SIGCSE Preview: Measuring Demographics and Performance in Computer Science Education at a Nationwide Scale Using AP CS Data

March 4, 2014 at 1:23 am 3 comments

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:  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. 


Figure 2: Histograms describing (d) the percent of female exam-takers, (e) the number of Black exam-takers, and (f) the number of Hispanic exam-takers. 


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.


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  March 4, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Unrelated to your work but related to a comment in your post: why are SIGCSE and ITiCSE six page conferences? They claim to be flagship conferences in the area, but don’t want to provide the space to say things of substance.

    Heck, the one other place I write six page papers is for Hot* (“Hot Topics in …”) workshops in systems, and those are (a) six pages _plus citations_, and (b) considered to be “opening salvo idea papers” that will subsequently grow into real papers — not papers with results appearing in a flagship conference.

    This issue does not help CS ed’s perception problems.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  March 4, 2014 at 11:20 am

      From your mouth to God’s ears. Even ICER only allows 8 pages. It’s annoyed me for years. I couldn’t get it changed as SIGCSE Program Chair, Conference Chair, or even on the SIGCSE Board. It’s ingrained deeply in the organization.


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