Accessing advanced coursework (such as AP, IB, dual enrollment, and early college) in high school can ensure students have the academic and other essential skills to succeed in college and career. Students with access to robust advanced coursework opportunities are more likely to enroll in, persist in, and complete a postsecondary degree or credential, and research indicates that students of many different backgrounds can succeed in these courses. Given the impact of COVID on students’ college and career journeys, particularly on low-income students and students of color, advanced coursework can be an important stepping stone to getting those students back on track.

Key strategies to expand availability of advanced coursework for students that school districts should consider pursuing include:

And there are organizations that partner with school districts to help transform approaches to advanced coursework access and success. For instance, Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) has created an Action for Equity (A4E) Toolkit to provide districts and schools with the tools, data analytics and coaching necessary to create equitable access to advanced coursework, build belonging-rich classrooms in which students succeed, and develop the adult mindsets necessary to sustain equitable learning environments. The A4E framework redefines the concept of “readiness” and measurement of student potential, allowing schools to make more equitable decisions about academic opportunity; support students with tailored belonging rich support structures; and activate student-identified trusted adults as a relationship anchor for student success. EOS provides schools and districts with a host of real time data analytics tools to ensure they understand the experiences of adults and students and facilitate professional learning experiences that drive adult mindset shifts along with new policies and practices.

How does the strategy create more equitable access and opportunities?

Expanding access to advanced coursework creates more equitable access and opportunities for students by providing them with access to proven methods to advanced college access and success. Research indicates that access to advanced coursework increases a students’ likelihood to enroll in, persist in, and complete college. The dual enrollment research also indicates, for more robust models of dual enrollment like early college, that low income and underrepresented students in higher education can derive a larger positive benefit from having access to early college than comparison peers. However, to realize the potential of these models an intentional strategy to identify and enroll students of color and low-income students in advanced courses is needed.

The EOS model is proven to increase both access to and success in advanced academic pathways. Using a “Student Insight Card (SIC)” EOS joins 42 data points from student and staff surveys with demographic, enrollment, and achievement data to ensure that each student’s promise is illuminated with real time perspectives, attitudes, aspirations, skills and barriers. The SIC radically changes how schools identify the capabilities of students and ensures educators have a tangible roadmap, informed by the science of learning and development, to engage, amplify, and support historically marginalized students. Secondly, EOS deploys the Cues, Experiences and Conditions of Belonging Diagnostic that measures five conditions that correlate directly to reported belonging for students of color in advanced coursework. The Belonging Diagnostic ensures that schools and districts have specific, real time data to measure the learning environments and ensure they are places where students feel like they belong. Third, EOS creates dynamic professional learning opportunities to ensure that adults have the time to deepen their knowledge of core equity issues including implicit bias, belonging, teaching strategies and others.

What outcomes or benefits are associated with the strategy?

What are the budget implications for implementing the strategy?

Costs for expanding equitable access to advanced courses may include training to increase the number of teachers qualified to teach advanced courses, training for support staff to ensure students receive appropriate advising about advanced coursework opportunities, course materials, course and exam fees, and creating a system to identify students with academic potential. The average cost for a service like EOS is $25,000 per school and is all inclusive of surveys for all students and staff, data analytics, student identification (Student Insight Cards) and access to the EOS Portal, an online platform where all student data is accessible and trackable. EOS provides bulk pricing for large districts, and the cost diminishes over time.

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What are the estimated costs for implementing the strategy?

  • EOS Action for Equity Framework and Toolkit: $25,000 per school (decreases by up to 65% over time)
  • AP Summer Institute Professional Development: $400-$1400 per teacher per course
  • AP Exam Fees: $53-95 per exam per year
  • Advanced Course Textbooks: $1,500-$3,600 per course
  • Dual Enrollment Course Fee: Varies by institution, but can range from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 per student per course (many states have grants to offset the cost)

How will the strategy limit significant recurring costs while ensuring long-term sustainability?

Expanding advanced course offerings will have some upfront costs including teacher professional development and course materials; however, once the courses are up and running, they will cost less to sustain each year. Costs associated with credentialing teachers to teach advanced coursework models are one-time costs that will allow the school to continue offering access to those courses for as long as the credentialed staff remain at the school. Similarly, creating a system to identify students for advanced coursework and training staff to advise students on advanced coursework will have initial costs that will decrease once the systems are in place. For example, the cost to work with Equal Opportunity Schools decreases each year so that by year four, EOS charges 65% percent less compared to year one. Additionally, many states have programs in place to help offset the costs of advanced courses such as grants to cover dual credit tuition and programs to pay for advanced placement exams.

What is the anticipated timeline for launching the strategy?

Creating a system to identify students for advanced courses should begin in the spring. Training teachers and creating dual credit, AP, and IB partnerships should occur over the summer so students can begin the courses in the fall.

What internal and/or external capacity (e.g. personnel, infrastructure, training, etc.) is needed to launch the strategy? To monitor and sustain it?


  • If expanding advanced course offerings, partnerships with local higher education institutions, the College Board (AP), and/or International Baccalaureate
  • Professional development opportunities for teachers to ensure they are credentialed to offer the advanced coursework opportunities
  • A system to identify students with academic potential and staff to manage the process of identifying students
  • Professional development opportunities for counselors and advisors to ensure that they are capable of providing the right advice to students around intentional course selection and onward college and career opportunities
  • If partnering with an existing program like EOS, a Data Sharing Agreement with EOS, data uploads to the EOS Portal (approximately 5 times a year), partnership launch and orientation with the school and district leadership team, and a survey coordinator

Monitor and Sustain

  • Counselor support to identify and schedule students
  • Site leads at each participating school
  • District lead to manage at the district level
  • Monthly community of practice meetings with other schools and districts to deepen implementation and impact
Expand Equitable Access - Advanced Courses - Invest Forward
Earn College Credits - Succeed In College - Invest Forward
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What are the first 3-5 steps to take to implement the strategy?

  1. Determine academic potential identification strategy and metrics (test scores, GPA, grades in previous course)
  2. If using EOS, sign Collaboration agreement, upload data, set survey dates, and attend Leadership Orientation
  3. Determine which advanced courses will be offered and train educators to teach those courses
  4. Begin outreach to students who show potential to succeed in advanced courses

What are potential challenges for implementing the strategy?

  1. Challenge: Time and capacity of school staff to expand advanced programs
    • Solution: Once the initial advanced coursework identification system is established and staff is trained to identify students, assigning students to advanced coursework will become more routine. Partnering with an organization like Equal Opportunity Schools can help build initial capacity; EOS assigns Partnership Directors to work with schools in a 1:15 ratio to ensure project management, fidelity, insights and outcomes.
  2. Challenge: Limited teachers with credentials to teach advanced coursework
    • Solution: Utilize stimulus funds to pay for teachers to obtain credentials to teach advanced courses and provide ongoing professional development to teachers. Partner with local higher education institutions to offer dual enrollment courses taught by college faculty.
  3. Challenge: Too few students, especially underrepresented students, sign up for advanced courses
    • Solution: Create an automatic enrollment policy for students who are identified as having the academic potential to succeed in advanced courses (based on test scores, AP Potential report, GPA, previous grades, and/or self-selection). This makes advanced courses the default with academically prepared students having to opt-out rather than opt-in.
  4. Challenge: Some students still struggle in advanced courses
    • Solution: Provide additional advanced coursework preparation and support for students who need it in the form of after school, summer school, or in-class tutoring support.

What are models of schools, districts, and/or organizations that are successfully implementing this strategy?

  • Washington has implemented a state-wide policy for automatic enrollment in advanced courses. Early adopters of the policy saw great increases in advanced course enrollment and pass rates, with especially large gains for historically underrepresented students.
  • AP for All program aims to ensure all students have access to at least five AP courses, improve equitable enrollment in AP courses, and provide students with the necessary supports to succeed in the courses.
  • Equal Opportunity Schools helps schools identify students with the potential to succeed in advanced courses and equips schools to better serve these students. In Maryland, a partnership with EOS increased underrepresented student enrollment in AP courses by 7%.
  • San Antonio Independent School District utilizes data from the College Board’s AP Potential report to identify and enroll students with academic potential in advanced courses and scaffold supports for students based on their AP Potential score. The report also helps schools make decisions about which AP courses to offer.

What are some additional resources for districts/states interested in implementing this strategy?