ACCESS program offers opportunities

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The old adage says that a student can learn as much as he or she wants to learn, no matter the teacher or the school.

While perhaps that’s true, the question is “as much about what?”

“Many school don’t offer foreign languages, the higher math courses or courses such as environmental science,” said Kay Sanders, associate director of the ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide) Distance Learning program.

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Sanders explained that the ACCESS Program is an online computer program that provides opportunities and options for Alabama public high school students to engage in advanced placement and elective and other courses to which they may not otherwise have access.

“Often, only the more affluent counties are able to offer those courses in their schools,” Sanders said. “So, until the Alabama State Department of Education initiated the ACCESS program, students in many counties didn’t have ‘access’ to these higher level courses.”

But, through the Access program, that has changed and students in Pike County are taking advantage of the many opportunities offered through the program.

“Students at Charles Henderson High School at taking German and students at Pike County and Goshen high schools are taking several different courses,” Sanders said. “We offer five foreign languages though the ACCESS program. German is one of the courses that we have worked so hard to get. The German teacher, Marta DeWitt of Mobile, actually took a day off work and visited the German class at CHHS. She wanted to come face-to-face with the students she had taught. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty and is an indication of the dedication and commitment of the teachers in the ACCESS program.”

Sanders said the ACCESS program is different from the Independent Study courses in that the classes are interactive.

“The German class, like other language classes, has an audio capability that includes voice mail that allows the student to record his or her pronunciation of a word or phase. The teacher can listen to the recording at home and correct their pronunciation.”

The interactive feature of the ACCESS program allows students to consult with their teachers about any problems they are having in the class.

“A lot of math teachers especially like the program because they can look at a student’s work and give an explanation through voice mail,” Sanders said. “The teacher-student connection is important.”

There are 127 ACCESS classes in the 27 counties from Montgomery south and more than 50 courses are being offered. It’s possible to have 25 different classes being offered in one classroom.

“When a student gets on the computer, he or she types in the class name and the program opens just like a textbook,” Sanders said. “Instead of a teacher, the screen shows a new page with what the student needs to know for that day. There’s a table of contents for the day’s lesson. Any questions the student has are mailed back to the teacher.”

The ACCESS program is high-tech teaching. It provides equal access to high quality instruction to students across the state who otherwise would not have this opportunity.