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What’s New for 2020-21?

What’s New For 2020-21?

As most of you know, we collect feedback on every course we teach from every student in the course. We also do our own internal reviews of courses. In 2019-20 we stepped up the quality management process to look more thoroughly across our courses for (1) learning objectives by academic level; (2) workload by level and subject; (3) effectiveness of evaluation. This ongoing review has already brought about some changes for 2020-21 which you will welcome. We will update this post as we update the 2020-21 course catalog and web site information, and we’ll draw your attention to updates via the Latest News and Updates page.


We are simplifying the prerequisites to most of our high school courses, making it easier to get approval coming from both inside and outside TPS. This is an ongoing project, so for any course in which you may be interested but you weren’t sure if you were ready, check the prerequisites again when you are ready to enroll.


“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” After two bad experiences with third-party bookstores we decided to cut out the middleman and make it much easier and cheaper for our students to obtain their major textbooks. We have been able to make arrangements with several major publishers to provide you the digital courseware and eTexts directly in your TPS course. This saves you time (no need to shop for the text and no shipping time), mistakes (you can’t buy the wrong textbook edition or digital license), money (you get the lowest price) and aggravation (TPS works with the publisher for you if you have a problem with your courseware or eText). It is convenient in that eTexts can be loaded onto devices (android, iOS), and it also allows us to ensure that every student has a text on day 1 of class. You may also optionally buy a paper text new or used from any source you like, but it won’t be required when we can provide you the eText with your TPS course and you can just check the textbook off your to-do list when you enroll.

AP courses

On a select basis, we’re taking some of our high-scoring AP courses from two days per week to one day per week of live instruction. We have found that students at this level are already self-studying and need more guidance but less direct instruction. We also realize that most upper HS students need AP courses that are easier to schedule into their already packed school year. We are making this change for 2020-21 primarily with AP history and government courses (plus a few others).


We’re changing our approach to grade 9 English (“English 3”) by treating it as a fresh start rather than a continuation of middle school English (“English 1 and 2”). Middle School English is a broad survey of literature accompanied by a broad survey of different types of composition purposes and styles. But high school and college writing are more focused in purpose, and the “analytical essay” (analysis –> thesis –> argument) becomes the assignment that drives performance and grades in every humanities, social studies and even social science course. Where middle school writing was about “topics” and “descriptions”, high school and college writing are about analysis, thesis and “defense” of the thesis.

However, TPS has found that too many high school students are not comfortable with or skilled at the analytical essay process. One informal survey we took showed that many HS students did not know the difference between a “thesis” and a “topic”, and fewer of them could actually craft a clear argument and consider counter-arguments. So we’re taking this on in our grade 9 English courses. We’re also making our grade 9 English more accessible to any grade 9 student who is ready to start analytical writing, regardless of what courses he or she took prior to grade 9. If you are rising grade 9, the lit and comp course you will want to look at first is:

English 3 Lit Analysis and Comp (with Honors option)

For those who do not want lit with their comp (maybe you are doing lit outside TPS?), you want to look at:

English 3 Confident Composition

And for those who like their lit and history integrated, we have

American History, Lit and Comp (Honors)

All of these are grade 9 and HS credit. The writing in these courses is what you need to set you up for the analytical essay process that will drive the rest of your high school and college career outside of math and science.

In English, the other “big news” is that based on the demand for our 2019-20 addition of English 2 Confident Composition at the grade 8 level, we have now added English 1 Confident Composition (grade 7) and English 3 Confident Composition (grade 9, mentioned above). For those who want the best writing instruction you can get but without the lit in a survey or integrated course, you want these Confident Composition courses. And this completes the line-up so that TPS now has a dedicated writing course in every grade level from grade 5 to AP/college.

Please see the English (Reading, Writing, Literature) subject page for more details.

Middle School Science

We have changed our middle school science program to make it more coherent and accessible as two core courses plus two optional courses. The core courses are:

  • Life Science – This course is being revised as a thorough introduction to biology, to prepare students for high school Biology. We changed the text to serve a wider range of students (the prior text was a little advanced for some grade 7 students, and tended to get further into the high school level than we feel is beneficial for a middle school course).
  • Physical Science – This course is completely revised to be a thorough introduction to chemistry and physics (no life science, earth science or space science). It prepares students for high school Chemistry and Physics, so we chose the most comprehensive introductory text we could find for these topics.

We also added Introduction to General Science at the grade 6/7 level for those advanced grade 6 students or those grade 7 students not quite ready to jump into a full middle school science course. And we retained our Earth Science course at the grade 8/9 level for middle or high school students who have room for another science or interest in the science of earth and space.

High School Biological Sciences

The textbook we used for Biology is changing to a major rewrite, so we’re going to take the opportunity to build a better course with a different text. Also, we felt that all of our biological science courses (Biology, Honors Bio, Anatomy, AP Bio, Marine Biology) could do better with labs that make the courses more interesting and educational, so we have a new team of highly experienced biology teachers building better courses they are excited to bring to you in 2020-21.

High School Physics

This course is also getting a major rewrite to build the concepts in a more enjoyable discovery approach that also includes more interesting simulations and labs for visual learning.


TPS has a top-notch German program developed and taught by a European certified language teacher who is fluent in four languages and conversant in some others. Her outstanding German program can take you all the way to AP German. But we also realize that some students prefer to start a language at a more introductory level, so we have retitled our robust two-day German 1 and 2 as German 1 and 2 (Honors) and added a “standard” German 1 and 2 that meets one day per week and uses a different (still well-respected) text.

New (or significantly revised) Courses for 2020-21

This is almost-but-not-quite-complete list, so check back for more updates.