Appropriation to target rural teens


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High-school students in rural Iowa may have a better chance of enrolling in Advanced Placement courses starting this fall because of a new appropriation by the Iowa Legislature.

For the first time, the University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center received a $482,000 appropriation for the 2011-12 school year that will allow high schools across Iowa to receive funding for Advanced Placement courses, exam reviews, materials, and instructor training.

The funding will be directed to the Iowa Advanced Placement Online Academy to offer mainstream online courses such as calculus, biology, and history to students in areas that normally do not have the opportunity to take college-level courses.

UI Professor Nicholas Colangelo, the director of the Belin-Blank Center, said the funding is a major plus for many rural schools in Iowa because the size of many rural high schools may not allow funding for advanced classes.

“The heart of the funding is taking the course online,” he said. “It definitely helps students who are interested and would otherwise miss this opportunity if the funding wasn’t available.”

The center will try to monitor every school to ensure students in the state have an equal chance to receive the education they deserve, he said.

“We try to do this equally, and the fact that this funding came from the state Legislature has many benefits,” he said. “It helps out every area of Iowa, not just specific parts.”

The center’s goal is to have at least one student from every high school in Iowa be enrolled in an online Advanced Placement course during the 2011-12 school year, Colangelo said.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, a member of the education appropriations subcommittee, said the legislators want equal opportunities for available Advanced Placement content. Smaller and rural schools have traditionally faced more challenges in providing college credits to high-school students.

“In smaller schools, there may only be three students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes, but it is hard to justify a budget for only three students,” Quirmbach said. “With this funding, we are offering the opportunity for a small district to provide an online course so the content is available.”

Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, also a subcommittee member, said that while offering online courses to smaller schools allows opportunities for rural students, he does not think there is a specific focus on funding to rural schools.

“There is not a particular focus on rural areas; I know there has been use of it as well as to other areas of the state,” he said. “This funding is available statewide and is a great opportunity for students to better prepare their interest in college.”

Students, including those in smaller schools, can view the Advanced Placement courses as electives that will provide them an opportunity they would not be able to receive otherwise, he said.

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