Google hopes to boost AP computer science pass rates

RISE Up 4 CS will aid African-American high school students in college-level computer science courses and exams

computer-scienceAs research reveals that minority students enroll in and pass high school and college STEM courses less often than their peers, efforts are emerging to encourage those student groups to pursue STEM studies.

Florida International University has been awarded the Google RISE Up 4 CS grant to help more African-American high school students pass the Advanced Placement (AP) computer science exam. The program will begin in late February 2015, and will be funded by Google and facilitated through Georgia Tech University.

Project RISE Up 4 CS attempts to motivate African-American students to study computer science and become interested in pursuing a college degree. The program helps prepare students for the AP computer science exam by providing twice-weekly webinars, and monthly in-person weekend sessions.

Next page: How many minority students pass AP computer science exams?

Students who attend the required number of review sessions will be given $100, and they will receive another $100 if they pass the exam. Project RISE Up 4 CS is open to all African-American high school students enrolled in AP computer science programs in Florida.

Fewer than 50 percent of all Florida high school students who take the AP computer science exam pass, and for African-Americans that number is even lower.

In 2013, only 83 African-American students took the exam, and out of that only 16 passed. Project RISE Up 4 CS hopes to increase both the number of African-American students enrolled in AP computer science courses and the percent of students who pass the AP exam.

“This is a very intimidating exam,” said S.S. Iyengar, director of FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing’s School of Computing and Information Sciences (SCIS). “The mentorship, extra support and preparation will go a long way toward helping these students pass.”

The project is being led by two FIU seniors, Franklin Abado and Xavier Thomas, neither of whom took the AP computer science exam in high school.

“When I first took computer science as an undergraduate, I was afraid—-I did not realize how sophisticated the concepts were. Taking and passing this exam is a definite head start,” Thomas said.

The program began at Georgia Tech University in 2013 in an attempt to push high school students in Georgia to take computer science classes. In one year, the state has seen a 27 percent increase in the number of African-American students who passed the AP computer science exam.

Editorial intern Alex Cornacchini contributed to this report.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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