In the News: Why Secretary DeVos Must Champion Course Choice

“Right now, only half of American high schools even offer calculus. Nearly forty percent don’t offer physics. A quarter doesn’t offer chemistry, and a quarter doesn’t offer any Advanced Placement courses.” So note Max Eden and Michael McShane in a new article on Real Clear Education.

Quinsigamond Community College, Worcester, Mass. @deafaccents via Twenty20

The problem, they explain, is that many schools and districts are just too small to justify offering those courses. However, they write,

This is a problem that can be solved. Several states, including Louisiana, Utah and Minnesota, have launched statewide course choice (also known as “course access”) programs. While the details vary slightly, the basic idea is this: the state grants students flexibility in a portion of the funding that it sends to their school. For one, two or three class periods a day, instead of heading down the hallway to math class to take Algebra II, they instead take a turn into the computer lab and log onto an online course in calculus. Or, they can take that funding to a local community college if they prefer in-person instruction or to union apprenticeship center to learn a trade-based skill. (If you think it’s expensive to offer AP Calculus as a small rural school, try building a welding shop.)

According to Eden and McShane,

If she decides to step up and use the bully pulpit to encourage states to launch course choice programs, DeVos could do more to expand academic opportunity than any education secretary in history.

Julie Young wrote about course choice programs for Education Next in summer 2015.

— Education Next

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