[Edu-sig] Significant drop in CS interest in high schools

Helene Martin lognaturel at gmail.com
Sat Aug 29 03:21:50 CEST 2009

I just want to offer a little more background on the AP situation.
There used to be two AP CS courses: AP CS A was and remains roughly
equivalent to a semester-long college intro to programming in Java and
AP CS AB was roughly equivalent to a data structures course.  The AB
course was not offered by many schools and because it was one of the
least popular AP tests, the College Board axed it.  There was also an
equity question -- this was the test with the biggest gender and
ethnic bias.  I don't think it would be fair to say the course was
killed against historical interest because that truly was declining.
Also, it was definitely not what most people would need to understand

Jeff, you're right that a teacher could technically offer the
equivalent to AP CS AB.  That being said, without an AP test at the
end of the line, school districts have very little way of knowing
whether a course is good and I sympathize with this in some sense.  It
doesn't make a ton of sense to keep offering a course that can't be
gauged for quality (because no one knows computer science at the
district level) and that only white gamer-types take (generalizing,
but sadly largely true).  Here are the statistics:

To fill the void left by the AP CS AB course, some colleges have been
offering college credit to students of teachers who align their
curriculum in some way.  Here are some details on UW's program:
http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/reges/uwhs/  Teachers across the
nation are transforming their AB courses into UW in the high school

Axing the AB test might actually be a really good thing.  The College
Board is working on creating a new AP test aimed at capturing some of
the things you're talking about that would be good for society and
student future and making it approachable to more students.  Jeanette
Wing's ideas on computational thinking are a big part of that.  Last I
heard, the plan was to give teachers choice over language of
instruction.  Python would be one of those choices so hopefully once
that curriculum gets going there'll be a sharp increase of Python in
high school.


On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 5:07 PM, Jeff Rush<jeff at taupro.com> wrote:
> Lloyd Hugh Allen wrote:
>> I'm a math teacher who uses python for personal purposes, but the cs
>> teacher in my building told me that the higher level cs ab ap was axed
>> for this year - that could contribute to lower enrollment. Apparently
>> ap italian was also on the chopping block until the gov't of italy
>> ponied up....if only there were a wealthy benefactor for cs...
> Now I'm really confused. ;-)  So you're talking about the CS 'courses'
> no the AP tests, right?  I know the AP -tests- are offered only when it
> makes business sense for the testing company but -courses- are under the
> control of the local schoolboard, I thought.
> So you're saying the schoolboard decides what courses to offer based on
> who gives them money, up to and including governments, foreign and
> domestic, instead of what is (a) best for society/future interests of
> the students based on knowledge of trends, or (b) student registration
> demand/historical interest in certain topics?
> I'd love to get into the head of some of these decision makers - what
> wierd view do they have of CS?  They must imagine it being some luxury
> topic, some elective nice to have like Italian for advanced students but
> not something of basic literacy for all students.
> There is a difference between "this is what every citizen should know
> about computers/tech to understand the rapidly changing world around
> them" and "vocational training to become a professional programmer".
> -Jeff
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