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New AP course makes computing more engaging

Course from the College Board and the National Science Foundation launches during Computer Science Education Week

computing-courseThe College Board and the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently developed Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles, a course intended to address the challenge of making computing coursework more engaging and accessible for all students and to better prepare a pipeline of STEM majors. Schools will be able to begin offering the new AP course in the fall of 2016, with the first exam being administered in May 2017.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 9.2 million jobs in STEM are anticipated in 2020, and 4.6 million of them will be in computing. However, less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and among these students only a limited portion are women and underrepresented minorities.

Students who take AP math and science courses are more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in STEM disciplines, making access to these courses particularly important. This relationship between AP courses and the choice of a STEM major holds true across several groups of students most underrepresented in STEM majors today: women and minorities.

(Next page: How the new course will broaden computing’s appeal)

“Jobs in computing are truly the jobs of our nation’s future, and it’s critical that we ensure that students of all backgrounds have the opportunity and preparation to take them on,” said Lien Diaz, the College Board’s Senior Director for AP Computer Science.

“AP Computer Science Principles aims to appeal to a broader audience by allowing flexibility for the use of a variety of computing tools and languages in the course and also by emphasizing how computing innovations affect people and society. The course is designed to introduce students to relevant computing topics, providing an understanding of the fundamental concepts of programming, its breadth of application and its potential for transforming the world we live in.”

“We are thrilled about the launch of the AP Computer Science Principles course, the result of many years of collaboration with the College Board and leading experts in computer science education,” said Jan Cuny, program director for Computer Science Education and Workforce Development at NSF. “We are committed to ensuring that our future STEM workforce reflects our nation’s rich diversity. This new course will broaden the appeal of computing to a wider group of students by focusing on the creative aspects of computing and computational thinking practices that enable students to be creators, not just users, of technology.”

Currently the College Board offers AP Computer Science A, which focuses on programming skills. The course teaches students how to code in a specific language (Java) and has historically appealed to students who already demonstrate an interest in programming as a career path.

Although AP Computer Science A had the fastest growth rate of any AP subject in 2014, participation is still made up of 82 percent white and Asian students. In addition, female students represent only 20 percent of AP Computer Science A exam takers.

Students who take AP Computer Science Principles learn to create computational artifacts and are encouraged to apply creative processes when developing these artifacts to solve problems. Through these experiences, students learn the role and impact of technology and programming as a means to solve computational problems and create exciting and personally relevant artifacts. Students design and implement innovative solutions using an iterative process similar to what artists, writers, computer scientists and engineers use to bring ideas to life.

In addition to more than $9 million of funding from NSF, the College Board developed the course in partnership with colleges and universities across the United States.

The College Board is working to make additional details about the course regularly available to educators, students and parents. Advances in AP will provide up-to-date information about the course and exam, and a dedicated online Teacher Community will be made available for teachers to connect with each other, discuss teaching strategies and share resources.

AP Computer Science Principles is just one example of the College Board’s and NSF’s on-going commitment to expanding access to challenging coursework in the STEM disciples. More information about the College Board’s AP STEM Access Program, designed to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented minority and female high school students who participate in AP STEM courses, is available online. More information about NSF’s computer science education offerings is available on the STEM-C Partnerships webpage.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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