Burroughs is fortunate that the goals set by our founders more than 90 years ago have held true and steady: We were established and remain a coeducational, college preparatory day school providing a liberal arts curriculum, nurturing personal responsibility and integrity, and valuing the whole child as student, artist, athlete and citizen.
We have grown from 75 students to 600, our cap. That growth has required changes in campus facilities, faculty size, curriculum offerings, support, services, and the like, but these changes have not substantively altered the school’s pedagogical foundation.
Burroughs has always offered a rigorous curriculum. While our students and the institution as a whole rank among the highest on the secondary school scene, measured by performance on standardized tests and matriculation to fine colleges and universities, we do not allow instructional decisions to be driven by these measures.
Pedagogical decisions at Burroughs are made with the greatest of care and the broadest of deliberations. We do not reject national or local trends, but we do evaluate their efficacy very closely. And sometimes we choose to do things a little differently. By way of example are our approaches to the use of technology, the offering of advanced placement courses and the launching of our college application process.
A typical class at Burroughs is modeled on the graduate seminar in which discussions are held about science, mathematics, history and literature. In class we do not want students always looking at laptops. We often want them looking at each other and their teacher—listening, thinking, questioning and discussing. Our goal is active learning and critical thinking. All this said, Burroughs has an exceedingly rich technological environment to supplement and assist classroom instruction.
Advanced Placement Courses/Tests
Burroughs offers many Advanced Placement courses as well as many other high-level courses throughout our curriculum. We offer AP courses in languages, math and science but do not offer AP courses in English or history. Our reasoning is clear cut. The AP curriculum, by design, is exceedingly structured and test-driven. That works perfectly well for our math department where our goals for calculus parallel those of the AP curriculum. But in the case of English, for example, the goals of the AP course are too prescriptive for our teachers who emphasize classroom discussion and challenging writing assignments. It is important to note that a student does not need to be enrolled in an AP course to take an AP test. Many of our students do just that and score as well, or better, than students who have had the prescribed curriculum.
College Preparation v. College Selection
Our primary goal is superb preparation for college, not a preoccupation with “getting into” a particular college. We want our students to learn to love learning and not see Burroughs as one step on the ladder. Starting college admissions too early can throw things out of perspective. Our formal college counseling program begins in January of the junior year. That said, there is some planning needed before junior year regarding course selection and testing to position students correctly for their college search. Our college counseling office has strategic meetings, information sessions and communications to inform our faculty and our students and parents at just the right time—in plenty of time—to make such plans. A look at the history of college placement at Burroughs suggests that our approach has served our students well.