In fall 2016, AP launched its newest course, AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP). AP CSP was designed to broaden the invitation to computer science, especially to students who are traditionally underrepresented in the computer science field. More than 2,500 schools are offering AP CSP in the 2016-17 school year, making it the largest course launch in AP’s 60-year history.
Data show that many students who are likely to do well on an AP Exam in computer science or other STEM subject do not go on to take the exam in high school. For example, out of all students in the class of 2016 whose scores on the PSAT/NMSQT showed they would likely do well on the AP Computer Science A Exam, less than 9% took the exam. Among the rural students and female students in that group, less than 5% took the exam. AP CSP was built to appeal to students who have the potential to succeed in a college-level computer science class but who perhaps do not believe that computer science—or STEM courses in general—are for them.
For rural students, especially, AP CSP offers a way to get familiar with the foundational concepts of computer science. AP CSP classes can be led by teachers from a variety of backgrounds, which allows more rural schools to offer the course.
AP CSP Students Win State Contest
Gina McCarley’s AP CSP class at Lawrence County High School in rural Moulton, Alabama, is an example of how rural schools are using AP CSP to get students interested in and prepared for high-demand technology jobs. Alabama currently has more than 4,300 open computing jobs, but produces fewer than 500 computer science college graduates each year. McCarley’s class aims to change this by appealing to a wide range of students—not just those who are already deeply interested in coding—and allowing them to be creative and pursue projects in the topic areas that interest them.
Some of McCarley’s students, for example, worked together this year to develop an app that matches the needs of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) patients with local services—an app that recently won first place in Alabama’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. Megan Molan, a dedicated ROTC student who is in McCarley’s class, was part of the group that built the ALS app. AP CSP is the first computer science class Megan has ever taken. “I really learned a huge amount about critical thinking and problem solving,” she said, “basically, the skills I thought I’d learn in college.”
The broad and multidisciplinary nature of AP CSP means that teachers in disciplines other than computer science can teach it effectively. Learn more about AP CSP professional development opportunities.
States Support AP CSP
Through AP CSP, states have the potential to significantly increase the number of both trained computer science educators and computer science courses available.
In December 2016, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that Nevada would offer AP CSP in every school district in the state beginning in the 2017-18 school year. Nevada sees AP CSP as a crucial part of its goal of expanding computer science education and “providing students with skills that will help them to succeed in school and in the jobs of the new Nevada.”
Through a partnership with the Michigan Mathematics and Science Centers Network, Code.org, and the College Board, as many as 72 teachers in Michigan will be able to attend no-cost summer training to teach AP CSP. The teachers will be recruited from throughout the state, with hubs in the east, west, and Upper Peninsula, ensuring that all students, from urban, suburban, and rural areas of Michigan will have access to educators who have been trained to teach AP CSP. In Michigan there are currently nine open computing jobs for every student who earns a computing degree. Through this partnership to train more teachers in AP CSP, the state is hoping to fill those jobs with students educated in Michigan.