What’s Working in Computer Science Education Now

College Board’s CS courses plus teacher training create pathways for underrepresented students

computer science
(Image: iStock.com/sturti)

Last week was Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 5 –Dec. 11), a week set aside to engage students in what is now probably the hottest STEM subject.

Beginning this school year, the College Board made available to students across the country a new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles course. AP Computer Science Principles offers a broad introduction to computer science that goes beyond coding. Additionally, another AP course, Computer Science A, continues to be the fastest growing AP course.

This is interesting in light of the fact that once-touted coding academies have recently come under fire for not adequately preparing their graduates for jobs. Maybe those coding schools would work, however, for students who’ve taken the new AP CS Principles.

A New Course

 

More than 40 high schools have piloted the new course, and the College Board has trained more than 2,600 teachers—particularly in schools that serve underrepresented students.

I spoke with a couple of teachers and students about their experience, including Emmanuel Onyeador, who’s been teaching in Oakland, California, for more than 20 years. In 1996, at a time when schools in Oakland—a fairly large district of more than 45,000 students—offered no courses in computer science, Onyeador started a computer science and technology academy at Oakland Technical High School.

“I started the computer academy to help address the issue of underrepresentation of girls and minorities in computer science,” he told me in an email. “It was about bringing awareness to underserved […]students who, during the dot. com boom, knew nothing about careers in the computing field.”

A Course for ‘All Students’

 

Onyeador describes the new course, saying, “The AP CSP is designed for all students. It has multiple entry points, so every student can easily get involved in any part of it. It is non-threatening and can be project-based. It employs computational thinking practices and collaboration.”

The course doesn’t require a computer science background, Onyeador says. “I have a student who is so fascinated after trying it for the first six weeks this school year, he now wants to be part of the Computer Academy and is interested in CS as a career.” Oakland Technical High School also has academies in engineering and health.

Students have graduated from the Computer Academy at Oakland Tech and gone on to college to continue preparing themselves for tech careers. Some have already graduated and are working in the field.

For more about the new course, go here.