College Board Officially Launches New AP® Computer Science Principles Course to Increase Student Engagement in Computing
New course is designed to be rigorous, engaging, and accessible for all students, and to increase participation among females and underrepresented minorities
NEW YORK — The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that of the 9.2 million science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs in 2020, 4.6 million will be in computing. However, less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science. Among these students, only a limited portion are women and underrepresented minorities. To address the challenge of making computing course work more engaging and accessible for all students, and to better prepare a pipeline of STEM majors, the College Board, with the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), has developed Advanced Placement® (AP®) Computer Science Principles. Schools will be able to begin offering the new AP course in fall 2016. The first exam will be administered May 2017.
Students who take AP math and science courses are more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in STEM disciplines, making access to these courses particularly important. This relationship between AP courses and the choice of a STEM major holds true across several groups of students most underrepresented in STEM majors today: women and minorities.
“Jobs in computing are truly the jobs of our nation’s future, and it’s critical that we ensure that students of all backgrounds have the interest and preparation to pursue them,” said Lien Diaz, the College Board’s senior director for AP Computer Science. “AP Computer Science Principles aims to appeal to a broader audience by allowing flexibility for the use of a variety of computing tools and languages in the course and also by emphasizing how computing innovations affect people and society. The course is designed to introduce students to relevant computing topics, providing an understanding of the fundamental concepts of programming, its breadth of application, and its potential for transforming the world we live in.”
“We are thrilled about the launch of the AP Computer Science Principles course, the result of many years of collaboration with the College Board and leading experts in computer science education,” said Jan Cuny, Program Director for Computer Science Education and Workforce Development at NSF. “We are committed to ensuring that our future STEM workforce reflects our nation’s rich diversity. This new course will broaden the appeal of computing to a wider group of students by focusing on the creative aspects of computing and computational thinking practices that enable students to be creators, not just users, of technology.”
Currently the College Board offers AP Computer Science A, which focuses on programming skills. The course teaches students how to code in a specific language (Java) and has historically appealed to students who already demonstrate an interest in programming as a career path. Although AP Computer Science A had the fastest growth rate of any AP subject in 2014, participation is still made up of 82 percent white and Asian students. In addition, female students represented only 20 percent of AP Computer Science A Exam takers.
Students who take AP Computer Science Principles learn to create computational artifacts and are encouraged to apply creative processes when developing these artifacts to solve problems. Through these experiences, students learn the role and impact of technology and programming as a means to solve computational problems and create exciting and personally relevant artifacts. Students design and implement innovative solutions using an iterative process similar to what artists, writers, computer scientists, and engineers use to bring ideas to life.
In addition to funding from NSF, the College Board developed the course in partnership with colleges and universities across the United States.
The College Board is working to make additional details about the course regularly available to educators, students, and parents. The College Board website will provide up-to-date information about the course and exam, and a dedicated online Teacher Community will be made available for teachers to connect with each other, discuss teaching strategies, and share resources.
AP Computer Science Principles is just one example of the College Board’s and NSF’s ongoing commitment to expanding access to challenging course work in the STEM disciples. More information about the College Board’s AP STEM Access Program, designed to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented minority and female high school students who participate in AP STEM courses, is available online. More information about NSF’s computer science education offerings is available online.
The College Board
The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT® and the Advanced Placement Program®. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and schools. For further information, visit www.collegeboard.org.
The National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
College Board Communications Office
Aaron Dubrow, Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, NSF