Through AP Capstone, students gain skills essential for their future

Andreas Combos, Editor-in-Chief

Providing sophomores an opportunity to engage in rigorous scholarly practice of independent research, collaborative teamwork, critical thinking and communication skills, Athens Drive and many other Wake County high schools began participating in the Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone program this 2015-16 school year.

AP Capstone is a unique diploma program that is taught through two courses – AP Seminar and AP Research. Unlike most AP classes, the relatively new program focuses on the attainment of scholarly skills rather than learning specific content. Currently, sophomores at Athens Drive who signed up for the class are enrolled in the AP Seminar course, taught by Jessica Crooks, Social Studies department chair.

“The class is focused on skill-building,” Crooks said. “There’s no set content I have to teach, just specific skills that are extremely useful in the future.”

This year in AP Seminar students are trained to investigate issues from multiple perspectives in order to craft and communicate well-developed arguments through these different lenses. Students are evaluated for an AP score based off three components: the written test in May, a team presentation and an individual essay and presentation completed during the course. Students who took AP Seminar this year are slated to take AP Research next year as a junior. The Research portion of the program will allow students to perform a year-long research investigation on a real-world topic of choice.

“I’ve enjoyed how you can develop teamwork-related skills in this class,” said Basem Said, sophomore currently in AP Seminar. “The class is heavily opinionated, and you can learn from each other.”

AP Seminar is paired on an A-day, B-day schedule with Honors English II, taught by Chenetra Mangum. In order to graduate high school with the AP Capstone Diploma, students must earn a 3 or higher in both AP Seminar and AP Research. Additionally, students must pass four other AP exams of their choosing, upon the completion of each respective course.

The program is especially geared toward students that would not normally register for AP classes, but have the potential to perform at this distinct level. College Board hopes to provide a gateway for students to transition with more ease into rigorous courses later in their high school careers.

“To be able to understand different topics through multiple lenses will make students more well-rounded people in general. It’s so nice to watch them solve their own problems with each other. [Students] will look back and realize that they gained something from this course,” Crooks said.

The College Board wants AP Capstone to allow the diversity of each classroom to match the diversity of its school. According to Crooks, business executives from the Wake County Central Office have visited various schools in the area with the program, revealing that Athens Drive contains one of the most diverse AP Capstone classrooms. Since the influx of multiple cultural backgrounds and perspectives are essential in a program such as AP Capstone, student diversity has been a key element to support the nature of the course. College Board is hopeful that this program can lead to increased student diversity in other AP courses as well.

AP Capstone has been an important course for students that have wanted to stand out in the college admissions process, engage in vast research opportunities or simply challenge themselves.