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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

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 Should Schools Tell Parents When Students Change Pronouns? California Says No
The law bans schools from passing policies that require notifying parents if their child asks to change their gender identification.
5 min read
Parents, students, and staff of Chino Valley Unified School District hold up signs in favor of protecting LGBTQ+ policies at Don Antonio Lugo High School, in Chino, Calif., June 15, 2023. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Monday, July 15, 2024, barring school districts from passing policies that require schools to notify parents if their child asks to change their gender identification.
Parents, students, and staff of Chino Valley Unified School District hold up signs in favor of protecting LGBTQ+ policies at Don Antonio Lugo High School, in Chino, Calif., June 15, 2023. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Monday, July 15, 2024, barring school districts from passing policies that require schools to notify parents if their child asks to change their gender identification.
Anjali Sharif-Paul/The Orange County Register via AP
Equity & Diversity Which Students Are Most Likely to Be Arrested in School?
A student’s race, gender, and disability status all heavily factor into which students are arrested.
3 min read
A sign outside the United States Government Accountability Office in central
iStock/Getty Images
Equity & Diversity Opinion Are Your Students the Protagonists of Their Own Educations?
A veteran educator spells out three ways student agency can deepen learning and increase equity.
Jennifer D. Klein
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of opening the magic book on dark background.
GrandFailure/iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Enrollment Down. Achievement Lackluster. Should This School Close?
An equity researcher describes how coming district-reorganization decisions can help preserve Black communities in central cities.
Francis A. Pearman
5 min read
Illustration: Sorry we are closed sign hanging outside a glass door.
iStock/Getty