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Education Technology

The Whole Story Behind Low AP CS Exam Stats 325

Posted by samzenpus
from the low-expectations dept.
theodp writes "At first glance, the headline in The Salt Lake Tribune — Very Few Utah Girls, Minorities Take Computer Science AP Tests — appears to be pretty alarming. As does the headline No Girls, Blacks, or Hispanics Take AP Computer Science Exam in Some States over at Education Week. Not One Girl Took The AP Computer Science Test In Some States warns a Business Insider headline. And so on and so on and so on. So how could one quibble with tech-giant backed Code.org's decision to pay teachers a $250 "Female Student Bonus", or Google's declaration that 'the ultimate goal of CS First is to provide proven teaching materials, screencasts, and curricula for after-school programs that will ignite the interest and confidence of underrepresented minorities and girls in CS,' right? But the thing is, CollegeBoard AP CS exam records indicate that no Wyoming students at all took an AP CS exam (xls) in 2013, and only a total of 103 Utah students (xls) had reported scores. Let's not forget about the girls and underrepresented minorities, but since AP CS Exam Stats are being spun as a measure of CS education participation (pdf) and equity, let's not forget that pretty much everyone has been underrepresented if we look at the big AP CS picture. If only 29,555 AP CS scores were reported (xls) in 2013 for a HS population of about 16 million students, shouldn't the goal at this stage of the game really be CS education for all?"
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The Whole Story Behind Low AP CS Exam Stats

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  • Alarming? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @10:41AM (#46013105)
    Why is it alarming? People are different, genders are different. What's alarming is that every single job has to be 50-50% by law it seems. Oh except low-paying grunt jobs then it's OK that only men apply there.
  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Monday January 20, 2014 @10:41AM (#46013107) Journal
    How recent is the CS AP exam? I couldn't take CS classes at my high school - I graduated in '98 and high school level comp sci wasn't even a thing yet except at specialty schools. So, the exam itself is probably less than 15 years old - I suspect it's much newer than that.

    AP exams also cost money to take, and they're only worth it if the college you're planning to attend accepts it in exchange for credit. How many colleges accept a passing AP exam score to opt out of Comp Sci 101?
  • by tysonedwards (969693) on Monday January 20, 2014 @10:48AM (#46013163)
    How about this for a catchy headline: "0.2% of US Students Take AP Computer Science Test."
  • Re:Alarming? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rudy_wayne (414635) on Monday January 20, 2014 @10:51AM (#46013217)

    Unfortunately, we have become so mired in politically correct bullshit that it's now almost a crime to actually tell the truth about anything. A lack of women or minorities in a particular field is not a "problem" which needs to be fixed.

    Fact: People who want to study CS will enroll in CS classes. People, regardless of race or gender, who have no interest in CS, will not enroll in CS classes or take CS tests.

  • I blame the nerds for driving everyone else out of certain fields with their naked and open hostility towards: women, minorities, political groups, windows users, console players, facebook users, sports fans, people who haven't read Ender's Game and those who display emotions outside of forums posts and D&D games.

    This isn't a troll. I am seriously blaming nerds for being openly hostile to the wider adoption of Computer Science and programming. It's a problem and the sooner it is owned up to the sooner a solution can be found.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday January 20, 2014 @10:57AM (#46013287) Homepage

    This is an Advanced Placement exam, so we expect few people will take it. You only take this exam if:
    - You are going into the field
    - You went to a school that taught the advanced stuff
    - You have an interest in that as a major
    - You think you will pass it
    - Your intended college will give you something for it

    So when very few students take it, that isn't a big problem. I bet the next headline on this topic will be in a few years from now, when some organization has 50% of the population taking the exam and they want to either lower the passing criteria because so few students pass it, or change the test because everyone teaches to the test and colleges stop accepting it because it is a useless measure.

    You mostly increase participation in this test by making sure that those students who meet the above criteria are aware of it. I know people who may have passed it, but never knew it was available or were intimidated by it, etc.

  • Re:Alarming? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:05AM (#46013377)

    Unfortunately, we have become so mired in politically correct bullshit that it's now almost a crime to actually tell the truth about anything. A lack of women or minorities in a particular field is not a "problem" which needs to be fixed.

    Fact: People who want to study CS will enroll in CS classes. People, regardless of race or gender, who have no interest in CS, will not enroll in CS classes or take CS tests.

    Couldn't agree more. It's pretty damn sad when the politically correct bullshit has gone so far as to defend those who don't even need or want to be defended.

    And it's ironic that in fields where women have typically represented the overwhelming majority, we don't suddenly see this equally as a "problem".

  • by theodp (442580) on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:06AM (#46013401)

    AP CS stats spin [latimes.com] in Sunday's LA Times by a member of Code.org's Advisory Board: 'Unfortunately, only a narrow band of students - predominantly white and Asian males - is developing the necessary skills to step into these high-paying jobs in computer science. Latinos, African Americans and girls of all ethnic backgrounds are being left behind. In 2013, 29,555 students took the Advanced Placement computer science exam, but only 18% were female, 4% African American and 3% Mexican American...A great majority of today's computer scientists started down their career paths because of "preparatory privilege."'

  • Re:So, whom to H8? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:10AM (#46013429)

    Heh.

    REAL REASON ==> HS girls don't want to take a class filled with Slashdot types.

    REAL REASON #2 ==> AP Computer Science classes are mostly offered in the wealthy suburbs where few minorities live.

  • Re:So, whom to H8? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:14AM (#46013469)
    Wow. This would mean that these so-called "nerds" have tremendous influence on high school students. Given how even among computer users, they constitute a small minority, I find this claim dubious.
  • Re:So, whom to H8? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:16AM (#46013505)
    Well, even though I'm highly suspicious of the original claim, girls are not minorities (unless you're Chinese).
  • Re:Alarming? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:18AM (#46013533)

    And it's ironic that in fields where women have typically represented the overwhelming majority, we don't suddenly see this equally as a "problem".

    I see the shortage of males in K-12 teaching roles as a problem.
    As for the rest, let people learn what they want and try to carve a life out of it. Maybe your dual study of presentation arts and lungfish anatomy [wikipedia.org] will lead to a life of semi-skilled labor at a factory, or maybe you will find your audience and become a new art sensation. Go, pursue your desires, and keep some backup options until they succeed.

  • by GT66 (2574287) on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:24AM (#46013615)
    The problem is this: everywhere "non-minority" males compete and excel, they are accused of bias and the problem is resolved with constraints that increasingly cripple competitive males until whatever field the social crusaders are destroying looks enough like their paintings.

    But there's a flip side to this as well, individuals who may have no real interest in a particular field are being herded into them at the prodding of these social crusaders. How is it any better for society to tell a female or a minority, "We don't like the field you chose so choose again and make sure you choose the one WE want you to be in." What sort of bias does that represent? If a person chooses not to take a choice based on a perception of bias in that choice, *AT THE LEAST* they have had an opportunity to exercise a choice. In the social crusader's paradigm, that person at the worst HAS NO CHOICE and at best can make another choice and endure potential public shaming. There are a plethora of articles out there of women being shamed for making choices in their own interest that do not hew closely enough to preferences of the dominating social crusader class.

  • Re:So, whom to H8? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:31AM (#46013719)

    Unless you are just over sensitive.
    However thinking back on my life, there were a lot of things that I have done, that created hostility towards myself first.

    A friendly insult from a wise cracker, taken to be a large insult, leading to you escalate it to hating the person, and retribution.
    Going to an area of people who were neutral to you, and jumping and making assumptions about them.
    Dissing things that they find interesting and important...

    Lets face it, we have done plenty to make the world hostile towards us, and we could have started it.

  • by Zeorge (1954266) on Monday January 20, 2014 @11:45AM (#46013899)
    No, really. It's like with math. If you are serious about either the CS or other science field you go and take those classes at a community college. The HS program is built around the low-common denominator. The rationalization to spend money on programs that will have a low ROI is not there. You are going to need a school district with a lot of kids and with a lot of kids interested in sciences in order to promote the better science programs. This is how you get the magnet schools where they pool all these like minded kids together as it's more effective, money wise, to have these programs in one location. Spreading them out over an entire school district would be costly and would ultimately be under utiltized. So, if you are really good at math and computer science, etc, the best option for everyone is to go to a commuity college and take those courses. Not only will you learn more, the equipment will probably be better, and, you can actually transfer these credits into a four-year program. I think a solution would be for a HS to focus on being a HS and for kids that have the talent refer them to a better equipped facility, at no additional cost to the parents.
  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:01PM (#46014163)

    Nerds are only openly hostile toward the world at large because it was openly hostile to us first.

    I'm guessing you self identify as a "nerd". That's cool, I suppose I am one as well - I certainly was one in my youth. But I'm relatively old compared to most of the folks reading this so maybe I've gained a little insight. Hope it helps.

    The world is NOT any more hostile to "nerds" than to anyone else. Almost everyone finds the world to be a harsh place because it is. But not because it is hostile but rather because it is indifferent. If you act hostile towards the world just because you perceive you are being treated unjustly then you are in all likelihood simply hurting yourself. Your value and how you will be treated is based on what you can do for other people. Hard to be of value to others if you are openly hostile towards them. You cannot control how the world treats you but you can control how you respond to it. Think of it this way, would you respond well to someone who thinks the world hates them and lashes out at everyone?

    In reality a lot of "nerds" are pretty smart people who in the long run do rather well for themselves. Smarts in the adult world is a highly valued commodity. Develop some social skills to go along with those smarts and that's a recipe for success. Your value in the this world is based on what you can do for other people. Companies do not hire you because you are a nice guy or a hard worker. Women do not date you because of your high IQ. You have to bring more to be of value. You social status is based on what you can do for others and what assets you bring to the party. In school being smart mostly only benefits yourself. Among young people with undeveloped empathy and social skills, this can be a hard social situation at times but it doesn't mean "nerds" have it worse than anyone else. I assure you that it is no easier to be socially adept but academically challenged - different but no easier. Very few people have the whole package.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:22PM (#46014463)

    A lack of women or minorities in a particular field is not a "problem" which needs to be fixed.

    You should not be so certain of that. The question is NOT should more women be in CS (or engineering in general) but rather why do not more women enter in the first place? The reason we care about the answer is because of the subtext question which is "are we getting the best possible people into the field?". It is reasonable to ask if we are unintentionally (or intentionally) driving talented women away from the field who might otherwise make valuable contributions.

    Fact: People who want to study CS will enroll in CS classes. People, regardless of race or gender, who have no interest in CS, will not enroll in CS classes or take CS tests.

    That is true but it isn't really the question being asked. The question is WHY does CS tend to skew so heavily male? I've got an engineering degree and the only field that seems to skew more heavily male is the catholic priesthood. I had many classes where less than 5% of the students were women. As a professional it is quite uncommon for me to run into female engineers. Unlike activities requiring raw physical strength, engineering does not obviously confer any physiological advantage to men so it seems reasonable to ask why so few women enter the field? No one has a definitive answer so far but that merely indicates that the question is a difficult one, probably with a multi-factorial answer. Perhaps the answer is uninteresting and things are fine the way they are but we don't know that unless we ask the question and search for the answer.

  • Re:So, whom to H8? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aynoknman (1071612) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:27PM (#46014527)

    Heh.

    REAL REASON ==> HS girls don't want to take a class filled with Slashdot types.

    REAL REASON #2 ==> AP Computer Science classes are mostly offered in the wealthy suburbs where few minorities live.

    REAL REASON #3 Very few high schools in the US offer AP classes in CS. My high school only had AP classes in English, History, and Mathematics. In fact, no school in my entire state offered AP classes in CS when I was a student.

    REAL REASON #3a It's difficult to fund and find competent teachers for AP classes in CS. The old saw "Those who can't do teach" is pertinent here. The intersection of "those who can do CS" and "those willing to take a salary cut to a teacher's salary" and "those willing to put up with the BS that a high school teacher does" is not quite the empty set, but must be pretty close.

  • by pla (258480) on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:37PM (#46014643) Journal
    The geek may be well on the way to be as marginalized by a minority and aging white population as the GOP.

    Funny thing about "minorities"...

    When a small percentage of the population has nothing particularly special to offer the rest of the population, we worry about them becoming marginalized and ignored, possibly even subject to prejudice.

    When a small percentage of the population has something that everyone wants, something that most people don't have the capacity to get for themselves, and especially something that others can't take by force - We call them "elites", not "minorities".


    Now, that said, I have no doubt that some day - probably within my lifetime, though hopefully not before I retire - computer programming will become a task best performed by computers themselves. At that point, this particular elite may well lose their status; until then, if you want your Twitter and your Facebook and your GMail and your YouTube and your MineCraft and your online porn, you will pay the IT elites pretty much whatever they ask for.
  • Correction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @12:39PM (#46014667)
    When I was in HS , HS girl were most NOT interested into physic, math, and similar (like CS), but were overrepresented in the rest. That despite all the professors trying to make more girl goes into those domain (not a new phenomena). 20 years later it is more of the same. Maybe, just maybe, the average girl/women are not that interrested into pure abstract logic in average ? Just like the average man is not interrested (in average) in teaching young schooler ?
  • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Monday January 20, 2014 @01:23PM (#46015201)

    I took a breast feeding class when we had my first child. I do not produce the milk in my family, however, and while there may be few ladies entering some technical fields in certain schools, I suspect that it's more to do with a BAD SCHOOL than with some barrier to women actually getting into a computer course.

    Nobody tried to stop me from taking a course in breast feeding, though I didn't see a lot of dads in the class. Shocking.

  • Re:So, whom to H8? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @01:28PM (#46015257)

    You should let Sheri Dew, the Mormon CEO of the Mormon publishing company Deseret Book know that. She must have missed your anti-Mormon memo. Sorry to rain on your anti-Mormon nonsense with a dose of reality.

  • Re:So, whom to H8? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by johnwallace123 (1173071) on Monday January 20, 2014 @02:22PM (#46015803)

    Great idea!

    OK, now this grad student is certified to teach high school, right (which means he double-majored in secondary education and computer science)? We can't have any uncertified teachers corrupting the minds of our youth.
    Cool, and he's completed his mandatory background check that he has to pay for too, right (and that will take about a year to process)? Excellent!
    And he's also going to participate in the mandatory training sessions at the high school held at 7 am, even though he isn't scheduled to come in until 1 pm.

    Teaching high school is WAY different than teaching college. The barrier to entry is much higher and the requirements much different than those of a standard "industry" job. Not to mention the pay sucks. This might be a reason why the CS teacher at most high schools is a math/science teacher who knows how to use Windows and may have taken an intro to CS elective in college.

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