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AP Computer Science Principles Course Increases High School Student Participation in CS

Today, more than 50,000 high school students will take the inaugural Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (AP-CSP) exam. Ruthe Farmer, former senior policy advisor for Tech Inclusion in the White House explains why this is such a significant milestone for computer science education in an article in the Huffington Post.

The AP-CSP course and exam are the result of nearly ten years of dogged work by hundreds of education advocates, researchers, and high school teachers, as well as investments from the National Science Foundation and industry supporters – most notably Dr. Jan Cuny of NSF and Lien Diaz of College Board. After piloting the course at sites around the US, AP-CSP launched in the Fall of 2016 in 2700 classrooms nationwide – the largest launch of an AP course to date.

What’s Different?

AP Computer Science Principles (AP-CSP) is designed to be equivalent to a first-semester introductory college computing course. The course focuses on computational thinking and problem solving, use of computational tools to analyze and study data, societal implications of computing such as security and privacy, and is unique in its focus on fostering students creativity by using computing to address issues relevant to their lives. AP-CSP is additive and parallel to the AP Computer Science A course, which is focused primarily on computer programming. Moreover, AP-CSP is designed to reflect a wider spectrum of computing fields and appeal to a broader range of students.

More importantly, since AP is part of the established system of moving students from high school into college, adding the AP-CSP course and exam creates a structural change that works with and leverages the education system to get to the goal of more students and more diversity of students prepared to study computing fields in college.

Let’s Party!

This is a momentous week for the CS education community. On Tuesday, about 60K students sat for the AP Computer Science A exam, which has steadily grown in participation since 2011. On Friday, an estimated 51K students will take the AP-CSP exam, nearly doubling the number of students taking any AP Computer Science course from 57K in 2016 to 111K combined in 2017. We’ve been working hard for almost ten years to get to this day and I think it is worth shouting about. I plan to kill two birds with one stone by having a margarita in celebration and solidarity!

As we departed the Obama White House, the Office of Science and Technology Policy team collaborated to create a timeline of milestones in science and tech during the administration. It was a really interesting way to visualize all the people and processes that contributed to each project. I think this occasion similarly warrants a timeline of milestones to document the contributions of literally 1000s of educators, researchers, funders, supporters and students that contributed to this process. Please contribute your milestones here and share successes, photos and quotes about your #APCSP experience on all channels. If you want to party with others, join the CSforAll Teachers AP-CSP celebration webinar 5/3/17 at 7PM ET.

To the 2700 dedicated educators that stepped up to teach this course – THANK YOU and happy #TeacherAppreciationWeek!


In addition, Jim Kurose, assistant director of NSF for CISE and Erwin Gianchandani, deputy assistant director of NSF for CISE also shared an announcement celebrating the milestone:

As we mark this milestone, we want to take a moment to thank and congratulate the CISE community for all the hard work and thought leadership that contributed to the successful launch of today’s AP CSP exam!  This effort required the collaboration of researchers, teachers, administrators, parents, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and the public – thank you all!  We especially want to acknowledge NSF’s Jan Cuny for her passionate and unyielding vision and leadership over the last decade; and Owen Astrachan, Amy Briggs, and Lien Diaz, who since 2009 have led the NSF-funded project that resulted in the AP CSP framework.  In addition, we thank the many faculty and teachers who served on the College Board’s CSP Commission and Advisory Boards, as well as those who piloted CSP over these last few years.  Their work has helped ensure that the course is evidence-based; reflects what we know about how students learn; builds students’ transferable, conceptual understanding and inquiry skills; and conveys the content and unifying concepts of CS.  Your collective efforts, combined with those of numerous public and private partners such as, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), CSforAll Consortium, National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), Project Lead The Way (PLTW), New York City Foundation for Computer Science (CSNYC), Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN), and InfoSys Foundation USA – to name just a few – have ensured that CS teachers have the professional development and support they need to teach CSP.

As we mark today’s accomplishment, we also recognize that our work in CS education is not complete.  We must continue to grow the knowledge base and cultivate partnerships to provide all U.S. students with the opportunity to participate in CS education at the K-12 levels.  And we must work to meet the surging demand for CS, in its many forms, at colleges and universities across the country.  By continuing to work together, we will empower a generation of computationally- and data-savvy leaders with the fundamental skills of computer science and computational thinking that they need to succeed in the 21st-century digital world.

Again, congratulations to all on this significant milestone for CS education!

AP Computer Science Principles Course Increases High School Student Participation in CS