Education and Business Groups Pushing to Expand Access for Rigorous Coursework

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Bipartisan, Unanimous support for SB1295, backed by Helios Education Foundation research

Helios Education Foundation applauds the Arizona Senate for supporting legislation that will expand high school students’ access to rigorous academic coursework critical to their future success.

Senate Bill 1295, sponsored by Sen. TJ Shope, which was passed unanimously by the Arizona Senate on Monday, March 1, would expand access to Advanced Placement (AP) coursework and increase student participation and success in AP courses and exams. It will also provide financial support to low-income students, as well as to schools to develop and implement the curriculum. 

Access to these types of courses is critical for students as it helps prepare them for success in college and career.  Data show that students who complete rigorous coursework are more likely to enroll in college, and ultimately more likely to succeed in completing a two- or four-year degree. 

The legislation was informed, in part, by research conducted by Helios – in partnership with the ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence – which found: 

  • Only one-quarter of Arizona high school students take AP exams
  • Low-income students, male and communities of color are underrepresented in rigorous courses
  • Approximately 235 high schools in Arizona offer no AP coursework
  • Cost of the exam and preparation for its success are barriers for many students

This research is the result of data analysis from five Arizona high school districts to help researchers understand the availability of rigorous coursework within these school districts, specifically for traditionally underserved students.  The goal was to understand who takes rigorous courses at the five districts and examine the impact of these courses on college-going and college persistence.

The focus on underserved students is important as Helios Education Foundation believes that all students, regardless of background or zip code, deserve access to a high-quality education.   

“Helios believes every Arizona student should have access to the courses they need to be college and career ready. It’s clear from our research that much needs to be done to ensure equitable access to advanced curriculum in Arizona high schools,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation. “This legislation is an investment in Arizona students, and it will help raise the level of success among students and high schools.”

SB 1295 is supported by a broad coalition of education, business and civic groups. It would establish the $1.5 million “Advanced Placement Course Access, Participation and Success Program” (AP Success Program); and the $1.2 million “Advanced Placement Exam Fee Waiver Program” (AP Exam Program).