Starting this fall, Baton Rouge Magnet High School will offer two new Advanced Placement courses that focus on critical thinking and research, only the second school in Louisiana to offer them.

Students at the Capital City's flagship public school will have the chance to earn a special AP Capstone diploma if they complete those new courses, pass the accompanying exams and pass four more AP subject exams.

“We’re are excited for the students to have this opportunity, one that few students in the state have at this time,” said Nan McCann, principal of Baton Rouge Magnet.

The students McCann is referring to attend Lusher Charter School in New Orleans, the first school in the state to offer the courses.

The College Board, which runs Advanced Placement, launched AP Seminar and AP Research courses in 2014. Since then about 1,000 schools around the world have agreed to teach them, and The College Board is picky about who it lets in.

“You have to be invited to teach the courses,” McCann said.

Sarah Kirkpatrick, an AP English literature teacher at Baton Rouge Magnet, has been tapped to teach the first class, the AP Seminar class, to a group of sophomores and juniors starting in August. For the 2018-19 school year, Kirkpatrick is planning to continue with that cohort and teach the AP Research class.

Kirkpatrick is set this summer to attend a five-day training session. McCann said the school is seeking a grant from The College Board to help pay for the training session's $1,050 cost.

The AP Seminar course is one where students tackle a wide variety of material, from research studies to philosophical texts, and then use them to address complex questions. Students do projects and presentations, both individually and with teams, and take an end-of-course written exam.

In the subsequent AP Research course, students devise and carry out a year-long research project based on a topic the student selects, documenting what they doing through a portfolio.

Baton Rouge Magnet already offers 26 AP courses, in foreign language, English, social studies, math, science and art. Last year, the school had 1,400 students take AP courses and 887 of them earned passing scores of 3 or better, the highest totals in Louisiana. A total of 197 students were named Advanced Placement Scholars, also tops in Louisiana.

The AP Capstone diploma resembles the special diploma long offered by AP’s main competitor, the International Baccalaureate program. Six schools in Louisiana offer IB diplomas, including Baton Rouge International School and LSU Lab School. Other local high schools, including Episcopal High School, offer in-house courses centered around student research projects.

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