Archive for February 7, 2010

Beginning to Rethink CS Education at NSF

Cameron Wilson just wrote a Blog@CACM post that helps to clarify how NSF CISE is re-thinking CS Education.  Yes, CPATH and BPC are going away, but they’re being combined into something new that goes across the whole pipeline (like BPC) and goes beyond just computing majors, which is an entirely new space for CISE:

The described intent is to evolve CPATH’s work into something broader. That is the new program would look at the entire pipeline but with special focus in two areas:

1) moving earlier into the pipeline with specific engagements in middle/high school to bring computational thinking/computer science concepts into this space

2) widening the program to be inclusive for all populations, built around a theme that “computing is for everyone”

via Beginning to Rethink CS Education at NSF | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

Cameron also mentions that Cyber-Learning to Transform Education (CTE) is a different program than the combo program that he’s describing.  I heard that CTE was described at last week’s Computational Thinking Workshop at the National Academies.   CTE has strands like “Personalized Instruction” and “Anytime Anywhere Education,” which is the direction of where I’m trying to take my own research. That means that there will be two new education-related programs in CISE, both of which are pretty exciting.

I’m most excited to see the message that “computing is for everyone.”  CPATH and BPC were about creating more computing majors.  The idea that computing is for everyone is the key motivator in our work at Georgia Tech. Our notion of “contextualized computing education” has a goal that every student in every major succeeds at a computing that makes sense to them.  The notion of “contexts” was a driving force in our “Threads” curriculum, and in how we help teachers across Georgia improve the retention and diversity of their courses in our  “Georgia Computes!” BPC alliance.

While the devil is still in the details, the signals about where things are going are promising.  We should get more information over the next couple months.

February 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm 2 comments

Failure rate for AP tests climbing

That the average AP score would decline while more students take the AP is really not surprising.  It’s a pretty common phenomenon: as more new, initially-underprepared students flood in, the average is drawn down.  We’re seeing this in Georgia with the schools that are just starting AP CS (many at minority-majority high schools).  It’s going to take some time for the teachers to get better, for the school to figure out how to best prepare the students.

What I found more interesting is that Physics scores are rising, while English Literature scores are declining.  Why would that be?

The newspaper’s analysis finds that more than two in five students (41.5%) earned a failing score of 1 or 2, up from 36.5% in 1999. In the South, a Census-defined region that spans from Texas to Delaware, nearly half of all tests — 48.4% — earned a 1 or 2, a failure rate up 7 percentage points from a decade prior and a statistically significant difference from the rest of the country.

College Board officials say it’s misleading to lump all scores together, because some tests have vastly different historical pass rates. Scores on AP Physics tests, for example, are consistently up; those for AP English Literature are dropping.

via Failure rate for AP tests climbing – USATODAY.com.

February 7, 2010 at 9:38 am 3 comments


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