Academics » Upper School | 5-8

Upper School | 5-8

TES Upper School (5-8)

Middle school years are one of the most important periods in an adolescent’s academic and social development, with decades of research showing that the critical thinking skills, habits and identity development students cultivate during this time can be critical in determining high school and college success. TES believes it is important to find and build upon each student’s strengths, energy and curiosity while challenging them to reach for new goals and maintaining a strong sense of community and belonging with their peers.  


“Looping” in education refers to the practice of a teacher remaining with the same group of students for more than one school year. At TES, students in 5th and 6th grades have two teachers, with one teaching Math and Science and the other teaching English/Language Arts and Social Studies. Students “loop” with their teachers in 5th grade, meaning students will have the same two teachers for both their 5th and 6th grade years. Research shows that adolescents “looping” (remaining together) for two or more years in this way provides a more stable learning environment that supports students' developmental changes, responds to their individual needs, and cultivates more meaningful relationships and learning  - all of which are critical to keeping middle school students engaged.

In 7th and 8th grade, students have 4 teachers, one per subject in Math, Science, Social Studies and English.  These teachers teach both 7th and 8th grades, so the students once again have the same teaching team for two years in a row.  

Rigorous Curriculum through Project Based Learning

Too often, traditional learning in the middle school years never ventures beyond the realm of the purely academic. Project-based learning connects students to the real world. PBL prepares students to accept and meet challenges, mirroring what professionals do every day. Students at TES thus explore curriculum in an authentic way that evolves over the cycle of a project. Students do not do a project all day long; rather, teachers move between teaching content that students then apply in and expand in project work. (For example, in grade 7, students learn about proportions and geometry, and then work to redesign a city block to include more housing for people.) 

TES follows the NC Standard Course of Study, ensuring your child is prepared for successfully attending any NC high school. By covering this required content via our project-based learning approach, upper school students engage more deeply with concepts, bringing about long-term retention rather than short-term memorization. Project based learning also improves student attitudes toward learning, given its ability to make class concepts relevant and engaging. 

  • The Language Arts curriculum follows the Common Core State Standards which emphasizes the seamless integration of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in both literary and informational texts.
  • In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics guide students in developing skills in areas such as rations and proportional relationships, geometry, statistics, probability, expressions of equations, and functions. Upper School learners can anticipate a rigorous curriculum which will adequately prepare them for attendance and study at any NC high school and beyond as they pursue college and various career options.
  • Social Studies follows the NC Essential Standards for Social Studies and is organized around five strands: history; geography & environmental literacy; economics & financial literacy; civics and governance; and culture. There is an emphasis on the master of skills, knowledge, and understanding the world in which we live with a global perspective.
  • The NC Essential Standards for Science integrates topics from earth sciences, physical sciences, and life sciences each year.

TES begins offering advanced classes for students in grades 7 and 8, including:

  • Compacted 7/8th grade math
  • Math 1 (9th grade math)
  • TES uses NC Virtual Public schools to offer other advanced classes as needs arise such as Math 2. 


Community Building

Research overwhelmingly suggests that when teachers and students have positive relationships, and teachers show empathy, warmth, and encourage thinking and learning, we see the positive effect on cognitive student outcomes, an increase in participation, and increases in self-esteem. Thus, TES maintains a strong focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) and community building in our 6th-8th grade years. TES utilizes the Second Step curriculum which directly teaches skills such as building positive relationships, empathy, listening, problem solving, focus, etc.   Students learn and practice skills from how to greet one another, to how to take another person’s perspective and have respectful, civil disagreements. Upper school students also participate in community service projects and have elementary “Book Buddies,” in which they read to and mentor children in the lower school.

Student Led Conferences

At TES, students play an integral part in their own learning. TES thus implements student led conferences  at all grade levels, K-8. A student-led conference is a meeting with a student, their family, and teacher during which the student shares their portfolio of work and discusses progress. The student facilitates the meeting from start to finish, allowing the student to participate in the goal setting around their learning and showcasing the work they are proud of. This process, from preparing for their conference to leading it,  builds students’ sense of responsibility and accountability for their own learning, creates an authentic purpose for good organizational and communication skills, and helps to hone their understanding of

Band & Electives

Students can begin learning a band instrument in grade 6. 

TES offers engaging and relevant elective options such as:  computer science, typing (5th grade), Hiking and Orienteering, PE Games, focused art classes (e.g. mural art), and STEM. Click here to learn more about TES Upper School Electives.