WHAT IS COURSE ACCESS?
Course access, also known as course choice, allows for families and students to select a variety of courses beyond what their school and school districts normally offer. The courses, which can be taught online or in person, can include everything from college classes and SAT preparation to welder training and industry certifications (see EdChoice). Course access policies simplify the search and enrollment process for students by creating a statewide, dynamic online catalog with information about providers and courses. Course access has the potential to combine technology with innovative policy to ensure all students have access to the education that best fits their unique needs and talents.
UNLOCKING THE UNLIMITED POTENTIAL OF EVERY KID
Our current one-size-fits-all system of schooling makes it difficult to implement a more personalized approach to education that can enable every student to unlock his or her unique potential. If we want students to succeed and find fulfillment in their lives, students need access to a diversity of solutions that put them at the center of the learning process. Unfortunately, today too many schools and districts are unable to offer students those courses that are necessary to realize this approach and help every kid discover, develop, and apply their innate gifts to maximize their ability to contribute to society. Course access helps states to fill this gap by creating a statewide repository of courses from a range of high-quality providers. This provides students with the courses that best meet their needs and interests, without being limited by geography or capacity (see ExcelinEd).
THE FREEDOM TO ENROLL IN A VARIETY OF COURSES, INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF A CHILD’S SCHOOL
In the same way open enrollment policies allow students to enroll in schools other than those they are zoned to attend, course access policies allow students to enroll in courses other than those offered at their enrolled school. These courses can be offered online or in-person and, importantly, the child’s prorated or per-course funding follows them to the provider offering the course.
HOW CAN STATES IMPLEMENT COURSE ACCESS?
Design elements of a course choice program may include cataloging approved courses and providers in multiple repositories, establishing the rules by which students can enroll in courses, facilitating funding flows, and implementing rating mechanisms for families to rate their experience, among others.
Key Design Elements of a Course Access Program:
- Funding should follow the student to the provider/course of their choice.
- All children should be eligible to take advantage of course access, and not limited to certain students.
- A variety of course providers should be able to be approved by the state, districts, higher education, or some combination of all of these and more (with reciprocity granted so all options are available to all students regardless of their home location).
- Multiple repositories should be permitted to allow students to have access to the broadest type of courses. For example, Oklahoma maintains a course catalog of approved providers, but districts may use any vendor that they choose
- States should have clear distance-learning reciprocity policies to allow students to enroll in online courses and programs that have been approved by other districts and states. This is especially important at a time when demand is outpacing supply of quality online courses. To provide maximum options for students, automatic approval of a course that has gone through the review process in one state or district is an easy way to cut red tape.
- Course access could also be leveraged to enable distance learning districts, which are wholly new local educational agencies that serve students across the state, regardless of geographic residence.
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