Serving Rural Students through Online AP Classes

Nationally, there tends to be a disparity between the money allocated to gifted programming in urban and rural communities, with urban and suburban communities providing more funds for this type of program. Not only do financial resources tend to be distributed differently in rural areas, but schools also have to contend with increased distances between schools, limited materials, and less time in which to provide gifted programming. Smaller high school populations in many rural areas also sometimes result in fewer options, especially for advanced students. In Iowa, a predominantly rural state, consideration of these issues when providing services for gifted high school students is one thing that the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) hopes to accomplish.

One of the primary goals of the Iowa Online AP Academy is to provide advanced learning opportunities in the form of Advanced Placement classes to Iowa high school students. In 2013-2014, this resulted in 107 schools representing 59 Iowa counties registering for the Iowa Online AP Academy. Of these counties, almost 70% are defined as rural. Although many of the students served through Iowa Online AP Academy courses may not have the enrollment or resources to provide traditional Advanced Placement courses, these opportunities are still available because of access to IOAPA coursework.

In addition to providing online coursework as IOAPA does, districts and schools must also consider what type of technology students have access to in their communities. Students in rural communities might experience discrepancies in resource availability at school compared to at home, and understanding how to keep students connected and able to complete coursework is essential when ensuring student success in online AP classes. One way that schools can help students succeed is to help provide access to technology required to complete online coursework. Last year, the Belin-Blank Center coordinated a pilot program aimed at providing rural students with access to iPads in order to facilitate completion of online AP courses. Continuing to provide students with the tools required for success may encourage students to consider online AP classes as a possibility for further academic challenge.


Selected Resources

Azano, A.P., Callahan, C.M., Missett, T.C., & Brunner, M. (2014). Understanding the experiences of gifted education teachers and fidelity of implementation in rural schools. Journal of Advanced Academics, 1-13. DOI: 10.1177/1932202X14524405

Lewis, J.D. & Hafer, C. (2012). The challenges of being gifted in a rural community. Digest of Gifted Research. Found at on 23 July 2014.

Sheehy, K. (2011). Rural students lost in connectivity gap. US News. Found at on 23 July 2014.

Interested in learning more about the Iowa Online AP Academy? Check out our website or search “Iowa Online AP Academy” on our blog).

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