TROY -- For scores of Alabama high school students, Troy University unlocks the door to broader horizons through distance learning.
Through the Governor’s Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, and Students Statewide, or ACCESS, Program, some 5,000 students in south Alabama have access to high school subjects they can’t get in their own classrooms. Long a leader in higher education distance learning, TROY now leads the way in the field for high schools.
By far the largest of the state’s three ACCESS service centers, TROY serves more than 90,000 high school students in 45 school systems in its 27-county service area and currently has 5,000 of the 8,300 half-credit ACCESS enrollments statewide. A half-credit enrollment is the way the State Department of Education accounts for students in the program.
More than 2,000 of the state’s 3,300 summer school ACCESS students are served by the TROY support center.
“This program has absolutely exploded in terms of what our students want and need,” said Reba Davis, who directs ACCESS for the University.
According to Davis, State Department of Education officials forecast some 10,000 students will take one of 58 classes to be offered in the next year.
Those predictions, edged upward by recent State Board of Education revisions on high school students and requiring all Alabama students to take at least one distance-learning course during their high school careers, are well on target, according to Davis.
“While not all of those students will take that class in the Fall ’09 semester, we are gearing up to handle a much heavier volume of students,” she said. “However, we’re growing ACCESS (without the change) because teachers enjoy teaching the courses and the kids who have taken an ACCESS class are saying ‘it’s a blast’.”
Part of that “blast” is the use of technology. High school students today use computers in their daily lives – and are comfortable very comfortable with new ways to communicate with one another and with teachers, Davis said.
That’s not the only reason the students are flocking to ACCESS. The program, in addition to providing courses that may not be available at their own school, gives students virtually one-on-one access to the teachers, who are all required to be both certified by the State Department of Education and “highly qualified,” a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
“Having an ACCESS class is like a student having his or her own special tutor. It’s a different dynamic than in a classroom. Students feel like they are one-on-one with the teacher,” she said.
Another key: communication. “We train our teachers to ‘communicate, communicate, communicate’ as their primary role,” Davis said.
The teachers involved in ACCESS seem to like the approach as well. Described as a “teacher sharing program,” Davis said that the TROY support center isn’t trying to hire teachers away from local school systems, rather it tries to incorporate those teachers into a statewide network aimed at giving Alabama high schoolers a leg up.
Teachers in the program who are full-time teachers in local school systems are limited to one ACCESS class per school term – one course in the fall, spring and two summer sessions. Retired teachers may teach a full load during each term. Currently, about 400 teachers are utilized by TROY ACCESS. By the end of July, Davis said more than 500 teachers will have been recruited and trained by the TROY support center.
Davis has even identified a number of trends building as a result of TROY’s implementation of ACCESS.
“In interviewing ACCESS teachers, we’re finding that they are integrating ACCESS methods into the traditional classroom,” she said. Some school systems are beginning to schedule an “ACCESS period” that’s in addition to the regular school day and that even students who have been discipline problems for local administrators are excelling in ACCESS classes, where they are freer from distractions usually found in traditional classroom settings.
To add to ACCESS’ success is that, for the student, taking a class on line is completely free.
“It’s public education,” Davis said. “TROY ACCESS is almost a year-round high school and the courses don’t cost students a dime.”
-- Sidebar list --
ACCESS offerings Fall 2008
English 9 -12
AP English Language & Composition
AP English Language & Composition (2)
US History 1877 to Present
AP US History
AP US Government and Politics
Algebra II with Trigonometry
AP Calculus A&B
Mandarin Chinese I
AP Art History
Career Technical Coordinated Studies
Career Technical Educational Core
AP Computer Science A
Web Design I
Web Design II
Computer Programming BASIC
Alabama High School Graduation Exam Remediation Materials