At the West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUSD) board meeting on Jan. 22, the district board unanimously approved a new Advanced Placement (AP) program called the AP Capstone Diploma program, which teaches college-level research skills, as well as collaboration and communication.
Eighteen hundred schools worldwide offer this program, and the WSCUHSD was just recently approved to do so.
“We are honored to be the only public school in the county to offer the AP Capstone Diploma program,” said WSCUHSD Superintendent Toni Beal. “This innovative program gives our teachers more leeway with curriculum choices, so their students can access more challenging coursework.”
Analy High School and El Molino High School will start offering AP Seminar in the fall of 2020. The district is considering offering the class in the evening so as not to conflict students’ daily class load and so that students from Analy and El Molino could take the class together.
The program consists of two courses taken in sequence: AP Seminar and AP Research.
In AP Seminar, typically taken in 11th grade, students choose and evaluate complex topics through multiple lenses, identify credibility and bias in sources, and develop arguments in support of a recommendation. The AP Seminar assessments include research reports, written arguments and presentations completed during the school year. Students complete the course by taking an end-of-course written exam in May.
In the subsequent AP Research course, students design, execute, present and defend a year-long research-based investigation on a topic of individual interest. They build on skills developed in AP Seminar by learning how to understand research methodology, employ ethical research practices and collect, analyze and synthesize information to contribute to academic research. Students’ AP Research scores are based on the quality of their academic paper, presentation and oral defense. There’s no end-of-course exam for AP Research.
Students who score a 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research and on four additional AP exams of their choosing earn the AP Capstone Diploma. Students who score a 3 or higher in both AP Seminar and AP Research (but not on four additional AP exams) earn the AP Seminar and Research Certificate.
“It’s a really cool program that I think would attract students to our district,” said Tricia Maxson, an AP teacher at Analy who introduced the program at the board meeting.