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May 12, 2021
VHS Learning Granted $8.5M to Expand Access to STEM Classes
VHS Learning

March 27, 2021 — VHS Learning, a nonprofit based in Maynard that provides supplemental online classes and blended learning opportunities to middle and high school students, this week announced it received an $8.5 million grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to expand access to advanced study in science, technology, engineering, and math, known as STEM.

VHS Learning said the highest priority schools eligible to participate in the STEM Advanced Placement Access Expansion Opportunity (SAPAO), created by the grant, will be those that have not had the capacity or resources to offer advance placement (AP) courses in STEM subjects that enroll Black, Latino, and/or economically disadvantaged students at rates above the state average.

The goal, according to the nonprofit, 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.

Carol DeFuria, president and CEO of VHS Learning, said, “This important initiative will prepare students for postsecondary education and STEM professions vital to the Massachusetts economy. We’re excited to provide a statewide virtual platform that enables students to engage in the coursework at no additional cost to their families, schools, or districts.”

During the summer, the grant will support VHS Learning teachers providing academic support and course preparation for participating students.

VHS Learning will also train site coordinators at participating schools to enroll and support students and monitor their progress. In addition, local site coordinators will ensure any course-based accommodations for students are implemented, including coordination with special education staff.

“Data from the Student Longitudinal Database System also shows that students who take AP coursework are more likely to enroll in college,” said DeFuria. “The numbers are significant: 86% of high school students who take at least one AP course attend college as do 92% of those who take two or more AP courses. But only 63% of those who do not take an AP course go to college.

“And state data shows that there are significant gaps in AP course-taking between certain racial or ethnic and income subgroups of Massachusetts high school students. SAPAO’s aim is to address those inequities and truly create opportunities for all.”

VHS Learning began as "Virtual High School" in 1996, and was established as a nonprofit in 2001. Today, it offers 250 core, elective, and AP courses to schools worldwide.

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