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Cambridge makes inroads in U.S. education

Passing the University of Cambridge's Cambridge Primary curriculum culminates with an Advanced International Certificate of Education, recognized by colleges and universities around the world. (Gettyimages.com: chrisdorney).
Passing the University of Cambridge's Cambridge Primary curriculum culminates with an Advanced International Certificate of Education, recognized by colleges and universities around the world. (Gettyimages.com: chrisdorney).

The race to offer a rigorous pre-college curriculum to K12 students, even in elementary school, is heating up, with the move by one of the nation’s largest districts to introduce a curriculum of international standards to its students in grade 3 through 5 this fall.

Florida’s Collier County school district, with 47,000 students, will use the Cambridge Primary curriculum, which was developed by the University of Cambridge, in every one of its 29 elementary schools. The district’s older students have been learning the Cambridge Secondary and Advanced programs since 2011.

The program allows students to tailor their studies to individual interests, abilities and future plans. Passing the curriculum culminates with an Advanced International Certificate of Education, recognized by colleges and universities around the world.

Superintendent Kamela Patton says the Cambridge program will challenge her students to meet global expectations. “We are committed to providing educational opportunities that equip students with the skills and content they will need to compete in an increasingly global workforce,” Patton wrote in a statement.

Cambridge competition

The curriculum is used by schools in more than 160 cities in the U.S., and can be found in 10,000 schools in nearly 180 countries. The program’s expansion reflects a growing acceptance of Cambridge in the United States, as schools look to prepare students, at an ever earlier age, for the rigors of college.

Among pre-college academic programs, Cambridge is still dwarfed by the College Board’s popular Advanced Placement program. The AP gave 3.4 million exams to U.S. public high school students last year.

Cambridge implementations also fall short of the International Baccalaureate program, which is used in more than 1,800 schools in the U.S. Like Cambridge, the IB program offers education with a global perspective and is recognized by elite universities around the world.

So, is Cambridge competing with AP and IB?

The door is certainly open to competition.

AP exams were originally offered to top students looking to get a head start on college credit. But with so many students now taking the courses, many colleges give the tests less weight in the admissions process than they once might have.

Moreover, students don’t always receive college credit for high scores in AP courses, which was once the primary motivation for taking the tests. Instead, they can opt out of introductory courses in their major.