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Computer Science and Advanced Placement

Advanced Placement (AP) Contextual Data

Statewide data from 2019-20 and in all AP subject areas showed that just under 17% of high school students took an AP exam. For that same period, data show that AP coursework (one or more courses) were offered in approximately 88% of school districts.

Computer Science Related Information

The College Board currently offers two different courses that relate to computer science: AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles.

As noted in the Fall 2020 Course and Exam Description, “AP Computer Science A (CSA) introduces students to computer science through programming” (p. 7). In addition, they state that, “AP Computer Science A is equivalent to a first-semester, college-level course in computer science.” (ibid)

As noted on the AP Central website’s description of the Computer Science Principles (CSP) course, “AP [CSP] introduces students to the foundational concepts of the field and challenges them to explore how computing and technology can impact the world” (from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-computer-science-principles?course=ap-computer-science-principles, accessed June, 2021).

The two complement one another as well. As noted on this same website,

“The AP Computer Science Principles course complements AP Computer Science A by teaching the foundational concepts of computer science as it aims to broaden participation in the study of computer science. The AP Computer Science A course focuses on computing skills related to programming in Java.”

The College Board and the DPI have been promoting the use of AP CSP in an effort to provide more opportunities in AP for students of color, students on free/reduced-price lunch, English learners, and other underserved students. Of note, CSP was the “...largest course launch in the AP Program history…” (website, ibid). The research shared by College Board indicates that this course has had success in diversifying the student population in AP, including for female students. In addition, their website shared research findings, as follows:

“The data show that students who take AP CSP are more than three times as likely (11.7 percentage points) to declare a computer science major at the start of college compared to similar students who did not have AP CSP available to them (ibid).”

In addition, data show how the CSP course can serve as a foundational course for CSA and other AP STEM related courses and has made inroads in reaching historically underserved students as described below:

“AP CSP students are more diverse than AP CSA students, and AP CSP often provides the first AP STEM experience for Black, Hispanic, and first-generation students who take it” (ibid).

“New research shows AP CSP students are nearly twice as likely (14.3 percentage points more likely) to enroll in AP CSA compared to similar students who went to high school before AP CSP launched. This result holds for female, Hispanic, and first-generation students, and is even larger for Black AP CSP students…” (ibid).

An analysis of 2018-19 AP data showed that AP Computer Science A leads students to take AP Calculus AB over 27% of the time. Similarly, AP Computer Science Principles leads students to take AP Calculus AB over 15% of the time. It is unclear whether taking one or both courses improves students' exam scores in Calculus AB, but it is clear that there is a positive relationship between the two wherein the CSA or CSP course often leads to enrollment in AP Calculus.

State/Regional Data

Per the LEA’s self-reported Roster data, during the 2019-20 school year the number of schools (regardless of the number of students) that offered either CSA, CSP, or both is as follows:

  • 68 schools across the state were offering AP Computer Science A courses. Of these 68 schools, the breakdown by region is as follows:
    • 19 schools in the CESA 1 region
    • 19 schools in the CESA 2 region
    • 2 schools in the CESA 3 region
    • 2 schools in the CESA 4 region
    • 5 schools in the CESA 5 region
    • 6 schools in the CESA 6 region
    • 10 schools in the CESA 7 region
    • 1 school in the CESA 8 region
    • 3 schools in the CESA 9 region
    • 1 school in the CESA 12 region
  • 53 schools across the state were offering AP Computer Science Principles courses. Of the 53 schools, the breakdown by region is as follows:
    • 23 schools in the CESA 1 region

    • 11 schools in the CESA 2 region

    • 3 schools in the CESA 3 region

    • 3 schools in the CESA 4 region

    • 1 school in the CESA 5 region

    • 5 schools in the CESA 6 region

    • 5 schools in the CESA 7 region

    • 1 school in the CESA 9 region

    • 1 school in the CESA 11 region

Potential Next Steps for LEAs
  • Survey students, families, and others to determine interest in AP, in general, and about specific AP subjects.

  • Survey staff to determine interest in teaching an AP course(s) and what they view as the greatest area(s) of need in their school.

  • Consider how AP CSP could fit into the overall curricular offerings within your school, especially as the need for more STEM-related coursework becomes increasingly critical to address the emerging workforce needs within our state.

  • To learn more about CSP, see research and news stories on topics like addressing the needs of traditionally underserved students and more--linked above.

  • Review CSP online professional development and even mentoring assistance opportunities at https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/professional-development/workshops-summer-institutes/computer-science/computer-science-principles

  • If interest exists, work with the College Board to obtain class authorization.

  • If low enrollment or staff availability is an issue, consider partnering with schools in your region to offer courses across districts.

  • Provide AP options through Wisconsin Virtual School (CSA is currently offered).

  • Reach out to DPI (Mark Schwingle, DPI AP Consultant) for other ideas or questions.

Information compiled by Mark Schwingle, DPI AP Consultant

 
For questions about this information, contact Julie Bormett (608) 266-7921