Participation in AP CS in high school is a matter of individual, exceptional teachers

January 28, 2014 at 1:09 am 4 comments

All the press coverage of Barbara Ericson’s AP CS 2013 exam results analysis has led to a lot of discussion among my Facebook friends.  The results are even more telling than the raw numbers.

  • Rebecca Dovi and Ria Galanos, both exceptional AP CS high school teachers and both in Virgina, started comparing notes on the Hispanic students who took the AP CS exam from that state.  They could name half of them.  Looks like those two teachers were responsible for half of the Hispanic exam takers from Virginia.
  • Why is that Tennessee has ranked so well for female AP CS exam takers among all the states?  It is due to one exceptional AP CS teacher, Jill Pala, who teaches at an all-girls school.  Barb verified this claim.  Jill’s class generated 30 of the 71 female exam-takers in Tennessee. Without Jill, Tennessee would be in the middle of the pack. With Jill, they have the highest percentage of female AP CS exam-takers among all the states.

On the one hand, what a wonderful statement about the impact that a single exceptional teacher can make!  Hey, states that want to raise their exam taker numbers — go hire yourselves a Rebecca, Ria, or Jill!  Or provide the professional development to grow your own!

On the other hand — our numbers are SO small that a single teacher can make the difference for a whole state.  There were 2103 schools that passed the AP CS audit in 2012.  That’s probably exactly the number of AP CS teachers, too.  There were 11,694 schools that passed the audit for AP Calculus!  Great teachers matter in Calculus, too.  But there are so many teachers, an individual teacher probably can’t make or break a whole state’s ranking.  Wouldn’t it be nice for AP CS to be in that position?

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lenandlar  |  January 28, 2014 at 6:22 am

    That’s a very telling picture. If one teacher can change the stats in a state then you need to add many more to change it even further. Good teachers matter!

    Reply
  • 2. geekymom/Laura  |  January 28, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Even more telling about how small the K12 CS world is, I know 2 of those three teachers personally, even though I’m way up here in pa.

    Reply
  • 3. Ria Galanos  |  February 4, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    I finally had a chance to look at our school’s data. Rebecca and I together had 5 of the 8 Hispanics in VA.

    Reply
  • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  February 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Really nice piece that highlights how Jill is making such a difference in Tennessee: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2014/feb/24/gps-teacher-responsible-states-top-rank-female-stu/

    Reply

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