San Marcos High School has launched an Accelerated Academic Program as part of a districtwide initiative to meet the needs and interests of all students.

The Accelerated Academic Program is a four-year course of study in which a select group of students will follow a comprehensive curriculum combining the most rigorous course offerings (Gifted and Talented, Honors, Advanced Placement, SBCC and university) the district has to offer.

The AAP program remains unique to San Marcos because of the school’s “academic focus block schedule.” The block schedule, also referred to as the “University Schedule” by Erik Nielsen, head counselor and creator of the AAP, allows students to take yearlong classes in a semester much like students at universities on the semester system.

“AAP will allow students to do more,” said Eric Burrows, California State Teacher of the Year in 2005. “Students will be able to take two years of science, math, English or social studies in one year, expanding educational opportunities and creating advantages in college admissions.”

In its inaugural year, the AAP will enroll freshmen who will matriculate through a college-focused pathway, creating a school within a school environment for talented learners.

Jamie DeVries, an Advanced Placement economics teacher at San Marcos, is eager for the program to begin.

“I am so excited about this program. It is unprecedented in this community, and kids and parents are really energized about it,” he said. “Kids Helping Kids is just one example of what these students can do if given the opportunity.”

DeVries’ AP economics class recently raised about $140,000 for the Unity Shoppe as part of its annual Kids Helping Kids class fundraiser.

The AAP will provide students with a broad, general background in many academic areas at a level appropriate to highly academically skilled learners.

“The AAP is about preparation exposure, and enrichment,” Nielsen said. “High school is an optimal time for students to investigate interest areas. For those students who have narrowed their vocational focus, programs like the Health Academy at San Marcos, MAD or VADA at Santa Barbara High School, or the Engineering Academy at Dos Pueblos, are viable options. However, for adept students who continue to explore their academic interests, the AAP will serve as an incredible educational opportunity.”

In four years, the AAP will include 30 freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior students (a total of 120 students). AAP will seek to expand opportunities for high-achieving, underrepresented students seeking the rigor of advanced coursework. The program will prepare students to face challenges and choices that will meet the complexities of today’s world, support a lifelong commitment to learning, and encourage students to make use of their potential.

Students will receive a broad spectrum of opportunities to extend and enrich the classroom curriculum through guest speakers, theater, summer programming, study abroad opportunities and field trips. Because of the rigorous nature of the AAP curriculum, support services are provided by AAP teachers and through the AAP Study Sessions Program and guidance counseling support. AAP students who meet or exceed six AP courses and meet the 280-unit threshold will be given special recognition at graduation and on their high school transcript.

The application window will open in the spring, coinciding with the eighth-grade registration process at the high school. An AAP informational night will be offered at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria of the school. All interested parents and community members are invited to attend.

Click here for more information about the program.

— Erik Nielsen is the director of guidance at San Marcos High School.