Upper School

Our highly selective Upper School program is an incubator of intense study for unique learners who seek more, want more, and hunger for knowledge with a desire to excel both as a scholar and a human being. With virtually one-on-one faculty instruction, our innovative educators continually refine and tailor curricula to the individual student, maximizing their potential.

Our engaged teachers have focused goals for each student, inspiring them to move ahead, take that next challenge, believe in themselves, and dream large. The result of this one-of-kind education is exceptional, confident students who perform in the top ten percent of the nation with a historic mean SAT score of 1430 and acceptance to highly selective colleges and universities.

All of our upper school classes are taught at the honors level, employing Pre-AP strategies, or Advanced Placement (AP) level. Kirby Hall’s close proximity to the University of Texas also affords our older students the opportunity to visit campus libraries, attend university events, and explore college-level coursework.

Our dedicated Dean of Upper and Middle Schools also works individually with each student to guide them through writing college essays and the entire college admissions process.

students discussing book




We select advanced reading level texts that are rich in content and vocabulary. We utilize both a classic canon and contemporary works. Literary studies provide an opportunity to learn about life experiences and cultures different than your own. It builds empathy, understanding and compassion for others, helping us fulfill our mission goal of developing students who will have the desire to service their communities be it at the local, national, or global level throughout their lives. Employing the Socratic method, students voice their interpretations of the text, literary devices used, author’s intent, and more. When learning to write research papers, students take walking field trips to the University of Texas’ main library. They learn how to conduct preliminary research using The Perry-Castañeda Library’s online catalogue.



The writing program at Kirby Hall is exceptional. Writing is taught as a process, with individual guidance each step of the way. Students propose a thesis statement, which receives teacher feedback. Next, they move on to their outline and rough draft, both of which also receive teacher feedback. The teacher provides extensive written comments and review of the rough draft, culminating with an individual writing conference with the students to ensure they understand the edits needed. Students then submit their final drafts. They learn the value of a thoughtful approach to writing and to allocate the time necessary to produce quality work. Given that all of our classes are taught at the “Pre-AP” or AP level, there are also on-demand, timed writing in-class exercises to prepare them for the AP exam. Kirby Hall alumni are regularly asked by professors where they gained their exemplary writing skills.



A rich knowledge of vocabulary supports one’s writing and ability to analyze texts. We continue with Wordly Wise, working ahead one grade level. Several of the accompanying exercises for each weekly list challenge the students’ higher-order thinking skills involving analysis, synthesis and inferential thinking.



At Kirby Hall, we are constantly working to challenge our students. Most long-term Kirby Hall students are consistently working one to two years above grade level. Truly gifted math students advance in 7th to upper school math courses, receiving high school credits. This is in keeping with our philosophy of elevating the learning experience. Thus, a math course may have students of different grades.



We have a multi-layered approach to teaching science, including hands-on project-based learning and analysis of scientific publications and lectures. We feel this is the best way to prepare students for scientific study in college and the 21st century workplace. Technology is incorporated in a variety of ways, including virtual experiments, virtual tours, and multimedia presentations. In our Makers Spaces students apply math, science and engineering concepts with project-based learning. Here we encourage them to take risks, be creative and collaborate as they develop their inquiry and process skills.



We approach the teaching of history as narrative, resulting in content that is rich and thought-provoking. Students learn to utilize primary source material which facilitates seeing the past through the eyes of those who lived it. Our small seminar-style classes allow for deep exploration of what came before us to inform our present and future. We take advantage of our location, with students conducting research at The University of Texas’s Perry-Castañeda Library.



Kirby Hall is committed to creating truly bi-lingual students. Because our students start their Spanish studies at four years of age, they are taking Spanish for high school credit in the seventh grade. Advanced Placement level course work begins no later than 11th grade. It is both a course of study in the speaking and proper writing of Spanish, literary studies of such works as Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which students read in Spanish, as well as a cultural and historical study of Spain and Latin America. The rigor and strength of this program would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. Students who graduate from Kirby Hall typically are placing in second or third year college level Spanish.



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Physical Education


We inspire students to see the positive side of being physically active. Our program facilitates MVPA, (moderate to vigorous physical activity) through a variety of sports. Students assess their personal fitness levels by applying the principle of FITT (frequency, intensity, time, type). In our lively, inclusive environment, each student learns the importance of physical fitness and the value of making healthy choices.




We immerse students in all things theatrical, ranging from stage make-up to theater’s beginnings in Ancient Greece. They study acting techniques, special effects, play analysis, modern and classic drama, costuming, stage lighting, stage craft, wigs and stage hair, stage sound, set design, and theater history. Each student also has the invaluable opportunity to act as a technician or performer in major school-wide productions. The result is a thorough and complete exploration of every aspect of the theater world.



Students continue to practice the elements of art and principles of design by using a variety of media. In fundamental art courses, techniques are strengthened to prepare for guided independent practice. For the prospective art school student, the focus will be on building a strong portfolio for the art school application process. With intensive studio practice, these students will have a cohesive body of work that shows their unique vision, as well as an acute awareness of the artists and cultures that inspire us.

Plan A Visit

We would love to get to know you better and discuss the future of your child. Come visit Kirby Hall and see what makes our environment special for yourself!