Move over AP and IB. Another rigorous college prep program is catching on in high schools across Florida and adding to the state’s pace-setting expansion of school choice.
The nonprofit Cambridge International Exams, now in more than 100 Florida schools, is tied to the prestigious University of Cambridge in England. That makes it attractive to parents and students looking for a competitive edge in college admissions offices. It also sounds good to education leaders wanting to promote their schools in an environment where more than 40 percent of Florida students now attend a school other than their zoned school.
Cambridge students are exposed to an international curriculum and can earn up to 45 college credits with an “AICE diploma,’’ an Advanced International Certificate of Education that is recognized by all Florida public college and universities, and some private schools.
Cambridge is promoted as somewhat less costly and time-intensive for schools to implement than International Baccalaureate, the larger, better-known program with a similar design. With its focus on critical thinking, in-depth problem-solving and strong writing skills, supporters say Cambridge also dovetails nicely with the state’s newly-adopted education standards.
“We are attempting to spread the word,’’ said Sherry Reach, Cambridge’s international manager for the Americas, who is based in Panama City. “The course and assessment program we are offering helps develop skills important in the language arts for Common Core.’’
Bay County was the first Florida district to try Cambridge in 1994. In 2000, after the state Department of Education studied it, the Legislature deemed it effective for use statewide the following year. Since then, more than 100 Florida schools have signed on with Cambridge, which offers programs for students ages 5 and up. Of those, 78 are high schools, said spokeswoman Jamie Mongiovi. Nationally, the program is in 240 elementary and secondary schools in 27 states, up from 80 schools in 2009.
“A lot of that growth has happened the last few years,’’ Reach said. Continue Reading →