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Two students work on an assignment in a Rhode Island School District classroom.

Expanding Students’ Opportunities for Course Choice in Rhode Island

Dan Stasiewski

All students deserve a quality education. Yet families are confronted with a confusing array of timelines, processes, and public school registration requirements that often prevent them from accessing quality opportunities for their kids. My role at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation gives me the chance to address barriers so more students can access quality schools and coursework.

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) is leading a unique project designed to help more kids enroll in courses and schools that engage them today and prepare them for tomorrow. RIDE’s new EnrollRI platform is the first statewide unified enrollment system in the United States. Unified enrollment systems like EnrollRI are parent-centered — streamlining the process for families to find, apply, match with, and enroll at schools. EnrollRI provides an additional layer of opportunity by offering registration for unique and advanced courses and programs in the same online platform through the All Course Network (ACN).

The Evolution of the All Course Network

Since 2016, the ACN has offered students unique courses that better position them for academic and career success. There is truly something for every student, with courses ranging from dual enrollment options in community colleges and universities, to AP courses in neighboring high schools, to art and robotics programming offered by local museums and nonprofits. ACN courses are free, held outside the traditional school day, and extend beyond the standard offerings of most schools. ACN coursework helps students get a head start on college, prepare for their career, explore interests, and have fun with other students equally interested in the subjects.

Over the past several years, RIDE has seen that students from lower-income areas of the state were participating in the ACN less than those living in other areas.

One reason may have been the application process, which operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Counselors must approve each student’s application, which can slow things down in schools where counselors are stretched across more students. The lower levels of participation also suggest that students and families do not have enough information about ACN programming to register efficiently.

RIDE wanted ACN courses to be more accessible for students across the state. In 2020, the state moved ACN registration to its new EnrollRI platform. The platform is easier to use and has handled applications more efficiently while the state simultaneously doubled the total number of course offerings in the ACN.

One student utilizing the ACN is Chandaniey, a high school freshman taking two supplemental courses this spring in addition to her regular schoolwork. Chandaniey learned about the ACN through her school’s morning announcements and was able to use EnrollRI to review options and then apply for the courses that interested her. Hearing about her experiences in our latest video, it is clear that the ACN provides a way for students to gain agency over their learning paths. With EnrollRI increasing the accessibility of ACN coursework, it is our hope that more students across the state find inspiring and engaging learning opportunities.