For California’s Vacaville School District, offering Advanced Placement courses to students at Buckingham Charter Magnet High School was a natural fit for the school’s high standards. Founded in 1994, Buckingham offers a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum to its 450 students with the expectation that all students will graduate.
However, the charter school’s student population is too small to support the staffing required to offer AP courses as a traditional brick-and-mortar program. In order to satisfy the demand for a range of AP classes, Buckingham looked to an online digital curriculum.
Digital Curriculum Expands AP Course Offerings
In 2001, the school implemented Apex Learning digital curriculum to provide students with expanded educational choices. In the past nine years, Apex Learning has provided 172 students at Buckingham Charter School with 284 AP courses that otherwise would not have been available.
“We can’t justify putting a teacher in the classroom to teach just one student AP Calculus,” commented Principal Jeff Erickson.” Apex Learning helps us provide the educational opportunities available at larger schools and better meet the needs of every student.”
Each student is carefully screened before being accepted into AP courses. “Making sure our students know the expectations of Advanced Placement courses is critical.” said Chuck Robbins, Buckingham social studies and English teacher and supervisor of Apex Learning courses.
Grades weigh heavily in the acceptance decision. Students are generally expected to have a 3.2 overall GPA to enter the AP program. Teacher recommendations and strong subject- specific performance are also considered for students with slightly lower GPAs. Most AP students are juniors or seniors.
Once accepted, students must attend an AP orientation that outlines the rigor of advanced placement and gives students tips on how to succeed in the online environment.
Subject-Area Teachers Mentor Students
Students attend AP courses in a computer lab during the regular school day and are required to log nine hours of class time every two weeks. Highly qualified subject-area teachers supervise the AP classes and serve as mentors, helping students as needed and working with Apex Learning online instructors to facilitate student progress.
Apex Learning AP courses are offered to Buckingham students in biology, calculus, chemistry, English language and composition, English literature, microeconomics, psychology, Spanish, U.S. government, and U.S. history.
AP Students Graduate, Enroll in College
All of the school’s AP students have graduated from high school, and a substantial majority has gone on to college. Approximately 84 percent enroll in a two-year or four-year college the fall after graduation. Among students who take the AP Exam, that number climbs to 93 percent.
“We expect our students to be self-directed learners, collaborative workers, and complex thinkers in all of their courses," said Robbins."Apex Learning courses allow our teachers to work with students individually to make sure they are successful in a rigorous learning atmosphere.”