Over the next few weeks, our Innovation policy team will answer the questions they’ve been receiving. We invite you to send in your questions or Tweet us at @ExcelinEd, and share this important information with education partners, stakeholders and others who would like to know more.
What are the core principles of your Course Access policy, and how do they prepare students for college and career?
Learner-centered education requires broad access to high-quality coursework, yet too many schools and districts are unable to offer critical courses necessary for college and career readiness. ExcelinEd’s Course Access policy seeks to address these gaps through legislation, incentives and guidance allowing students to access an online marketplace of high-quality courses.
It is no secret that too many American students are underprepared for long-term success in college and career. One reason is equally simple and unacceptable: a lack of access to diverse, rigorous courses they need to pursue strong pathways to postsecondary and the workforce. Across the nation, there are significant gaps between the course offerings students want or need to pursue and what can be offered by their local district or school. These gaps may be due to the lack of qualified instructional staff, tight budgets, or even a dearth of other course providers. This is particularly true in rural and under-served areas.
Consider a few key examples:
- Only half of high schools nationwide offer calculus, and just under two-thirds offer physics;
- Among high schools with the highest percentages of black and Hispanic students, one quarter do not offer Algebra II and one third do not offer chemistry.
- Just 5 percent of schools offered AP Computer Science in 2016, despite that for every one graduate from a computer science program, there are three jobs available.
For many students, the lack of access now to college and career-ready coursework will translate to fewer opportunities for decent-paying jobs and continued advancement down the road.
ExcelinEd’s Course Access policy comprises a set of steps that states can take to ensure all students have access to a range of high-quality courses. These include:
- Conducting an evaluation of existing course offerings in state districts and schools. It is critical that all states know where gaps in coursework exist, how wide they may be, and who is being disadvantaged by them.
- Establishing a clear set of criteria for course quality and expected outcomes. Rigor and quality are just as important as access. States also need to develop a transparent process that course providers can navigate to meet these criteria and expand the pool of offerings to schools and students.
- Identifying and removing barriers to schools and districts seeking to offer these courses to students. For online course offerings, this may include expanding broadband connectivity and supporting broadband network development in rural schools. It may also mean providing performance funding to under-served schools for courses successfully completed by students.
- Creating or designating a centralized hub that can serve as a delivery system for high-needs courses from a range of providers. Many states have existing virtual schools, but these should be augmented by content from a range of high-quality providers (from within and outside the existing state system).
On the Radar for Next Week:
#AskExcelinEd: What questions do you have about state efforts to transition to personalized learning?
Submit your questions to #AskExcelinEd to find out more about these policies and other issues that are top-of-mind for our team!
Previous posts in our #AskExcelinEd series on Innovation policies:
Previous posts in our #AskExcelinEd series on ESSA State Plans:
- #AskExcelinEd: How Many States Are Using Summative Ratings in Their ESSA Plans?
- #AskExcelinEd: How Much Weight Do States’ School Accountability Systems Give to Academic Outcomes?
- #AskExcelinEd: How Are States Incorporating Student Growth into Their Accountability Systems?
- #AskExcelinEd: What are states using as School Quality and Student Success Indicators?
About the author
Erin joins the Foundation as a Policy Coordinator, focusing primarily on the annual Digital Learning Report Card. She interned with the Digital Learning Now team for two years, spearheading the annual survey of state digital learning policies, tracking legislation, and assisting in other analysis. She graduated from George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School for Public Policy and Public Administration with a Master’s in Public Administration, focusing on nonprofit management. While at GWU she collaborated with graduate students on two pro bono consulting projects: first, an evaluation of DC SCORES Power of Poetry program; and second, an evaluation for NCTQ on the perceptions of the traditional student teaching model and an exploration of alternative frameworks in the teacher preparation process.