Sophomores, juniors and seniors from 10 Cincinnati Public Schools got a taste of college life when they spent a week living and learning at Miami University as members of the district’s first-ever Advanced Placement (AP) Boot Camp.
The 160 students spent five days and four nights during June 2015 living on Miami’s Oxford campus, experiencing AP classes, expanding their academic networks, and, most importantly, gaining first-hand appreciation for college’s high expectations.
“We are learning a lot about time management,” said Azaria Carter, a junior at Aiken High School who enrolled in AP Psychology. “You can’t get behind in an AP class or you’re through, and college is all about time management. You can’t come here and slack.”
The new AP Boot Camp was organized for CPS high school students who enrolled for the 2015-16 school year in CPS’ humanities-related AP blended-learning courses: AP Psychology, AP English Literature and Composition, and AP Human Geography. In July 2015, a STEM Boot Camp at the University of Cincinnati covered AP Statistics and AP Environmental Science.
CPS staff created the Boot Camps as a means to give students a leg up on college-readiness skills through the district’s new My Tomorrow*ed initiative. To ramp up its college-prep offerings, the district is expanding its AP portfolio by creating five blended-learning AP courses. With blended learning, students attend at least one face-to-face or live online session per week, then complete the rest of the AP coursework on their own time.
This innovative, technology-driven solution enables CPS to open up access to AP courses for students attending high schools that don’t offer AP due to low interest by students, and, in the long run, to spark more interest at these schools.
At Miami University, the Boot Camp’s schedule included campus tours and team-building activities; classes on skills required for success in AP courses, such as writing and organization; and AP coursework that students were required to complete before Boot Camp ended.
“We are learning a lot about what we need to do in the coming year,” said Isaiah Watkins, a senior at Riverview East Academy who enrolled in AP Literature. “They are covering what the classes are going to be like and giving us work to see if we can handle it.”
Advanced Placement courses cover introductory-level college coursework and generally are open to juniors and seniors. Students can earn college credits based on how well they do on AP course exams. But college credit isn’t the only benefit — research shows that students who participate in AP courses are more likely to graduate on time from college than peers who don’t participate. Every AP course that a student takes prepares the student to more easily meet long-term educational and career goals.
Aiken High School sophomore Brennan McCoy was the first Aiken student to sign up for AP Boot Camp. He’s enrolled in AP Human Geography to support his goal of studying archaeology and Egyptology at Miami University or the University of Cincinnati.
“I wanted to get a feel for college life and what it will be like to be in an AP class,” McCoy said. “Also, I want to go into history, and I was told this would help.”
The Boot Camps — along with the AP course work itself — also give students insight into potential careers they could pursue.
“I want to study psychology and make that part of my career,” said Camille Costandi, a senior at Clark Montessori High School who enrolled in both AP Psychology and AP Stats. “This is a step forward and a way to test it out before I invest money in a career I might not like.”
As for Boot Camp, she noted, “I want to take in as much information as I can and pay attention, so I can be prepared for this year.”
Debbie Crawford, CPS’ AP/blended learning coordinator, said the district set out with four goals for the AP Boot Camps: to help students build networks among peers; to introduce students to the rigors of AP curriculum; to help students develop skills related to teamwork, reading, writing, problem solving, time management and collaboration; and to teach students how to apply these skills inside and outside school.
“These are all skills that colleges look for in their applicants, and they are all skills that will serve students both in and beyond the AP classroom,” Crawford said.
This certainly factored into the decision making of Tanisha Harris, a junior at Aiken High School who enrolled in AP Psychology. “Colleges look for kids who take AP classes; it shows that these kids go beyond what they are comfortable with. You can’t take an AP course and stay in your comfort zone and be successful.”
While other districts may offer AP Boot Camps, none integrate the college-life component to the same degree as CPS’ program. The unique and successful format has gained the attention of Indiana University, as well as the College Board, the organization that administers the AP program.
“The AP Boot Camp exceeded our expectations, and we are thankful to have such a great working relationship with Miami University and the University of Cincinnati,” said Laura Mitchell, CPS deputy superintendent. “Programs like these are creating more equity and access to college readiness for our students. Moreover, the connections we created with both universities are giving our students greater exposure to the possibilities their futures hold for them.”