Posts tagged ‘APCS’
This is a big deal that the Supreme Court is facing this week. The NYTimes is in support of striking down the Michigan constitutional amendment. Let me put the below statistic in a bit of CS Ed context. As mentioned previously, UMich just graduated last year the first Black female CS PhD. Barb’s analysis of AP CS stats includes Michigan. Michigan has 9.8 million residents. It is 14.3% Black. In the last six years, only 27 Black students have taken the AP CS exam, never more than 7 in any year.
A decade ago, the University of Michigan waged a successful U.S. Supreme Court fight to save affirmative action. Now Michigan is learning to live without it.
Three years after the court allowed race-based admissions, Michigan voters blocked them at state schools through a ballot initiative. The result is fewer black students crisscrossing the Diag, the wide space that cuts through the heart of the university’s Ann Arbor campus. Black enrollment is down about 30 percent at the undergraduate and law schools.
The announcement is good news:
Congratulations Tennessee! This year, for the first time, the State of Tennessee Board of Education allows high school computer science courses to count towards graduation requirements. Now, Advanced Placement Computer Science A satisfies a math requirement for all high Tennessee high school students.
Then there’s a claim later on the same page, “In these states, enrollment in computer science is higher (particularly among women and students of color), compared to the other states.” That claim is intriguing. Where’d they get this data? I’d love to get CS enrollment data by state! So I followed the link to this PDF.
Where I found this graph:
I don’t know where one can get AP CS class size data. I’ve not seen that from the College Board. As far as I can tell from the AP Report to the Nation, the College Board doesn’t have enrollment data. What could they be counting to get these results, using variables from the College Board?
The numbers looked close to something that I’d seen in Barb’s data. So, I tried an analysis with Barb’s spreadsheet of AP CS data. I created a “CountsCS” variable (1=on the Code.org list, 0=everyone else), and looked at the number of AP CS test takers in a state divided by the number of schools passing AP CS audit in the state. I think of this as the “yield” — the number of actual test-takers by teacher (assuming one teacher per school, which is pretty much the rule for AP CS). Below are the yield distributions for 2012 (with average and +/- standard deviation). These numbers look pretty close to the above, so I’m guessing that this is what they’re counting (for some year previous to 2012). It is true that the average yield (not enrollment) for CountCS states is higher than for non-CountCS states. There isn’t a statistically significant difference, though (using t-test with a 95% confidence interval).
It could be that these distributions will become more distinct over time. Some states (like Tennessee) have just made CS count. It will take years to see an impact.
Digging deeper, I looked at the number of test-takers by state in terms of whether the state counts CS. Below is the distribution. There is on average more test-takers in states that count CS, but the distribution is broad. There isn’t a statistically significant difference.
Given that the test-takers are not significantly different based on whether a state counts CS or not, I didn’t think that the minority or female numbers would either. It is true that there are on average more women test-takers from states that count CS, but the distribution is large. The difference is not statistically significant. The CountCS states include Vermont (which had 1 female AP CS test-taker in 2012), but does not include North and South Dakota, each of which had 2 female AP CS test-takers in 2012. (Alaska, Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming all had zero female AP CS test-takers, and none of them count CS.) I didn’t see significant differences based on under-represented minority groups.
If we really want to show that counting CS matters, we’d really want to do it a different way entirely. We should compare the same state pre/post making the decision to count CS. Even then, we’d want to give it a few years to filter through the system (e.g., Juniors and Seniors in high school are unlikely to change their plans for graduation to take CS as soon as it counts). I do believe that counting CS towards high school graduation will increase the number of students taking CS, but measuring that impact is challenging.
Nice to see AP CS teachers picking up Media Computation, and hope to see more of that when Barbara’s Picture Lab starts rolling out. Myra Deister also sent me links to her AP CS students’ use of MediaComp.
We worked through several activities, focusing on filters and transformations. The students enjoyed seeing that they could write programs that performed some of the same features as Photoshop. The unit concluded with a collage project in which students combined several of their filters and transformations into a final and unique image.
I was extremely pleased to see that one of the new AP Computer Science labs, Picture Lab, was developed by Barbara Ericson and is based on her book. I think this new lab will bring an authentic and engaging series of activities to a wider audience.
Barbara Ericson has generated her 2012 Advanced Placement Computer Science report. http://home.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/321 has all of her reports. http://home.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/548 has her more detailed analysis just of 2012. Since one of our concerns with GaComputes and ECEP is on pass rates, not just test-takers, she dug deeper into pass rates. For a point of comparison, she looked up AP Calculus pass rates. What she found is somewhat surprising — below is quoted from her page.
Comparison of AP CS A to AP Calculus AB in 2012
The number of students that take the exam per teacher is much higher for AP Calculus AB at 21 students per teacher versus 11 for Computer Science A
The number of schools that teach Calculus is 11,694 versus 2,103
AP CS A had a higher pass rate than Calculus – 63% versus 59%
AP CS A had a higher female pass rate than Calculus – 56% versus 55%
AP CS A had a higher Hispanic pass rate than Calculus – 39.8% versus 38.4%
AP Calculus had a higher black pass rate than CS – 28.7% versus 27.3%
Calculus had a much higher percentage of women take the exam than CS – 48.3% versus 18.7%
Calculus had a higher percentage of black students take the exam than CS – 5.4% versus 4.0%
Calculus had a higher percentage of Hispanic/Latino students take the exam than CS – 11.5% versus 7.7%
We have very few AP CS teachers in the United States — about 1 for every 12 high schools, and they’re not evenly distributed. I do get that an AP CS MOOC may make it more available to more students. Still, I’m not too excited about a MOOC to teach AP CS. AP CS is already overwhelmingly white and male. The demographic data from existing CS MOOCs is even more white and male than our face-to-face classes. I can’t see how an AP CS MOOC will improve diversity, and we have a desperate need to improve diversity.
But beyond that — Rupert Murdoch?!? Really? Why is he interested in CS education? I do note that he is starting out with a monetizing scheme. Want your questions answered? $200 per student per year. I do see how this AP CS MOOC may deal with some of the shortcomings of other MOOCs, and may even be better with diversity than existing MOOCs, because of the availability of direct support — at a price.
Now, Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire media mogul behind News Corp., wants to do something about the lack of computer science education. Murdoch’s Amplify education unit plans to launch a new advanced placement online computer science course this fall, taught by longtime high-school instructor Rebecca Dovi.
The course is described as a MOOC, short for massive open online course. It is free to high school students, though additional resources will be made available for $200 per student. It is geared toward those who want to take the computer science AP exam in 2014.
Kevin Karplus recently wrote a post (on his highly-recommended Gas Station without Pumps blog) about why funding the new AP CS:Principles (AP CS:P) is such a bad idea, mentioning my positive comments on the news. I actually agree with many of the Gas Station points, but I have a more optimistic take on them.
CS:P was never meant to give credit towards a computing degree. The attestation effort showed that many schools do offer some kind of course like what’s in CS:P. It’s true at UCSC, too:
My own campus has several intro programming courses, some at the level of the AP CSP course. I suspect that our campus would offer credit in these low-level courses for the AP CSP exam. These lowest-level courses do not count towards any major, though—they provide elective credit for what should be high-school level courses. The intent (as is apparently the intent for AP CSP) is to provide an extremely low barrier to entry into the field.
That’s really the main point. We need more CS education in high schools. When there’s only 1 AP CS teacher for every 12 high schools, there is very little computer science education out there. AP courses is a big lever to get low barrier courses out there.
Gas Station then points out that courses like these may not actually have much of an impact downstream.
I don’t know how well the low barrier to entry works, though. I’ve not seen much evidence on our campus that the lowest level courses produce many students who continue to take higher level CS courses…We still have appallingly low numbers of women finishing in CS (and the new game-design major within CS is even more heavily male), so I can’t say that the lower-level intro courses have done much to address the gender imbalance.
That’s a fair point. We don’t know that it will work to get more students into computing. I just did a Blog@CACM post that suggests that the evidence we have is promising in terms of impact on careers, especially for under-represented minorities. You can’t really use a single campus to test the idea though. The game is at the level of thousands of high schools where there is no computer science at all.
I share the Gas Station concern over the professional development challenge.
The success of CSP also depends on thousands of high schools suddenly deciding to teach the course and getting training for their teachers to do this. I (along with many others) have grave doubts that the schools have the desire or the ability to do this. It is true that the CSP course should be a bit easier to train people for than the current AP CS A course (if only because Java syntax, the core of CS A, is so deadly dull).
The question that we need answered is: how important the “Advanced Placement” lever is? Is it so important (big payoff) that having a more accessible AP course in CS (thus, lower cost to adopt) changes the balance for schools? I just had an all-day meeting with folks from the Georgia Department of Education two weeks ago, and they are building AP CS:P into their curriculum plans because it’s now AP. That designator matters. Does it matter enough to draw more teachers into professional development, to get more schools to hire CS teachers? I’m optimistic, but I share the Gas Station concern.
We should also be clear that there really isn’t a single “CS:Principles” course yet. There have been several pilots, and some assessment questions tested, but there is no well-defined curriculum yet and no exemplar test. I have exactly the same question as Gas Station:
The new CSP exam is not supposed to be so language-dependent, which may allow for better pedagogy. Of course, I’m curious how the exam will be written to be language-independent, and whether it will be able to make any meaningful measurements of what the students have learned.
The plan is to use a portfolio approach, like what’s being used in art AP exams now. I really don’t know if it’ll work. I trust that the people working on it, but do see it as an unsolved problem.
I don’t share the Gas Station concern about “Gresham’s Law for pedagogy” (which I’d not heard of previously):
I suspect that the easier AP CSP will replace AP CS A at many high schools, and that CS A will disappear the way that CS AB did in May 2009 (Gresham’s Law for pedagogy: easier courses drive out harder ones). Whether this is a good or bad outcome depends on how good the AP CSP course turns out to be.
The fact that there already are CS:P-like courses on many campuses, co-existing with CS1’s (intro CS for majors) is evidence that easier courses don’t always drive out harder ones. On our campus, we offer three CS1’s. The MediaComp course would probably be easier for Engineering students than the challenging MATLAB-based on that they currently require, but the Engineering faculty have not been eager to swap it out. The existence of “Physics for Poets” and Calculus aimed at different kinds of students is more evidence that Gresham’s Law doesn’t always hold for classes.
There are lots of challenges to CS:P. AP CS Level A is doing better these days, and I’m glad for that. I want both to succeed. I want a lot of CS in lots high schools. Will the new AP CS:P lead to more CS majors and more people in computing careers? I don’t know — I think so, but I’m not really worried about it. I believe in “computing for everyone” and that lots of people (even non-IT professionals) need to know more about computer science, so having more access to computing education in more schools is a positive end-goal for me.
Congratulations to Owen Astrachan and Amy Briggs for achieving the goal of CS:Principles being declared “AP.” This is going to be important for attracting teachers to take CS:Principles professional development.
To help ensure that more high school students are prepared to pursue postsecondary education in computer science, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is making a four-year, $5.2 million grant to the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) to fund the creation of AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP).
The AP CS readers I know (and I’m married to one) say that we had about 32,000 test takers, a huge increase over the 24,782 from last year. The website linked below (thanks to Gas station without pumps for the link) shows a significant increase in passing grades, too. I’m sure that Barb will do a detailed analysis when the state-by-state and demographic data come out.
Scoring is complete for AP Computer Science. Bravo to these teachers & students: a large increase in 4s/5s over last year.
AP Comp Sci students’ multiple-choice results: on average, students performed best on the logic/software eng/recursion questions, on average, students performed least well on questions about data structures.
AP Comp Sci free-response: similar scores across all 4 questions, slightly higher scores on Q1, slightly lower on Q3: ow.ly/lVKJp
16% more students took AP Computer Science this year, which makes the expanded ratio of 4s and 5s all the more impressive. What teachers!
Nice piece in Smithsonian Magazine about the efforts to move computing into primary and secondary schools. And hey! That’s me they quoted! (It’s not exactly what I said, but I’ll take it.)
Schools that offer computer science often restrict enrollment to students with a penchant for math and center the coursework around an exacting computer language called Java. And students frequently follow the Advanced Placement Computer Science curriculum developed by the College Board—a useful course but not for everyone. “What the computer science community has been slow to grasp is that there are a lot of different people who are going to need to learn computer science, and they are going to learn it in a lot of different ways,” says Mark Guzdial, a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology and author of the well-respected Computer Education blog, “and there are a lot of different ways people are going to use it, too. ”
And that makes it 10.
Today, Washington Governor Jay Inslee is signing a bill that will allow high schools across the state to count the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science course as a math or science credit, making Washington one of only 10 states that counts computer science towards high school graduation.
Before today, AP Computer Science counted as an elective—making it a tough choice for students looking to pack their transcripts with math and science courses and those that might be curious about computer science. Currently, only 35 of the state’s 622 high schools offer AP Computer Science. The hope is that this change will encourage more students to take the course and many more schools to offer it.
I read with great interest Neil Fraser’s fascinating account of computer science education in Vietnam. The efforts going on in Vietnam are really terrific, and Neil does a good job of describing what he saw there.
Then a colleague sent me a link to the Slashdot discussion about Neil’s blog post. The focus of the discussion was on Neil’s description of the state of computer science education in the United States, which is not nearly as accurate or as well-informed as his descriptions of the state of Vietnamese CS education.
Here’s what Neil says, with my responses interspersed. His original is more detailed than the bits I’m grabbing here.
The state of American computer science education is striking in comparison.
School boards fight to keep CS out of schools, since every minute spent on CS is one less minute spent on core subjects like English and math. The students’ test scores in these core subjects determine next year’s funding, so CS is a threat.
I have never heard of a school board fighting to keep CS out of their schools. Describing it like that paints a picture of a poor group of School Board members fighting against the hoards of computer scientists. A more accurate analogy is School Board members riding on the backs of lumbering elephants, and every once in awhile, a pesky computer scientist mosquito tries to annoy the elephant. If there ever was a massive battle for the schools’ curriculum, the CS army would have lost, because it never showed up!
Computer science does not count toward Annual Yearly Progress, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t. It’s absolutely true that computer science is not part of the Common Core — that’s the goal of the “Computing in the Core” group. Computer science does count towards high school graduation in nine states now. It could be more, but it hasn’t happened yet. There’s a big effort going on in Washington and in Massachusetts now. I don’t know of any organized effort anywhere to keep CS out of schools. Rather, there’s not enough effort to get CS into schools yet. (There is no school suffering the problem of too many hours and too few things to teach!)
There’s an implicit assumption here that School Boards make the decision on what gets taught and what doesn’t. I keep learning how different each and every state is. Decisions about what gets taught (and what doesn’t get made) at the State level, the district level, and the individual school/teacher level, and what gets decided at what level differs from state to state.
Teachers often refuse to teach real CS because more often than not they don’t understand it. Instead, they end up teaching word processing and website construction, while calling it CS.
I have been involved several studies of high school teachers (e.g., DCCE and Lijun Ni’s work and through GaComputes). Teachers want to teach what they know and what their students need and want. Absolutely, they are unlikely to know real CS, but not knowing something isn’t the same as “refusing to teach” it. Professional development to prepare high school teachers in computer science is a huge international problem. Absolutely, applications and keyboarding skills often get misclassified as computer science. I recommend the CSTA report Running on Empty to see where this is happening and about the efforts to explain what is real computer science.
Parents often oppose CS classes since the grade has no direct benefit on their child’s academic prospects. This is compounded by a lack of understanding of the difference between their child playing video games and their child writing video games.
Absolutely, I believe this happens. I have heard similar stories. I don’t know how widespread it is. I have not seen any data showing that parents oppose CS classes in enough numbers to influence participation in a significant way. I have never seen any data that parents are confused about the difference between playing video games and writing video games. In general, we know that parents influence students’ educational decision-making processes, but we don’t know that parental recommendations away from computing prevent computing education from growing.
Students intentionally tune out of CS class since there are few things worse in American high school than being labelled a nerd.
Studies like the ACM-WGBH image of computing, Stuck in the Shallow End, and Betsy DiSalvo’s work with Glitch all say that students value computing and want computing courses, but rarely get access to it. Agreed that nobody wants to be labelled a “nerd,” and Betsy’s work shows that “face-saving” is an important part of her efforts. But that’s not the main reason why students aren’t taking computer science. The real problem is a lack of access. Remember that there are 2K AP CS teachers for 24K high schools in the United States. If students WANTED to be “labelled a nerd” and take a CS course, they are unlikely to get a chance.
The result in America is a prefect storm of opposition from every level. Effecting meaningful change is virtually impossible. I work for the education department at Google and the stories our external educators return with are as shocking as they are unpublishable. We’ve been spending enormous resources with frankly minimal impact.
I am absolutely sure that Neil is hearing all kinds of awful stories, but that’s not the same as careful studies. Those are anecdotes. Efforts to measure what’s going on paint a somewhat different picture.
At the ACM Education Council meeting last month, we learned that China is spending $25 BILLION per year on computer science education. Those are enormous resources. The United States has barely started.
I just learned this fact at the NSF BPC/CE21 meeting from Jane Margolis’s talk. This last Fall 2012, the first female African-American CS PhD graduated from the University of Michigan. Michigan is 14% African-American. University of Michigan is a state institution. Really? 2012? I guess it’s not too surprising, when we know from the AP CS data that I talked about last year that few African-Americans get access to computer science in Michigan.
Dr. Kyla McMullen is the first African American woman to graduate with a PhD in computer science at the University of Michigan. When asked how she feels about her new title, the scholar replied “Bittersweet.” She explained that it’s gratifying to have the distinction of being the university’s first African American female to acquire a PhD in computer science, it reminds her of a sad reality: There aren’t enough men and women of color pursuing advanced degrees in computer science.
Barbara Ericson has completed her annual analysis of AP CS Level A exam results. It was a banner year: The greatest number of test-takers ever, and well over the 20K “break-even” point (when the College Board stops losing money on giving an AP exam). Barbara broke it down by state (for states we’re particularly focusing on in ECEP), and by population of each state. Maryland does the best, in terms of test-takers per million people. Georgia ties with California for “test-taking density.”
Nationally 24,782 people took the AP CS A exam in 2012. This was a 14.7% increase from the previous year. The number of teachers who passed the audit was 2,103. The number of female exam takers was 4,635 which was up from 4,000 the year before. The number of Blacks was 1,014 up from 893 the previous year. The number of Hispanics was 1,919 up from 1,752 the previous year.
The percentage female was 18.7% which was lower than the previous year (18.9%) . The overall pass rate was 63.2%. The female pass rate was 56.4%. The white pass rate was 66.4%. The Asian pass rate was 69.9%. The Hispanic pass rate was 39.8%. The Hispanic male pass rate 43.6%. The Hispanic female pass rate was 26.6%. The Black pass rate was 27.3%. The Black male pass rate was 30.3%. The Black female pass rate was 18.25%.
In 2012 California passed Texas after years (since 2005) of Texas being the state with the most AP CS A exam takers. California had 3,920 and Texas had only 3,614.
“Florida is killing Computer Science,” was the first thing that Joanne Barrett told us when we asked her how things were going in Florida. Barbara and I went to Orlando to give the Technology track keynote (joint! It was fun!) and two breakouts at the FCIS Conference on Thursday. Joanne ran the Technology track at FCIS. (Our travel was sponsored by CSTA and Google – thanks!) The mood of the CS teachers we met was dismal.
Currently, computer science is part of the academic high school degree in Florida — the classes that one would take as College preparation. It’s mostly taught by mathematics teachers. This year is the end of that. This is the last year that the current CS classes will be offered.
As of next year, all the computer science classes in Florida will be moved into business, as part of career preparation. As we understand it from Joanne, they literally won’t count for credit towards an academic high school degree. The AP CS will stay in the academic track, but all the other computer science courses will move to business.
Why? Exactly the same issue as in Georgia: Perkins funding will pay for hardware, so career prep has the computers, and it gets computer science. We spoke to one business teacher who is desperately seeking professional development to prepare herself for teaching all these new computing courses. We met one of the teachers at the Florida Virtual High School (which has a really cool CS sequence, and an astounding success rate for their students on AP CS), and she said that they may not even be able to offer any CS next year. FVHS is about academic subjects, and CS is being re-classified. Florida is also looking for industry certification for the end of the Perkins-funded pathway, and the teachers we talked to said that they’re currently considering an IEEE Certification — which is explicitly for graduates of four year degree programs, not high school students.
What will this do to CS education in Florida? it won’t be “killed,” but it will be changed. I worry about the quality, when swapping out all the experienced math teachers for inexperienced business teachers. I can’t the impact on CS10K goals.
Can AP CS succeed (in particular, the new CS:Principles effort) as a standalone AP, with all the other CS courses in another track? Maybe. I wonder how much effort school districts will put into AP CS, if they have a different, funded CS pathway. I also wonder if CS:Principles can meet its goal of helping to broaden participation in this context — the career prep programs that I’ve seen are far more heavily under-represented minority than the college prep programs. What if the minority students you want to draw into computing via AP CS are off taking the career prep classes?
Barbara has been facing a challenge in dealing with the State of Georgia lately that could impact other states. I offered my blog as a forum for raising the issues more broadly.
We have a real need in Georgia for a certification exam for high school students that is similar to the AP CS A exam in content and price, but is industry-based. Georgia is pushing career pathways and wants to have each student who completes a pathway take some type of exam where they can earn an industry certification. They claim this is due to the Perkins legislation that passed in 2006.
The purpose of the Perkins legislation is to develop students for “high skill, high wage, or high demand occupations in current or emerging professions” which certainly matches computing jobs. It is also intended to “integrate rigorous and challenging academic and career and technical instruction, and link secondary education and postsecondary education for participating career and technical education students”. It goes on to say that the goal is “designed to provide students with a non-duplicative sequence of progressive achievement leading to technical skill proficiency, a credential, a certificate, or a degree.” Since students can receive academic credit for the the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) A exam from postsecondary institutions, the AP CS A exam should count as leading to a degree.
In Georgia, we have created a computing pathway which has 3 courses: Computing in the Modern World, Beginning Programming, and Intermediate Programming. The committee that created the computing courses had recommended that that pathway end with AP CS A instead of Intermediate Programming, and that the students pass the AP CS A exam to prove that they have learned the material. But, Georgia won’t allow the AP exam to be used as an end of pathway exam. I recommended the Oracle Java associate exam, but it is $300 and that is just too expensive. The AP exam is $89. Georgia has picked a Skills USA computer programming exam (see description here) that covers Java, C++, and Visual Basic. That exam doesn’t match the standards in the pathway courses, and we don’t want the teachers to have to teach 3 different languages. We are having a hard enough time getting them up to speed on Java, since most have no computer science background. The Career and Technical Education Department in Georgia thinks it is preparing kids for programming jobs right out of high school, which is not realistic. Students will need to at least an associates degree if they want a career in computing.
Georgia is poised to force every rising 9th grader to pick a career pathway. They are currently thinking about changing our computing courses to match the Skills USA test, since they can’t find a cheaper test that gives industry certification in Java. This is a huge problem. We have been working for years to improve computing in Georgia, and this would reverse many of our gains. We have introduced interesting and engaging courses using Scratch, Alice, Media Computation in Java, CS Unplugged, Greenfoot and App Inventor. Teachers would have to go back to boring, cookbook programming to get through 3 languages in 3 courses.
The Georgia DOE says is not going to change to allow an AP exam as an end of pathway exam. They claim they can’t since their efforts are part of the Race to the Top grant that Georgia won. They interpreted the Perkins legislation to mean that students must earn an industry certification. Other states may also use this same narrow interpretation and could end up in the same situation. This could be a major road block to the National Science Foundation’s plan to prepare 10,000 teachers (CS10K) to teach the new AP CS Principles course by 2016.
I recommend that Oracle create a new certificate only for high school students that is based on the AP CS A exam material and costs about $89. It could be a subset of the Java Associate material that matches the AP CS A material (extra topics to remove are: Java Development Fundamentals, Java Platforms and Integration Technologies, Client Technologies, Server Technologies).