Beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, Oklahoma high school students will have the opportunity to take some virtual AP courses, and one Tahlequah educator has helped with the process.
Advanced Placement is a program that offers college-level curricula and tests to high school students. Those with high scores on AP exams may receive college credit for those classes.
Chuck Pack has been teaching AP statistics classes for 20 years. He teaches at Tahlequah High School, and he is president of the Tahlequah Education Association and a member of the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Pack was selected to work with the Oklahoma Supplemental Online Course Program to design a series of online AP courses accessible to all schools in the state. These courses are in response to House Bill 3400, which went into effect in November. The bill requires all public high schools to offer a minimum of four AP courses beginning with the 2024-25 school year. The first five have been developed to be available for the 2021-'22 academic year.
While many schools may offer AP courses, not all do, including the high school Pack attended. Pack sees these virtual classes as a benefit to all Oklahoma students.
"It doesn't matter where you live; you can have access to really good courses. It's a dream come true," he said.
Pack became involved with virtual curriculum through interactions with Dr. Lisa Daniels, OSOCP director. For several years, Pack has worked with a team evaluating courses based on the Oklahoma and national education standards. He said the group started developing the virtual course late last spring or early summer.
"These courses provide an exciting opportunity to leverage the impact of some of our state's most outstanding teachers by extending the boundary of their reach beyond their home district and into the entire state," said Daniels.
For the virtual classes, the state group initially wanted an AP calculus course, but Pack suggested an alternative.
"We looked at what was most relevant. Statistics is more accessible and beneficial for kids all across the state. Calculus is only beneficial for those in STEM - science, technology, engineering, and math," said Pack. "Statistics is the science of life."
With the worldwide pandemic, Pack said many educators were already looking for online alternatives for coursework.
"What I teach is discovery-based; it's on our data, like how many letters in your name. We collect data together in the classroom. It's tough when we're not together," he said. "I didn't know how I was going to teach my classes online. So, we looked at what textbooks AP teachers use and what concepts and activities they did."
Pack said he was able to contribute content and AP content to the development of the new online courses.
"It forced me to be mindful of what I do in my classroom. How can that be scaled up and benefit students across the state?" he said. "This is one positive thing to come out of the pandemic."
Pack also helped with evaluating the proposal for vendor bidding in order to develop the program. The vendor selected, Focus EduVation, was already working on other programs with the state. Pack said some of the developers are based in India, and he shares information with them via a cloud saving and sharing platform. He said it was interesting because there is about a 12-hour difference in time.
"There are people around the planet helping shape what we do. I hope it goes smoothly and rolls out nice," said Pack. "I get to work with some amazing people, and working with people like that is beneficial."
Along with statistics, the virtual AP courses that should be available this fall are history, computer science principles, chemistry, and language and composition.
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Parents and students interested in enrolling in the courses should contact their school counselors or administrators. Districts and schools needing information on adding these courses to their curricular offerings can contact Daniels at 405-522-0465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.