New Advanced Placement Course Provides a Huge Boost to Women in Computer Science

A new Advanced Placement Program for high school students established by the National Science Foundation, The College Board, and, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities, appears to be meeting with success in increasing the number of young women taking courses in computer science.

The College Board last fall introduced a new course and exam called Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles. The existing AP computer science course was focused on the Java programming language. But the new course is more about how computers can be used to solve real-world problems. And previous studies have shown that such a focus can be more appealing to women than other more technical STEM courses.

The data shows that in 2016, 12,642 women took a computer science Advanced Placement examination. With the introduction of AP Computer Science Principles, the number of women taking a computer science Advancement Placement test rose to 29,708 in 2017. Surveys by show that 70 percent of the students who take an AP examination in computer science will continue in the field when they get to college.

There is much progress to be made. Even with the huge increase in the number of young women taking Advanced Placement courses in computer science, women are only about a quarter of all students who take these courses. This is up from 18 percent in 2013. has prepared almost 60,000 elementary and middle school teachers to introduce computer science in their classes. And nearly 900 new teachers have been trained to teach AP Computer Science Principles with the goal that diversity will continue to increase in the field.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields

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