SIGCSE Preview: Project Rise Up 4 CS: Increasing the Number of Black Students who Pass AP CS A — by paying them

March 5, 2014 at 1:28 am 6 comments

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.)

Project Rise Up 4 CS: Increasing the Number of Black Students who Pass Advanced Placement CS A

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.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  March 5, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Why controversial? Because payment?

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  March 5, 2014 at 8:06 am

      Yup — I’ve had lots of pushback when I mention this work. It runs counter to majority-class notions of a liberal education.

      • 3. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  March 5, 2014 at 10:34 am

        Isn’t this an instance of a conditional cash transfer (CCT)? They’re implemented at the national level in developing countries (often in conjunction with direct cash transfers: e.g., Brazil’s very successful Bolsa Familia program, which has many echoes).

        Some of these schemes have seen a fair bit of evaluation.

        The fact that the cash is actually a face-saving strategy is really intriguing and why the work by people like Betsy is so interesting. That means it’s _not even_ a CCT scheme. (And some other CCTs also serve as feints.)

        But even if it were one, that seems well worth experimenting with. CCTs are understood and respected. While they are of course debated like every social intervention, the blanket objection that this is counter to a “liberal education” doesn’t seem very useful (and in fact one could argue objecting to this runs counter to some views of what a liberal education should be).

  • […] has published on Project Rise Up 4 CS at SIGCSE (see my blog post on that paper). This new paper, “Helping African American Students Pass Advanced Placement Computer […]

  • […] support African-American students in succeeding at the AP CS exam (see post here from RESPECT and this post here from last year’s SIGCSE). Sisters Rise Up 4 CS is a similar project targeting female students. These are populations that […]

  • […] Rise Up 4 CS and Sisters Rise Up 4 CS are really great ideas (see previous blog posts on the work presented at SIGCSE and at RESPECT) — though I’m obviously biased in my opinion.  I’m grateful that […]


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