Western Consortium for Accelerated Learning Opportunities

WICHE Policy Analysis and Research Mission:

The Policy Analysis and Research unit offers a variety of policy and information resources to support better informed decision making, principally at the state level. The unit is involved in a number of research projects and collaborative initiatives that focus on college completion: adult learners; multistate data-sharing to support educational planning and workforce development; and other critical areas. WICHE staff serve as a useful resource on a number of higher education issues, including state and federal financial aid, finance, articulation and transfer, the Common Core State Standards, and various college completion initiatives. Its publication series, including Policy Insights and Western Policy Exchanges, explore a wide range of significant policy issues. The unit also undertakes major, long-term grant-funded projects, collaborates with other regional and national organizations, and provides short-term technical assistance to members.

Photo of students in classroomThe Western Consortium for Accelerated Learning Opportunities was a cooperative effort administered by the Colorado Department of Education and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Through funding from the federal government’s Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP) in 2001-2002, the Western Consortium was a partnership involving nine Western states to increase the number of low-income students who are enrolling and succeeding in advanced placement courses and tests. The Consortium provides funding for Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, and Utah. While advanced placement has been an important strategy to promote access and success in higher education, availability of courses and support varies significantly in the West. 

The Consortium was created in the belief that a regional approach is a way that some Western states can effectively and efficiently participate in advanced placement programs and broaden access for low-income and rural students. The Consortium provides direct services to states and embodies a public policy component to examine accelerated learning in light of access and related issues. 

 See also: "WCALO: A Regional Approach to Expanding Access" Western Policy EXCHANGES PDF download (65kb)


Photo of students by lockers

I. Serving Students

To increase the pool of potential AP course and test takers among low-income students, the Western Consortium coordinated with states to integrate pre-advanced placement activities into existing summer outreach programs, such as GEAR-UP, TRIO and CAMP; develops and maintains demographic information on low-income students in Western states and provide analysis on a state and regional level of the data; provides minigrants to subsidize the cost of online AP courses and tests for low-income students; and promotes outreach activities to middle schools and families.


II. EPhoto of teacher in classroomnhancing Teacher and Counselor Development

This component expanded on opportunities for teachers to be trained as AP teachers and to access professional development activities that enhance their effectiveness. Funding through the Consortium enabled states to serve schools and teachers to attend face-to-face professional development institutes and participate in online courses; other strategies supported vertical team development. The Consortium collaborated with a university teacher education program in the West to develop models for preservice teacher education and counselor training.



III. Improving Online Options

The availability of online advanced placement courses for students and professional development training for teachers is expanding rapidly.  As with many efforts to incorporate information technology in teaching and learning, the availability of material exceeded our ability to judge its utility, quality, value, and effectiveness. The Western Consortium assisted states and school districts with several aspects of online advanced placement activities, including identifying alternative providers of online courses, developing quality assurance indicators for courses and materials and online teacher professional development packages and determining the transportability of online courses from one environment to another. The Consortium also assisedt states in establishing ways to manage licensure issues related to the use of these products and in negotiating with online providers for an affordable rate for advanced placement courses and tests for low-income districts.


IV.  Creating a Regional Network

Map of the WICHE region The Consortium created a regional Network of advanced placement administrators and higher education representatives in member states-- AZ, CO, HI, ID, MT, NM, OR, SD, UT.  The Network assisted the Consortium in assessing the project’s progress, exploring new opportunities, sharing experiences, and discussing ways to improve the regional consortium as well as individual state work.


2001 Allocation: $122,579; 2002 Allocation: $191,024

In Year 1, Arizona provided subsidies to Advanced Placement teachers attending summer institutes in their content area, as well as supporting vertical-training opportunities. The state purchased several class tools and exam review software packages for use by teachers and students and provided $26,353 in exam fee waivers to low-income students around the state. Over 50 students participated in online Advanced Placement courses through APEX Learning. In Year 2 Arizona planned to place more emphasis on pre-AP activities and on supporting students involved in online Advanced Placement coursework.


2001 Allocation: $103,638; 2002 Allocation: $170,852

Colorado’s membership in the consortium has helped to forge a closer working relationship between K-12 and higher education. The Dept. of Education and SHEEO office are working together to better align high school preparation and college admission standards. A regional planning session was held in September to discuss methods for identifying eligible students for accelerated options and to develop a plan for training teachers and administrators in rural areas of the state. Colorado offered teachers AP professional training, conducted by the College Board, in Fall 2001, and again in Spring 2002. Vertical team training was also offered.


2001 Allocation: $93,110; 2002 Allocation: $158,608

A total of 270 exam fee waivers for low-income students were funded, and 60 teachers were trained in a variety of content areas and vertical teaming by the College Board AP Institute. Hawaii has also been developing a registry of all the AP teachers and those who have been through professional training. Low numbers of students were involved in online AP courses during Year 1, so the state plans to use its online allocation to develop more offerings through its virtual high school, E-school. During Year 2, Hawaii planned to use fee reductions to: encourage more low-income students to take AP exams; provide additional vertical team and content-area AP training; and set up conferences with counselors and administrators to promote AP to high-ability students.


2001 Allocation: $83,193; 2002 Allocation: $147,700

In Year 1 Idaho invested close to $7,000 in AP exam waivers for low-income students. The number of AP exams waived for low-income students increased from 76 during the 1999-2000 school year to 178 waivers during 2000-01. Professional development activities were another major activity: 49 teachers received stipends to cover the costs of attending AP institutes or workshops, while 90 teachers participated in English vertical team workshops conducted by the College Board. Demand for AP training is high, so in Year 2 Idaho increased funding for professional development, including an AP summer institute at NNU in Nampa; it is also planning several two-day math vertical team workshops to stimulate team building among teachers across grade levels.


2001 Allocation: $10,925; 2002 Allocation: $32,500

In Year 1, WCALO funded several professional development activities in Montana, supplementing the state’s Advanced Placement incentive program grant. Thirty teachers and administrators participated in a pre-AP presentation at the annual Indian Education conference in March. Fifty teachers participated in a “Building Success” pre-AP workshop, and more than 100 participated in a gifted and talented program development project. In all, 260 staff members were trained in AP and pre-AP. In addition, 24 Montana high schools provided online AP courses for their students. The 2000-01 school year was the first time Montana offered any online AP courses; though many students struggled to complete the course, teachers and students are excited about the possibilities, especially in districts that previously had no AP program. Enrollments in online AP courses have increased in 2001-2002. For Year 2, WICHE funded several more pre-AP and professional development workshops, with an emphasis on GEAR UP schools.


New Mexico received only travel support because it has a comprehensive state APIP grant, but its representatives were active in the consortium. During the 2000-01 school year, the state offered online AP course slots for up to 150 students in 10 subjects through the New Mexico Virtual School and online AP exam review for any student in the state. In addition, New Mexico provides courses and professional development via the state’s distance-learning infrastructure: for example, three schools are utilizing one AP chemistry teacher. New Mexico also provided workshops on AP program development and other professional development opportunities for over 1,521 administrators, AP coordinators, and counselors around the state. The State Learning Conference also featured specific sessions on a variety of AP topics, drawing expertise from practitioners and administrators across New Mexico. The state distributed over $120,000 in incentive funds for classroom materials to develop new or revised AP courses. It also offered AP exam waivers for 1,822 low-income students. The Dept. of Education also coordinated a federal grant to support vertical teaming, curriculum development, and AP enrollment in rural schools and those serving a high percentage of Native American students. 


2001 Allocation: $69,375; 2002 Allocation: $152,500

In Year 1, Oregon established effective working relationships between public school and higher education representatives in the state. The state already had its PASS (Proficiency-based Admissions Standards System) program in place and was working to align K-16 education. Oregon built on this, using its funding to develop a framework that integrates accelerated-learning opportunities into this innovative system, as well as increasing AP/IB programs across the state. In Year 2, Oregon received $20,000 for test fee reimbursement to meet the needs of low-income students; in addition, the state targeted small, isolated schools with professional development activities and vertical team development.


2001 Allocation: $69,375; 2002 Allocation: $132,500

South Dakota AP participation increased from 280 students taking 338 exams in 1992 to 1,410 students taking 2,012 exams in 2001. The public universities have offered summer AP and vertical teams institutes for several years and did so again in 2001. In addition to AP courses offered by high school teachers, the state supported student enrollment in online courses, with 117 students from 36 school districts enrolling in online AP courses in 2001. The governor’s programs “Wiring the Schools” and “Connecting the Schools” made online options possible.


Photo of college doorUtah representatives were actively involved in the consortium though the state received only travel support because it had a comprehensive state APIP grant. Utah already had increasing numbers of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment options; so the state focused on the challenge of reaching underserved students. Administrators and policymakers also worked on a K-16 agenda to strengthen the connection between high school and college. Utah is striving to inform high school and middle school counselors, teachers, and parents about potential Advanced Placement opportunities.


V.  Building Public Policy Support

Public policy support is critical to long-term effectiveness of articulated learning opportunities such as advanced placement.  Through this component, the Western Consortium worked with policymakers on the importance of advanced placement in increasing college participation and success and the kinds of state policies that support broader accelerated learning participation. The Consortium worked collaboratively on a state-by-state basis with higher education and K-12 leadership to address individual state needs on the public policy front.  Major activities included developing state-specific policy information and convening a regional policy forum on issues related to accelerated options.