New AP Class Puts Students on Path to Advanced Diploma

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AP Seminar students work collaboratively.

The school is offering a new school AP course this year for students who want to do even more college-level work and possibly earn a special diploma.

The course, AP Seminar, is part of the requirements of the AP Capstone program, which the school is phasing in. To receive an AP Capstone Diploma, a student would have to earn a score of 3 or higher in both AP Seminar and AP Research (which will be offered next year) and on four additional AP Exams of their choosing. The program is similar to the International Baccalaureate (IB) program offered at some schools.

AP Seminar is currently offered as an general elective. The course prepares students for college-level analytics and inquiry by having them explore various issues. It “equips students with the power to analyze and evaluate information with accuracy and precision in order to craft and communicate evidence-based arguments,” according the the College Board.

Students work on a team project and presentation, an individual research-based essay and presentation, and take an exam. All three assessments are used to calculate the final AP score.

Depending on the content, school districts can choose to make the course a science, history or English class. As a general elective at BASH, Mrs. Valentine chose “Transformation” as the theme of this year’s AP Seminar, with units on “Tools for Transformation”, “Identity”, “Education” and “Freedom, Power, and Voice”.

“I see our students as agents of change,” said Mrs. Valentine, who also is the director of the school’s Gifted Program. “After getting to know many students in gifted last year, I was able to create the course knowing that they have high expectations and goals for their futures.”

Students who have Gifted Individualized Education Plans (GIEPs) are eligible to take AP Seminar as sophomores if they take the course as freshmen. However, non-Gifted students also can take the course.

Junior Kaleigh Weber said she took the class to become a better writer.

“The class is a lot of work but it’s totally worth it,” she said. “The skills and different writing techniques I’ve learned have helped me in all my other classes.”

She said she has become especially better at critical thinking. One project her group working on is “trying to figure out different ways that we can improve the school environment and accessibility.”

Students use QUEST as their a framework for research. It is an acronym for:

Q- Question and explore,

U- Understand and analyze,

E- Evaluate multiple perspectives,

S-synthesize ideas,

T- Team, transform, and transmit.  

“The big ideas, learning outcomes, and essential knowledge branch off of this framework,” Mrs. Valentine said.  “Students get practice with line-of-reasoning, source credibility, and argument writing.”

Next year, the school will offer AP Research, the other course required to earn an AP Capstone diploma. In that course, students write a 4,000-5,000-word essay and give an individual presentation they have to orally defend, similar to a college dissertation.

Mrs. Valentine said she hopes AP Seminar continues to attract more students.

“I strongly suggest that sophomores and juniors who need the research base for college take this course or stop by to chat about it,” she said. “This first year has been great with our highly motivated students.”

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