Who We Are

At Colorado Academy, discovery and wonder permeate our culture and our classrooms. 
Academic excellence is not defined by multiple-choice tests or by the weight of a textbook, but rather by the depth with which students are able to explore, ignite, and transform new knowledge. 

Walk our hallways, cross our courtyards, peek into our labs and lounges: you’ll find CA students catching up with their teachers, conversations that flow from one space to the next, and a supportive environment where kindness and curiosity intersect. 

Here we believe that academics should be challenging, yet also meaningful. 

Here we celebrate excellence through innovation, mastery, connection, and joy. 

Here we know that learning must endure.

ASR at Colorado Academy


ASR Classes for 2023-2024

List of 13 frequently asked questions.

  • Computer Science Principles ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite: None
    Eligibility: Grades 10-12 
    Offered: Full Year

    Computer Science Principles introduces students to the foundational concepts of computer science and challenges them to explore how computing and technology can impact the world. With a unique focus on creative problem-solving and real-world applications, Computer Science Principles prepares students for college and careers. This course introduces students to the central ideas of computer science, instilling the ideas and practices of computational thinking. The curricular framework for this course includes Creativity, Abstraction, Data and Information, Algorithms, Programming, the Internet, and Global Impact.
  • Robotics ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite: Introduction to Robotics
    Eligibility: Grades 9-12
    Offered: Trimester 2

    Advanced Robotics is for students who wish to take their robotics skills to the next level after taking Intro to Robotics. This course is almost entirely student-led. It is centered around the Vex Robotics Game for the year (announced each May for the following year). Students work in teams to analyze the game rules, develop a strategy and project timeline using Gantt charts, design their robot digitally in CAD, build and code their robot, and test and iterate on their design—all planned, organized, and executed as student leaders and team. Students are required to compete in two tournaments on Saturdays during the trimester, as well as at the State Tournament if they qualify. This course is repeatable in subsequent years.
  • AI and Machine Learning ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite: Intro to Computer Science, Computer Science Principles, or Python for Biologists
    Pre-/Co-requisite: Pre-Calc Honors
    Eligibility: Grades 10-12
    Offered: Trimester 2
  • Contemporary Literature of Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Students examine the contemporary literature of authors in these three countries, as well as texts by American authors of Israeli, Palestinian, and Lebanese descent. To better understand the regions, students explore the geography and recent history of these countries and their diasporic global communities. In addition to reading and analyzing the literature, students connect with university-affiliated programs at the University of Denver and the University of Oklahoma. Authors may include Rabih Alameddine, Hala Alyan, Ibtisam Barakat, Etgar Keret, Philip Metres, Colum McCann, Rutu Modan, and Dorit Rabatyan. 
  • Philosophy and Literature ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Why is there something rather than nothing? What is time? Are you the same person through time? How do you know what is right and what is wrong? How can you know anything? This course explores novels, stories, and poems that raise these types of questions, and philosophical treatises that answer them. Students not only grapple with philosophical problems that have plagued thinkers for thousands of years but also consider their own developing worldviews, what Plato described as “the talking of the soul with itself.” Authors may include Albert Camus, Tracy K. Smith, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, Paul Auster, and a variety of philosophers.
  • Economics in Theory and Practice ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite: Social Studies & Math Department approval, writing & quantitative analysis assessment
    Eligibility: Grades 11 and 12
    ASR I - Yearlong Class

    This course introduces students to the core ideas of economics, including scarcity, allocation of resources, tradeoffs, the function of free markets, monetary and fiscal policy, the financial system, and international exchange, as well as the application of those ideas in the real world. The curriculum provides a full introduction to the field of Macroeconomics that prepares students to take the College Board’s AP Macroeconomics exam if they choose to do so, but it also exposes students to the field of behavioral economics and requires the production of a unique piece of synthetic research in the area(s) of global interaction, macroeconomic policy, and/or economic development. 
  • The History and Culture of Mexico ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite: Social Studies Department approval, writing assessment, and at least one trimester of Social Studies electives OR ASR I
    Eligibility: Grade 12
    ASR II - Two Trimester Course
    When: Trimesters 1, 2

    The History and Culture of Mexico surveys the national history of a country of great importance to the United States and the rest of the western hemisphere, from Pre-Columbian times to the present, with special emphasis on the political, social, and cultural evolution of a people known as the Cosmic Race. Though primarily historical in nature, students learn how the study of past peoples and events requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes anthropology and archaeology, art history, literary analysis, cosmology, and more. In addition to assessments on the main course content, students engage in a significant research project of their own design.
  • The History of Ideas and Inventions ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite: Social Studies Department approval, writing assessment
    Eligibility: Grades 11 and 12
    ASR I - Yearlong Class

    Eyeglasses, plumbing, elevators, surgical masks, lightbulbs, airplanes, cameras, the internet, and smartphones…all of these began as an idea, came to life through an invention, and then changed the world. This course aims to explore the emergence, development, and impact of ideas such as the ones listed above—and so many more. Students look at innovations from around the world and consider the systems that allowed for their development and the changes that emerged from their implementation. While very much a history course, we also draw upon cultural studies, literature, ethics, religion, science, engineering, the arts, and economics in our examinations. Topics include but are not limited to Renaissance art, Enlightenment philosophy, 19th-century medical discoveries, the Scientific Revolution, modern economic structures, and military advancements.

  • International Gender Movements ASR

    Weighted Grade
    ASR II - Two Trimester Course
    International Gender Studies explore how forces within a society—family, media, school, science, etc.—help to create, regulate, and reinforce gender. Through a combination of reading, writing, film-viewing, discussion, and independent research, we investigate how gender overlaps and interacts with other aspects of identity—such as race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, political affiliation, etc.—all the while calling these categories into question. This course focuses on ways people outside the United States “do gender,” ultimately leading us to a more nuanced understanding of how gendered power and gendered roles are not inherent to our biology, but grow from a complex web of cultural forces. Students in this course should expect 45 minutes of homework per night, with texts ranging from sociology textbook chapters, critical studies from academic journals, and the nightly news. The course culminates in a research project based on individual student interest.
  • Superpowers: China, Russia & the United States in the Modern World ASR

    Weighted Grade
    ASR II - Two Trimester Course
    Friends, enemies, allies, competitors, colleagues, opponents…China, Russia, and the United States have regarded each other in a variety of ways over the course of the last two centuries. The news is currently dominated by the actions of these three countries, both in tandem and alone. There is no doubt about it: they are global superpowers politically, economically, and diplomatically. Students in this course assess how and why these nations were catapulted to superpower status. Students study the modern history of each of these nations, and then consider the events in the 20th century that have propelled them both toward and against one another. This is an interdisciplinary and research-based course; students dive deep into the cultures and practices of these countries so that they can better grapple with their actions on the contemporary world stage.

  • Independent Studies Class ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite: Social Studies Department approval, written application and proposal for study, and at least three trimesters of Social Studies electives or ASR I.
    Eligibility: Grade 12
    When: Trimester 3 

    This course is designed for those students who want to continue their work as social scientists and historians but along a path that is centered around student choice. Students must identify their subject area of interest and then, during the second trimester of their Senior year, submit a proposal about their course of study and the product that accompanies it. Students create their own course of study with guidance from their teacher and with support from others in the class. While offered as a Social Studies course, the Independent Studies Class allows ample room for interdisciplinary initiatives, connections to experiential learning, varied research pathways, and multiple opportunities for assessment. 
  • Music Theory ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite:    Proficiency examination required
    Eligibility:          Grades 11-12
    Offered:            Full Year
    Music Theory is a yearlong course. Students are expected to have had some musical experience prior to entering the course and must pass a basic proficiency examination. The course is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding and application of various aspects of music theory, including music fundamentals (pitch, rhythm, scales, and triads), foundations of harmony and counterpoint, interpretation and creation of chord progressions, and larger musical forms, jazz and modern era theory and practice, and developing skills in sight singing and dictation. 
  • Senior Portfolio Class ASR

    Weighted Grade
    Prerequisite:   Portfolio Prep Class, exit critique, interview, and permission of instructor
    Eligibility:      Grade 12
    Offered:        Full Year
    This advanced seminar course is designed to engage students in the professional experience of building and exhibiting a portfolio of work. Students identify an area of focus within Ceramics, Photography, Studio Art, or Videography and develop a body of work and artist’s statement that represents their individual perspective and technical proficiency. Through peer critique, discussion, and reflection on historical and contemporary art, students learn to effectively convey their artistic voice. Opportunities to visit Denver-area galleries and artists are available. As an artists’ collective, students collaborate and curate an exhibition of their work. Throughout Trimester 3, students utilize their skills with other artists to collaborate on a community art project.
“Profound and rigorous learning resonates long after the trimester ends, long after the gradebook is closed; it allows a student to develop their unique voice and carve out a space for their ideas in the world. It gives them a sense of self-worth and agency. It reminds them that they are forever part of a larger whole.”
Max Delgado
Upper School Principal

Our Approach: The Future in Focus

Our academic program is evolving to create new opportunities. 
Beginning in the fall of 2023, our English and Social Studies Departments will replace four Advanced Placement (AP) classes with Colorado Academy’s own Advanced Studies and Research (ASR) program—courses that allow students to have more agency, go deeper, engage in knowledge production, and pursue multidisciplinary questions. Visual and Performing Arts and Computer Science will also add ASR. 

Classes such as Superpowers: China, Russia, and the United States in the Modern World, The History and Culture of Mexico, Economics in Theory and Practice, Philosophy and Literature, and Music Theory will launch this fall. Read about the full ASR menu here. All ASR courses are also weighted and presented to colleges alongside AP as the most rigorous in each discipline.

CA remains committed to the fundamental question of how we maintain and grow a strong academic program. Our Science, Math, Computer Science, and World Language departments continue to be engaged in a multi-year, structured, and intentional process to evaluate the progression of student learning and the role of Advanced Placement in those disciplines. 

We know that the process of growing our ASR program will take time. We are committed to a thoughtful approach—guided by CA’s Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) that includes faculty and Department Chairs as well as our Head of School, Upper School Principal, Director of College Counseling and Strategic Initiatives, and Director of Culture and Community. 
Colorado Academy continues to be one of the most reputable independent schools in the country. We look to the future with a sense of optimism about the possibilities for our students and our program.

Mike Davis, PhD
Head of School
Max Delgado
Upper School Principal
Sonia Arora '01
Director of College Counseling and Upper School Strategic Initiatives
“This kind of programmatic evolution is at the heart of CA’s mission and centers learning. CA students are curious, and classes that are geared towards preparing students for cumulative AP exams rarely leave breathing room for deep exploration.”
Mike Davis, PhD
Head of School

The Anatomy of ASR

Upper School Curriculum: Intentional Design, Future Focus

Here in the Upper School, we offer a diverse range of courses oriented around our Six Cs, a curriculum designed to help students put purpose at the center.

Four Stages: From Foundations to Depth

List of 4 items.

  • Leo Procise teaching Science at Colorado Academy

    1. Foundational Courses

    Our foundational courses help students acquire the discipline-specific skills, habits, and practices that any serious scholar must adopt to succeed in their field—while engaging students and exposing them to the vital content of that subject area.
  • Dr Hutchinson teaching at Colorado Academy

    2. Electives

    Our electives allow our students to apply knowledge from previous coursework to a distinct or focused area of study that stems from roots in our foundational courses. Seeking connections with foundational learning is emphasized. Elective courses make use of our teachers’ specialized training and academic expertise.
  • Girls in Science class

    3. AP

    Our AP courses are college-level classes that also prepare students for various Advanced Placement exams. In most AP courses, students are required to take the AP test. Students sometimes receive credit at the college they attend, depending on the score they receive.
  • 4. ASR

    Our Advanced Studies and Research (ASR) classes are the most ambitious extension of the CA approach, emphasizing self-direction, developing mastery, more profound depth of study, and a learning posture that connects to the broader world. 

    ASR courses cultivate curiosity. They encourage students to explore the current state of knowledge, pursue big ideas, and develop a lifelong passion for meaningful, rigorous engagement.

Four Pillars of CA's Upper School Program

Impact on College Admissions

“CA students stand out in the college application process because of their strong academic preparation, self-awareness, and authenticity. Advanced Studies and Research (ASR) will give current and future CA students the chance to investigate our world from new angles as they discover their passions.”

Sonia Arora '01
Director of College Counseling and Upper School Strategic Initiatives

Applicants that Stand Out

For the last two years, we have examined our curriculum from the perspective of college admissions. When we talk to Deans of Admission at schools across the nation, we have been assured that this shift will not negatively impact our students. 
In fact, our new offerings will help our students differentiate themselves in ways that AP currently limits. We believe firmly that moving away from AP will make our program more distinctive to colleges and our students’ modes of engagement more noteworthy.
College admission offices have extensive experience evaluating students with and without AP classes.

CA is well known and respected for our strong academic program. On average, CA’s 100 Seniors head to 65 different colleges and universities across the country and around the world. They are prepared to think and engage with new perspectives and ideas. 

Read our FAQ about AP changes and the college process.

In Good Company

CA is not alone in considering the role of AP in our curriculum. 
We know that more than 80 other leading independent schools across the country have made the choice to develop their own college-level advanced courses in the last 15 years, eliminating AP. Some have never offered AP. Currently, there is a surge in this movement to go “Beyond AP.” 

Some examples:
  • The Athenian School
  • Berwick Academy
  • Catlin Gabel School
  • Choate Rosemary Hall
  • Concord Academy
  • The Dalton School
  • Georgetown Day School
  • Lakeside School
  • The Lawrenceville School
  • Marin Academy
  • Phillips Exeter School
  • Pingree School
  • Poly Prep CDS
  • Riverdale Country School
  • Sidwell Friends School
  • St. Paul Academy and Summit School

Response from College Deans

An Inspiring Faculty

Innovative, Passionate Teaching

For generations, CA students have thrived in an intellectually inspiring culture shaped by educators who understand that authentic engagement happens when students feel genuinely connected to their learning, to each other, and to the adults guiding them along the way. 
We attract educators from around the country who value this critical time to shape students' curiosity as well as character.
Scholars, scientists, artists, poets, and more, CA faculty are excited by the opportunity to bring their passions into the classroom, and bring their classrooms into the world. Read more about CA’s Faculty and Staff and CA's commitment to faculty professional development.

Faculty Fast Facts:
  • Student:Faculty Ratio: 9:1 
  • Average Class Size: 15
  • Maximum Class Size: 20
  • Upper School faculty with advanced degrees: 87%
  • Faculty from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds: 19%
  • Average classroom experience: 16 years
  • Average time at CA: 11 years

Timeline of ASR Implementation

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