White Station selected for AP Cambridge Capstone

Last year, the College Board’s pilot program of its newest project, AP Capstone, barely made waves outside of select education circles. Now White Station has been selected as one of only 118 schools worldwide to participate in the program for the 2014-2015 school year.

AP Capstone consists of two courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. Seminar, a prerequisite for AP Research, is taught during the student’s sophomore or junior year; AP Research follows. These courses are meant to build a foundation for college-level research and writing.

In AP Seminar, students will select and study two to four topics throughout the year. Students will then research a specific topic, develop a written report, and deliver a presentation, both independently and in groups. Students’ exam scores will be based on the completion of a team project (25%), an individual paper and presentation (35%), and take a written final exam (40%). Exams will be scored on the traditional 1-5 scale.

Because AP Research follows AP Seminar, it will not be offered at White Station until the 2015-2016 school year. The course is essentially a massive independent research project, at the end of which the student submits a 5,000 word academic paper. A student must also defend his or her work in a presentation to experts in the field. The AP Exam score will be “based on your paper, the presentation, and the defense, and will be reported on the standard 1-5 AP scoring scale,” according to a brochure published by the College Board.

Students will further receive a Capstone Diploma if they take Seminar, Research, and at least four other standard AP classes and get a score of 3 or higher on each test.

Capstone classes offer the chance for distinction in the college admissions process. Over 100 schools have already pledged their support and are currently deciding how to recognize the classes and offer credit hours.

Vice Principal Carrye Holland has spearheaded the movement to bring AP Capstone to White Station. As the Optional/AP Coordinator, Holland applied for White Station to join the program and has been responsible for executing it. Holland said that she will try to accommodate as many students as possible, but first she wants to gauge student interest and staffing.

Capstone courses will offer the AP GPA benefit and appear on transcripts as AP credits. Capstone exams will cost $139 instead of the typical $89 because of the higher costs associated with grading them. Both Seminar and Research will be offered as elective credits, and joining the program means committing to at least four other APs because of the diploma requirements. Holland therefore said that students and parents will have to plan schedules very carefully. She suggests that prospective Capstone students meet with a counselor.

Sophomore Nithila Ramesh is considering AP Seminar for next year. She said, “What made [AP Seminar] interesting in that it appealed more to my thinking side. It requires more than just busy work. It gives me the time and the resources to research things I’m interested in.”

On the other hand, “I question…whether it’s something worth investing in both the short and long term. I have extracurriculars to balance as well,” Ramesh said.

Raji Velrajan, the mother of sophomore Sri Velrajan, offers her support for the program: “If our students do this, they will get high school research experience, and more importantly, they will be motivated to continue with higher research [in college].”

Other parents question whether the school board is supportive of AP Capstone, worrying that the district administration will mishandle the program. Susan Edelman, the district’s AP Analyst and Coordinator, announced that they will work to encourage the program.

“We are so excited,” Edelman said. “Our role is to support teacher training. We will be providing extra materials and supplies…But Mrs. Holland is doing all the work right now.”