Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ala. program is a model for rural online education

A three-year-old online education program in Alabama, which has given rural students opportunities they once only dreamed of while increasing Advance Plaement course offerings and graduation rates, is being extended to all schools in the state. The standard limitations of education in rural America – small schools, fewer teachers and less funding – has been transformed by the project, The Economist reports.

Alabama governor Bob Riley began the Alabama Connecting Classrooms Educators and Students Statewide program in 2005 to connect students in one town with teachers in another. ACCESS, which costs The $10 million, faced skeptics, but by 2008, students enrolled in more than 22,000 courses, and now educators are finding more innovative ways like “virtual field trips” to keep the program rolling.

Students in rural Alabama no longer have to choose between courses or are limited by scarce course offerings with ACCESS. Alabama’s superintendent of schools, Joe Morton, told The Ecomomist that Advanced Placement courses, once limited to less than half of the state’s schools, are now available with ACCESS. The success rate of the program is particularly high for black students in Alabama, who had the highest increase in AP coursework in the nation from 2003 to 2008. “That makes it all worthwhile right there,” Morton said. (Read more)

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