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#AskExcelinEd: How can a Course Access Policy help states advance educational equity?


• Erin Lockett

In our final look at how states are advancing educational equity and offering all students quality learning opportunities, Senior Policy Analyst Erin Lockett shares how states can utilize a Course Access policy to achieve educational equity for all students. 


The final promising practice in CCSSO’s States Leading for Equity is Empower Student Options: Ensure Families Have Access to High-Quality Educational Options that Align to Community Needs. At ExcelinEd, we wholeheartedly agree with CCSSO that “regardless of where they live, students should have access to advanced coursework and a variety of educational choices that meet their learning needs.”

CCSSO’s examples of promising practices focus on open enrollment, community partnership and best practice sharing, and open educational resources. All are valuable methods for expanding student access to coursework and experiences. At ExcelinEd, we believe yet another solution to addressing student access to advanced coursework is a statewide Course Access policy.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights Data Collection 2013-14 reveals that only half of our nation’s high schools offer calculus, and only 2/3 of high schools offer physics. Among high schools that serve the largest percent of African-American and Latino students, 1 in 3 don’t offer chemistry and 1 in 4 don’t offer Algebra II. These gaps in access to courses highlight two pressing issues: (1) the lack of equity of access to core courses among schools and (2) the lack of opportunities for students to prepare for college and career. Without access to math and science courses in high schools, many students will struggle to pursue postsecondary credentials or the advanced career training needed for entry to middle and higher-wage careers.

Course Access is a state-level policy that provides students with expanded course offerings across learning environments from diverse, accountable providers, both public and private. Students can select from a broad range of courses in a variety of relevant content areas and delivery formats (online, face-to-face or blended). By closing the gap in traditional school course offerings with options from partnering providers, Course Access programs can dramatically increase the learning and future earning opportunities available to students.

Indiana and Rhode Island are two states working to ensure students have access to the courses and experiences they need for success in college and career. Indiana’s Course Access Program (iCAP) provides nearly 100 online courses offered by multiple providers, and the state has called for additional course offerings during its pilot phase to address areas of need in Indiana studies, ethnic studies, world languages, dual credit, and Career & Technical Education courses. Rhode Island has deliberately planned its Advanced Course Network (ACN) to integrate with other college and career initiatives within the state. Courses and experiences available to students include work-based learning, career preparation, dual enrollment and Advanced Placement. The ACN is a critical part of the state’s PrepareRI action plan goals for 2020 and helps fulfill Rhode Island’s promise that “All high school students will have access to opportunities to earn college credit or industry credentials.”

As states strive toward achieving educational equity, it is important that they consider steps to bring courses and experiences to students in underserved geographic and academic areas. A strong Course Access policy can do just that – while also helping ensure that students are better prepared for long-term advancement and success in college and career.


About the author


Erin Lockett

ErinL@excelined.org

Erin Lockett is a Senior Policy Analyst at ExcelinEd, focusing on Course Access in the Innovation Policy set. Her work includes Innovation sessions and annual Pre-Summit workshops at the National Summit on Education Reform, convenings, thought leadership, and white papers on Course Access and Personalized Learning. 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.