Advanced Classes That Stand Out

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Advanced Classes That Stand Out
November 2003
If you're heading to college, experts say it's best to take the most advanced classes you can handle. But there are many different types, and they aren't all regarded equally by area college-admissions directors.

At the top of the list are the International Baccalaureate program and the College Board's Advanced Placement classes.

Next come honors or advanced classes offered by each school.

Lower still: The state's Running Start program, which allows high-school students to take community-college classes.

Here's a closer look at the programs:

International Baccalaureate program: IB is still uncommon in this state, although its popularity is growing. Thirteen schools in Washington offer the rigorous college-prep program, all but four of them in the greater Puget-Sound area. Here are the schools, followed by the school district in parentheses: Edmonds-Woodway (Edmonds); Henry Foss (Tacoma); Inglemoor (Northshore); Ingraham (Seattle); Interlake (Bellevue); Kent-Meridian (Kent); Mount Rainier (Highline); Skyline (Issaquah); Thomas Jefferson (Federal Way).

Three middle schools are offering IB's Middle-Years Programme, or studying the possibility: Harbour Pointe Middle School (Mukilteo); Highland Middle School (Bellevue); and Kenmore Junior High (Northshore).

The high-school program allows students to earn college credit and a diploma recognized by colleges and universities around the world. Schools must undergo a rigorous self-study, counseling and inspection to gain approval by the International Baccalaureate Organisation in Switzerland. Worldwide, there are 1,464 schools offering IB programs in 115 countries.

The program is a comprehensive, two-year curriculum for juniors and seniors emphasizing humanities and sciences and requiring students to be involved in theater, sports or community service. Students must take a variety of courses and study certain subjects in greater depth. They also study a second language and take a Theory of Knowledge course to reflect on and analyze what they are learning.

IB examiners and classroom teachers work together on grading. Students are tested using a variety of methods. To receive a diploma, students must meet certain standards, complete a 4,000-word essay and score well on IB exams given in May.

In addition to helping students get into college, the IB diploma can translate into college credit or advanced standing. And even students who take individual IB classes without participating in the full program can receive college credit.

For more information: http://www.ibo.org/.

Advanced Placement classes: AP classes are taught at 83 of the region's high schools, including 65 of the 68 public high schools and 18 of the 31 private high schools.

The AP program is administered by the College Board, a nonprofit company that also administers the SAT, in a cooperative effort with high schools and colleges. Yearlong AP courses are available in 24 subjects, though most high schools offer a half-dozen subjects or less.

Teachers follow an AP-produced booklet outlining the content and approximate percentage of time devoted to each topic. Many also attend workshops to learn more about how to teach an AP class. In May, both AP and non-AP students may take exams, which usually include multiple-choice questions, problem-solving and short- and long-answer essay questions. The tests are graded by high-school teachers and college professors around the country.

Exams are graded on a 1-to-5 scale; 5 means a student is extremely well qualified. Most colleges and universities give students credit if they score at least a 3, which is considered qualified. Some more selective schools require a 4 or 5. Students with qualifying scores can get college credit even if they did not take an AP class.

The fee for each exam was $80 in 2003. Some school districts offer subsidies, and the College Board will reduce the fee for students...
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