STEM Learning

VHS Learning To Provide Free AP STEM Courses in Select Schools Through Massachusetts Initiative

Online learning nonprofit VHS Learning will provide free online Advanced Placement courses in STEM subjects to up to 1,500 Massachusetts high school students students during the 2022-23 school year in a partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

The new initiative, dubbed the STEM Advanced Placement Access Expansion Opportunity, aims to provide greater access to AP STEM courses in “AP Deserts,” schools where the number of students enrolling in AP courses is lower than the statewide average, even when students are demonstrating skills and achievements appropriate for such advanced courses, according to a news release from VHS Learning.

The statewide program will provide high schools in designated AP Desert areas with access to up to eight AP STEM courses free of charge; enrollment will also be provided to other schools based on availability, VHS Learning said.

VHS Learning also will “train local site coordinators at participating schools to review course requirements and prerequisites, enroll and support students, and monitor their progress in their online coursework. In addition, local site coordinators will ensure any accommodations for students are implemented, in coordination with special education staff,” according to the announcement.

The following courses are included in the initiative:

  • AP Biology
  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Computer Science Principles
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics C
  • AP Statistics

Registration for the free courses opens on March 2 and closes on June 30. Interested parties can schedule a meeting with Massachusetts DESE’s Jennifer Gwatkin to find out more about the program, VHS Learning said.

The initiative is funded by a 5-year, $9 million grant from the U.S. Education Department’s Expanding Access to Well-Rounded Courses Demonstration Grants Program.

Research shows that students who take AP courses are more likely to enroll in college: 86% of students who take one AP course continue their education at the postsecondary level and 92% of students who take two or more go on to college. The figure for high schoolers who do not take AP classes is 63%, the DESE said.

“According to Forbes, 10 of the top 14 fastest-growing industries require STEM training, but there are students in Massachusetts who don’t have access to AP STEM courses,” said VHS Learning President and CEO Carol DeFuria. “The MA DESE has found that some subgroups of students within the state have extremely low percentages of AP course takers. Together with the MA DESE, we want to help ensure these students have the chance to realize their potential, pursue postsecondary education, and, if they choose, participate in STEM professions that are vital to the Massachusetts economy.”

For more information, visit the STEM Advanced Placement Access Expansion Opportunity website.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].