By Natalie Richoux
High school is no longer the simple, straightforward path to becoming an adult it once was. Now there are many programs your child could enroll in depending on their goals and aspirations in life. High schools offer students opportunities to excel through accelerated programs (AP), dual enrollment and international baccalaureate programs (IB). What are these programs, and are they right for your child?
AP is offered at all public Alachua County high schools and homeschool students can signup to take an AP exam. In order for a student to be part of an AP program, there is no criterion that must be met and they are not required to get teacher or counselor approval before enrolling in the course. AP courses are designed to allow students to take college level courses throughout high school, helping them develop skills, abilities and content knowledge they will need later in college. Once a student has completed their AP course, they complete an AP exam that is graded on a scale of one to five. Scores of three or higher are often counted as college credit at many higher learning institutions in the United States. Beyond college credits, AP can open many doors for a student, just ask Rena Cohen. She was one of just three students across the globe to earn a perfect score on the Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics exam, was selected for the national choir and a national merit scholarship finalist (a program with 1.6 million entrants that is reduced to 7500 finalists who receive scholarships). One of the biggest benefits is getting a jump-start on college. If you want your child to get a jump-start on college, AP might just be the path for them, but you may also want to consider dual enrollment.
Dual enrollment is a joint effort of many schools, public and private, in Alachua County. public schools and local higher learning institutions. Different schools have partnered with Santa Fe College and the University of Florida, but not both universities are a part of every dual enrollment program. Dual enrollment is available to all 11th and 12th grade students, but unlike AP classes, students must apply and gain admission to the university. Acceptance varies by university, but is generally based on placement scores, grades, GPA, conduct, attendance and extracurricular activities.
The purpose of a dual enrollment program is to offer students the opportunity to take college courses on college campuses. A student’s time is split between their high school and the university with the courses the student takes at the university counting toward both their high school diploma and their college diploma. The goal of dual enrollment is to prepare students for college while students and families take advantage of free tuition that helps them gain credit toward both their degrees, although the amount of credit towards a high school degree depends on the school (for example, public schools have an equal credit but Oak Hall only has a ½ credit).
While AP and dual enrollment focus on gaining college credits, IB programs differ in their approach. A student still earns college credits with IB, but the goal of IB is to teach, “students to think critically and independently, and how to inquire with care and logic. Prepares students to succeed in a world where facts and fiction merge in the news, and where asking the right questions is a crucial skill that will allow them to flourish long after they’ve left our programmes” according to the official IB website. There are two educational tracks a student can take in an IB program: IB diploma program (DP) and IB career program (CP). However, Eastside High School (the only Alachua county school that offers IB), only offers DP.
The DP is focused on student education to assist them in their academic endeavors and to excel physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically. The CP is focused on an education that has a variety of international components to assist students in being in engaging, career-related education to help them achieve their career goals and often incorporates apprenticeships or internships as a component of the program.
Graduating from middle school, a student must have completed Algebra I and maintain a minimum of a 3.2 cumulative GPA if they are interested in IB. All 9th and 10th grade students take the same advanced courses (often called pre-AP courses) but after completion of their 10th grade year, they determine whether they want to follow the AP track or the IB track. In addition to having an exemplary record, after 9th and 10th grade completion of pre-AP courses, the student must submit an application directly to the International Baccalaureate Office. With the application, they must complete a variety of exams that include a math and reading exam with a score of four or higher on a scale from one to five, as well as responses to essay questions found on the application form.
While all programs sound appealing, they do come with an added intellectual rigor, so be sure to choose the right program for your child if you decide to enroll. But it is an academic rigor Alachua County students standup well to, as Alachua County public school student consistently receive some of the highest standardized test grades in the nation, including PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP and IB exams, according to Jackie Johnson, the director of communications and community initiatives for Alachua County Public Schools.
It can be difficult to determine which will be the best fit, but take time to sit down and talk to your child about their future goals. If college is a goal, then AP, dual enrollment or DP may be good options to pursue as many high school students can graduate with up to 60 possible college credit, meaning when they start their ‘freshman’ year they will actually be a junior. However, if they are looking to go into a career out of high school, CP may be in their best interest.
Talk to your child’s counselor, together, to explore all the program options! They have tons of information available and are there to assist in making decisions like this one.
Understand that your student is not committed to a program once they enroll. Your student could realize the program is not for them, and they can un-enroll for the following school year and return to regular classes.
Make a checklist of goals to accomplish through the program for your student! You can do a yearly goal, semester goal, study goal, test goal or knowledge goal.
Study how to take notes (seems odd, but highly effective). Ensure your student knows how to take diligent and thorough notes!
Make sure your student stays on top of their work! These advanced educational programs move extremely quickly, so falling behind by even a day can become detrimental overwhelming.
Advanced educational opportunities are 50 percent hard work and 50 percent mental. If your student convinces themself that the program is a difficult and impossible task, it will be! If your student convinces themself that it is a challenging, but manageable, task, it will be!