All About Apex
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There is a small computer lab by Tower 1 where you can constantly find kids testing. A message that the teacher “is watching you” written on the window looks out of place next to dozens of motivational posters. Ersatz pastel butterflies dot the walls between pictures from exotic locales and a smiling teacher can almost always be found by the desk in the near left corner from the door. This is room 111, the school APEX room.
Many of you may know what APEX is, but few do in depth. The program was brought to Albany High towards the end of the 2010-2011 school year. Its purpose is to offer “digital curriculum that provides teachers with state and national standards-based instructional tools to deliver individualized, student-centered direct instruction”, according to the district website, at least. According to two of the coordinators who facilitate it, it is much more. “Let’s say that you are a student who failed a class in a quarter… you can take APEX for that class and then increase your grade,” said English department faculty member Orly Contreras, one of the APEX teachers. “We also do APEX for AP courses… if your schedule is full but you really want to take a class… you can do that here”. The other, full-time APEX coordinator, Mr. Vacanti, took a more futuristic tone while describing it. “In the modern age, it is paramount that all students become familiar with the skills involved to succeed in online courses, especially if they’re college-bound. In the future, virtually all classes will be deeply integrated with the web,” and, according to him, APEX is a step towards that reality.
How does this work? Students take a series of examinations to determine their APEX grade. According to the Albany City School District Website, “once a student completes the intensive program, the Apex grade is averaged with the failing grade to determine a final grade for the quarter.” In many cases, this helps struggling students make up failing grades or honors students go for even higher ones. Worried about what’ll happen if the APEX grade is lower? Students take a series of examinations to determine their APEX grade. “If the APEX grade happens to be lower than the original grade, there is no change,” said Mr. Vacanti. “As a school, we need to make sure we help all students in any way we can,” added Mrs. Contreras”. To apply, simply see one of the teachers for a brief orientation, then begin to work any time of the day that’s acceptable for you.
How do students react to the program? “I think it’s a great program and it should be implemented for as many actual courses as possible”, said sophomore James Avallone-Serra. Fellow tenth grader Ben Martin concurred, saying “I like the opportunity”. However, the program is not without their critics. “Some of the kids there usually horseplay and curse at the teacher more than working on their grade”, said an anonymous student who took APEX in the past. Others don’t like the lack of a flesh-and-blood instructor: “there’s no real class, there’s no real teacher, and there’s no real knowledge gained… it’s all impersonal and computerized, and kids will forget the material they learned right afterwards”, said junior Robert Baestline candidly.
Nevertheless, APEX seems to be having its successes. ““Half of the students who graduated last year  used APEX to raise their grades… It’s become a great learning tool,” quipped Mr. Vacanti. To become the part of the next “half” and raise your grades, please see Mr. Vacanti or Mrs. Contreras at your convenience.