Case Study: AP Academy Is the Apex of KVHS
Kentucky has been a leader in developing innovative educational strategies to raise student achievement since the inception of education reform 10 years ago, particularly in addressing the use of technology in schools. Its statewide technology plan was among the first in the nation to include the purchase of instructional and classroom management software as well as training for teachers. The state was also early to address the digital divide by offering high-bandwidth Internet access to all of its schools.
But like other states, Kentucky faces its own set of unique educational challenges. Of the 176 school districts in the state, 75 have less than 2,000 students and 33 have less than 1,000 students. With its 600,000 K-12 students scattered throughout the state, Kentucky deals with significant issues of student and teacher isolation. Recruiting and retaining certified, talented teachers, and ensuring that all students have access to high-quality Advanced Placement courses are concerns for all states, including Kentucky.
Set against this background, the state launched the Kentucky Virtual High School (KVHS) in 2000 as part of its overall strategy to overcome these challenges and provide equitable access to high-quality, diverse curriculum for all students, especially those who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to take AP courses. KVHS and Apex Learning, a builder and operator of virtual schools, began working together to create an AP program as part of the online school's offerings. Based on its educational goals, KVHS identified specific criteria for its AP Academy, including:
- Online AP instructors must be certified Kentucky teachers in compliance with the state's standards.
- Online instructors must have customized training so they can be as successful in an online classroom as they are in traditional settings.
- Local school and KVHS administrators must have an easy-to-use and accessible weekly reporting tool to follow student progress.
- To help ensure continued student motivation, students must have access to responsive student services and technical support resources for quick resolution of potential problems, ranging from registration to online instructor questions.
The KVHS AP Academy was launched in fall 2000. To date, of the 350 students who enrolled in KVHS courses last year, more than half have participated in Apex Learning's online AP courses. All students had access to Apex Learning's Exam Review prior to the College Board's formal AP examinations in May.
In addition, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Advanced Placement Incentive Program, KVHS developed the Kentucky AP Incentive Program to increase opportunities for students to be successful in AP courses. Through this program, more than 100 students received scholarships for online AP courses during the 2000-2001 school year, with the same number of scholarships slated for the 2001-2002 school year. Funding for other students to take the AP courses comes from local school budgets or personal resources. The initiative also supports professional development for teachers, counselors and administrators.
Visit Kentucky Virtual High School online at www.kvhs.org.
Apex Learning Inc.
This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.