New AP Capstone progam under consideration

Evan Gilmore, Contributing Writers

This past fall, the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program began offering a new program called AP Capstone.  This course lets students acquire independent research experience, a skill that colleges find extremely important.

AP Capstone is composed of two new AP courses, AP Seminar, which is taken either sophomore or junior year, and AP Research, which is taken as a junior or senior. (AP Seminar is a prerequisite for AP Research.)

“AP Capstone sounds like an interesting course and is definitely something our school should look into,” said math research teacher Ms. Tina Marie Gallagher.

AP Capstone is designed to provide students with skills required for college readiness, including research, writing, and teamwork, and provide a setting in which students can build on the knowledge they have gained in other AP courses.

“This program should be offered at Schreiber because it would teach students how to conduct individual research and give students skills they can use throughout college, and all while earning valued AP credit,” said junior and social science research student Christina Marinelli.

However, the AP Research program differs significantly from Schreiber’s current research program, and the structured curriculum could limit student freedoms.

“I think that the research programs should be driven by the students’ desire to conduct research and study a field of interest in more depth,” said junior and science research student Emma Feldman.  “In addition, the three research programs are very different in how they approach research, and to confine each of them to the same set of criteria would serve to limit the success of the programs.  Schreiber typically does very well in research competitions, so I don’t think that the AP aspect to it would really influence our ability to succeed with our research.”

Currently, Schreiber’s research program consists of three classes: math, science, and social science.  Ten students per grade are selected to be in each research class, based on a series of tests and interviews.

“We don’t know whether or not we will adopt AP Capstone yet,” said Assistant Principal Dr. Brad Fitzgerald.  “We aren’t sure because we don’t know that much about it yet. We don’t know how it would affect our current research program, and we don’t know if there is room in the budget.”

Because the College Board offers a very flexible model for the program, it would be up to Schreiber (if it adopts AP Capstone) to decide whether to stick to the current method of admitting students into the research program, or devise a new way to choose which students can take the course.

This would be especially important because many Schreiber students aim to take as many AP courses as possible.

“If Schreiber adopts this program it could be a problem, because students will be very upset if only students in research have the opportunity to get AP credit, since many people think that the more AP classes you take, the better chances you have of getting into the college you want,” said junior Jen Hepner.

At the end of the first course, AP Seminar, a written exam will assess how well students have mastered the skill of inquiry.  The exam is an hour and a half, and it consists of several short answer questions as well as document-based questions.

Students will also be evaluated based on a team project and presentation.  Students work as a group to conduct research on a topic related to an issue of global importance, write a 3000-word paper, and deliver a multimedia presentation at the conclusion of their research.

AP Research, taken the following year, is individual, mentored research that culminates in a 4500-5000 word paper.  This research is based upon a question or hypothesis developed by each student individually.

“The AP course would require additional testing and more stress in the already stressful months of January and May,” said Feldman.

As of now, there are no definite plans to implement AP Capstone at Schreiber, but administrators have begun to look into it.

“I could see us knowing what we are going to do in a year from now,” said Dr. Fitzgerald.  “We like to offer most AP courses here at Schreiber, but we also like to keep the courses we have running for a long time. We don’t want to jump into a program too soon unless we know we will want it for a while.”