Posts tagged ‘APCS’
Philip Guo did an analysis of what top CS departments teach in their introductory courses (see link below) and found that Python now tops Java. MATLAB tops C and C++ (though not if these are combined), and Scheme and Scratch are near the bottom.
It’s reasonable to say that an AP will only succeed (e.g., students will take it) if they can get credit or placement for the exam in college or university. Typically, colleges and universities give credit for courses that are currently taught. Will we see colleges and universities start teaching CS Principles? Will they give credit for a course that they don’t teach? For languages they don’t teach? Maybe we’ll see more of an influx of CSP languages and courses into colleges and universities. I predict that we won’t.
Scratch is the only visual, blocks-based language that made this list. It’s one of the most popular languages of this genre, which include related projects such as Alice, App Inventor, Etoys, Kodu, StarLogo, and TouchDevelop. The creators of these sorts of languages focus mostly on K-12 education, which might explain why they haven’t gotten as much adoption at the university level.
Barb will probably do her demographic analysis in the Fall. Gas Station Without Pumps analysis on raw scores is out now and is quite interesting.
The Computer Science A exam saw an increase of 33% in test takers, with about a 61% pass rate 3, 4, or 5. The exams scores were heavily bimodal, with peaks at scores of 4 and at 1. I wonder whether the new AP CS courses that Google funded contributed more to the 4s or to the 1s. I also wonder whether the scores clustered by schools, with some schools doing a decent job of teaching Java syntax most of what the AP CS exam covers, so far as I can tell and some doing a terrible job, or whether the bimodal distribution is happening within classes also. I suspect clustering by school is more prevalent. The bimodal distribution of scores was there in 2011, 2012, and 2013 also, so is not a new phenomenon. Calculus BC sees a similar bimodal distribution in past years—the 2014 distribution is not available yet.
If states offer career and technical education in pathways (typically 3-4 courses) with a pathway completion exam, they are eligible for Perkins legislation funding to pay for staff and equipment. If AP CS is one of those courses, it’s easier to build the pathway (2-3 courses to define, rather than 3-4) and the pathway is more likely to lead to college-level CS, if a student so chooses. But as the below report mentions, many states believe that Perkins legislation disallows the AP to count. It can, and here’s the report describing how.
If you’re hearing this story in your state, be sure to send your department of education this report!
Career and Technical Education and Advanced Placement (July 2013, PDF)
Traditionally Advanced Placement® (AP) courses and exams have not been recommended for students in Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. This paper, jointly developed and released by NASDCTEc and the College Board aims to bust this myth by showing how AP courses and exams can be relevant to a student’s program of study across the 16 Career Clusters®.
An interesting piece on “The importance of expanding CS Education in Massachusetts.” I’m particularly interested in her use of AP CS data to argue for the need to broaden access to computing education.
In July, the Boston Globe reported that, of the nearly 86,000 Advanced Placement tests taken by high school students in Massachusetts, only about 900 were in computer science. This is far too low for a state that aspires to lead the world in technological innovation.
Part of the problem is that, too often, students simply don’t have the interest, or the basic computer skills, necessary to tackle higher-level computer science courses. But the greater challenge, across all levels, is that we do not have enough computer science teachers, so students who are interested are left out in the cold. In 2012, more than half of all students who passed the computer science AP exam came from just 14 high schools around the state, meaning that the other 364 high schools in Massachusetts accounted for only around 275 students who passed the exam.
Mihaela Sabin at University of New Hampshire Manchester took Barb’s AP analysis, and produced a version specific to New Hampshire. Quite interesting — would be great to see other states do this!
77% exam takers passed the test, which is closer to the upper end of the 43% – 83% range reported across all states.
Only twelve girls took the AP CS exam, which represents 11.88% of all AP CS exam takers. This participation percentile of girls taking the exam is 4 times smaller that female representation in the state and nation.
Half of the girls who took the exam passed. 82% of the boys who took the exam passed.
One Hispanic and two Black students took the AP CS exam. The College Board requires that a minimum of five students from a gender, racial, and ethnic group take the test in order to have their passing scores recorded.
2012 NH census data reports that Blacks represent 1.4% of the state population and Hispanics represent 3%. Having two Black students taking the test in 2013 means that their participation of 1.98% of all AP CS exam takers is 1.4 times higher than the percentage of the Black population in the state of NH. However, Hispanics participation in the AP CS exam of 0.99% is 3 times lower than their representation of 3% in the state.
ACM has just released a report arguing for the need for computer science in K-12 schools. They are very strongly making the jobs argument. The appendix to the report details state-by-state what jobs are available in computing, the salaries being paid for those jobs, and how many computing graduates (including how many AP CS exams vs other AP exams were taken in 2013) in that state.
The report Rebooting the Pathway to Success: Preparing Students for Computing Workforce Needs in the United States calls on education and business leaders and public policy officials in every state to take immediate action aimed at filling the pipeline of qualified students pursuing computing and related degrees, and to prepare them for the 21st century workforce. The report provides recommendations to help these leaders join together to create a comprehensive plan that addresses K-12 computer science education and that aligns state policy, programs, and resources to implement these efforts.
SIGCSE Preview: Project Rise Up 4 CS: Increasing the Number of Black Students who Pass AP CS A — by paying them
I’m guessing that Barbara’s paper on Friday 1:45-3 (in Hanover FG – whole program here) is going to be controversial. She’s working on a problem we’ve had in GaComputes for years. Besides Betsy DiSalvo’s work on Glitch, we’ve made little progress in increasing numbers of Black students taking AP CS A and even less progress in getting more of them to pass the test.
She’s had significant progress this last year using an approach that NMSI used successfully in Texas and elsewhere. She’s offering $100 to Black students who attend extra sessions to help them pass the exam and who do pass the exam. She’s expanding the program now with a Google RISE grant. Her approach is informed by Betsy’s work – it’s about going beyond interests to values and giving students help in navigating past their motivations to not-learn. She does have aspects of the project in place to counteract the disincentives of cash payments for academic achievement. In the final interviews, students didn’t talk about the money. It may be that the money wasn’t an incentive as much as a face-saving strategy. (Barb’s preview talk was also recorded as part of a GVU Brown Bag.)
This paper describes Project Rise Up 4 CS, an attempt to increase the number of Black students in Georgia that pass the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) A exam. In 2012 Black students had the lowest pass rates on the AP CS A exam both in Georgia and nationally. Project Rise Up 4 CS provided Black students with role models, hands-on learning, competitions, a financial incentive, and webinars on AP CS A content. The first cohort started in January of 2013 and finished in May 2013. Of the 27 students who enrolled in the first cohort, 14 met all of the completion requirements, and 9 (69%) of the 13 who took the exam passed. For comparison, in 2012 only 22 (16%) of 137 Black students passed the exam in Georgia. In 2013, 28 (22%) of 129 Black students passed the exam in Georgia. This was the highest number of Black students to pass the AP CS A exam ever in Georgia and a 27% increase from 2012. In addition, students who met the completion requirements for Project Rise Up 4 CS exhibited statistically significant changes in attitudes towards computing and also demonstrated significant learning gains. This paper discusses the motivation for the project, provides project details, presents the evaluation results, and future plans.
SIGCSE Preview: Measuring Demographics and Performance in Computer Science Education at a Nationwide Scale Using AP CS Data
Barbara and I are speaking Thursday 3:45-5 (with Neil Brown on his Blackbox work) in Hanover DE on our AP CS analysis paper (also previewed at a GVU Brown Bag). The full paper is available here: http://bit.ly/SIGCSE14-APCS This is a different story than the AP CS 2013 analysis that Barbara has been getting such press for. This is a bit deeper analysis on the 2006-2012 results.
Here are a couple of the figures that I think are interesting. What’s fitting into these histograms are states, and it’s the same number of bins in each histogram, so that one can compare across.
Fitting this story into the six page SIGCSE format was really tough. I wanted to make the figures bigger, and I wanted to tell more stories about the regressions we explored. I focused on the path from state wealth to exam-takers because I hadn’t seen that story in CS Ed previously (though everyone would predict that it was there), but there’s a lot more to tell about these data.
Figure 1: Histograms describing (a) the number of schools passing the audit over the population (measured in 10K), (b) number of exam-takers over the population, and (c) percentage of exam-takers who passed.
Measuring Demographics and Performance in Computer Science Education at a Nationwide Scale Using AP CS Data
Abstract: Before we can reform or improve computing education, we need to know the current state. Data on computing education are difficult to come by, since it’s not tracked in US public education systems. Most of our data are survey-based or interview-based, or are limited to a region. By using a large and nationwide quantitative data source, we can gain new insights into who is participating in computing education, where the greatest need is, and what factors explain variance between states. We used data from the Advanced Placement Computer Science A (AP CS A) exam to get a detailed view of demographics of who is taking the exam across the United States and in each state, and how they are performing on the exam. We use economic and census data to develop a more detailed view of one slice (at the end of secondary school and before university) of computer science education nationwide. We find that minority group involvement is low in AP CS A, but the variance between states in terms of exam-takers is driven by minority group involvement. We find that wealth in a state has a significant impact on exam-taking.
Here’s a great answer to the under-representation on the AP CS — the College Board (with funding from Google) will offer grants to help start AP programs, including AP CS (see details for AP CS for STEM Access).
AP STEM Access Program: In fall 2013, the College Board implemented the AP STEM Access program in 335 public high schools across the country. With the support of a $5 million Google Global Impact Award to DonorsChoose.org, these schools started offering new AP math and science courses with the goal of enabling underrepresented minority and female students who have demonstrated strong academic potential to enroll in and explore these areas of study and related careers. Over the next three years, the AP STEM Access program will give an estimated 36,000 students the opportunity to study college-level STEM course work in these newly offered AP classes.
NYTimes: Tech’s Diversity Problem Is Apparent as Early as High School – interview with Barbara Ericson
On the ongoing thread of media coverage over Barbara’s analysis of AP CS 2013 exam results, this is a standout. The NYTimes had a blog post interviewing Barb, and they did a nice job. They highlighted not just the outliers (like Wyoming with no test-takers) but the interesting trends (there used to be a good number of AP CS exam takers in Wyoming).
Even in California, where it would seem that more children would be exposed to adults working in computer science, just 22 percent of test takers were girls, 1.5 percent were black and 8 percent were Hispanic.
The A.P. data also shows how the situation in computer science has worsened over time. In Wyoming, for instance, no high school student of any race or gender took the test, while 35 students took the test there in 2001.
The Atlanta Public Schools has a short article about their involvement in the Hour of Code — and it was all elementary school children. As far as I know, there is no more AP CS in any Atlanta Public high school. I’m wondering if the emphasis on “starting early” is having an unexpected effect. Are schools seeing activities like Blockly and Scratch as elementary school activities, and computer science belongs there, not in high schools?
As members of the APS IT department went out to observe students throughout the district participating in the Hour of Code they observed computer science education at its finest. Students were actively engaged in challenges that required them to utilize high level problem solving and critical thinking skills. Students identified and found ways to correct their mistakes until they were successful in completing the activity.
Lavant Burgess, a fifth grader at E.L. Connally Elementary, stated, “I like how it made me think. I had to keep using different strategies to figure out how to get the robot to the right squares.”
The chart below (above, here in the blog) shows the ratio of boy to girl test-takers across AP exam subjects. In subjects whose bars do not reach the orange line, girls outnumber boys. In subjects where the bar extends past the orange line, boys outnumber girls.
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?
Part of the continuing media response to her AP CS 2013 analysis, Barb was on HLN Weekend Express yesterday talking about the gender gap in AP CS. The video is linked below. My favorite part was where she told the national audience that Georgia Tech considers CS fundamental and requires it for everyone.
Barbara Ericson, director of computing outreach at Georgia Tech, has made a startling claim. She said not one female student in three states – Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming — took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science last year.
Ericson appeared on Weekend Express to discuss the gender gap and explains why more women aren’t interested in computer science.
The scope of the Chicago plan is impressive. In case you thought that the idea of offering foreign language credit for CS was a joke, it’s being considered as part of the Chicago plan. The rationale for the plan is interesting: Arguing that it’s about national competitiveness, and about democratization.
On the first day of Computer Science Education Week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett announced the most comprehensive K-12 computer science education plan in a major school district. This plan includes creating a pipeline for foundational computer science skills in elementary schools, offering at least one computer science class at every high school, and elevating computer science to a core subject.
“This plan will help us compete with countries like China and the UK, where children take coding classes in elementary school, and create an environment where we can help support the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marissa Mayer,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By democratizing computer science, we are leveling the playing field for all children to have the same skills, appetite to learn, and access to technology to excel in this growing field.”
The K-12 program will expand student access to computer science literacy over the next five years. The program will include:
- In the next three years, every high school will offer a foundational “Exploring Computer Science” course.
- In the next five years, at least half of all high schools will also offer an AP Computer Science course.
- Chicago will also be the first US urban district to offer a K-8 computer science pathway, reaching one in four elementary schools in the next five years.
- Within five years, CPS will allow computer science to count as a graduation requirement (e.g. possibly as a math, science, or foreign language credit). Only thirteen other states have elevated computer science to a core subject instead of an elective.