Curriculum Guide

2021-22 Curriculum Guide

[Print-friendly 2021-22 Curriculum Guide]

Partnerships and Opportunities for a Successful Future

At Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, we pride ourselves on being one of the top districts in the Capital Region. We believe our stellar academic program plays a major role in this distinction. As such we continue to strive to offer courses that are enhanced through a variety of programs and local partnerships and that introduce our students to real-world settings and environments as a way to better prepare them for the rigors of college and 21st-century careers.


Science, technology, engineering, and math—or STEM, as it is known in education circles—are rapidly growing fields of study. Yet, BH-BL also considers the arts to play an integral role in this foursome because of the creative and visual nature of these fields. As a result, BH-BL uses the acronym STEAM when referring to the many programs and courses developed over the years to accommodate these fields of study. STEAM is also connected to the broader academic program at BH-BL that has long been focused on preparing students to be critical thinkers, problem solvers and global citizens across all academic departments. When coupled with an excellent academic program, STEAM opportunities bolster students’ experiences and exposure to real-world scenarios and better prepares them for the rigors of college and the demands of high-tech careers.

Popular STEAM-related Courses

  • Cisco Systems Information Technology Essentials 5.0
  • Computer-Aided Drawing
  • Computer Science Principles
  • Digital Art
  • Forensic Science
  • Introduction to Engineering & Technology
  • Principles of Engineering
  • Robotics
  • Homeownership & Sustainable Construction
  • Technical & Digital Photography

STEAM Experiences

FIRST Technology Challenge. As part of the Robotics course, students build and program a robot to compete in the internationally recognized FIRST Robotics Competitions. BH-BL’s high school team has succeeded at both regional and national levels. See page 35 for the Robotics course description.

The Science Research Program partners with such institutions as Albany Medical College, Wadsworth Labs, Columbia University, Albany College of Pharmacy as well as RPI, Skidmore and Cornell to further prepare students for post-graduate study and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Students work with professors or industry professionals in a one-on-one capacity in real-world labs and settings.


The study of the humanities provides a sound toolkit for personal and professional success: how to communicate what we think; how to interpret what we read, see and hear; and how to understand and respond to difference. Humanities are unique in their potential to help students develop the skills and wisdom needed to thrive in the digitized, globalized, discovery-driven economy of the 21st century. There have always been, and will continue to be, important and highly valued careers in the field of humanities, which is why for years BH-BL has offered students an array of courses and programs with a humanities theme.

Popular Humanities Courses

  • Adolescent Psychology
  • Criminology
  • Fleur de Lis: French Language & Culture in North America
  • German Character and Culture
  • La Paella de Cultura
  • Literature & Politics
  • Psychology
  • Public Speaking
  • Science Fiction: Advancing One Step Beyond
  • Sociology
  • The American Experience

Humanities Experiences

PEACE Exchange Program. For more than 25 years, BH-BL has been sending students (and, in turn, welcoming students) from France, Germany, and Spain for an in-depth, three-week program where students receive a first-hand experience of the cultural, social, and academic life of another country.

Diversity Program. BH-BL has participated in a diversity program for the past 20 years. Through the Schenectady County Study Circles/Schenectady County Embraces Diversity program students get to know one another, consider different points of view, explore disagreements, find common ground, and work together to take action on issues they care about.

Community Service. For the past 20 years, BH-BL seniors have been involved in the heartfelt and patriotic Vietnam Veterans “Stand Down” community service event. Students work with staff to organize and participate in this annual event for veterans across the Capital Region.

General Information

Course Load Requirements

Students must carry a minimum of five classes plus physical education each semester. Class and homeroom placement are based upon the number of credits previously earned. A student must have a minimum of 5.5 credits to be ranked as a sophomore; a total of 11 credits must be accumulated before the student is ranked as a junior; and 16 credits are required to be considered a senior.

Counseling Center Services

Each student has a counselor to assist in planning the student’s high school program and to help with college or vocational decisions. The student’s involvement with the Counseling Center begins the first day of school when the counselor becomes an advocate for the student.

Our counseling philosophy is to serve each student’s educational, vocational, social and personal needs as effectively as possible. Students and parents are encouraged to contact the Counseling Center with questions and concerns. Daytime appointments are easily scheduled.

Both students and parents are also encouraged to use the online Naviance/Family Connection program. This internet program helps students explore both colleges and occupational interests. The program also provides lists of four- and two-year colleges that match geographic, financial, occupational or other criteria entered by the student. Naviance can be accessed at or see the link and instructions on the High School Counseling Center’s web page.

College Entrance Requirements

Colleges prefer a strong academic preparation in high school. Specific subject and grade point average requirements vary from one institution to another, as the institutions themselves vary in the programs they offer and the kinds of students they seek. Generally speaking, colleges prefer students who have completed:

  • Four years of English & social studies
  • Three to four years of mathematics
  • Three to four years of science
  • Two to three years of a world language

College-bound students who choose to drop one of these areas before they graduate should do so only after careful consideration. Teachers, counselors and department chairpersons can provide valuable information in these cases.
Taking a full academic program and obtaining a high level of achievement, together with activities to show the student is willing to participate in and contribute to the school or community, are the best ways to ensure a student will meet the requirements for college entrance. Students should check college bulletins and consult their counselors for specific information as they make their choices.

Courses Offering College Credit

There are three ways for BH-BL students to earn college credits while still in high school: through Advanced Placement (AP) exams; through agreements our school has with several colleges; and through the new BH-BL+1 Early College Program. Students interested in taking any one of these college-level courses should consult with their teachers or guidance counselor.

Colleges have different policies when it comes to accepting credits earned during high school, so students and parents should contact colleges directly for information. Successful completion of an AP exam, for instance, may allow students to opt out of an otherwise required college course, to be placed in a more advanced college course or to receive college credit hours for work done in high school.

AP courses are designed for students who demonstrate a high level of aptitude and success in the subject matter. Students recommended for AP courses will be those who:

  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of material and a thorough conceptual knowledge base
  • Demonstrate a high level of motivation (always complete homework, actively participate in class, seek additional challenges)
  • Demonstrate a high level of performance on other standard indicators (Regents exams, standardized tests, etc.)
  • Submit work of high quality
  • Demonstrate high academic achievement in course work.

Scheduling Timeline

Counselors meet with students to discuss course selections/requests in February or March. (A copy of course selections/requests are given to students and should be brought home for a parent’s signature and returned with any changes.)

Course selections/requests are mailed home with final report card. Changes can be made up until mid July. No course changes can be made after that date.

Program Planning for Students

When you plan your high school program, you should take into consideration your special abilities, interests and goals. Your pattern of studies should be built around the courses and subjects required for graduation, but it should go far beyond these. By carefully selecting electives that meet your needs and interests, you can work toward your own educational, career and technical and personal goals.

The worksheet on page 11 of the physical copy of the Curriculum Guide is provided to help you list and plan required courses and your top priority electives for each year. It is your responsibility to consult with your parents, teachers and guidance counselor in this process.

Steps in Planning

  1. Establish personal goals. Even though these may change, you should have some specific educational, career and technical and personal objectives toward which you are working.
  2. Honestly evaluate your personal strengths, interests, aptitudes and needs.
  3. Learn the typical entrance requirements for the kind of college
    or school or for the type of work you hope to pursue after graduation.
  4. During 11th grade, take part in information nights and college fairs, and visit the colleges and vocational resources in which you are interested.
  5. Consult your parents, teachers and counselor to benefit from their experiences and the information they can make available to you. Talk with others in the community who are working in the professions or vocations you are considering.
  6. List the courses you would like to include in your high school study program. Choose those that will contribute most toward helping you achieve your goals. Think also about courses that will enrich your life and those that will provide you with useful skills as an adult.
  7. Select courses so your course load will be balanced throughout your four years of high school.

Exploring the Future

In planning your high school program, think about your hopes for the future. This is a time for learning as much about yourself as about the content of the courses you take. Pay close attention to what you like and what you do well. Think about how to apply that information to your future plans. Look for ways to try out ideas and suggestions about careers.

Several programs at BH-BL High School and local BOCES have been created with this goal in mind. They are programs that allow you to work directly and in a meaningful way in a variety of fields, to gain experience and knowledge about careers and about yourself. As you plan your high school program, you may wish to consider one of these programs, which are described later in this booklet:

  • Career Exploration Internship Program (CEIP),
  • Capital Region Career & Technical Education programs, and
  • Saratoga Career & Technical Education programs.

Graduating in Less Than Four Years

BH-BL High School students may graduate in less than four years. The decision to do so should be made by parents and students based on the student’s goals, so that the time saved by this decision will be put to good use in work, travel or continued study at some other institution.

After parents and students have discussed the option thoroughly, they should consult the student’s school counselor for a careful consideration of how such a decision could affect the student’s future plans.