GUEST POST BY: Robert Kuhl, Principal, APIS Hawaii
I often get questions about college preparation at APIS. Some families wonder how students can prepare for college without taking AP classes. The high school I attended, the Illinois Math and Science Academy, did not offer AP classes, yet almost every alumnus attended college and many became well-known for creating or co-creating such companies as Paypal, YouTube, Yelp, Sparknotes, and OkCupid. Others became federal judges, scientists, doctors, famous movie directors, teachers, surgeons, business leaders, diplomats, and exceptional parents. The last school I worked at, High Tech High, also did not offer AP classes, yet nearly all of the alumni attended college. Here is the story of one of those alumni
If not AP, then what?
Preparing for college at APIS begins the moment a student steps into their first class. Students collaborate, problem solve, create, analyze, communicate and develop grit and self-efficacy by working with other students on real problems and real questions, much like adults would do.
More acutely at APIS in high school, college prep has three major prongs.
- Authentic projects. When students collaborate to create work for authentic audiences, students step up. Students might study local watersheds and make policy recommendations to government officials, or plant and maintain a sustainable garden, or bring the community together to celebrate stories of immigration, or plan a future colony on Mars. In doing so, students must research deeply, unpack complex texts, and write clearly and compellingly. Ultimately seniors complete a deep capstone project in an area of their own passion and interest.
- Academic Internships. If college prepares students to work in the adult-world, why not have students work in the adult world as high school students? This does not mean that internship is solely about career exploration, though this can be a secondary benefit. The real benefit of internship is that a student has college educated adults as peers and begins to behave more and more like these college educated adults. Students who complete internships are equipped to work among college educated adults. At APIS, eleventh grade students spend a month working alongside a college-educated mentor and completing a project of meaning to both the student and the host organization.
- College Classes – What more authentic college experience could we offer than actual college classes? At APIS we have an agreement with Windward Community College through which eleventh and twelfth grade students take two college courses each semester. This gives students an opportunity to earn credit that transfers almost anywhere, to learn to navigate challenging curriculum in a supportive setting, and to explore possible pathways. Building on a solid and broad project-based background in grades nine and ten, in grade eleven and twelve students may choose to explore many possible college classes, or develop a more focused pathway in Creative Media, Psycho-Social Development, Sustainable Agriculture, or Agripharmatech.
Through this approach all APIS students will graduate not only ready for college, but with college success already under their belts, and ready to take on the world.
Robert Kuhl is currently the K-12 principal at Asia Pacific International School, Hawaii. After graduating with a B.S. from the University of Illinois he first taught via a Fulbright Fellowship in a comprehensive grade 5-12 school in Vienna, Austria, then in a large comprehensive high school in Austin, Texas, and then in an international school in Caracas, Venezuela. He most recently has served as director of one of the High Tech High schools in San Diego. Along this journey he earned an MA from the College of New Jersey and an MEd from the High Tech High Graduate School of Education.