grades, so that they can better prepare students for the AP course. The AP program is also focusing on incorporating 21st century skills into the coursework and has joined the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in this effort.1
Above all, she said, “we want the students to become interested in science. We want them to fuel the STEM field and to be excited about doing that coursework.” The links with colleges and universities through which they validate the course content are invaluable in that regard, she added.
A DUAL-CREDIT COURSE ON CLIMATE
It is important for scientists to communicate with broader audiences about their research, but they face challenges in doing so, observed Thompson, a professor of oceanography and an adjunct professor of physics and atmospheric science at the University of Washington. Many are “kind of at a loss as to how to do it,” she noted, and often fall back on “one-off” presentations. That problem is one of the reasons why the University of Washington applied for grant funding to develop a college-level course in climate science that could be offered in high schools. The primary goal was to connect research and education in climate science, she explained, and specifically to increase students’ sense of the relevance of science, to create a sustainable means of outreach for University of Washington science faculty, and to bring the depth and interdisciplinary nature of climate science to high schools.
There are programs throughout the country, Thompson noted, that offer college coursework in high schools. Typically, high school teachers are trained by faculty at partner postsecondary institutions to teach university-level courses, and the university oversees both the content and the assessments students take. Students earn both high school and college credit. Such dual-credit courses allow them to experience college-level rigor in a familiar setting and also foster collaborative relationships between high schools and local colleges, Thompson explained.
In this case, the University of Washington establishes the curriculum activities, tests, and grading scales and selects the texts. The university offers such courses in English, foreign languages, calculus, geology, and other subjects. These courses provide an alternative to AP classes, Thompson commented, but also complement the AP program. Students do not earn credit through a single high-stakes test, but instead are evaluated as they would be in a college class and receive a grade that can go on their college transcript (AP exams yield credits that colleges may accept,
1 See http://www.p21.org/events-aamp-news/press-releases/1001-new-members-for-p21 [December 2011] for more information.