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Students get more ACCESS to education

Back in 2005, during his State of the State address, Gov. Bob Riley announced a plan to institute videoconferencing and Web-based learning capabilities in every high school in the state through “Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide.”

If you were listening to that address, chances are you dismissed Riley’s statement as another grand plan laid forth by a politician that would abandon that plan at the first sign of inconvenience with its implementation. But then a funny thing happened.

The program began appearing in schools in 2006 with a goal of an ACCESS lab in every school by the 2010-11 school year. Then an even funnier thing happened. Riley and State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton announced Tuesday that the ACCESS implementation will be realized by the time school begins in August 2009, according to a press release.

You read that right. A politician is not only following through on a promise, he’s going to do it a year ahead of schedule. That’s good news, but the part about ACCESS is great news.

The program “uses online and interactive videoconferencing technology to link classrooms and offer coursework, including Advanced Placement and languages, to students in schools where those courses may not be available,” according to the release.

What the technical jargon boils down to is that students, especially those that attend smaller schools and/or live in rural areas, will have opportunities they never had before. With ACCESS, it won’t matter if Maplesville, for example, doesn’t offer the advanced course a student wants to take to earn a college credit. That student will simply join similar students across the state online.

County schools Chilton County High, Maplesville and Verbena already have ACCESS, and Jemison, Isabella and Thorsby will be joining soon, it seems. All county, and state, students will benefit from Riley staying true to his pledge.