AP STEM Access program

Launched in 2013, the AP STEM Access program is an initiative created to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented minority and female high school students that participate in Advanced Placement® (AP) courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. A $5 million grant made from Google as part of their Global Impact Awards to DonorsChoose.org enabled 320 public high schools across the country to start more than 500 new AP math, science, and computer science courses and to encourage traditionally underrepresented minority (black/African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latino) and female students who demonstrate strong academic potential to enroll and explore these areas of study and related careers.

During the 2013–14 school year, the grant provided "start-up" funding for each new course, covering classroom resources, educational resources, and teacher professional development. Schools committed to maintaining the new courses for a minimum of three years.

Program Overview

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs in the last 10 years. STEM jobs are expected to grow by 17 percent during the 2008-2018 period versus 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM jobs. As a nation, we are not graduating nearly enough STEM majors to meet this need. African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino and female students in the U.S. are less likely to study math and science in college or pursue related careers than their counterparts. As an example, although females were awarded 57 percent of the 1.7 million bachelor degrees in 2009-2010, they only received 17 percent of engineering degrees, 18 percent of computer science degrees, and 41 percent of science degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In part, this is because these students are not exposed to adequate advanced classes in the STEM disciplines during high school. Research shows that students who take AP math and science are more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in physical science, engineering and life science disciplines — the fields leading to some of the careers essential for America's future prosperity.

National analyses show that among students with comparable levels of readiness for AP STEM course work, participation rates vary significantly across race and gender. For example, participation in AP course work in mathematics varies among students who have at least a 60 percent likelihood of succeeding on an AP mathematics exam: 6 in 10 Asian students participate, 4 in 10 white students, 3 in 10 black/African American and Hispanic/Latino students, and 2 in 10 American Indian/Alaska Native students; in most AP STEM subjects, female students participate at lower rates than male students. In many cases, schools serving large numbers of traditionally underrepresented minority students do not yet provide AP course work in STEM disciplines. The schools participating in the AP STEM Access program will share the goal of working toward increasing the availability and diversity in AP STEM classrooms overall so that these classes reflect the diversity of the school.

The funding will help open the doors for more underrepresented minority and female students to access rigorous AP STEM course work in high school and lay the foundation for their future success in college and beyond.

"DonorsChoose.org is honored to be recognized by this groundbreaking award program that supports innovative organizations that are making a real difference. The funds will open the door for bright, eager students and teachers who would otherwise be shut out of advanced learning and a promising career path."

Charles Best, founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org.

"There are hundreds of thousands of talented students in this country who are being left out of the STEM equation — they're not being given the opportunity to find their passion or pursue today's most promising career. We're focused on creating equal access to advanced math and science courses, and ensuring that advanced classrooms become as diverse as the schools themselves."

Jacquelline Fuller, director of Giving at Google

Criteria for Participation

To achieve the shared goal of increasing student participation in rigorous AP STEM course work and to focus the funding on schools with the most unmet student potential and need, Google and DonorsChoose.org worked with the College Board to develop the following data-driven criteria for schools participating in the AP STEM Access program. Schools that met the following criteria were being invited to participate in the program.

  1. Public high schools in the United States
  2. High population of underrepresented students academically prepared for rigorous course work in AP STEM as indicated by their scores on the PSAT/NMSQT® (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). Specifically, in the 2010-11 academic year they had 10 or more black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino students — and/or 25 or more female students — with high potential to be successful in one or more AP college-level STEM courses that were not offered at the high school. For this criterion, high AP potential was defined as 70 percent or higher likelihood of scoring a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP Exam.
  3. Within communities with a median household income of $100,000 or less and/or 40 percent or more students qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals.


December 2012: Google, DonorsChoose.org and the College Board publicly announced the qualifying schools for the AP STEM Access program.

April–August 2013: Teachers participating in the program requested their classroom materials, including textbooks, lab equipment, calculators and other materials for student use, on DonorsChoose.org using DonorsChoose.org gift codes. Teachers received scholarships to engage in subject-specific support and training at AP Summer Institutes.

Fall 2013: Participating schools began their new AP STEM courses.

Spring 2014: Students took their AP Exams.

Fall 2014: All AP STEM teachers in the participating schools (not just the new AP STEM teachers), who increased diversity among their AP Exam-takers by at least five underrepresented minorities and/or female students, received a DonorsChoose.org gift code for each student in the course who received a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP Exam.

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