Two Year Commitment to Capstone

An overview of the AP Capstone Program. Photo courtesy of College Board.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, Chamblee Charter High School will become the first school in the DeKalb County School District to offer the Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone program. Since coming to Chamblee, Principal Rebecca Braaten has made it a mission of hers to bring the program here.                                     

The program, which is currently available at about 1,100 high schools worldwide, is composed of two year long courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. These courses focus on independent research and preparing students for undergraduate and graduate academic papers. Students in the Capstone program will receive a special, additional diploma at graduation if they pass both AP Exams with a three or higher along with passing four other AP Exams of their choosing with a three or higher. If they just pass AP Seminar and AP Research with a three or above, then they will receive an AP Capstone Certificate.  In addition, colleges such as Princeton University and Georgia Tech have voiced their support for the program, and other colleges, such as the University of Michigan, have developed credit and placement policies for one or both of the courses. Currently, it is being offered to current sophomores and freshman on their course selection sheets for the 2018-2019 school year.

Many students, such as sophomore Layla Dhabaan, voiced their support for the new program.

“I am planning on taking [AP Seminar]  and I really want to [take it], but the only conflicts are my busy schedule and other classes I want to take,” said Dhabaan. “The main reason I want to take it is because there are a lot of fields that we cannot actually go in depth in classes here, but [in AP Seminar]  I can actually talk about something I am passionate about and interests me, and I know that a lot of colleges really find research interesting and appealing.”

Sophomore Shrika Madivanan likes the idea of the class, but does not know if she will take it.

“I might take [AP Capstone]  because sometimes I just sit in class and it feels like I am not learning anything, and I think about how much more I could be learning if I was alone with the same material,” said Madivanan. “So, I like the idea of researching what I want independently.”

Literature teacher Zachary Welser thinks the AP Capstone will be a nice addition to Chamblee, but has some reservations.

“I think we have some very competitive students, and I think the AP Capstone diploma will be very appealing to some of them,” said Welser. “My concern with AP Seminar is that because of how individually motivated and competent students need to be second semester, that if we are not careful we could be setting up a lot of students to fail.”

In order to insure that students enrolled in the AP Capstone are motivated enough to complete such an individual course, Welser suggested having some criteria to decide who is able to take the courses.

“I am all for AP’s open access rules, but the problem is we already have students in AP classes who do not necessarily need to be taking them, which just makes them stressed out and decreases the caliber of the class to some degree,” said Welser. “So yes, especially for a class like [AP Seminar], where there is no bailing them out second semester, there has to be some type of objectively stated criteria to insure that we do not end up overloaded with students who are not prepared for a class like this.”

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