Project Accelerate: University-High School AP Physics Partnerships

Project Accelerate blends the supportive structures of a student's home school, a rigorous online course designed specifically with the needs of under-served populations in mind, and hands-on laboratory experiences, to make AP Physics accessible to under-served students. The project could potentially lead to the success of motivated but under-served students who attend schools where the opportunity to engage in a rigorous STEM curriculum is not available.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720914
Funding Period: 
August 1, 2017 to July 31, 2020
Full Description: 

Project Accelerate brings AP Physics 1 and, eventually, AP Physics 2 to students attending schools that do not offer AP Physics. The project will enable 249 students (mostly under-served, i.e., economically disadvantaged, ethnic minorities and racial minorities) to enroll in AP Physics - the students would otherwise not have access. These students either prepare for the AP Physics 1 exam by completing a highly interactive, conceptually rich, rigorous online course, complete with virtual lab experiments, or participate in an accredited AP course that also includes weekly hands-on labs. In this project, the model will be tested and perfected with more students and expanded to AP Physics 2. Further, model replication will be tested at an additional site, beyond the two pilot sites. In the first pilot year in Massachusetts at Boston University, results indicated that students fully engaged in Project Accelerate are (1) at least as well prepared as peer groups in traditional classrooms to succeed on the AP Physics 1 exam and (2) more inclined to engage in additional STEM programs and to pursue STEM fields and programs than they were prior to participating. In the second year of the pilot study, Project Accelerate doubled in size and expanded in partnership with West Virginia University. From lessons learned in the pilot years, key changes are being made, which are expected to increase success. Project Accelerate provides a potential solution to a significant national problem of too few under-served young people having access to high quality physics education, often resulting in these students being ill prepared to enter STEM careers and programs in college. Project Accelerate is a scalable model to empower these students to achieve STEM success, replicable at sites across the country (not only in physics, but potentially across fourteen AP subjects). The project could potentially lead to the success of tens of thousands of motivated but under-served students who attend schools where the opportunity to engage in a rigorous STEM curriculum is not available.

Project Accelerate blends the supportive structures of a student's home school, a private online course designed specifically with the needs of under-served populations in mind, and hands-on laboratory experiences, to make AP Physics accessible to under-served students. The goals of the project are: 1) have an additional 249 students, over three years, complete the College Board-accredited AP Physics 1 course or the AP Physics 1 Preparatory course; 2) add an additional replication site, with a total of three universities participating by the end of the project; 3) develop formal protocols so Project Accelerate can be replicated easily and with fidelity at sites across the nation; 4) develop formal protocols so the project can be self-sustaining at a reasonable cost (about $500 per student participant); 5) build an AP Physics 2 course, giving students who come through AP Physics 1 a second year of rigorous experience to help further prepare them for college and career success; 6) create additional rich interactive content, such as simulations and video-based experiments, to add to what is already in the AP Physics 1 prep course and to build the AP Physics 2 prep course - the key is to actively engage students with the material and include scaffolding to support the targeted population; 7) carry out qualitative and quantitative education research, identifying features of the program that work for the target population, as well as identifying areas for improvement. This project will support the growing body of research on the effectiveness of online and blended (combining online and in-person components) courses, and investigate the use of such courses with under-represented high school students.

Project Materials