Tupelo High School to be part of high-achiever initiative

Tupelo High School has been selected as one of 220 high schools worldwide to enter the AP Capstone program in fall 2015. The program is an accelerated Advance Placement course initiative designed to significantly raise the research and presentation skills of high-achieving high school students.

The program, to be inaugurated in 139 schools worldwide this fall, is an academic product of the College Board, a private-sector company whose products are benchmark tests and learning tools used by more than 6,000 colleges and schools to measure achievement and grant advanced placement credits.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test, widely used as a college admission standard, is perhaps its best-known product.

The AP Capstone, as described by THS Principal Jason Harris to Tupelo Public School Board members and the Daily Journal on Tuesday, would offer an AP Capstone Diploma or a certificate, with the diploma requiring higher scores on AP exams and a higher number of AP courses taken.

The THS Advance Placement enrollment is rising – 980 seats in 2014-2015 compared to 784 seats in 2013-2014.

Harris described the emphases of AP Capstone as innovative research, teamwork and communication skills valued by colleges. Tupelo is the only school chosen in Mississippi.

Some Southern states so far have none.

The structure is a two-course sequence: AP seminar, a team-project, presentation, research based essay, and AP research, year two, consisting of research, documentation, thesis and presentation/defense.

Harris said he anticipates 20 to 35 students in the first year and that the College Board recommends no more than 20 students per class.

All teachers for the AP Capstone must take certification courses from the College Board. Harris said the faculty for the program has not been selected but he anticipates two or three teachers assigned to the initiative.

In addition to the obviously useful knowledge and experience headed toward college, the program will attract the attention of leading colleges and universities who seek students with a record of conquering the most difficult academic work.

In addition, Harris said he will work with Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi to establish a context for the AP Capstone and students seeking to enter both universities, historically heavily attended by THS graduates.

Having the program will attract the attention of investors looking at Tupelo locations and families who want to locate in communities with very strong public schools.

“Were Tupelo not the kind of community it is, this would not have happened,” Harris said.

Community achievement should never be underestimated.