AP Capstone Provides Students With Rigorous Research Skills

AP Capstone is a new program available to students at Francis Lewis High School at the beginning of the current school year.  The program, which is approximately 6 years old, was created by the College Board to increase rigor in classrooms.

“What was being found through research studies is that students weren’t doing enough writing and not enough research type writing,” English teacher and AP Capstone Coordinator Mr. Felder said.

AP Seminar is the first course in the two year program that focuses on teaching the basics of research; how to source information, find credible sources, and work productively in a team.  AP Research allows students to apply what they learned in AP Seminar by exercising their research and writing skills in college level assignments, such as a 25 page research paper.

“When I was in school back in the ’80s and ’90s we had to write research reports, but students don’t really do that anymore,” Mr. Felder said. “The focus of the diploma program is on research and writing longer papers based on that research.”

Since this is the first year that AP Capstone is offered at Francis Lewis, there are currently only AP Seminar classes in session.  Students have found the course to be engaging. 

“I was worried that I would be really stressed and it would be really hard, but so far it has been fun and interesting,” AP Seminar student Celina Yang said. “Getting to study about topics we don’t really get to dive deeper in English makes it more interesting.”

According to Mr. Felder, students with the right work ethic and attitude will excel in the program. 

“For me it’s not about getting the best kids academically, it’s not about getting the highest scores into that classroom,” Mr. Felder said. “It’s about these kids who are willing to work and who just have a lucky-go-happy positive attitude about stuff. As long as they’re willing to put in the work, that’s really all I can ask for.”

Currently AP Seminar students are engaged in the first part of their AP exam, which will count for 55% of their grades. This part will last from January 2 to around April 30.  All Francis Lewis teachers were asked to refrain from giving feedback on students’ work to keep the integrity of the test secure.

“Our teacher said that for our final presentation she can’t grade us, she can’t tell us, ‘Oh you did this wrong,’” AP Seminar student Katelyn Zheng said. “We have to figure it out for ourselves.”

When taking AP Capstone students have the opportunity to obtain an AP Capstone diploma. The diploma is achieved if a student scores a three or higher in the AP Capstone courses as well as four other AP Exams.

“I think that the workload is a little heavy at times,” Mr. Felder said. “In the beginning the class is kind of easy and fun, but right now, for example, my kids just finished writing their 1200 word essays, which is about five pages. Now they’re working on the team multimedia project and they’re finding that it’s hard to work with other people, especially when your AP score is involved.”

Students are finding that although the course is challenging, the skills they are learning are beneficial to their education in high school and beyond. 

“I actually find it really interesting,” AP Seminar student Mia Ferrara said.  “It’s a little challenging, considering that it’s a different type of class. You’re writing a lot of essays, researching, but I’m learning a lot of things I didn’t know how to do in past years that I think are really necessary for the next years in school.”

Additional reporting by Serene Cheah and Alicia Schwartz.