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Monfredo: Advanced Placement Program A Succes, Could Next Step Be Ap Capstone?

Sunday, April 10, 2016


School systems attempt to meet the essential needs of all students and endeavor to challenge their students to be the best that they can be.  In the Worcester Public Schools there has been an increase in Advanced Placement courses and participation with Worcester’s South High School leading the way. Parents in Worcester want more for their children and look for schools to provide the necessary courses that will get their children into college and be successful in life.  AP courses are part of the “Gold Standard” for students in our schools but now there may be more for parents to get excited about.

For those readers not familiar with Advanced Placement here is a simple definition.  It is a university level freshmen course that you take in high school. There is a national exam at the end of the course and it is the same exam for all students in the nation.  Scores on the exam range from 1 to 5 with 5 being the best and you need a 3 or higher to earn college credit while still in high school.  Most important, AP allows you to compete for college admission with students from all over the country
Scott O’Connell, reporter for the Worcester Telegram had a great story this week on Worcester’s participation in Advanced Placement courses and its forward movement of meeting the needs of its students.  He was correct in his assessment when he stated that incoming Superintendent Maureen Binienda has been a champion of promoting AP.  

As one who has attended the many rallies of AP at South High and witnessed first-hand the band playing and the cheerleaders doing cheers for AP I can see why South High has been the trend setter. The key ingredient to a successful school is to change the culture of the school and make it inviting and that’s what has happened at South High School. You do this by words, deeds and actions.  In the case of AP, you encourage students to be part of the AP success parade.  Students at South High are encouraged to take AP and they are given the needed assistance to succeed.  In talking to several South High Students at their AP rally, I found they were excited and willing to work hard to achieve success in their coursework. They were thankful to the caring staff, who believed that they would succeed.

Just recently, I met with representatives from the College Board Program through Superintendent Binienda to discuss the next step in the AP program.  Clarie Lorenz , Director of AP Capstone, and a few of her staff members came to Worcester to discuss the AP Capstone Program and explained how it would impact our students.  This is a program that our new superintendent would like to see come to our district for it’s a curriculum that will challenge our best and brightest students at the next level of learning.  The Capstone program is an innovative college-level program that helps the student stand-out in the college admission process by developing the critical skills needed to succeed in college and in life.  It is based on two new courses: AP Seminar and AP research. Both of these courses complement and enhance the other AP courses.

What I like about this program is that  it immerses  high school students in the challenging practices of critical skills students need today-the ability to think independently, write effectively, research, collaborate, and learn across disciplines that are essential for success in college. Students who earn scores of 3 or higher ( as they do for other AP courses) in AP Seminar and AP Research and  take four additional AP exams of their choosing will receive the AP Capstone Diploma.  

This is a relatively new program and was developed in response to feedback from higher education and is easily implemented, affordable, and flexible. According to Director Lorenz of the College Board, it has the potential to differentiate and transform high schools and their students by elevating the learning environment through a rigorous, college-level program with high standards of assessment. The program was launched in 2014 with 136 schools and this year 361 schools participating.

AP Seminar is a foundation course that engages students in cross-curricular conversations that explore the complexities of academic and real-world topics. Students will take on analyzing articles, research studies, literary and philosophical texts, as well as listening to and reviewing speeches, and experience artistic works and performances.

The AP Research component allows students to deeply explore an academic topic, problem or issue of individual interest. Through this exploration, students design, plan and conduct a year-long investigation to address a research question. In the AP Research course, students further develop the skills acquired in the AP Seminar course by learning research methodology, employing ethical research practices, and accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information. The course culminates in an academic paper of approximately 4,000 – 5,000 words and is accompanied by a performance, exhibit, or product. There is a presentation with an oral defense.  Should you like to read up on this program click here.

Incoming Superintendent Binienda would like to move forward with this program during the 2017-18 school year for she feels that AP Captstone would give students more recognition as they apply to colleges and would challenge students to another level.  Her job will be early on to get high schools to buy into the program for only students who attend a school that has been accepted into the AP Capstone program are eligible. Staff members at the high schools involved in AP would be required to take workshops sponsored by the College Boards to prepare for their teaching of the courses.  

These are exciting times in Worcester  so let’s hope that this program finds its way into the Worcester Public Schools for it’s a program that will benefit our students.


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