CARIBOU, Maine — A statewide program is helping students at high schools with limited resources achieve their educational goals thanks to a joint venture between several state agencies, educational organizations and schools.
The AP4ALL program put on by the state Department of Education, the University of Maine System, the Maine Distance Learning Project and high schools allows schools that are interested to offer online Advanced Placement courses, enabling more students to enroll in them.
Funded by a federal grant, AP4ALL began online courses in the 2007-08 school year. That first year, students could enroll in six online AP courses. During 2008-09, AP4ALL offered 11 online AP courses.
This year, it will offer 14 of the courses, including biology, chemistry, English and foreign languages.
More than 120 students from 25 schools in Maine enrolled in the program last year, and registration for this school year still is under way.
Most schools in Aroostook County have gotten a jump on the program, as they have been back in session for several weeks before suspending classes for harvest break.
“This program allows students who may not be able to take AP courses at their school because the school does not offer them a chance to do so,” Anne Perloff, technology coordinator at the University of Maine, said this week. “It also allows students a chance to take such a course if they cannot fit it into their schedule.”
Perloff, who is directly involved with the program, said schools designated as low-income by the Education Department qualify for the program, which is offered to them at no cost to students or schools. Students from higher income schools can qualify, but $500 per student tuition is charged.
The classes are taught by teachers across the state who are compensated by the program. The school has to provide computer access and a facilitator to oversee the program and assist involved students. Participating students can log in and take the course at any time. Most students do it during a scheduled time of the school day, according to Perloff, but a student could take the course at 8 p.m. if need be. Students participate in online discussions and upload homework and tests to their teachers.
“We have had a lot of success with this,” she said. “We have 25 students in Aroostook County enrolled right now, and that could grow. It is not easy for students. It is a rigorous program and a lot of work is involved, but the students are sticking with it.”
Perloff said the program not only allows more students to access AP programs, but also exposes students to college-level courses and online learning. Perloff said program coordinators are applying for more grant money and hope to expand the program by offering more subjects to additional students in more schools.
In Aroostook County, AP4ALL is offered at high schools in Caribou, Hodgdon, Fort Kent, Mars Hill, St. Agatha and Dyer Brook. Other Aroostook County schools also qualify for the program.
Caribou High School has successfully taken part in the program for two years, principal Mark Jones said Thursday afternoon.
“The students really love it,” he said, adding that he had just signed up a student for one of the program’s AP government classes. “It is a wonderful program for them. It offers a lot of opportunities to students in The County, because not every district has the resources to teach these courses.”
The program even helped a Caribou student meet all of the requirements she needed last year to graduate early, Jones noted.
Jones said the number of students involved in the program is growing in Caribou, with more than five students taking AP courses this year. A teacher monitors the students and makes sure they are keeping up with the work.
“It is not for every student,” he said. “The kids know how hard it is. But it sure appeals to those who want to do it.”
In Hodgdon, school officials also were lauding AP4ALL.
“This is a great program,” Bernadette Willette, guidance counselor at Hodgdon High School, said Thursday. “We have a number of kids taking the classes and more want to, so I am begging Anne [Perloff] to find room for them.”
“This program offers them an opportunity to take higher level courses in high school,” she said. “Advanced Placement instructors have to go away to be trained, and rural schools do not have the money to send teachers away to do that. The students have been telling me that this is just as good as being in a classroom and it gives them an opportunity they would not have normally had.”