Barbara Ericson on the Rise in AP CS

November 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm 10 comments

The AP CS data for 2010 is now out, and Barb sent out updates to the Georgia high school CS teachers on her mailing list and to the AP list.  I’m combining those messages below, with her permission.

Dear Teachers,
Thanks to your hard work we had 692 students take the CS AP A exam in Georgia in 2010.  This is compared to 583 in 2009.  That is a very nice increase and the largest number of students who have ever taken the CS AP A exam.  The mean score in 2010 was 2.83 while it was 2.65 in 2009, so we see an improvement there.
We had 118 females take the exam in 2010 versus 110 in 2009, so a slight increase in the total numbers.  The female mean score was 2.46 versus 2.9 for the males (a drop from 2.47 in 2009 for the females).  The number of Blacks who took the exam in 2010 was 68 versus 69 in 2009.  The mean scores for Blacks improved from 1.39 to 1.66.  The number of Hispanics who took the exam in 2010 was 30 versus 27 in 2009.
To see the detail on the 2010 data see
http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/exgrd_sum/2010.html.

Since the number of schools offering AP CS A has been dropping since 2007-2008 I am glad to see that the number of students taking the exam has increased and that there has been some improvement in performance.  But, we still have a long way to go to catch up to Calculus.  In 2010, 7256 students took the Calculus AB exam and 2164 took the BC exam.  I am also very concerned that the current number of schools offering AP CS A has dropped substantially from last year (71 to 59).  It is even more important for schools to recruit students for AP CS A and especially more females and under-represented minorities.
I have put a spreadsheet that has the number of AP CS A exams taken in each state from 1998-2010 at http://home.cc.gatech.edu:10000/ice-gt/50.  This is based on data from the College Board at http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/exgrd_sum/2010.html. It shows that most states had an increase in the number of exams in 2010, but not all.
Maryland continues to steadily increase (they never had a decrease) and has the highest number of students taking the exam by percentage of the population.  Texas has the largest number of exam takers at 3,392 followed by California at 2,793.  But, 28 states still have less students taking the exam than they had at some point in the previous years. And, 25 states had less than 100 people take the exam in 2010 and of those 11 states had less than 25 people take the exam.
Access to AP CS A is certainly not universal in our country.  We also clearly still have a problem with gender and race.  I challenge each AP CS A teacher to specifically recruit females and under-represented minorities.  The PSAT data should be available in Dec or Jan.  Find out how to get access to the data at your school and create letters for the parents of female and under-represented minorities that are identified to have AP potential.  I have some sample letters at http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/611.  Feel free to modify these and use them.  You should also hand deliver a letter to each female student and minority that you are trying to recruit.  There are also good materials for women about computing at http://www.ncwit.org/resources.res.talking.young.html and at http://www.dotdiva.org/.


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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gary Litvin  |  November 18, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    “Since the number of schools offering AP CS A has been dropping since 2007-2008 I am glad to see that the number of students taking the exam has increased and that there has been some improvement in performance.”

    This report is seriously flawed and is either an inexcusable oversight or a deliberate manipulation of data, because the AB exam data is not taken into account. An AP CS AB exam was offered in 2009 but not in 2010. The total number of students who took an AP CS exam, A or AB, in Georgia was 743 in 2009 vs. 692 in 2010. This is a decrease, not an increase. One might argue, of course, somewhat disingenuously, that students who would take the AB exam in 2010 simply opted out of the AP program; it is much more likely, though, that most of them took the A exam — the only option available in 2010. This also easily explains higher average grades, since stronger students took an easier exam. 103 black students took the A or AB exam in Georgia in 2009; only 68 took the exam in 2010. A similar decrease of the total AP CS exam takers from 2009 to 2010 — from 20,961 to 19,390 — took place nationwide.

    I am aware of Barbara’s hard work and relentless efforts promoting AP CS and CS education in general in Georgia and nationwide. It is especially disturbing, then, that she would produce a flawed report, since she is positioned to take credit for the “growth” of the AP CS program in Georgia.

    Gary Litvin
    http://www.skylit.com

    Reply
    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  November 19, 2010 at 7:01 am

      Gary, the report is not flawed, nor is it an oversight or a manipulation. The report does not include AP CS Level AB because AP CS Level AB no longer exists. She’s reporting only Level A test-takers. Those are the only numbers she is reporting on for past years, and (of course) those are the only numbers she’s reporting on for this year. Combining the scores creates a false impression, as you are doing here: The number of students taking two exams (Level A and Level AB) in the past will, understandably, be more than the number of students taking a single exam this year. Barb is saying that Level A is grown in Georgia — period.

      Level AB is gone, Gary. Level A IS AP CS. All we can do is compare apples-to-apples, Level A to Level A.

      Reply
      • 3. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  November 19, 2010 at 9:50 am

        I end up agreeing (in part) with both of you. Comparing CS A+CS AB with CS A only is unfair, because some students took both exams, inflating the old numbers. Comparing CS A to CS A is unfair, because some students who would have taken the AB if it still existed are now taking the CS A exam. There is no way to compare apples to apples when the exams being offered have changed.

        Since we don’t have access to data about how many students took both exams in the past, we don’t know which comparison is fairer. I suspect, however, that Gary is closer to the truth than Mark here, and that the total number of CS students in high school has dropped, not gone up, and the quality has not improved.

        Reply
      • 4. Gary Litvin  |  November 19, 2010 at 10:49 am

        Barb is saying that Level A is grown in Georgia — period.

        While technically true, this statement alone does not describe the whole picture — in fact it creates a misleading picture and certainly is not a cause for celebration. I believe considering the total size of the AP CS program is, in fact, comparing apples to apples.

        gasstationwithoutpumps below correctly points out that some students potentially took both exams. I believe the number of such occurrences was very small. Interestingly, only 12% of all the girls who took an AP CS exam in Georgia in 2009 chose the AB exam. For boys that number was 23%. Therefore, we would expect a larger increase in A exam takers from 2009 to 2010 among boys then among girls. And indeed we see 21% growth in the A-only category among boys and 0% growth among girls.

        Combining the scores creates a false impression, as you are doing here: The number of students taking two exams (Level A and Level AB) in the past will, understandably, be more than the number of students taking a single exam this year.

        To state the obvious, AP CS A and AB exams were related — the same students, interested in CS, chose one or the other with little overlap. It is Barb’s treatment of the data and her decision to disregard the AB data that creates a false impression of growth.

        Reply
        • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  November 19, 2010 at 1:55 pm

          Gary, you want to count “total size of AP CS program,” as measured in terms of test-takers. I’m not interested in doing that because AB + A is different from A which will again be different from A + “Computer Science: Principles” when that starts in a few years. We’re just counting Level A vs. Level A vs. Level A here. Growing Level A is the only way to grow AP CS for the next five years.

          We know that test-taking is an inaccurate measure of the size of the AP CS program. For example, we know that students in predominantly minority high schools undertake the test — a smaller percentage of students in the AP CS class will actually take the test. If we care about the number of students who are studying AP level CS, and we care about broadening participation, then the test-taking numbers alone don’t tell us enough. However, it’s a percentage, so if we can grow the test-takers, we’re probably growing the program.

          And what we really care about is the number of students who are learning something about CS in high school, as opposed to simply absorbing the negative stereotypes and misinformation that we know is prevalent in pre-teen Americans. I have no good way of measuring that at this time, though we’re actively looking for ways to measure it.

          The facts as Barbara stated them are true. We are measuring what we said that we were measuring: Test-taking in AP CS A. Your suggestion that her report was a “deliberate manipulation of the data” is rude and wrong. I’m sorry that the AB is gone, Gary, and I’m sorry that you’re so upset about it. Don’t defame Barb’s character because you’re angry at the College Board.

          Reply
          • 6. Gary Litvin  |  November 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm

            The facts as Barbara stated them are true.

            Mark, this is true. However, normally, when numbers are presented, it is with the goal of drawing conclusions from them. The way Barbara has presented the numbers leads to a wrong conclusion. I have found Barbara’s thanking teachers for their hard work resulting in a “very nice increase” and better grades disingenuous and condescending.

            We can return to the discussion of the AP CS “growth” in 2011, when there is no opportunity to present incomplete data.

            Mark, please do not psychoanalyze my motives for criticizing your approach. In fact, I am not angry at the College Board — as a private institution they have the right to offer whatever exams they wish. I am angry at those educators who welcome the dilution of CS education standards and present it as growth.

            Reply
  • 7. haritha  |  November 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Is there a list of high schools in the US offering CS course (for AP CS A)?

    Reply
    • 8. Mark Guzdial  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:42 am

      The College Board knows all the high schools in the US that pass the AP audit.

      Reply
  • 9. Few taking AP CS A exam « Gas station without pumps  |  November 23, 2010 at 3:12 am

    […] looked at the statistics on number of students taking AP exams, by state. This was prompted by a post on Mark Guzdial’s blog, which provided a summary of the state-by-state statistics for the AP Computer Science A […]

    Reply
  • […] mentioned a few weeks ago that the 2010 AP CS results are out.  Our external evaluator, Tom McKlin of The Findings Group, just sent us his […]

    Reply

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