Wallowing in CS:Principles Data
I’m at the “Computer Science: Principles” Commission meeting (yesterday and today) and Advisory Board meeting (tonight and tomorrow). Wow — a lot has happened since the Commission last met over a year ago. And for someone like me, who loves to wallow in data, there’s a lot to make this pig happy. (Before anyone asks: The data are not mine to share, and I don’t know if they will. I have been told that I can share what I’m describing here.)
First, the attestation process really worked. Over 80 schools have signed up saying that they will give credit, placement, or offer a similar class to the CS:Principles outline. That’s enough for the College Board and NSF to be willing to go forward. Huge congratulations to Larry Snyder, Owen Astrachan, and all the others who made this happen. Even if you disagree with CS:Principles, the attestation effort is evidence that the CS Education community can draw together and get behind something that they find important.
Even more amazing to me is that 121 CS departments (wow!) took a 90 minute survey (and I took it twice — I know that it really does take that long) where they gave us feedback on each of the claims and evidence statements. What is most fascinating is what the departments consider to be “not important” to put into the CS:Principles class. For example, more than half of the departments surveyed find claims and evidence related to Big Idea #6 “Digital devices, systems, and the networks that interconnect them enable and foster computational approaches to solving problems” to be “not important,” most of them saying it’s “too advanced.” Now, as Owen pointed out to us yesterday, that doesn’t meant that these ideas are unimportant — but it does mean that the current form isn’t working. You can expect the Big Ideas and Computational Thinking Practices to change over the next few weeks.
Kathleen Haynie is the external evaluator for the effort, and she presented (and created a great, long, detailed report — wallow, wallow!) on the four pilot sites who tried to implement CS:Principles in Fall 2010. I found the data amazing, almost unbelievable. All four pilot classes were over 50% female. 43% of the students in the pilots took the class just because they were interested – it wasn’t useful for their major (12.4% of the students were CS majors), or their minor, or their general education. I can’t think of a single class at all of Georgia Tech where over 40% of the students are taking the class just because they think it’s interesting. That stat really speaks to the quality of the pilot study teachers — these are true Master Teachers who attract students, even to learn to program.
I suspect that I’ll be wallowing in these data for several weeks after this meeting. Great fun!