Palmetto High to debut prestigious AP Cambridge Capstone Program

Already considered a top-notch school, Palmetto Senior High is adding the AP Cambridge Capstone Program for the 2012-13 school year. It is a pilot program put together by the College Board, which does the Advanced Placement program, and the University of Cambridge.

Palmetto is one of four high schools in Miami-Dade to be in the test group along with Southridge, Barbara Goleman and North Miami Beach. A total of 18 schools across the world will try out the program.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Dr. Allison Harley, Palmetto’s principal. “It’s an opportunity for students to get in on the ground level. It’s a natural fit for Palmetto. We just expect great things.”

Harley said the program is quite innovative and came about because university recruiters indicated that while it has been wonderful having students come to college with AP classes under their belts, they now need students who know how to do research. Dr. Harley said the program will teach students how to research and show off those skills with a Capstone project.

“We are looking for current ninth grade students who are looking to challenge themselves,” Dr. Harley said. “In 10th grade they’ll take their core courses plus AP Human Geography.”

The second class is the seminar class, which will introduce the students to basic research skills. It also takes up key themes of global relevance. Students will evaluate topics through multiple themes. In the class, students will work in teams and do oral presentations.

In 11th grade, they will take the Research Project, and do a mentored research project. They can work independently or in teams guided by a teacher mentor. The brochure says they will build on an AP or Seminar subject and is based on a question or series of hypotheses developed by the student. They will look for a world problem and write a 4,000- to 5,000-word research paper.

“A lot of research universities are endorsing this program,” Dr. Harley said. “It can give them [students] a leg up if they can finish it successfully.”

The program has the students taking two AP courses at a school where top students often take four to six AP courses annually. Dr. Harley said that’ is not a problem, they can still take other AP courses of their choosing.

“It’s not limiting them,” she said. “We encourage students to take as many AP courses as they can balance themselves with.”

Dr. Harley said three of Palmetto’s top teachers are going to a professional development seminar to prepare them for their role in the new program.

Palmetto also is going to be opening an IPrep program. Miami-Dade Schools superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho personally headed the first I-Preparatory Academy at the School Board Building in downtown Miami.

“It’s an innovative thing, that our superintendent has started,” Harley said. “It’s technology based.”

Renovations are underway on four classrooms in two areas of the school for the IPrep program.

“We are looking to open that in the fall,” she said. “It’s really a neat environment. There are a lot of great things on the horizon.”

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