Catalyst Alternative Private High School Boulder, CO

Academics at Catalyst High School

An Effective, Non-Traditional Approach


Rolling Admission Policy

Catalyst’s rolling admission policy allows students to apply at any time of the year. If accepted, the student may be able to begin attending school within days.

Contract-Based Instructional Model

Using our unique contract-based instructional model, we are able to engage students in learning immediately, using their strengths, passions, and interests as a starting point. The contract-based model is based on a wealth of underlying research. Through years of effective implementation in the classroom, we have seen that most students learn best by applying their own unique learning methods while exploring things they truly find interesting. The contract model allows our teachers to facilitate this form of dynamic learning from the very first day.

Short Academic Blocks

The short academic blocks at Catalyst allow students to approach learning in manageable, three to five week-long, periods of focused learning. By combining contract-based learning and short academic blocks, our students gain a sense of accomplishment within weeks, or even days, of admission. Instead of taking six or seven semester-credit classes at a time, Catalyst students take three or four quarter-credit classes at a time, helping them to improve focus, minimize difficult transitions, and reduce organizational stress.

Personal and Academic Skills-based College Preparation

Catalyst graduates often tell us that they are far better prepared than their college peers regarding life management. This is due in large part to our unique focus on self-advocacy, critical decision making, and self-direction. This focus also includes students’ development of personal accountability. While some teens enter Catalyst with varying degrees of these skills, all students acquire them in our program.

Non-Traditional School Days

Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays:
(instead of a term or “semester” lasting 18 weeks)

A typical Catalyst term, called a “block”, lasts only five weeks!
(instead of sitting in school for eight hours per day)

A Catalyst school day is usually ½ to ¾ as long as a “normal full day” of school.
(instead of being given a class schedule that is generated by a computer)

Each student works with our Academic Coordinator each month to custom-build a new schedule!
(instead of earning credit for sitting in school – called “seat time”)

Much of the student’s research and learning takes place in the field, in the community, or where the student can work best independently.
(instead of a taking four years to complete high school)

Catalyst students often accelerate, which can allow them to catch up, complete advanced course-work, and graduate early!

Wellness Wednesdays

At Catalyst High School, we devote every Wednesday to our students’ physical, mental and emotional health, creativity, and exploration and contribution as a citizen in the community. Wednesdays are dedicated to health and wellness in a variety of settings and contexts beyond the walls of the school.


My favorite quote is from Mark Twain. He said, “I never let school interfere with my education.” I believe a school should be a place that helps each student recognize what is unique and special, and then do whatever it takes to help that student find and reach his or her dreams.