Coming in 2014: College Table launches AP Capstone
Lost in all the craziness from the announced changes to the new SAT is important curricular news from the same organization. In fall 2014, College Board will add AP Capstone, a new diploma program designed to participate students in scholarly rigor via two year-long courses: AP Seminar and AP Research.
In other words, AP Capstone is meant to prepare students for the rigorous experience of college teachers. Students who choose to enroll in the AP Capstone program will begin along with AP Seminar as tenth or eleventh graders. In this course, they are asked to work collaboratively, think critically, and develop arguments to solve two real-world issues, examined over the course of the academic year. After completing AP Seminar, Capstone students will sign up for AP Research, a class that requires deeper investigation of an area of individual interest. At the end of the year, students will present and defend a 5, 000 word research paper, which also will serve as the core of their AP score. The AP Capstone diploma or degree is awarded to students exactly who earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar, AP Research, and at least four other traditional AP exams for which they have also finished the coursework.
How does AP Capstone compare to International Baccalaureate?
For those who are familiar with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, AP Capstone will look rather familiar. IB plus AP have long been the standard bearers for rigorous high school coursework, each marked by a collection of challenging core classes and difficult end-of-year examinations. The AP curriculum is much more common in American high schools, while IB is the preferred choice among the majority of international schools.
Naturally , IB and AP are not with out their differences. Whereas the AP is composed of individual courses linked only through the AP name, the IB Diploma Programme is intended to be an integrated, interdisciplinary experience completed over the final two years of high school. For example , an AP student might spend one year acquiring AP chemistry and the next year acquiring AP physics. An IB student, on the other hand, would take two full years of “higher level” physics or biochemistry, stretching the learning experience from 11th grade through twelfth grade.
The IB is generally regarded as a more integrated experience by educators, and includes a philosophically-driven course known as Theory of Knowledge and a lengthy, independent study paper called the Extended Essay . In combination with other IB classes, students are challenged to think about the problems afflicting a variety of areas plus asked to propose a solution to an area of personal interest. If this seems a lot like the new AP Capstone program, that’s because it is. With the launch associated with AP Capstone, the College Board has established a similar academic experience for students who don’t have access to IB but still want to engage with rigorous, interdisciplinary, college-level work.
The International Baccalaureate program is an extremely high-quality academic program not only because of the rigor it provides, but also because of the ways in which the program is integrated across all topics. I have found that IB students receive a much more interdisciplinary education than their particular AP counterparts, whose academic coursework is rigidly siloed through classes and examinations. It will be interesting to see whether AP Capstone makes the AP experience more interdisciplinary, or when AP Seminar and AP study simply feel like a further extension from the current AP offerings.
Check back with us later this week even as we discuss the implications for the AP Capstone program with respect to the high school strategy and college admissions.
Ian Fisher is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts . Ian received his master’s in policy, company, and leadership studies from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Just before joining College Coach, Ian worked as a senior admissions officer in Reed College.