RESPECT 2015 Preview: Project Rise Up 4 CS

August 12, 2015 at 7:43 am 3 comments

Our second RESPECT paper is by Barbara Ericson and Tom McKlin. Barb has been developing this cool intervention based on the Texas-based Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP) from AP Strategies (see paper about that work) and Betsy DiSalvo’s Glitch (see blog post here). Barb is offering financial incentives to African American students to encourage them to take advantage of additional learning opportunities (e.g., attend webinars and face-to-face workshops), and then pass the AP CS exam. NMSI has also offered grants to states to replicate the Texas APIP project (e.g., blog post at NMSI).

Barb 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 Science: A Tale of Two States,” describes Barb’s efforts to replicate the project in another state, and Tom’s efforts to measure what happened.

The bottomline is that in both states where she tried this, the participants had significant improvements in attitudes towards computing from pre to post. Probably the most important attitude change is that the participants had a significant increase in their perceived ability to pass the exam, and some of the students said that they couldn’t have passed the AP CS exam without Project Rise Up 4 CS. Both states had their highest-ever African American AP CS pass rates, though it would be hard to ever make a causal argument that this is due to Project Rise Up 4 CS.

The significant contribution of the paper is the deep understanding of what the project meant to the students, based on interviews. Students talked about their classes and teachers, what worked in Project Rise Up 4 CS, and how the project helped their confidence and knowledge. Barb used undergraduate students to host the webinars and workshops, who served as “near-peer” mentors and role models for the students. Those near-peer mentors were a critical piece in making Project Rise Up work.

Barb’s paper is being highlighted as one of four “Exemplary” papers at RESPECT.

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