Launching the Debate—Questions for Online Discussion

  1. In its efforts to raise student achievement, Alabama lacks qualified teachers and required course offerings. How well is ACCESS as a solution-in-progress speaking to these aspects of this problem?

  2. School reforms such as ACCESS often experience tensions between being seen as a top-down or bottom-up reform. How would you characterize ACCESS?

  3. What does the context have to do with the design of ACCESS? If this case were set in a more populous and wealthy state (e.g., Connecticut), how, if at all, would you modify the design?



The state of Alabama has a challenging environment in which to educate and meet the needs of its 730,000 public school students. School systems must work in a context where more than 51 percent of the public school population is eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. Further, the state has many rural districts, where schools and school districts stand miles and miles apart from one another—literally spreading thin state resources for education to these many remote sites. Because of these issues, like many states throughout the country, Alabama has struggled to raise student achievement levels across all student demographic groups. All of these factors combine to create a situation where many schools and school districts—which have few students and thus small budgets, but must educate students according to state standards—have lacked sufficient resources (including qualified teachers, required course offerings) for adequately meeting the needs of all students.

This is especially problematic given that Alabama has a two-tiered high school diploma system. According to state policy, students can earn a regular diploma, taking one set of curricular offerings; or an “Advanced Diploma” by taking advanced level courses in the areas of language arts, math, science, and social studies. Historically, many Alabama high schools have not had the resources to offer students the requisite courses to obtain the Advanced Degree. In sum, students in Alabama have not had access to all the educational opportunities and resources necessary to successfully complete a high school curriculum. This has tremendous ramifications for these students’ ability to go onto higher education, earn adequate wages, and ultimately, compete in local, national, and global economies.

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