking Of Applying

Students in Honors courses are expected to have the following characteristics:

  • High academic achievement and intellectual ability.
  • Self-motivation and self-discipline.
  • Good organizational skills.
  • Excellent written and spoken expression.
  • An avid interest in reading different types of text.
  • An ability to work independently and collaboratively.
  • Remain on task in class with little to no disruption.
  • Good citizenship and attendance.


Honors Expectations

Upon acceptance into the Honors program, students are expected to:

  • Maintain A/B grades in all Honors courses in both semesters.
  • Remain in the course(s) for the duration of the year.
  • Maintain high standards of academic integrity.
  • Be in class every day. Excessive absences are grounds for removal from the course.
  • The student commits to completing any summer work. Summer work may include the reading of books, journals, etc, writing assignments, projects, meeting with the course teacher, etc. All summer work will be available on the teacher’s webpage and the student must check the webpage to ensure he or she is fully aware of all announcements regarding summer work for an Honors course.


Honors Program Understandings

  • The student commits to upholding the school’s Honor Code regarding plagiarism, cheating, submitting work he or she did not complete, etc. If the student is found to have violated the Honors code in any way, then the student may be dropped from any Honors course without honors credit.
  • Student success is the ultimate goal, but students not succeeding in an Honors class will be handled on an individual basis. Students who finish the first semester with a grade lower than a C will be unenrolled in the course and placed in a college prep level class. Students earning a second semester grade of a lower than a C may not move on to the next honors class.
  • Students who receive a C may not be invited to join the next honors course at the teacher’s discretion.
  • Students who have excessive tardies, absences, or discipline issues will be dropped from the course and placed in the college prep level of the course.


Honors Placement Policy

Each spring, New West staff use achievement data to forecast how many students will be ready for each of our Honors courses the following year, and therefore the number of periods to offer. As a school that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, all students who seek an academic challenge are welcome to request Honors classes. However, because there are both rewards and risks at stake in taking our most demanding courses, we encourage students (and their parents) to think critically about whether an Honors class is the best match. Experience shows that some of the strongest predictors of success in Honors classes are:

  1. Previous Grades: Earned an A in both the first and second semesters of the previous class in that subject.*
  2. Placement Exam Scores: Earned a strong score on the appropriate placement test (if used).
  3. Standardized Exam Scores: Earned at least one of the following:
    • A score in the “standard exceeded” range on the SBAC interim or summative assessments for the appropriate subject**
    • A score in the “advanced” range on the CAST for science in the previous school year***
    • A score of at least 500 on the PSAT or SAT for the appropriate subject**
    • A score of at least 21 on the PACT or ACT for the appropriate subject**
    • A score on the RIT scale in the "above average" range on the NWEA's MAP test for the appropriate subject**

*For Honors Modern World History, English 9 grades will be considered.
**For History courses, English test scores will be considered.
***For Honors Science courses for ninth and eleventh graders, CAST scores from the previous school year will be considered.

Students who meet three of the criteria listed above are recommended to take Honors. Those who meet two are encouraged to ask to enroll. Kids who meet one or less are suggested to consider their motivation level, willingness to work, and comfort with potentially ending the course with less than an A before making a request. Enrollment can be prioritized in order of readiness indicators if necessary.

Students who come close to meeting the standards listed above and want a challenge may be granted admission if and when space is available.

Students who transfer into New West are initially placed in college preparatory classes and then moved into Honors periods as recommended by their teachers.

The goal of this policy is to provide students with multiple ways to show that they’re ready for the rigor of a New West Honors course. 



Honors Course Catalog

Honors Geometry

Recommended For: Freshmen, Sophomores

Our Honors Geometry class will cover everything that Geometry covers but will be taught at a faster pace and with less support as our college prep section. The course will allow students to strengthen their inductive and deductive reasoning as they examine and develop arguments, contradictions, and proofs. A significant amount of definitions, postulates, and theorems will need to be mastered by students as they perform basic proofs and then apply these proofs to real world problem solving situations. The course includes several major units of study beginning with the basic components of geometry and then proceeding to concepts involving two and three-dimensional geometric figures. The basic components unit includes a review of key notations and visual representations that will be used through out the course. Central to this unit are the angles relationships and properties that emanate from parallel lines cut by transversals.

Building on the basic components of geometry, the next unit relates to an extensive examination of triangles. Students will work extensively with two column proofs of triangle congruence and similarity. The triangle unit continues with a closer examination of right triangles. Students will know and apply the Pythagorean theorem, Distance Formula, special right triangle relationships, and trigonometric functions to find unknown lengths and angles in right triangles. The focus of the course then transitions to a more general investigation of the properties of two-dimensional figures including the relationships between angles and sides, area, and perimeter. Students then investigate the relationships and properties of three-dimensional figures involving computations and problem solving related to volume and surface area. Finally the course concludes with the circle unit. Students will develop theorems related to chords, secants, tangents, inscribed angles and polygons. These theorems will then be applied to problem solving situations that involve missing angle and arc measures, as well as finding the length of arcs, chords, tangents, and secants.


Honors Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry

Recommended For: Sophomore, Juniors, Seniors

Topics in Mathematical Analysis, Trigonometry, and Linear Algebra are often combined to create a pre-calculus course needed to prepare students for the study of Calculus. The course is designed to strengthen student conceptual understanding and mathematical reasoning of techniques used in trigonometry, geometry, and algebra. Mathematical Analysis standards require students to know and apply to problem solving situations: polar coordinates and vectors; complex numbers; the fundamental theorem of algebra; conic sections; roots and poles of rational functions; functions and equations defined parametrically; and the limit of a sequences and functions. Trigonometry standards build on those concepts previously learner in the Geometry course. Students develop an understanding of angle measurements in degrees and radians and use this concept to graph in a variety of forms the sine, cosine, tangent, cotangent, secant, and cosecant functions.


Honors Calculus AB

Recommended For: Juniors and Seniors

The prerequisites to learning and using calculus are the algebra, trigonometry, and analytical geometry skills students have developed in the preceding Algebra II and Pre calculus classes. In addition to the rigor and depth that will permeate all aspects of this course students will hopefully also develop an appreciation for the versatility and usefulness that the study of Calculus provides to professional fields related to mathematics, science, design, technology, and engineering. The course begins with an examination of limits and continuity. Students will be required to calculate limits of function values and to test functions for continuity. Once students are able to calculate limits, they can then proceed to finding derivatives. The derivatives unit illustrates the role calculus plays in measuring the rates at which things change. Students will explore the circumstances in which derivates exist, the basic derivative techniques, rates of change, trigonometric derivatives, major rules and laws, common differentiation tasks, and an extensive application of derivatives in real world situations.

The focus of the course then shifts from derivates to finite sums and integrals. Students will examine the close connections between derivatives and integrals though the examination of the contributions of Leibniz and Newton to the study of Calculus. During the integral unit students will be required to work extensively with integration and derivatives as these concepts relate to the graphs of exponential, inverse, logarithmic, inverse trigonometric, and hyperbolic functions. Students will know and apply several major integration rules and theorems including the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, L’Hopital’s rule, Mean Value theorem, and Rolle’s theorem. In addition, students will apply all the above techniques and theorems of integration to finding the volumes of rotational solids and arc lengths. Calculus students then transition to the study of differential equations, sequences, and series. The section pertaining to differential equations requires students to have knowledge of the separation of variables, the types of solutions, and exponential growth and decay. Students must also be able to visualize differential equations in terms of linear approximations, slope fields, and Euler’s method. The sequence and series section allows student the opportunity to examine basic examples of infinite series such as geometric series, P-series, and the telescoping series. Students will also be able to perform a variety of infinite series convergence test. Finally an exploration of special series such as the power series, the Maclaurin series, and the Taylor series will conclude the unit.


Honors Calculus BC

Recommended For: Juniors and Seniors

Honors Calculus BC is a second course in a single-variable calculus that is equivalent to a second semester calculus course at most colleges and universities. This course will provide a deeper understanding of the concepts of limit, continuity, derivatives, and integrals which were covered in Honors Calculus AB. The major topics covered in Honors Calculus BC are Parametric, polar, and vector functions; slope fields; Euler’s method; L’Hopital’s Rule; Improper Integrals; Logistic differentiable equations; Polynomial approximations and Series; and Taylor Series.


Honors Probability and Statistics

Recommended For: Juniors and Seniors

Probability and Statistics is a unique mathematical course combining lessons and activities that incorporate elements from a wide range of subjects including Algebra, English, Science, Technology, and History. The course will include extensive topics in Statistics defined as the study of collecting, organizing, analyzing, and interpreting numerical information from data. The statistical elements will also be applied to the study of Probability as the likelihood that an event will occur. Together probability and statistics are tools that allow us to analyze data within a specific context in order to make informed decisions or predictions.Students will be expected to demonstrate mastery of the content by taking detailed and reflective notes, analyzing studies and experiments, gathering and organizing data, problem solving, writing detailed constructed responses/reflections; and creating and designing their own statistical studies.


Honors Biology

Recommended For: Freshmen

Biology is the study of processes central to the continuation and reproduction of life for all organisms. Concepts covered in this course will include the anatomy and reproduction of plant and animal cells, chemical reactions that are critical to specific organic cycles, and the concepts of genetics that explain reproduction, mutation, and evolution. Students will also learn the role of a variety of living and non-living components in maintaining balance within ecosystems, the factors and evidence of evolution, and the coordinated function and structures of organ systems in maintaining homeostasis within human bodies and other organisms.

Students will learn the concepts of biology through hands-on experimentation, simulation, and active demonstration, as well as discussion, group and individual research, and projects that apply concepts covered in class to the observable world. Honors Biology will be demonstrably more challenging than the college preparatory Biology courses offered.


Honors Chemistry

Recommended For: Sophomores, Juniors

This course is designed to be a laboratory-based chemistry course. The goal of this course is to adequately prepare students for entry into a college-level chemistry class. In this course, students will learn and use scientific skills to study the history and nature of chemistry as an experimental science. It will cover topics of Atomic and Molecular Structure, Chemical Bonds, Conservation of Matter, Stoichiometry, Properties of Gases, Solutions, Acids, Bases, Chemical Thermodynamics, Reaction Rates, Equilibrium, Nuclear Processes, and Organic Chemistry. This course promotes analytical, scientific thinking, and laboratory skills. Students learn how scientists think, work, share their discoveries, and develop skills that will be essential in college-level science courses.


Honors Physics

Recommended For: Juniors and Seniors

The conceptual study of laws of motion, forces, energy and momentum, properties and states of matter, heat and thermodynamics, wave motion, sound, light, electricity and magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics will be the main units of this course. The course will critically teach students the nature of light reflection, refraction, and polarization while also examining the direct current, heating and the effects of various chemicals. By looking at electrical devices students use everyday, they can begin to apply physics to their daily life.

Each unit in this course discusses a separate topic and through charts, surveys and discussions, ties the various topics together. For this course, the learning environment will be student centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered. This course will be student centered to the extent that the teacher builds on knowledge students bring to the learning situations. This course will be knowledge centered to the extent that the teacher helps students develop an organized understanding of important concepts in the physics teaching discipline. This course will be assessment centered to the extent that the teacher makes students' thinking visible so that ideas can be presented and verified. This course will be community centered to the extent that the teacher establishes classroom norms that learning with understanding is valued and students feel free to explore what they do not understand.


Honors Environmental Science

Recommended For: Juniors and Seniors

This course is designed to be the equivalent of a one-semester, introductory college course in environmental science. This course has been developed to provide the student with an integrated approach to the numerous disciplines involved in environmental sciences, and to incorporate many lab components, as well as social and political themes. The benefit to students of the course is to give them a deeper understanding of themselves and all living things surrounding them. They will come away with a deeper knowledge of their place and importance on the planet with a love of science and an ability to use the inquiry process to become critical thinkers that can make a difference in their community. This honors course will better prepare them for higher level science courses in high school and college.  

This course will provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world; to identify and analyze environmental problems, both natural and man-made; to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems; and to examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. There are several unifying themes that provide the foundations for the structure of this course:

  1. Science is a process 
    • Science is a method of learning more about the world
    • Science constantly changes the way we understand the world.
  2. Energy conversions underlie all ecological processes.
    • Energy cannot be created; it must come from somewhere.
    • As energy flows through systems, at each step more of it becomes unusable.
  3. The Earth itself is one interconnected system.
    • Natural systems change over time and space.
    • Biogeochemical systems vary in ability to recover from disturbances.
  4. Humans alter natural systems.
    • Humans have had an impact on the environment for millions of years.
    • Technology and population growth have enabled humans to increase both the rate and scale of their impact on the environment.
  5. Environmental problems have a cultural and social context.
    • Understanding the role of cultural, social, and economic factors is vital to the development of solutions.
  6. Human survival depends on developing practices that will achieve sustainable systems.


Honors English 9

Recommended For: Freshmen

Honors English is a year long, introductory course to the literary canon. Students study different literary genres, including short stories, novels, poetry, drama, and non-fiction, grammar, and critical thinking skills. Students read five to eight novels and plays from the classical canon, including Charles Dickens and the Victorian Era. In addition, students read major works by Homer, Shakespeare, Harper Lee, and many others. Students are required to read both in class and out of class. In addition, students will complete formal writing assignments reflecting on selected pieces of literature. Significant grammar and composition units are studied; creative writing is developed through modeling themes and techniques from literature. Students develop mastery of thesis, support, and argumentation in composition. In addition, students develop memorization and public speaking skills, and video recording is used for student self-critiquing. Graded writing assignments will include formal essays, timed pieces, and journal writings. Research skills, including internet research, culminate with the writing of a formal research paper. Students’ study of literature continues with an increased emphasis on developing critical thinking and writing skills. A comprehensive written or other type of final assessment is required.


Honors World Literature 10

Recommended For: Sophomores

World Literature is designed to expose students to perspectives that differ from their own, ultimately leading them to a deeper understanding of other cultures and the works that represent them. The course is a study of representative works of world literature from Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. The course emphasizes the study and consideration of the literary, cultural, and human significance of selected great works of the Western and non-Western literary traditions. An emphasis will be placed on writing, speaking, and research elements corresponding to California Standards. Therefore, students will thematically study, analyze, interpret, & critique various genres of literature and other media based on the historical and cultural context of the author and his/her culture. An important goal of the class is to promote an understanding of the works in their cultural/historical contexts and of the enduring human values, which unite the different literary traditions. The course’s pedagogy gives special attention to critical thinking and writing within a framework of cultural diversity as well as comparative and interdisciplinary analysis. A comprehensive, written final exam is required on all reading and discussions from class.


Honors American Literature 11

Recommended For: Juniors

The core of the curriculum is a chronological or thematic study of American literature, its literary periods and major writers. Outside reading focuses on broader philosophical ideas, encouraging wider reading including classics by American authors. This course provides an intensive study of the works of several major American authors. Emphasis is placed on American history, culture, and the literary merits. Readings will include poems, novels, essays, autobiographies, short stories, social commentaries, political tracts, and philosophy, originating in different regions and social settings across the country. Some works are chosen from their historical importance, others for their thematic insight, others for their aesthetic virtues. Taken together, they form a rich collection of imaginative and critical writing, composed by former slaves and United States Presidents, by immigrants and expatriates, by Harvard professors and unknown spinsters.


Honors British Literature

Recommended For: Seniors

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a wide range of British literature. It is a survey course and will cover all major literary time periods from Medieval English to Postmodern and Contemporary British voices. Students will read poetry, novels, plays, speeches, satires, and essays throughout the year, and will be expected to respond thoroughly to the texts using a breadth of both written and oral assessments. Students will be encouraged to read closely and to value textual evidence at all times. Thorough annotations of novels and texts will be expected.


Honors Modern World History

Recommended For: Sophomores

By the end of the course, students will have a foundation of the problems and success of the 20th century and how they affect life today in the 21st century. Throughout the year students will develop critical questioning and thinking skills to objectively study history using a variety of primary and secondary sources. Students will participate and learn through structured class simulations, college level class discussions and readings, multimedia presentations (including the internet, documentary and feature films, broadcast news including television and radio, and a host of others), individual and group projects, formal research essays, and field trips. A comprehensive written final examination is required along with a student selected Reading Program of three topic related books and a final research essay or a presentation.


Honors American Government

Recommended For: Seniors

Everyone has heard the story of the exchange between Ms. Powel and Benjamin Franklin at the close of the constitutional convention in 1789. Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a democracy or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic madam, if you can keep it.” The meaning of “if you can keep it” is frequently discussed in history classes. This premise of this course is that keeping our republic requires educated citizens and a free press.

This is a one semester course. It moves from a broad study of foundational topics and constitutional legal ideals into an application of these topics and ideals to contemporary times. The goal is to engage high school students in a critical examination of their government and the exercise of their responsibilities as United States citizens. Students have the opportunity to conduct discussions, research concepts, and debate with their classmates about governmental problems, contemporary political issues and the ramifications of governmental decisions. The ultimate goal of this class is to provide students with a sense of voter empowerment so they can exercise their citizen responsibility based on their knowledge of how government works.


Honors Spanish IV

Recommended For: Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors

Honors Spanish IV is an intensive course designed to meet the needs of students who are interested to communicate in writing and orally in Spanish at an advanced level.  Students will acquire in cultural appropriate ways a deeper knowledge of thematic vocabulary related to the immediate and external environment and more complex grammatical structures using the four language modalities: speaking, reading, listening and writing. In addition, students will be exposed to customs and traditions of the Spanish speaking countries through literature, history and visual art. The course guidelines are aligned with the World Language Content Standards for California Public Schools.