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West Florence High School receives approval to implement Advanced Placement Capstone Program


West Florence High School continues to seek ways to raise the bar for academics for all students by adding the Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma Program to its offerings in 2019-2020. The school was recently notified that it had received the designation of AP Capstone School. West Florence joins a small select group of 30 high schools in South Carolina to offer this rigorous Capstone Diploma Program.

Principal Matt Dowdell said that he was interested in pursuing the designation for West Florence because it meant more higher-level opportunities for his students.  

“I am committed to adding more AP classes and implementing more academic rigor throughout our school,” Dowdell said. “I think adding the AP Capstone Diploma Program is a great next step to raising the academic bar for our students.”

Currently West Florence offers nine AP classes. Within the next year, Dowdell said, he wants to increase that number to 15, adding more in the following year.

“These are classes that students can take in high school and, if they do well on the AP Exam, earn college credit,” Dowdell said. “This program will also give our students a competitive edge when it comes to applying for college. They will be graduating with an AP distinguished diploma and top tier academic schools will look favorably on that.”

Having an AP diploma sets students apart from their peers who are also vying for academic scholarships.

“There is a lot of competition when applying for college and especially for getting scholarships,” Dowdell said. “This program really makes our students more competitive and makes them stand out. It is not just that they graduated with a 4.2 GPA. This gives them the ability to say that they have earned something that most people have not earned.”

The AP Capstone diploma program is centered on two year-long required courses, AP Seminar and AP Research, and four other courses of the student’s choosing. A student’s success in the program depends upon their use of critical thinking, presentation skills and research techniques, all of which will help them transition from high school into college coursework.

“AP classes are the ultimate indicator of whether students are ready for college,” Dowdell said. “They may be taking these classes in high school but they are college-level courses.”

The two required year-long courses are designed to teach students how to conduct research and investigate real-world problems, communicating their solutions through both written papers and presentations.

“Having these skills is important for students to be successful,” Dowdell said. “Developing them while they are still in high school, we know they are well prepared when they get to college.”

Since the inception of the AP Capstone program in 2014, highly respected colleges and universities across the country including Yale, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Brown along with South Carolina grown Clemson, College of Charleston and University of South Carolina have signed a statement endorsing the AP Capstone Diploma program.