Equity & Diversity

More Students—But Few Girls, Minorities—Took AP Computer Science Exams

By Holly Kurtz — December 19, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In one state, Montana, no female, African-American, or Hispanic student participated, an Education Week analysis of AP data found.

Of the 34 AP subject exams administered in 2014, computer science experienced the highest annual growth rate, with the number of exams administered increasing by 26 percent since 2013 to 39,278, according to the College Board, the New York City-based organization that oversees the AP program. That one-year increase is the test’s biggest in at least a decade.

Participation rates for female, Hispanic, and black students increased at even higher rates, with the number of test-takers in these groups growing by more than one-third from 2013 to 2014.

College Board spokesperson Katherine Levin attributed a major portion of the increase to the AP STEM Access Program. The year-old initiative aims to increase female and underrepresented-minority participation in science, technology, engineering, and math through a $5 million grant from Google.

Still, this year’s large increases in participation by underrepresented groups failed to close the AP computer science participation gap.

Females remained underrepresented in 2014, comprising just 20 percent of total AP computer science test-takers, up only slightly from 19 percent last year.

The percentage of African-American test-takers also held steady at around 4 percent while the share of Hispanic participants increased slightly to about 9 percent from 8 percent. In comparison, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education calculates that, nationwide, black and Hispanic students made up 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively, of the high school class of 2014.

A geographic breakdown suggests that some states have farther to go than others when it comes to closing the AP computer science achievement gap.

Among the 49 states in which at least one student took the computer science exam, 12 had no black students participating this year.

That’s up from 11 states with no black participants in 2014, when a Georgia Institute of Technology research scientist conducted a similar analysis.

While most of the states without any African-American test-takers have very small populations of black students, in one, Mississippi, about half the members of the class of 2014 were black, according to projections by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Another state with no black computer science test-takers was Kansas, where about 7 percent of the class of 2014 was black. The District of Columbia school system had the highest percentage of black test-takers (36 percent) while Maryland had the highest number (192).

Six states had no Hispanic test-takers, down from eight last year. All were states with relatively small Hispanic populations. Florida and Texas had the highest percentages of Hispanic test-takers (21 percent each). Texas had the highest number (968).

“We believe low AP Computer Science A Exam participation among traditionally underrepresented minority and female students has been an encouragement and access issue, but are hopeful to see the focus is shifting,” wrote Ms. Levin of the College Board in an email to Education Week. “Twenty-five states now allow computer science to count towards high school graduation requirements, and organizations like Code.org are helping to introduce the subject in earlier grades.” Code.org is a Seattle-based nonprofit that promotes access to computer science classes.

Ms. Levin also noted that the College Board will roll out a new AP Computer Science Principles course and exam in 2016-17. While the current computer science test focuses mainly on programming, the new exam will aim to appeal to a broader range of students by focusing on such areas as using technology to solve problems creatively.

A version of this article appeared in the January 07, 2015 edition of Education Week

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Proposed Title IX Overhaul: Key Questions on What's Next
The U.S. Department of Education's proposed rules covering sex descrimination in education enter the public comment process.
6 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at a White House event in April.
Susan Walsh/AP
Equity & Diversity LGBTQ Students Would Get Explicit Protection Under Title IX Proposals
But the U.S. Department of Education did not include transgender participation in sports in the latest version of revised Title IX regulations.
6 min read
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. Students and school district officials in Utah are outraged after a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week. A rally was held the following day in response to show support for the LGBTQ community.
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a 2021 rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School in Millville, Utah.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP
Equity & Diversity Native American Advocates Testify on Need for Recovery Efforts From Boarding School Trauma
The testimony follows an investigation that found tens of thousands of Native American children suffered abuse at government boarding schools.
3 min read
Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland visits the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, Friday, June 17, 2022. Haaland spoke of the U.S. Department of Interior's efforts to help Native American communities heal from Indian Boarding School policies during a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is keeping an intense focus on the Interior Departments investigation into abuse of Native American children in government boarding schools.
Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP
Equity & Diversity 5 Ways Title IX Transformed School Sports (and More)
On the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights law, here are five ways it transformed sports and schooling and still does.
4 min read
Monique Lopes, 16, far left, dresses with unidentified football players at Pepin High School prior to practice Monday, Sept. 27, 1999, in Pepin, Wis.
High school girls get ready for football practice at Pepin High School in Pepin, Wis., in a 1999 photo.
Steve Kinderman/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP