AP Capstone program teaches skills needed to succeed in college

A new program is being offered at Brandeis High School this year that will equip students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to be active and successful learners both in high school and in college.

The AP Capstone™ program is designed to equip students with the independent research, collaborative teamwork, and communication skills that are increasingly valued by colleges.

The program, a two-year commitment, is comprised of two innovated high school courses: AP Seminar, the first of the two courses which focuses on team collaboration and communication; and AP Research which includes study in evidenced-based and independent research.

Currently, the AP Capstone program at Brandeis High School is the only one offered in Bexar County, although other NISD schools, area school districts and even other districts across the state have visited the campus this year to learn more about the program In fact, one additional NISD high school campus will be offering AP Capstone next year.

“The application process is a very long and complex one,” says Elisa McCracken, High School Science Instructional Support Teacher who initially worked on the application while still a science teacher at Brandeis. “It is a big deal that we received approval to offer this program.”

Two innovative courses offered

The AP Seminar class (the only class offered in this first year) provides sustained practice of investigating issues from multiple perspectives and cultivates student writing abilities so the students can craft, communicate, and defend evidence-based arguments. Students are empowered to collect and analyze information with accuracy and precision and are assessed through a team project and presentation, an individual written essay and presentation, and a written exam. Using an inquiry framework, students are encouraged to consider multiple points of view in reading and analyzing articles, and looking at all viewpoints using multiple sources and research methods.

“The students often take on controversial topics, so parents sign off on the topics,” McCracken said. “The students are examining all sorts of global issues, which can make their lens a lot larger than perhaps a typical student as they become thinkers and creators.”

AP Seminar and AP Research are designed to complement and enhance the in-depth, discipline-specific study experienced in other AP courses. Students who earn scores of 3 or higher in both AP Seminar and AP Research and on four additional AP Exams of their choosing will receive the AP Capstone Diploma™ indicating to colleges and universities the student has demonstrated advanced college readiness skills. Alternatively, students who earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research will receive the AP Seminar and Research Certificate™ signifying their attainment of college-level academic and research skills.

College preparation and college-ready skills

“I was interested in the AP Capstone Program because I wanted to be more prepared for college,” said Kamani Adams, a tenth grade student. “It intrigued me from the beginning because it focuses on research and critical and analytical-thinking skills which will help prepare me for college.”

Eleventh graders Albara Younis and Saad Siddiqui both said that they enrolled in the course to improve and enhance their presentation skills. “My goal is to be an optometrist someday,” said Siddiqui. “These courses will help me improve my public speaking skills so that I can better relate to my patients.”

Christine Benavides, a science teacher at Brandeis, is the teacher of the AP Seminar class this year. There are currently three sections with a total of about 45 students enrolled. Next year, she will teach both the AP Seminar and AP Research classes.

“AP Capstone is an innovative cross-curricular program that is meant to help students to be successful,” Benavides said. “Students are learning how to write more analytically and delve deeper into examining what is credible research which are valuable skills in both high school and college.”

“It has been amazing to watch the students grow in this program,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what develops next year.”