Students on the county’s east side will have a broader range of educational options beginning next school year as Pasco County Schools initiates Cambridge education programs at Pasco Middle and Pasco High schools.
The programs, which are known for their academic rigor, will be housed at those two schools, but will also be open through school choice to students from Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel high schools, and also to students from Centennial, Stewart and Weightman middle schools.
Students who successfully pass the examinations attached to the Cambridge program can earn up to 45 college credits at Florida public universities. Those achieving the Cambridge diploma will qualify for the highest award available in the state’s Bright Futures Scholarship program.
Pasco educators believe that students who complete the Cambridge course of study will be better prepared to succeed in college.
The University of Cambridge launched the program more than 150 years ago, beginning with 370 candidates in seven British cities. Now it has more than 8 million diploma candidates in more than 160 countries.
A large crowd of parents and students attended a recent information session at Pasco Middle to find out more about the programs.
“We wanted to bring a rigorous program to these kids in the east side of the county,” Pasco Schools superintendent Kurt Browning said. “This is an established program.”
Students have the opportunity to earn college credits that will result in substantial savings in tuition costs, but they’ll have to apply themselves to make that happen, Browning said.
“They’re going to have to work. They’re going to have to work hard,” he said.
Another information session about the Cambridge option is scheduled for Dec. 5 at 6 p.m., in the media center at Wesley Chapel High, 30651 Wells Road in Wesley Chapel.
The program, known formally as Cambridge International Examinations, offers the opportunity to earn an Advanced International Certificate of Education. It is offered through the University of Cambridge International Examinations, a division of the Cambridge, England, school.
The program seeks to develop learners who are confident, responsible, reflective, innovative and engaged.
To apply for the Pasco programs, students must:
• Have a score of Level 3 or above on reading and math on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
• Submit two teacher recommendations.
• Have an unweighted grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
• Complete a 300- to 500-word essay.
The application deadline is Jan. 31.
Pasco Middle will house the Lower Secondary Program, which is designed to prepare students to continue onto Cambridge course work at Pasco High.
“We were very impressed with the Cambridge schools that we went to go see,” Kim Anderson, principal at Pasco Middle, told the audience at the recent information session. “The students that we saw in these programs were outstanding. They were thinking, at times, far above some of the adults in the room.”
The program offers academic rigor, much like the district’s International Baccalaureate program offered at Land O’ Lakes and Gulf high schools, but offers students more flexibility, district officials said. The program requires students to pass six exams to receive a diploma. Three of those exams must be in each of the program’s study areas, but the student gets to choose the other three.
In the IB program, five of the six required exams must be taken in specific study areas.
Because of its flexibility, students should have no problem taking electives and participating in extracurricular activities, such as band, officials said.
Students are also able to get college credits for single courses, if they pass the exams, even if they do not take enough of the courses to get a diploma.
The program will begin next year, with students entering sixth grade through 10th grade eligible to take part. The district will provide transportation to students in participating schools.
District officials said they’re going to wait until the applications are in before determining how large the programs will be.