Saint Ignatius High School

AP Capstone Diploma School Designation

The College Board named Saint Ignatius High School an AP Capstone Diploma School, making us one of 46 schools in Ohio to hold the designation. Assistant Principal Tom Beach explains what this means for our curriculum and our students.

The College Board named Saint Ignatius High School an AP Capstone Diploma School, making us one of 46 schools in Ohio to hold the designation. Since the 2016-17 school year, the Saint Ignatius curriculum offers two yearlong AP courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. These courses complement other AP courses that the AP Capstone student may take. More than 1,500 schools across the country are approved to offer the AP Capstone Diploma program.

Instead of teaching specific subject knowledge, AP Seminar and AP Research use an interdisciplinary approach to develop the critical thinking, research, collaboration, time management, and presentation skills students need for college-level work.
The College Board developed the AP Capstone Diploma program at the request of higher education professionals, who saw a need for a systematic way for high school students to begin mastering these skills before college.
At Saint Ignatius High School, over 80 percent of our students take at least one AP course before graduating. Assistant Principal for Faculty Formation Tom Beach recently shared more about this designation and the AP program.

Q: What does it mean to be designated an AP Capstone Diploma School?
Schools that offer both the AP Seminar and AP Research courses and at least four other AP courses receive designation as an AP Capstone Diploma School. Saint Ignatius has had nearly 130 students who enrolled in either AP Seminar or AP Research since the 2016-17 school year.

Q: What do students gain from taking AP courses?
Students receive exposure to the intellectual challenges of college-level work in a setting where there is more attention paid to the progress of the individual; that is one of the hallmarks of the AP courses. College classes often feature more independence and less formative feedback. So, an AP course gives students the opportunity to measure themselves against a college-level standard while also having their learning supported more comprehensively.
The AP Capstone courses—AP Seminar and AP Research—are designed to help students master academic argument. This means they must examine academically valid and debated topics as well as determine the degree of academic validity of a variety of sources. Students are also required to present this information to their peers. We wanted to add these courses to the curriculum for these reasons. Yet we are also intrigued by the flexibility we are afforded by the College Board; both of these classes can be placed within any department and any curriculum.  
AP Seminar is offered during the sophomore year so that students can have more room in their academic schedules. The second course, AP Research, is offered to students during their junior year.

Q: Why do we offer AP courses over the IB programme?
We have chosen to remain with AP largely for two reasons: variety and choice. Instead of committing to a sequence of courses that progresses over a period of four years, as is the case in the IB Diploma Programme, students can choose to take AP courses in a variety of combinations. This affords flexibility to our students and our curriculum.

The AP program has really become the standard for college-prep coursework. In 2007-2008, 17,032 high schools in the US participated in the AP program and nearly 1.6 million students took AP exams. Participation has steadily increased in the past 10 years. In 2017-2018, 22,612 high schools participated and over 2.8 million students took the exams according to AP Program Participation and Performance Data in 2018.
Q: How do AP courses help students when applying to colleges?
Students are helped in two ways: most colleges and universities accept scores of 3 or higher (out of a total of 5 points) for either improved placement in a higher-level course or for actual academic credits. Colleges and universities also look at what they call “strength of schedule” when they examine the transcripts of students who apply. Often the AP courses are the most challenging courses in that subject. Even students who do not score a 3 or higher but who have taken on the challenge of the AP course can have a favorable response from college admissions offices.

Q: How do our students generally perform on AP courses?
Summaries show that we have a pass rate (3 or higher on a 5 point scoring scale) of at least 80 percent overall. Our students routinely outperform the national mean scores in most of the 22 courses we offer. 
Q: Some of our teachers are very involved in AP work. How does that influence our school?
Our teachers participate in professional development through the College Board and grading of the AP exams, which gives those teachers unique insights into how the College Board creates the tests and curriculum standards used in AP courses. It also gives them access to cutting edge ideas in the world of education. Our teachers share these insights and newly learned methodologies not only with their students, but with their colleagues here at Saint Ignatius. As a result, our involvement with the AP program forms our teachers and thereby impacts students across the board. Many of our AP teachers say that they are better instructors all around because of this work.

Q: How does offering AP course work align with our mission?
Forming our students to be intellectually prepared for the challenges that await them in life means that we have to go outside the confines of the hallowed halls of Saint Ignatius to test their level of preparedness. The Advanced Placement tests offered by the College Board are an excellent way to do just that. Our students take tests that are written through collaboration between high school teachers around the world and their counterparts in higher education. Our students' performance can then be compared to how students at other college prep schools are doing. Year in and year out, the results have shown us that our students consistently perform better than their peers in similar settings.