Course Offerings Evolve for High-Achieving Students

Course Offerings Evolve for High-Achieving Students

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The Polk County School Board held a roundtable meeting on July 23 that included a discussion about high-level courses offered by high schools in our district. This information was also covered in a local news story.

Here are some additional details about the courses offered by our high schools, and how they are selected.

Schools review requests from students as well as enrollment data from previous years when deciding what courses to offer.

“Schools must evolve and make classes available that best suit the needs of their students,” said Chief Academic Officer Michael Akes. “It’s a balancing act: What courses satisfy students’ intellectual curiosity, push them academically and prepare them for their futures?”

Some schools have noticed students expressing less interest in traditional advanced placement (AP) courses in subjects like math, science, foreign language, history, the arts and humanities.

There were approximately 5,690 students districtwide who were scheduled to take at least one AP course in 2016-2017. This dropped to 5,660 students in 2018-2019.

AP courses remain an important option for students, and eight Polk County public high schools have the AP Capstone diploma program.

The program readies students for success in college by emphasizing research, collaboration, and communication skills. Upon successful completion of the program, students earn the AP Capstone Diploma, signifying their attainment of college-level academic and research skills.

In recent years, students have shown a growing interest in dual enrollment classes through post-secondary institutions, including Polk State College, Southeastern University, Warner University and South Florida State College.

More than 3,200 students were scheduled to take at least one dual enrollment class during the course of the 2018-2019 school year. This was approximately 1,100 more students compared to 2016-2017.

Students are drawn to dual enrollment as a way to earn college credit without having to pay the tuition. They also get a glimpse into what college-level classes are like before they get their high school diploma.

In addition, there are other advanced high school classes — even more rigorous than AP courses — that are available through the International Baccalaureate programs at Bartow High and Haines City High.

The Cambridge courses offered through Winter Haven High are another course option for high-achieving students. In this program, students can earn an AICE Diploma (Advanced International Certificate of Education).

“Our students in the Cambridge program feel that the courses prepare them for college,” said Gina Williams, principal of Winter Haven High. “Many of our students feel that they are being challenged academically for the first time in their lives.  If the student earns an AICE Diploma, they are automatically awarded Florida Academic Scholars status without the required ACT/SAT score.”

No matter what high-level course is taken, the goal is for students to pursue a curriculum that interests and challenges them. Polk County Public Schools will continue to review student enrollment data and feedback to help determine the academic offerings in our schools.

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