LAWRENCE, MA: One of the most daunting challenges facing college students is understanding and acquiring the skills of scholarly inquiry required for high level collegiate work. Scholarly inquiry requires finding, reading and analyzing articles, research studies and foundational, literary and philosophical texts, along with real life accounts and experiences. Beyond these tasks, college students are expected to synthesize this information from such sources and develop their own perspectives through critical thinking, and to be able to ultimately express and defend their perspectives in writing and orally, both individually and as part of a team.
Years before they enter college, students at Central Catholic High School intensely learn, practice and test these skills in a highly innovative new academic discipline,
AP Capstone. In addition to 26 AP courses now offered, Central Catholic High School is one of a small number of high schools in Massachusetts to offer AP Capstone, a curricular framework developed by the Advanced Placement Program of the College Board. Central Catholic offers two year-long courses that make up the AP Capstone program: AP Seminar and AP Research.
Students in grade 10 can elect AP Seminar. In Central Catholic’s model, AP Seminar is an interdisciplinary course focuses on the real world issues of education and race issues in the United States, often divisive and controversial issues, through the lens of American Literature. Students are reading, studying and analyzing classics such as Harper Lee’s, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Mark Twain’s, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and other literary and real-life resources and documents dealing with the themes of education and race. Students are also taught to develop experience with researching scholarly databases for studies and published articles on these issues, all in order to become familiar and understand differing perspectives and viewpoints from various periods of history.
Students in AP Seminar are divided into teams of three for the year-long course and required to complete five AP Seminar Performance Tasks. After weeks of guided research and analysis of the topics, the first of two tasks requires students to synthesize their research and write an Individual Research Report, an essay of 1,200 words that is scored by the College Board. Each three-person team meets regularly to synthesize their individual perspectives on the focus issue and creates an 8-10 minute Team Multimedia Presentation scored by the teacher. As the year of research and study progresses, the latter three AP Seminar tasks include each individual student developing an Individual Written Argument of 2,000 words with their viewpoint on possible solutions to the issue. Thereafter, students produce an Individual Multimedia Presentation of 6-8 minutes presenting their argument and solutions and an Oral Defense to the teacher. The AP Seminar class concludes with 2-hour End-of-Course Exam testing student’s research, analysis and synthesis skills on a topic given on the exam scored by the College Board.
Year 2 of the AP Capstone program at Central Catholic High School requires a year-long course for grade 11 students, titled AP Research. Students in AP Research deeply explore an academic topic, issue or problem in which they have a passionate interest from any academic field of their personal choice. The tasks required cover mastering research methodology, ethical research practices, curating artifacts necessary for their scholarly work as well as personal reflection and creating a process portfolio. Individual conferences are scheduled with the teacher for review and approval of the students' work as they progress through the stages of activity. Assessment and grading in the AP Research course lies in two major components. Students must write and fully document a 4,000-5,000 word Academic Paper on their chosen topic of research, ultimately scored by the College Board, followed by a 15-20 minute Presentation and Oral Defense of their findings, argument and conclusions in front of a panel of three CCHS faculty evaluators.
CCHS students who complete both programs are awarded full academic credit from Central Catholic for the AP Seminar and AP Research courses. Additionally,
AP Capstone students completing four additional AP courses with a score of competency score of “3 or higher” during their Central Catholic High School career will receive the AP Capstone Diploma, a credential awarded by both the school and the College Board, which gives extraordinary evidence of the mature skill level of CCHS students to admissions officers at their prospective colleges and universities.
Leading Central Catholic’s AP Capstone program is Ms. Christine Leonard, a six-year English Department faculty member and 2006 alumna of CCHS. “I’m excited to provide a variety of challenges geared to help students develop independence in the required AP Capstone skills, and to observe them as they work together as a team for a significant common goal,” said Leonard. “The highlights for me are to see CCHS students develop over time their own unique perspectives on important issues and confidence in their expressive skills. Additionally, the Capstone program challenges our students to learn to add power and persuasion to their arguments and to realize the benefits and value in collaborative problem-solving.”
As preparation for leading this academic endeavor, Ms. Leonard attended an intensive week-long professional development program with AP Capstone expert-teachers in Baltimore during the summer of 2017. A recipient of the “2014 Most Promising New Teacher of English Award” by the New England Association of Teachers of English, Ms. Leonard earned a B.A. with a double major in Political Science and English from Stonehill College and a Master’s Degree in Literature from the University of New Hampshire. Ms. Leonard has also completed studies in literature at Oxford University. Outside the classroom, Ms. Leonard serves a senior class advisor, assistant to the CCHS Theatre Guild and is a faculty participant with Project Rebuild.
For more information about Central Catholic High School, contact Director of Communications Dave DiFillippo at email@example.com.
If schools are interested in exploring eligibility for this program, contact Deputy Superintendent Amy Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.