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Published in Print: May 19, 1999, as Advanced Placement Program To Offer Special Diplomas

Advanced Placement Program To Offer Special Diplomas

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Students who excel in history and English may have a greater incentive to push themselves in mathematics and science, and vice versa, under an Advanced Placement diploma program that will be piloted in at least 20 districts next school year.

The College Board, the New York City-based organization that administers the AP program, hopes the diploma will increase the number of students who take rigorous courses and exams in all the core subjects. It is also expected to raise the proportion of students taking the voluntary exams after completing an AP course.

"Many high schools said they wanted [the diploma program] because so many students were taking all of their AP courses in one particular area," said Wade Curry, the director of the AP program. "They want to be able to advise students into a program that has a coherent sequence."

The Advanced Placement program, which provides a demanding academic curriculum in 20 subjects, allows participating high school students who perform well on end-of-course exams to earn college credit. More than 40 other countries already offer the AP diploma, which is similar to the credential earned by students in the International Baccalaureate program.

To qualify for the diploma, students will have to complete five, yearlong AP courses and earn at least a 3 on a 5-point scale on each of the exams. At least one course in each of four core areas--math, science, language arts, and history--will be required.

Broadening Horizons

Mr. Curry said such a sequence would fulfill typical requirements for the first year of college. Students with AP credits are often viewed more favorably for college admission and placement in college courses than those who take a standard high school curriculum.

While the College Board has yet to announce all the participating districts, schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., and Fairfax County, Va., are expected to be among the initial sites, Mr. Curry said.

"It will result in students' not being so singularly focused on things that are of high interest to them," said Eric Smith, the superintendent of the 100,000-student Charlotte-Mecklenburg district. "It will offer an internal incentive for broadening themselves into other AP areas."

In Fairfax County, where 9,000 of the district's 50,000 high school students took AP courses this year, officials said the special diploma would give due recognition to excellent students in those schools that do not have magnet programs or the International Baccalaureate.

College Board officials expect to offer the program to all high schools in the AP program by the 2001-02 school year. Some 12,000 of the 650,000 students who took AP exams last May would have been eligible for the diploma, a number that officials expect to increase to at least 20,000 when the program is fully in place. Typically, students take one AP course in each of their last two years of high school. The diploma program requires at least two courses during the junior year and three in the senior year, Mr. Curry said.

Vol. 18, Issue 36, Page 11

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