Rio is introducing two new Advanced Placement programs next year that will allow students to develop research skills and dig into their own research on real world issues, possibly leading to the AP Capstone diploma.
The classes that make up the AP Capstone program are AP Seminar and AP Research. According to the College Board, which designed the program and owns AP test program, the AP Seminar class will help students explore real-world and academic topics, allowing them to dive deeper into topics, analyzing and investigating the information.
The students who go on to take the AP Research class will be required to write a 4,000-5,000 word academic paper with mentoring from professionals in that area, and will have to present an oral defense. This will help students learn to synthesize and interpret information using evidence and claims.
This program is typically for juniors and seniors, but can be offered to sophomores.
Vacaville High School began the program this year.
Vice Principal Greg Snyder also said the courses offer valuable skills, and added that it will help students with college admissions.
“It helps students write college level papers, do college level research, and by the time you’re done with the AP Capstone Program you’re going to get a special diploma that says you are ready for college,” said Snyder. “You will only receive a diploma if you pass the AP classes and the AP test. The IB Program is equivalent to the AP Capstone Program, meaning you’ll receive a special transcript.”
To receive the Capstone diploma the student must receive a three or above on five AP exams in addition to the research and seminar courses.
No other school in the San Juan district offers the program, and the only schools in the area to offer it are Natomas and Folsom high school.
Folsom Principal Howard Cadenhead said the school was in the same stages of developing the course as Rio “ but we are not sure yet if we will have enough students to fill the class.”
“Our plan is to run the AP Seminar class as a 10th grade English class so students are getting graduation credit for English as well as taking an AP class,” he said in an email.
At Natomas High School, which is in it’s second year of the program, teacher Leonard Finch is excited about the changes the program has brought to the school.
“The program is good for any school,” Finch said in an email interview. “There are many ancillary benefits to the program. Our students go out into ‘Thick Scripting’ field trips every other week to practice quantifying everything and describing everything in great detail to improve on the ‘observation’ portion of their scientific inquiry. Our students are identifying ways to improve the campus, fix broken facilities, create mentorship and assistance relationships between Research and Seminar students, and generally feel empowered to an almost peer level with the staff.
At Rio, as at Folsom, whether the students and the school will see any benefits remains to be seen. The first step will be seeing if students sign up in the spring.