High School

Our primary focus with high school students is preparing them for college and career, including acceptance to and success in the colleges they want to attend. Those efforts have repeatedly led to more than 95 percent of our seniors being accepted to two or more colleges, many of them top schools in the nation and in Colorado. One of our DREAMers received nearly a full ride to Yale. These consistent outcomes, year-over-year, no doubt contributed to our winning the Colorado Succeeds Prize in 2018 for Transformational Impact in a High School.

We expect a lot of our high school students. That’s because we understand what they’re capable of — even if they haven’t glimpsed their own potential. And for those who are committed and ready to rise to the challenge, the rewards are great. A DCIS education ensures our students are academically prepared, multilingual, proficient thinkers and problem-solvers, collaborative team members, aware of world events and global dynamics, and culturally sensitive. Learn more about how we prepare our graduates for college and for life.



The Advisement program is a cornerstone of the DCIS experience, serving as a consistent home community for students. Each Advisement class consists of approximately 20 students in the same grade who develop close, supportive relationships with one another and with their teacher. To the extent possible, students remain with the same peer group and Advisement teacher throughout their time at DCIS.

Advisement provides time and space to build community, monitor progress toward continuation (middle school) and graduation (high school), develop and refine student portfolios, discuss current events, attend community meetings, and more. Advisement also provides a space for students to develop service project ideas and allows time for students to log service hours completed.

College and Career Readiness

College and Career Readiness

DCIS students learn formal writing and presentation skills and effective communication and collaboration skills that prepare them well for college and career. Students who are ready for college have reached a level of academic competency that enables them to enroll in, be successful in and graduate from college without the need for remedial classes.

In addition to rigorous coursework, including college-like research and writing projects in Passages and other upper-level classes, DCIS offers several options for students to challenge themselves even further in preparation for college.

Advanced Placement/Honors

Advanced Placement/Honors

DCIS high school students have the opportunity to pursue advanced learning through both Advanced Placement (AP) and honors coursework. Both types of coursework offer additional levels of academic challenge, support college readiness and carry a higher weight in a student’s GPA than on-level courses.  

Advanced Placement (AP)

AP courses open doors by providing students with the opportunity to engage in a subject through rigorous college-level work. AP courses give students the chance to demonstrate to themselves and to colleges and universities that they are college-ready. By pursuing AP courses and passing AP tests, students can earn college credit and/or advanced standing at the college or university at which they enroll upon graduation from DCIS.

Students taking three or more AP courses should expect a workload equal to that of freshmen at the most selective colleges. For that reason, we encourage students who wish to take multiple AP courses to first carefully evaluate their total workload in relation to their other classes and activities. Because DCIS is a small school and doesn’t offer all AP classes every year, students also need to plan ahead based on which courses will be offered not only for the upcoming academic year, but for subsequent years as well.

All students who are enrolled in AP courses are required to take the AP exam for each AP course on the national test dates in May. Students take practice exams before then to help them prepare. Students must complete the entire yearlong course and take the AP test to receive AP course credit and the weighted grade. Failure to complete the exam will result in an alteration of the transcript to reflect enrollment in a regular course of study.

Because students are required to take the AP exam for each AP course in which they enroll, we want both parents and students to understand the financial commitment as well. The cost per AP exam is around $95 and is subject to change. Because financial need should not prevent students from taking college-level classes, students who have qualified for Free and Reduced Lunch can take the AP exams at a substantially lower cost. Payment for AP exams is due in mid-April, and specific payment information (including how to apply for reduced fees), as well as the AP exam schedule, goes out to families in late March/early April. Please reach out to Assistant Principal Dr. Jenna Martin, our AP Coordinator. 


Many DCIS high school classes offer an honors option, allowing students to demonstrate the ability to take on challenging work as part of a regular course of study. Students may opt into the honors option during the first six weeks of the semester, signaling to their teacher that they are interested in pursuing advanced study through alternative work embedded in the course. The honors option is available in all high school English, science and math courses; world language classes level 3 and beyond; and in some high school electives.

Concurrent Enrollment

Concurrent Enrollment

Concurrent enrollment (CE) allows juniors and seniors to enroll in local college courses to earn both high school credits toward graduation and, in many cases, transferable college credits. Although most CE courses will take place on college campuses, some are offered at DCIS.

CE not only considerably expands the breadth of courses available to students, but also enables them to earn college credit without having to pay full tuition as long as they earn at least a C in the course.

DCIS/DPS will pay the full cost of tuition for CE classes at the Community College of Denver (CCD), but not necessarily at the University of Colorado–Denver or Metropolitan State College, as tuition at these schools is steeper.


To be eligible for concurrent enrollment, students must have received a college-ready designation from their counselor. Being college ready is determined by the student’s SAT/ACT scores, AP scores or placing at appropriate levels on the ACCUPLACER — an integrated system of computer-adaptive assessments designed to evaluate students’ skills in reading, writing and mathematics.  

Students must enroll by filling out all appropriate paperwork, which they can get from their counselor. Students can enroll only in “guaranteed transfer” courses to ensure they receive full credit, and full credit is guaranteed only in certain public colleges/universities in Colorado. If a student attends a private university in Colorado, or a private or public university outside of Colorado, the credits are not guaranteed to transfer. If the student wishes to take a CE course not designated as “guaranteed transfer,” both the student and parent must sign a form acknowledging that the credits may not transfer.

How CE Courses Count

Concurrent enrollment courses offer students 5 high school credits and 3 college credits per semester. The concurrent enrollment credits are counted as honors credits when calculating the student’s cumulative GPA.

A student who fails two CE courses will not be allowed to take a third. A D grade may not transcript. If a student earns a D in two CE courses, the school administration and counselors will determine whether a student can take additional CE courses. Students who get a D, F or incomplete in the course or withdraw from the course have to pay back the cost of tuition.

Information about CE goes out to families in the fall and spring. Students interested in CE should consult with their counselor to learn more about or enroll in CE classes.

Seal of Biliteracy

The ability to speak, read and write in more than one language can set students apart from the crowd, whether they’re entering college or the job market. The Seal of Biliteracy is awarded to students who demonstrate that they have attained proficiency in two or more languages by the time of their graduation from high school. The Seal of Biliteracy appears on the student’s transcript and diploma and highlights a student’s language skills for colleges, universities and future employers. Please reach out to Marcela Quesada, our Italian teacher, with any questions.

Course Offerings

Course Offerings

The course offerings chart an overview of the course requirements (here is a visual for math course trajectory) and elective options by grade level. High school students have considerably more electives to choose from, and they tend to vary from year to year.



A key component of a DCIS education is the requirement that students develop a portfolio of their best work each year that reflects the four Graduation Portfolio System (GPS) domains of global leadership that drive our curriculum (Investigate the World, Recognize Perspectives, Communicate Ideas, Take Action).

For each work in their portfolio, students include an artifact (i.e., representative documentation) of the piece, such as photographs, a link to a YouTube video for a performance-based project, a screen capture of a web page with a link to the student-created website, a promotional flyer for a student-conceived and -run festival, etc.

Although portfolios in the past were largely paper-based, DCIS has increasingly moved toward more online portfolios. Beginning with the class of 2021, all high school students are required to create a website to showcase their best work.

Students work with their Advisement teacher to keep the portfolio up to date through the end of their senior year, when they formally present their portfolio to a panel for review. The presentation typically results in a recommendation that the student receive the Diploma of International Studies, which becomes part of the portfolio.

International Passages

International Passages

The DCIS International Passages program starts with a research class required of all juniors in which students conduct independent research on a topic of their choosing. Although largely self-directed, students work with their Passages teacher on developing a thesis, setting goals, managing their time to meet intermediate and final deadlines, and incorporating feedback along the way. Students also receive input, guidance and mentoring from the fellow students and faculty members on their Passage Committee.

Additional Passages

Students complete an additional Passage during their senior year, designed to further develop their emerging awareness of global issues through a self-selected service project. All students must complete one written Passage and at least two experiential Passages in order to graduate from DCIS. Students who wish to graduate with honors complete a fourth Passage, which can be written or experiential.

First Semester

First Semester

The first semester of this course challenges students to conduct in-depth research and organize it into an academic, properly cited, college-level or college-ready paper on a topic of their choice. The final thesis paper must connect to the International Studies Schools Network (ISSN) GPS leadership domains. Students will learn to ask focused investigative research questions, find appropriate sources for answering them, choose quality information and develop an argument. Their efforts culminate at the end of the first semester in a 15-page college-ready research paper, accompanied by a 30-minute oral presentation and defense of their research on Passages Day in January.

Passages Day

Passages Day

Passages Day is a full day devoted to juniors’ presentations. Students in all other grades, including middle school, get to select which Passages presentations they would like to attend during each time slot throughout the day. In this way, they get to see many examples of presentations leading up to their junior year so that by the time they’re ready to present, they know exactly what to expect. Plus, they get to learn about a wide variety of interesting topics. Parents and families are also welcome and encouraged to attend not only their student’s presentation but any others throughout the day. Those who attend consistently report being awestruck at the quality and scope of students’ presentations and walk away with a rekindled pride in the school and the education their kids are receiving. 

Second Semester

Second Semester

During the second semester, students engage in an experiential learning activity of their choice, designed to deepen their understanding of a topic that impacts them and their community. They are required to conduct research, take action and develop a final product to share with their peers and DCIS staff. Students often say that their experience in this activity has helped shape their passion for their future (in college and beyond).



Grading (or assessment) is an important part of all teaching and learning. It’s designed to help students answer the following questions:

  • Do I know what success looks like for this unit/topic?
  • Am I mastering the course content?
  • How can I improve the way I study in this course?
  • What grade am I earning in this course?

How Students Are Graded

Our teachers use a combination of formative and summative assessments. Here’s what those terms mean:

  • Formative assessments are assignments that allow students to practice skills and inform the student and teacher of progress on skill mastery. They’re designed to assess and provide feedback on students’ strengths and weaknesses with the goal of improving future performance. An easy way to remember this is that a formative assessment is for learning. Examples include homework, classroom activities and quizzes.
  • Summative assessments are assignments or tasks that assess students’ mastery of skills within a unit. They are used primarily to make decisions for grading or to determine students’ readiness for progression. An easy way to remember this is that summative assessments summarize what students have learned. Stated another way, it is an assessment of learning. Examples include written, oral or performance-based tests, papers, projects and presentations.

When looking at grades in Schoology, you may see some grades broken down into process and product. Generally, “process” relates to formative assessment and “product” to summative (although some processes can be summative and some products formative). 

Grading Scale

The grading scale is as follows:

GradeMinimum PercentUnweightedWeighted

GPA/Class Rank

A student’s grade point average (GPA) and class rank are often the best predictors of academic success in college. Grades earned in all four years are used in determining the GPA. GPA is computed at the end of each semester using only semester grades. Class rank is based on the cumulative GPA.

The student’s GPA is calculated by multiplying the number of semester credit hours of each of the student’s courses (usually 5 hours per course) by the point value for the grade earned in each course. Sums are added together, then divided by the total semester hours. The result is the GPA.

Weighted/Unweighted Grades

High school students at DCIS receive both a weighted and an unweighted GPA. An unweighted GPA is just the average of a student’s grades, calculated as noted above. A weighted GPA is calculated by awarding additional points to classes that are considered more challenging than the basic curriculum. Advanced Placement (AP), honors, concurrent enrollment and other types of college preparatory classes are given bonus weight when a student’s GPA is calculated. Colleges, however, may recalculate a student’s GPA differently in order to equitably compare students coming from schools with different types of GPAs.

Posting of Grades

Teachers are required to update Schoology–our online learning platform– with at least one new grade per student every week. Teachers must enter at least two summative assessment grades and six formative assessment grades per nine-week grading period. Teachers have up to two weeks from the date an assignment is turned in to post the grade for that assignment and up to three weeks to post grades for extended writing assignments.

Late and Missing Work

Late and Missing Work

One of the skills students need to master is meeting deadlines. So we expect them to turn in all class assignments, homework, projects and assessments when they’re due and/or proactively communicate with their teacher if they need more time to complete the work. DCIS offers office hours each day of the week and this is an excellent time for a student to meet with their teacher about late or missing work. 

During the 20-21 school year all missing coursework will show on Infinite Campus as a 50 until the student submits the work according to the plan with the teacher. Furthermore if a student is not able to earn passing credits for a course then an Incomplete or ‘I’ will be placed on their report card until the student is able to turn in evidence that they have met the course requirements. 



DCIS students have a unique opportunity to earn two diplomas upon graduation. In addition to completing the prescribed four-year course curriculum to meet the Denver Public Schools (DPS) diploma requirements, DCIS students go above and beyond those requirements to also earn the DCIS Diploma of International Studies.

Beginning with the class of 2021, DPS modified its graduation requirements to make them less about grades earned for time spent in a classroom, and more about students being able to demonstrate that they are truly prepared for the world after high school, whether that’s college or the workforce. The new course requirements specify the same number and distribution of units as before for each academic subject area, but they mostly don’t specify particular courses students must take in each subject area.

The biggest differences are the introduction in the new guidelines of the ICAP (Individual Career and Academic Plans) and competency requirements. Because DCIS already does individual and career planning with students and currently provides most of the suggested pathways for demonstrating competency, the new requirements will actually have very little impact on DCIS students. And our students will continue to be able to earn their DCIS Diploma by completing all the requirements outlined in the DCIS Diploma section.

Students who meet all the requisites will receive their diplomas during a formal graduation ceremony held at the University of Denver. It is a special time when we celebrate all our graduates and recognize outstanding accomplishments, both during the actual ceremony and in various events leading up to it.

Commencement and Awards

The weeks leading up to graduation are a busy — and often bittersweet — time for seniors as they turn in their last assignments, take their final finals as high schoolers, ensure (with plenty of help from our counselors) they’ve attended to all the details needed to graduate, say goodbye to friends and teachers who’ve been their extended family for the past seven years, and prepare — often with equal parts excitement and trepidation — to launch into a new world beyond DCIS.

It’s also a time when we recognize and celebrate our seniors with Senior Awards, on Signing Day, as they pass the torch to the next year’s graduating class, culminating with the commencement ceremony.


The commencement ceremony, which formally marks students’ graduation from DCIS, takes place at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver. It’s an incredibly joyful, celebratory and moving occasion for students and families.

Each student gets up to 10 tickets to the event for family members. If they need more, they can ask a counselor, as not everyone uses all their tickets.

Following various speeches, including by the principal, valedictorian and salutatorian, each graduate will be introduced by their adviser and presented with their diploma. Laughter, tears, hugs, even whoops of elation and fist pumps are plentiful, and the space can hardly contain the pride bursting from graduates, families and staff alike.

Honor Stoles and Cords

Students who have earned the DCIS diploma with honors wear a gold stole over their robe for the commencement ceremony, while the stole of all other graduates is white. All students who have earned the DCIS diploma will wear a blue-and-green cord, and members of the National Honor Society wear a gold cord.  

Academic Honors

The cumulative weighted grade point average over seven semesters is used in determining the valedictorian and salutatorian of the class.

  • Valedictorian of the senior class is awarded to the senior student who has the highest cumulative GPA over at least six semesters of enrollment at DCIS.
  • Salutatorian of the senior class is awarded to the student who has earned the second highest cumulative GPA over at least six semesters of enrollment at DCIS.
Class of 2021 and Beyond

Class of 2021 and Beyond

To graduate, students in the class of 2021 and beyond must complete 24 course credits, distributed as follows: 

  • 4 units of English language arts
  • 4 units of mathematics
  • 3 units of science
  • 3 units of social studies
  • 1 unit of physical education (waived for DCIS students)
  • 1 unit of arts or eligible Career Technical Education (CTE)
  • 8 units of approved electives

Students will continue to work with their counselors, teachers and families to develop, update and complete their Individual Career and Academic Plans (ICAPs), a process that starts as early as 6th grade. Through this personalized career and academic planning tool, students are empowered to evaluate all aspects of their path to college and career, including goal setting, college opportunities, academic planning, financial literacy and financial aid, and 21st-century skills. This framework creates an attainable road map for students, so they are able to visualize how exploring possibilities and achieving milestones translates to their future college and career aspirations. At the end of their senior year, they will turn in the completed plan to fulfill the ICAP requirement. 

Finally, starting in 2022, in order to graduate every student will demonstrate competency in English and math by completing one or more items in the competency menu.

High School English Language Acquisition (ELA)

Student Services

Students identified as English language learners will be enrolled in an English Language Development (ELD) class, in which they will receive extra help with reading, writing, listening and speaking English. ELD replaces a world language class or an elective. View frequently asked questions and answers about ELA services. If you have additional questions about the ELA program at DCIS, please contact Assistant Principal Courtney Wickham.

Parent Opportunities

All Denver Public Schools have some type of ELA Parent Advisory Committee (ELA PAC) to facilitate effective communication between families of ELA students and the school. At DCIS, these meetings are part of the monthly Parent-Principal Coffees for Spanish-speaking parents. If you would like to be involved with our school’s ELA PAC, contact DCIS’ ELD teacher, Dee Horsburgh, Assistant Principal Courtney Wickham, or the DPS Office of Family and Community Engagement.

At the district level, families of ELA students can participate in the ELA Districtwide Advisory Committee (ELA DAC). The ELA DAC meets monthly during the school year to inform families and generate discussion about issues that affect English language learners in Denver Public Schools.

Special Education

Section 504 is a federal law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in schools. Students determined to have an eligible disability under Section 504 are entitled to a “free appropriate public education,” which includes the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.

Our Special Education program is committed to providing a quality educational experience based on the individual needs of each child to minimize the impact of their disability through a continuum of services, ranging from those provided in a general education classroom to those in fully contained classroom settings.

In addition to getting help from special education teachers, students with disabilities may receive support from paraprofessionals, nurses, school psychologists, social workers, speech therapists and physical therapists. The goal of special education is to provide services that allow students with disabilities to acquire the skills to pursue independent living and post-secondary readiness.

Every child with a disability who attends public school and receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a document uniquely designed for one specific student, with the intention of improving educational results for that child. Each IEP must be created in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and, in Colorado, the Exceptional Children’s Education Act (ECEA).

Parents who are interested in the quality of education received by children and youth with special needs can connect with the district’s Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC).

If you have any questions about the Special Education program at DCIS, your child’s 504 or IEP, or any related matters, please contact the following:



We believe that assessments provide valuable information for parents and students on where students stand on the mastery of the standards and whether they are on track to graduate. Assessments help us ensure that every child receives an equitable education and is on the path to success.

Types of Tests

DCIS participates in the state and national assessments described below.

  • Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) Suite of Assessments: High school students are assessed in April through the SAT Suite of Assessments, including the PSAT9 in 9th grade, the PSAT10 in 10th grade and the SAT in 11th grade. Additionally, students have the option of taking the PSAT/NMSQT in October for additional practice in 10th grade, or to attempt to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship in 11th grade. Based on their individual goals, and the admissions requirements of the colleges and universities students plan to apply to, students may wish to register to take the SAT additional times in order to try to boost their score, and they may need to take one or more of the SAT Subject Tests.
  • Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS): All 11th grade students are assessed in April in science through the Colorado Measures of Academic Success science test.
  • Advanced Placement (AP) Tests: Students enrolled in AP courses will take the AP exam for that course in May according to the schedule put out by the College Board.
  • Accuplacer Test: Students who wish to enroll in concurrent enrollment (CE) courses may need to take the ACCUPLACER in order to qualify.

While the Colorado Department of Education administers the SAT Suite of Assessments throughout the state, some high school students elect to also take the American College Testing (ACT) Program assessment  on their own. Most colleges accept scores from either the SAT or the ACT for admission, but some students do better with the format of the ACT and thus elect to take that test as well. Find test dates and register.

Testing by Grade Level

  • 9th Grade
    • PSAT9
    • SAT Subject Tests (optional)
    • ACCUPLACER (optional)
    • AP testing, if student is enrolled in one or more AP classes
  • 10th Grade
    • PSAT/NMSQT (optional)
    • PSAT10
    • SAT Subject Tests (optional)
    • ACCUPLACER (optional)
    • AP testing, if student is enrolled in one or more AP classes
  • 11th Grade
    • PSAT/NMSQT (optional)
    • SAT
    • CMAS Science
    • SAT Subject Tests (optional)
    • ACCUPLACER (optional)
    • AP testing, if student is enrolled in one or more AP classes
  • 12th Grade
    • SAT (optional)
    • SAT Subject Tests (optional)
    • AP testing, if student is enrolled in one or more AP classes

If you have any questions about testing, please contact Site Assessment Leader Ally Smith