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New AP Courses to Emphasize Critical Thinking and Research

The College Board is piloting two new Advanced Placement courses designed to focus on research skills that admissions counselors say are too often missing in high school graduates.

The new program for juniors and seniors, developed in collaboration with Cambridge International Examinations, will be tested over three years in 15 to 18 high schools starting this fall, the College Board announced today.

The AP/Cambridge Interdisciplinary Investigations and Critical Reasoning Seminar will be offered in 11th grade. Students will work in teams to research and write topics of global relevance. Each school can choose its own topic and pair different disciplines, such as history and English.

The AP/Cambridge Capstone Research Project taken in 12th grade involves writing a 4,500 to 5,000-word paper that will be evaluated on the students' ability to design, plan, and manage a research project, analyze information, and communicate their findings.

Trevor Packer, senior vice president of Advanced Placement and College Readiness for the College Board, says college admissions officers who sit on both organizations' advisory boards discussed the need for these types of courses. "They said U.S. students are not coming to college having developed research skills and the ability to integrate knowledge across a variety of academic disciplines," he says.

The program will be piloted in a diverse mix of public and private schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Four schools are in the Miami-Dade County, Fla., public school system. Others will be announced as their school boards sign off on the pilot, says Packer.

For schools to offer these new courses, teachers would be required to complete a one-week summer institute offered through a university. Costs range from $400 to $1,400. As with other AP courses, there is no cost to the school for the curricula.

Upon completing the AP/Cambridge courses, students would have the option of taking a College Board Advanced Placement test in one or more subject. Each exam now costs students $87. The research courses are not designed to replicate a college course, but rather prepare students for college-level work and be an indication of readiness for elite college admission.

The College Board will follow two groups of students in the two-year program. Preliminary results are expected to be released after the first cohorts finish. If successful, Packer says the courses could be rolled out globally.

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