VHS Learning Continues to Serve Massachusetts Students Underrepresented in Advanced STEM Courses Through Statewide Initiative


First allocation of five-year grant will allow VHS Learning to offer free AP® STEM courses

Boston – Feb. 18, 2022 –Many students don’t have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement® (AP®) classes due to limited availability of AP® course offerings or certified instructors to teach the classes. To help, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MA DESE) partnered with VHS Learning to create the STEM Advanced Placement Access Expansion Opportunity, which enables up to 1,500 students within the state to take free AP® courses during the 2022-2023 academic year.

The STEM Advanced Placement Access Expansion Opportunity is designed to increase Massachusetts high schoolers’ participation in advanced coursework. The statewide initiative will provide select high schools with access to up to eight AP® STEM courses free of charge.

Data from the DESE’s Student Longitudinal Database System reveals that students who take AP® coursework are more likely to enroll in college. In fact, 86% of high school students who take at least one AP® course attend college. An even higher percentage (92%) of students who take two or more of such courses go on to postsecondary education. However, only 63% of Massachusetts high schoolers who do not take an AP® course attend college.

VHS Learning will provide students with enrollment in the following courses:

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

“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 Carol DeFuria, President & CEO of VHS Learning. “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.”

The program prioritizes “AP® Deserts,” schools in which low numbers of students engage in AP® STEM courses despite demonstrating appropriate skill levels as measured by their MCAS Math or Science performances. Enrollment will also be provided to other schools based on availability. The goal of this partnership is to build a network of schools that can use the statewide virtual platform to drive their long-term strategy to increase capacity to offer AP® STEM courses to more students each year.

VHS Learning will also 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.

This initiative is funded by a five-year grant of more than $9 million that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received from the U.S. Education Department’s Expanding Access to Well-Rounded Courses Demonstration Grants Program.

Course registration for grant-funded courses will open on March 2 and close on June 30. Interested parties can schedule a meeting with DESE’s Innovative Partnerships Lead Jennifer Gwatkin to find out more about the program.

About VHS Learning

VHS Learning is a nonprofit organization with over 25 years of experience providing world-class online programs to students and schools everywhere. Offering more than 300 unique online courses for high school credit, including 24 AP® courses, credit recovery, and enrichment courses, VHS Learning is accredited by Middle States Association Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS), Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC), and Cognia. Courses are approved for initial eligibility by NCAA. For more information about VHS Learning please visit  https://www.vhslearning.org/ and follow on Twitter at @VHSLearning.

eSchool News Staff

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