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Advanced Course Access Grant Program Overview: Rochester City School District

Award Years: 2021-2023

The Rochester City School District (RCSD) will use a two-pronged strategy to increase the number of Rochester students who enroll in, complete, and pass advanced courses.  This strategy will 1) use both online and blended learning to ensure students in all RCSD high schools have access to an array of advanced courses, and 2) implement a system of diverse supports customized for students, teachers, school counselors, principals, and parents.  This dual-faceted approach will result in exposing more students, especially students of color, to the rigors of advanced coursework and increasing the number of students who are eligible for higher education course credit.

The Virtual Academy of Rochester (VAR), RCSD’s online learning program, will add eight advanced courses to its course selection. The new course topics will add diversity to the current selection of high school electives and be appropriate for both college- and career-bound students.

VAR will also implement a new Blended Learning Program to allow students more flexibility when scheduling advanced courses. This initiative will use VAR’s online advanced courses to enrich delivery of face-to-face courses and to enable innovative course scheduling.

Advanced Course (AC) Advocates will play a crucial role in changing the mindset of both students and adults towards advanced coursework and online learning. The AC Advocates will meet with teachers, counselors, students, and parents to help break through barriers to advanced course access.  They will meet with students to encourage advanced course participation and perseverance, advise on scheduling practices (at both the school- and student-levels), and provide professional coaching to school counselors and advanced course teachers.

Targeted professional learning will be offered to teachers of all RCSD advanced courses, including those delivered virtually and face-to-face. These opportunities will be delivered through a focused summer institute, personal coaching, and online learning workshops offered in the format of collegial circles. VAR’s new Blended Learning Program will promote and support the integration of blended advanced course delivery to improve teaching and learning. Additional professional development will be available for school counselors to deepen their understanding of advanced courses and virtual learning, focusing on the many advanced course opportunities offered by the Virtual Academy or Rochester.

Students will have access to multiple support systems designed to increase their success in rigorous, advanced courses and learning in a more self-directed, virtual learning environment. A summer boot camp will initiate students advanced course participation, and during the school year, a hotline will be available to help address content questions and the social-emotional challenges associated with advanced coursework.

Parents will be supported in their role as personal advocates for their child’s success in advanced coursework, starting with the high school course request process and continuing through course completion and the final (e.g., Advanced Placement) exam.  Working with RCSD’s Office of Parent Engagement, parent programs will demonstrate how parents do not need to be content experts to support their child as they take advanced courses.

Project outcomes will include increases in 1) the number of advanced courses accessible Districtwide, 2) the number of students enrolled in advanced courses, especially students of color, and 3) course success rates, as measured by eligibility for credit in higher education.