NASHVILLE – Today, the Tennessee Department of Education, in partnership with the Niswonger Foundation, announced the launch of the state’s new AP Access for ALL program, which is providing online advanced placement courses this school year for nearly 1,200 high school students representing 102 school districts across Tennessee. Students in Cannon, Cumberland, DeKalb, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Van Buren and White counties in the Upper Cumberland are eligible to participate.
AP Access for ALL is a grant program created by the Tennessee Department of Education and administered by its partner the Niswonger Foundation to provide students across the state with access to virtual AP courses, eliminating financial barriers and supporting student enrollment in AP coursework not currently offered at their home high school.
Since June, AP Access for ALL has successfully onboarded over 75% of school districts that include high schools to participate in the program. Of the 102 participating districts, 21 districts are in counties classified as at-risk or distressed and 38 are rural districts. Students in these participating districts, many of whom previously had no access or only limited access to advanced placement courses, can now choose from 14 different advanced placement courses and earn free college credit while in high school.
“One of the most important things we can do for our high school students is help them explore potential postsecondary and career pathways and ensure they have access to robust academic coursework that helps them be successful in life after graduation,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Thanks to partners like the Niswonger Foundation, the AP Access for ALL program will have a huge impact on the state for years to come by training our teachers and advancing their skillsets, and importantly, providing students in school districts all across the state with opportunities for AP coursework that they have never been able to access before.”
In Houston County, which is designated as economically at-risk, students at Houston County High School have not previously had access to advanced placement courses. Now, through AP Access for ALL, 32 Houston County High School students are enrolled in AP Human Geography, Psychology, Statistics and Art History.
At Jackson Central-Merry High School, traditional advanced placement courses are not offered. However, this semester, 22 students are now enrolled in eight different advanced placement courses through AP Access for ALL, including AP Art History, Biology, Environmental Science, Human Geography, Language and Composition, Psychology, Statistics and US History.
Additionally, 143 students in Metro Nashville Public Schools are enrolled in AP Access for ALL courses, along with 102 students in Shelby County Schools and 72 students in Hamilton County Schools.
“With classes in session, AP Access for ALL is off to a fast start and is now creating new pathways for students to enter college prepared and confident,” said Dr. Nancy Dishner, President and CEO of the Niswonger Foundation. “We are excited to partner with Commissioner Schwinn and the Department of Education on this program and look forward to seeing how access and opportunity through AP Access for ALL will continue to grow and support Tennessee students and families for years to come.”
While these courses are virtual, many schools are providing time and computer labs for their students to complete coursework at school during their school day. Additionally, all AP Access for ALL courses are taught by certified and trained Tennessee teachers.
“We have spent the last few months planning the details of this program, preparing systems and infrastructure, onboarding districts, and training teachers,” said Gina Pavlovich, Director of Niswonger Online and AP Access for ALL. “Now, as students have returned to school and AP Access for ALL courses have begun, we are seeing the impact of access as students gain real experience with college coursework and are preparing for postsecondary success.”
Last summer, the Niswonger Foundation conducted online teacher training for more than 80 Tennessee educators and, in partnership with the College Board, sponsored AP Summer Institute training for nearly 150 teachers at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Fifty-three Tennessee educators are currently teaching AP Access for ALL online courses this fall.
AP Access for ALL has made incredible gains to advanced placement access during its initial semester, and Tennessee Department of Education and Niswonger Foundation leaders are hoping to expand the program even more next spring and in coming years. Student enrollment for the spring semester opens in November and free AP training will once again be available for Tennessee educators in Summer 2022.
Funding for AP Access for All is through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds.
For a full list of participating counties, courses offered, and more information, visit tnapaccessforall.org.