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Poly Selected to Pilot AP African American Studies

Feedback Will Guide Nationwide Rollout in Fall 2023

In 2023, College Board plans to roll out Advanced Placement African American Studies in high schools across the nation for the first time. But before then, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and 49 more schools will pilot the course to help refine the curriculum, instruction, and assessment. 

In selecting the pilot schools, College Board was looking for a tradition of Advanced Placement excellence as well as strong faculty and student interest in the subject matter. They found it at Poly! 

Poly students’ pursuit of college-level academics has led to the dramatic growth of the school’s AP offerings — from five courses in 1999 to 22-24 courses today (depending on the semester). In 2015, the school was one of the first five in the state to introduce AP Capstone, a diploma program from College Board with two courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. 

Going beyond the typical AP Capstone, Poly also offers a third course, “Introduction to Research Methods,” for students to take before embarking on Capstone. This course better prepares them for the rigorous challenge of presenting and defending a research thesis. 

“We’re trying to offer as many students as possible the opportunity to engage in advanced academics,” says Josh Headley, Poly’s AP Capstone Coordinator. “The beauty of Capstone is that while the faculty teach students the research process, the Capstone research project topic is based on the student’s own interests. It’s not about driving students towards passing a test, it’s about the experience. There’s so much value in the process for preparing students for college and career.” 

Mr. Headley also believes that Poly’s almost 40-year commitment to teaching African American Studies helped secure its place in the College Board pilot. Taught by Patrice Frasier, Social Studies Department Chair, the year-long course has multiple sections due to high demand. It immerses students in a range of topics from the rule of Queen Nzinga Mbande in present-day northern Angola to the Harlem Renaissance to the rise and influence of the Black Panthers and culminates in the student-curated African American History Assembly.  

“I want the students to know that African American history is not only about slavery,” says Ms. Frasier, who will also teach the AP pilot. “We touch on so many aspects of African American history and influence. I feel like more students from more cultures will take this class due to the appeal of Advanced Placement, and it will only accelerate the interest and growth of the field.” 

In preparation for the pilot, Ms. Frasier will join AP teachers from across the country at the College Board’s intensive onsite training to prepare for the course as well as the ongoing check-ins and reports that will help the AP’s subject matter experts revise and tweak the course for its formal debut in Fall 2023. 

And Poly students will get to play a pivotal role in this momentous moment for high school academics and African American Studies nationwide. 
 

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