Getting a Jump on Computer Science Education
Getting a Jump on Computer Science EducationCrystal Barrick, Assistant Director, Communications
This article was originally published in the National PTA's Our Children Magazine (Spring 2017, Volume 43, No. 1) and was edited slightly in June 2017 to reflect more recent information.
When you hear the words “computer science,” do you imagine someone sitting in front of a computer alone, typing code all day and night? Think again.
Kaila Piscitelli was a student at Conrad High School in Connecticut when she created an app that recommends clothes a traveler should pack based on weather forecasts. Her classmate, Lily Sientab, built an app that teaches younger students the alphabet. Hamed Nassaco—who attended the Academy for Software Engineering in New York—uses computer code to write songs.
These students brought their ideas to life in AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP). This new Advanced Placement course from the College Board invites students—even those with no previous coding or programming experience—to use computing tools and skills to pursue their own interests, showcase their creativity, and address real-world issues in their community.
Like other Advanced Placement courses, AP CSP is a college-level course students can take while in high school. The framework for each AP course is created by a panel of experts and college-level educators from each specific field of study. American colleges and universities may grant placement and course credit to students who get qualifying scores on AP Exams.
Learning the basics of computer science can lead to hundreds of career choices, from engineering, law, and medicine to animation, visual arts, and music. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than nine million STEM jobs will open up over the next decade, and half of those will require a computing background.
Yet, through our own research, the College Board has learned that many students who have the potential to succeed in advanced computer science coursework never seize that opportunity—especially female, African American, and Latino students. And we know from the National Science Foundation—a partner in our AP CSP work—that the number of women graduating with computer science degrees is nearly half of what it was in the early 2000s.
By broadening the invitation, and working with our partners at Code.org, Project Lead the Way, states like Kentucky, and districts across the country, we’re working to make computer science education much more widely available to young women, students of color, and students in rural communities. More than 2,500 schools offered AP CSP this fall, and 350 colleges and counting award college credit and placement to students who pass their AP CSP Exams.
All students deserve access to the technology and skills they'll need to succeed in the future. Studying computer science is about using one elaborate tool to solve real-life problems, creatively and collaboratively. In the words of one AP CSP teacher from California, Art Lopez: “If you learn about computer science, you have the ability to change the world.” Lily Sientab, the alphabet-teaching app designer, agrees. “This class is about taking your own ideas and implementing them to create something new. Computer science has shown me that I can try, and try again, and actually accomplish what I set my mind to do.”
To learn more about AP Computer Science Principles and see if the course is a good fit for your child, visit collegeboard.org/CSP.