Curriculum, College Planning, Senior Project & More



School Counseling Department

Academic Planning

Each student is assigned a counselor at the beginning of the school year, which is printed on your student’s class schedule. A list of school counselors and their contact information is shown below.  All freshmen are assigned to the same counselor, who is currently Kate Kamanga.

Maricela Sanchez

Department Head, Bilingual Counselor

(707) 933-4039

Elizabeth Campos

Bilingual Counselor

(707) 933-4010 x5010

Amber McCann-Howlett


(707) 933-4009

Kalia Gurnee

Bilingual Counselor

(707) 933-4025

Luis Bravo

Bilingual Counselor

(707) 933-4031

Nicole Lage

Counseling Technician


(707) 933-4005

Kate Kamanga

Bilingual Counselor

(707) 933-4034

Planning Ahead

College Guidance

College and Career Center

The College and Career Center (CCC) helps students with post-high school educational and work-based plans. Students can receive guidance on college applications, financial aid forms, and scholarship opportunities. The CCC offers college workshops for juniors and seniors. Students and parents are encouraged to meet with CCC counselors at any point during their high school career to start the college planning process.

The CCC also houses the workplace learning coordinator, who assists students in organizing job-shadowing opportunities, internships, and career opportunities directly after high school.

College Guidance

It’s Never Too Early

While college may seem like a distant future for your freshman son or daughter, there are helpful steps to take to alleviate unnecessary stress during senior year.

1. Read the SVHS counseling department’s College Handbook HERE.

2. Meet with an academic counselor and map out an academic plan for all four years to make sure your courses meet college admission requirements.  While there is variation from college to college, the minimum admission requirements generally include:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of Mathematics (some schools require 4 years, depending on major)
  • 3 years of Science
  • 3 years of social studies/history
  • 2 years of foreign language (some schools highly recommend 4 years)

For California state universities, confirm that high school courses meet “A-G” requirements. The UC/CSU system is very specific about what courses are “A-G” approved.  For example, in the past some students had taken Earth Science as freshmen only to find out that it did not meet the UC’s “d” science requirement. The University of California publishes the “A-G” course list for SVHS HERE (

3. Get to Know Your Teachers

Take advantage of A+ periods and after school to meet with your teachers.  These are the people who will have to write your letters of recommendation for college.  They won’t be able to write anything meaningful if they don’t know you.

4. Standardized Testing – Don’t put off standardizing testing to the last minute

  • PSAT – Sign up for the PSAT in either 10th or 11th grade – the PSAT serves as the warm-up for the SAT for either sophomores or juniors.  It’s a low-stakes first hand opportunity for students to experience what college admission testing is like. While PSAT scores will not factor into admission decisions, it helps students to work out the aches and pains of test-taking and develop better test-taking skills, endurance, time management and decision-making. Dress rehearsal for the SAT.  The PSAT results can serve as a tool for revealing academic areas that require attention before launching into full-blown SAT testing. Establishes a baseline score and reveal.
  • SAT Subject Test – SAT Subject Tests are required by approximately 40 of most selective U.S. colleges. The minimum number of SAT Subject Tests required by colleges is typically two, with the exception of Georgetown University, which requires three.  Whether to exceed a college’s recommended number of Subject Tests will most likely depend on the competitiveness of the applicant pool.
  • It can be advantageous for students to consider taking a Subject Test upon completion of a corresponding advanced or AP class (typically May or June test dates). That way students avoid preparing “twice” for the Subject Test (once for the AP and once for the Subject Test, especially if the subject will not be revisited before the senior year. It’s not uncommon for sophomores or juniors to take a Subject Test immediately completing AP World History or AP US History.
  • It should also be noted that some schools that accept the ACT standardized test don’t require SAT Subject Tests as part of admission requirements, which may be a consideration when determining whether to take the SAT or ACT.
  • Fee Waivers

5. Explore new interests and extra-curricular activities

6. Optimizing Summer – Use summer as an opportunity to work or arrange internships.  

7. Standardized Tests

Test Optional Schools  – There is a growing number of colleges and universities that recognizes the limitations of standardized test scores in evaluating its applicants and have made standardized scores optional in the application process.   The comprehensive list of schools can be found at ( and include many prestigious liberal arts institutions including American University (DC), Wesleyan University (CT), Bard College (NY), and Bowdoin College (ME).

8. WUE Program

WUE – The Western Undergraduate Exchange is a consortium of public universities across 16 western states that offers nonresident tuition discounts to California residents. WUE tuition is considerably less than non-resident tuition and is never more than 150% of in-state tuition.  For example, the WUE tuition rate for Colorado State University is $16,010 compared to out-of-state tuition of $26,010, a savings of $10,000 annually. The WUE tuition schedule for 2016-17 is available HERE (

Applicants candidates must also meet minimum SAT/ACT and GPA criteria.  A small sampling of WUE schools include Portland State University (OR), Southern Oregon University, Colorado State University, University of Colorado (Denver), University of Alaska (Fairbanks), and University of Hawaii. See the full list HERE (

9. Naviance is a software tool offered to SVHS students that facilitates self-discovery, career exploration, academic planning and college preparation.  Each student is given access to the Naviance system in the 10th grade to start exploring career and college options.  It also serves as a portal for college applications.

10. UC Index

The UC System uses a formula, called an admissions index, to determine if you’re in the top 9% of California high school graduates. They convert your SAT/ACT scores to a UC score, which they match to your UC GPA. If your UC score is equal to or greater than the score required for your GPA, then you’re in the top 9%. Read about the UC indexing system HERE.

Courses & Graduation

Mapping Out a Plan

A critical element of any student’s high school career is selecting courses and completing the necessary graduation requirements.


Course Selection
Students typically make their schedule requests in February or March for the following academic year. They normally fill out a schedule request form, often without parent knowledge or approval.  Therefore, it is important for students and parents to browse the course catalog — download it HERE  in order to familiarize themselves with graduation and minimum college admission requirements for the University of California system (called A-G requirements) before schedule requests are finalized.

It is also highly recommended that parents and students fill out an academic plan for all four years in order to make sure that course selection aligns with graduation and college admission requirements.  You can download the organizational tool HERE.

Making Class Schedule Changes

It is important that students choose carefully when making course requests, because schedule changes are discouraged by the counseling department.  If a student finds himself/herself in a situation where it is imperative to make a schedule change, students must do so within the first two weeks of each semester. There are a few exceptions to the two-week rule for example,  if new course sections are added or deleted from the Master Schedule, or if students want to increase or decrease the level of course difficulty (e.g., change from Spanish 2 to Spanish 3 or change from AP Physics to regular physics).

Students must fill out a schedule change request form available from the counseling department.

A student may drop a course up until the 6-week grading period, but will receive a “NM” or No Mark, which will be reflected on the transcript.  Parent approval is required to drop a course.  Students who drop a course after the 6-week grading period will receive an “F” on his/her transcript. Read here for a more detailed description of school guidelines. 

The Finish Line

Graduation Requirements

SVHS requires a minimum of 220 credits to graduate with a high school diploma. The requirements are summarized in the table below. Each full-year course is equivalent to ten credits. Most students exceed the minimum credit requirements since they are required to a full course load of six courses per year, equivalent to 240 credits.

The district also requires that students meet the University of California’s minimum “A-G” requirements for graduation. The main difference between the two criteria is that not all courses offered in math and science qualify as “A-G.” For example, Earth Science, Agricultural Earth Science, Plant & Soil Science, and AP Environmental Science would meet the SVHS’s science graduation criteria but NOT the UC’s “A-G” science requirement. Some of these science courses would meet the UC’s “G” elective requirement, however. In addition, math courses such as Bridge to Geometry, RSP (Resource) Algebra or SDC (Special Day Class) Mathematics are not “A-G” compliant. The list of “A-G” approved courses are summarized in the table below.  For the most current list of “A-G” courses, consult the UC official list HERE.


Another important distinction between the high school’s graduation and the UC’s A-G criteria is that none of the English Language Development (ELD) courses taken by most limited English speakers qualify for “A-G” credit.  Therefore, many limited English-speaking students must apply for an “A-G” exemption in order to graduate. In 2015-16, only 43% of SVHS graduates (112 students) met “A-G” minimum requirements (Read the California Department of Education Dataquest HERE).

For Student Athletes

PE Waiver

The high school requires that all students enroll in two years of PE to meet minimum graduation requirements. However, sophomores, juniors, and seniors who participate on SVHS athletic teams are eligible to waive one year of PE, equivalent to 10 academic credits. Students are not awarded these credits, but have the opportunity to enroll in an academic class in lieu of PE. Students must be enrolled in six academic classes to comply. (Home Period, Teacher’s Assistant, Academic Tutor, Bilingual Tutor, or AVID Tutor are not approved substitute classes for PE.) To waive one year of PE, or 10 credits, students must also obtain CPR certification and participate in three athletic teams in a single year (Junior Varsity or Varsity), or two athletic teams in the first year and two athletic teams in the second year. 

A waiver application must be completed for each year of sports participation and submitted at the beginning of the season to be eligible. A waiver verification form must also be completed by the student and coach at the end of each sports season.  You can download the PE Waiver Application and PE Waiver Verification Forms.

Critical Calculations

District Math Curriculum

High Stakes for High School Math

High school math can have far-reaching consequences for college admission, career opportunities and future earnings potential.

AP math courses demonstrate academic rigor, which is an important consideration for college admissions in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

  • By way of example, 95% of admitted students to UC Berkeley’s class of 2019 had completed Calculus in high school – even though only ~39% of Berkeley students pursue STEM majors.

The median GPA for admitted freshmen in 2017 was above 4.0 for the following UC schools: Berkeley, Irvine, Davis, San Diego, UCLA, Santa Barbara.

  • The only way to achieve a GPA above a 4.0 is to enroll in AP courses.

Failing to take high level math courses can severely disadvantage students from entering highly sought-after careers in science, engineering and technology fields.

Successful completion of advanced math courses beyond Algebra II in high school (i.e. trigonometry and Calculus) increases the odds that college students will complete their bachelor’s degrees (Adelman, 2006).

Facts about SVUSD Math Sequence

SVUSD replaced its middle school math sequence in 2015 as part of its adoption of Common Core Standards. The original vision of the Common Core for math in California is to prepare students to be “college and career ready”, which is defined as mastering math skills through Algebra 2.

  • The new math sequence funnels the majority of 9th graders into Algebra 1.
  • Previously, students had the opportunity to take Algebra and Geometry in middle school.

In 2016, SVUSD reinstated the option for 8th graders to enroll in Algebra.

  • In order for students to be eligible for Algebra in 8th grade, middle schoolers would have to enroll in an accelerated class in 7th grade as shown in the diagram below. This is not an option for students who attend the Sonoma Charter School.

Fewer 8th graders in our district take Algebra compared to pre-Common Core Math implementation.

  • In 2011-12, approximately 15% of SVUSD 8th graders (45 students) were enrolled in Algebra 1 and Geometry. 
  • In 2016-17, that number dropped to 17 students or less than five percent (5%) of 8th graders district-wide. 
  • In comparison, more than 40% of 8th graders were enrolled in Algebra or Geometry statewide in 2016 , approximately 8 times more advanced math students than SVUSD.
  • The more middle school students who complete Algebra or Geometry by 8th grade in California, the less competitive SVUSD students become relative to their statewide cohort.

9th grade students who start in Algebra I will not have the opportunity to enroll in AP math classes by 12th grade.

  • The standard pathway as shown below only allows students to reach Pre-Calculus by senior year.

While Pre-Calculus meets the minimum “a-g” admission requirements for admission into University of California system, students will be less competitive compared to those who have completed courses beyond the minimum requirements.

One of the factors the UCs consider in admissions is the number of courses that students take beyond the minimum “a-g” requirements

The only options for high school students to accelerate in math is to “double-up,” enroll in summer school, or take a junior college class.  Acceleration and doubling up of content is very difficult for most students and should only be done with clear evidence that they have the motivation and capability to handle the workload.

  • The “double-up” option is less appealing to most students because it limits the opportunity to explore elective class such as, culinary arts, woodshop, 3D art, engineering classes, etc.
  • As of 2016-17, the double-up option also requires students to take a zero period math class (7:30a start time) followed by a second math class in the same day.  For some students, it is difficult to sustain the attention span for two back-to-back math classes. 
  • The high school offered Geometry in summer school in 2016 as an option for math acceleration, but has not offered it since. 

Failing to take high level math classes sooner in high school may also limit opportunities for enrollment in advanced science classes because many of the introductory math classes are prerequisites for many science courses. 

  • Lab biology, originally designed as a freshmen course, requires successful completion of Algebra or concurrent enrollment in Geometry.  (See Course Catalog)

Students who have not completed Pre-Calculus prior to taking the SAT or ACT are at a disadvantage compared to students who have already taken Algebra II and Pre-Calculus. 

  • Ten percent (10%) of the math content on the SAT and ACT include concepts in trigonometry and linear functions only covered in Pre-Calculus.
  • Most high school students take their first SAT/ACT exam in the spring of junior year or fall of senior year, when they have little or no exposure Pre-Calculus concepts.

With a declining pool of advanced math students in our district, there is a risk that demand for certain AP math classes may also decline through natural attrition and transfers out of the district.

  • Declining demand  would make it economically prohibitive to offer such classes in the future.  For example, BC Calculus is no longer offered because student demand is not sufficient to justify the class.
  • As of 2017-18, there is only one section of AB Calculus offered. These single section classes (AKA “singletons”) make it extremely challenging to accommodate student schedule requests. Sometimes, students will have to choose between two AP classes offered during the same period.

Options for Acceleration

The options for acceleration are depicted in the diagram below.  The first row represents the standard path in for students who enroll in four years of math.  The most advance math class they will complete is Pre-Calculus.

Middle School Acceleration

The second option for students is to accelerate in middle school by enrolling in a 7/8 combination class in 7th grade. This option allows the opportunity for students to take Calculus in the 12th grade without doubling up in high school. Acceleration in 7th grade is only appropriate if there is clear evidence that the students have the motivation and capability to manage the workload.  That is why it is important for the middle schools to have appropriate placement measures to predict a student’s likely success in an accelerated class.

High School Acceleration

High school students can choose to accelerate either in 9th or 10th grade.  The advantage of this option is that students will be able to reach Calculus AB by senior year.  The downside to this option is that students will “double-up”, which will require a zero period math class.  This may be a non-starter for some students, whose sleep is a higher priority.  Another important consideration for students who choose the “double-up” option is that they will be required to take 7 classes instead of 6.  If they were only to enroll in the standard 6-period day, they would be done with school by fifth period. Freshmen and sophomores are not allowed to leave campus before the official end of the school day.

Combo Option

Students who choose the accelerate options in middle and high school, will have the opportunity to take the most advanced math classes as shown in the diagram below.

Focused Interests


Sonoma Valley High students have an opportunity to explore focused leanring pathways in Agriculture and Engineering.  Each pathway is composed of a three-year linked, specialized curriculum, exposure to career possibilities and great field trips to schools and worksites.  These programs also invite guest speakers from their respective fields and offer opportunities for job shadows and internships.

Learn more about the Agriculture Pathway HERE.

Learn more about the Engineering, Design and Technology Pathway HERE.

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