Tennessee Expanding Statewide Access to Virtual Advanced Placement Courses

Tennessee used $10 million in federal relief funds to create the AP Access for ALL program, which will provide students across the state access to virtual Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In its first year, the program offered 15 AP courses reaching 1,806 students across the state. The program eliminates financial barriers and supports student enrollment in AP coursework not offered at their high school. The courses are recorded, giving schools the flexibility to create a schedule for the virtual AP courses that works with their master schedule and that of their students. Teachers can check students’ course status at any time through an online grading system and standardized reports are sent out monthly to help track student progress. All participating students must agree to take the AP exam at the end of the course.

We are spotlighting this because research suggests that AP classes can help students get ahead in their college coursework, increase the likelihood of students’ attainment and persistence toward a college degree, and can reduce the amount of time spent toward earning that degree. Meanwhile, not all students have the same access to AP courses, making the use of recovery funds to help expand AP courses to more students across Tennessee a sound investment.

Reviewer Analysis

The Education Trust

This is a promising approach to expanding access to advanced courses. It will be important to look at disaggregated data on access and success in these courses, and for the state to provide a strong set of supports for students who enroll in virtual AP courses.


Tennessee’s approach to eliminating the barriers to advanced placement courses for students across the state is noteworthy, especially given the inequitable access to these courses across schools, dependent on local funding. Students should have equal access to AP courses, as they support students in demonstrating college readiness and potentially getting college credit to increase the affordability of higher education. Ensuring equal access must extend beyond the recovery funds, so we hope this initiative develops an infrastructure that can be sustained long-term. We encourage the state to monitor AP exam scores and continue eliminating financial barriers including the cost of exams to analyze whether the virtual delivery of these courses is providing rigorous instruction to effectively prepare all participating students for exams.

New Leaders

This is a promising investment towards making advanced coursework accessible to more students. To further support equitable access, Tennessee should consider how they’ll support students in paying for AP test fees.

The Bush Center

This is promising practice; we recommend that they track pass rates for students who attend virtually to see if those students are succeeding at the same rate as those students attending in person.

Results for America

Tennessee has, in the past, carried out a number of data analyses to understand students’ access to AP courses, as well as AP course-taking and AP test-taking patterns across different subgroups, districts and schools. We love that the state continues to build on these data analyses to shape policies that will increase access to rigorous college preparation for all students.

Jocelyn Pickford

Expanding access to AP opportunities will serve students in need; requiring participants to take the culminating exam will allow for evaluation of impact.

Dale Chu

There’s a lot to like about Tennessee’s effort to increase access to Advanced Placement coursework, given AP’s important role in helping students from underserved populations achieve high levels of academic success. States should follow their lead in ensuring that more students from all backgrounds are well-supported and well-prepared to succeed in both AP classes and on AP exams.

National Parents Union

We know that the sooner youth are exposed to post-secondary education experiences the more successful they will be in obtaining a college degree. We are wondering who selects the students for these AP classes and will it only go to students with higher GPAs?

About the Author

Chad Aldeman is a nationally recognized expert on education policy, including school finance; teacher preparation, evaluation, and compensation; and state standards, assessment, and accountability. Keep up with Chad on the EduProgess: Unpacked blog.

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