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Average HS Student Given Little Chance of AP CS Success 293

Posted by timothy
from the inopportunity-for-all dept.
theodp (442580) writes AP Computer Science is taught in just 10% of our high schools," lamented The White House last December as President Obama kicked off CSEdWeek. "China teaches all of its students one year of computer science." And the U.S. Dept. of Education has made the AP CS exam its Poster Child for inequity in education (citing a viral-but-misinterpreted study). But ignored in all the hand-wringing over low AP CS enrollment is one huge barrier to the goal of AP-CS-for-all: College Board materials indicate that the average 11th grader's combined PSAT/NMSQT score of 96 in reading and math gives him/her only a 20%-30% probability of getting a score of '3' on the AP CS exam (a score '4' or '5' may be required for college credit). The College Board suggests schools tap a pool of students with a "60-100% likelihood of scoring 3 or higher", so it's probably no surprise that CS teachers are advised to turn to the College Board's AP Potential tool to identify students who are likely to succeed (sample Student Detail for an "average" kid) and send their parents recruitment letters — Georgia Tech even offers some gender-specific examples — to help fill class rosters.
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Average HS Student Given Little Chance of AP CS Success

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  • by louic (1841824) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:13AM (#47244759)
    Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in TI
    • +1 WTF too many TLAs.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      It's OK AS. TM ABR in TI would be "AVG(HSS) good AP CS Success%"

    • by rossdee (243626)

      Yep, I thought Armor Piercing CS (gas) round might be useful for getting the crew to bail out so you can capture the tank and use it afterward.

    • by gsslay (807818)

      In all seriousness, would anyone like to provide a glossary?

      CS I can guess, but AP??

      • Advanced Placement (aka 'grade inflation').

  • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:13AM (#47244761) Journal

    So you're suggesting that a K-12 focus on self-esteem doesn't result in outstanding academic ability?

    This just in: difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:24AM (#47244823) Journal
      According to our presently available research and body of technique is there really anything on the table that 'results in outstanding academic ability'?

      We know about some "Don't fuck it up" procedures (lead is not a dietary supplement, lots of early childhood stimulus is good, malnutrition stunts mind as well as body, etc.); and we know some things about getting better or worse results out of students of a given level of ability; but for anything that has some element of 'born, not made', it's a good day when we can accurately identify the good candidates, much less upgrade inadequate ones.

      If your thesis is that 'difficult things are hard and most people can't do them', it wouldn't much matter if the K-12 focus is 'self-esteem', 'classical philology', or 'Measure Theory Bootcamp: No Place For The Weak.'
      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:04AM (#47245047) Homepage

        Being Asian seems to work pretty well.

        • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dbIII (701233) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:20AM (#47245155)
          That's just the visual cue that comes with having parents that give a shit about their children's education.
      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khchung (462899) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:09AM (#47245079) Journal

        According to our presently available research and body of technique is there really anything on the table that 'results in outstanding academic ability'?'

        Parental involvement.

        • I already commented on this thread, or else I"d give you a +1 Insightful.
        • That falls under "'born, not made". You're either born to good parents or you're not.

          • That falls under "'born, not made". You're either born to good parents or you're not.

            Not entirely true. Intelligence has a significant genetic component, but it isn't everything. And other skills or character traits, like hard work, curiosity, discipline, etc. often tend to fall more in the "nuture" category. Putting a kid in a home environment that encourages success will make a difference.

            On the other hand, there have been other studies suggesting that the most important aspects of that nurturing environment for childhood development are based on who the parents/caregivers naturally

        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:13AM (#47245535)
          Actually parental involvement is the very last thing kids need in the educational process. There is a school in Harlem that offers stunning success to low income kids and the way they do it is allowing the kids to visit their homes on Sundays only. These kids are in a learning environment every waking moment during the week. Even hours of sleep are scripted so that being lazy is not an option. So far they have a zero drop out rate, a zero failure rate and every single kid has gone on to complete a degree in college. That is what can be done with ghetto youth.
          • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by boristdog (133725) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:19AM (#47245579)

            How about "Positive parental involvement" then?

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

            by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:51AM (#47245891) Homepage Journal

            Actually parental involvement is the very last thing kids need in the educational process. There is a school in Harlem that offers stunning success to low income kids and the way they do it is allowing the kids to visit their homes on Sundays only.

            Yeah, what that says is that some people are shitty parents. So the saying could be amended to say that children benefit from positive parental involvement. Some people just aren't capable of providing that no matter how hard they try. They should be a) helped to become better people, primarily by not shitting on them systematically, as most of these people are poor and poorly educated and b) strongly encouraged to not become parents to begin with.

        • The only parental involvement I see here is one or more of
          > How dare you expect my angel to show up for class!
          > How dare you expect my angel to turn in homework!
          > How dare you expect my angel to know how to write!
          > How dare you expect my angel to know how to do basic math!
          > How dare you expect my angel to get off the phone!
          > How dare you give my angel anything less than a passing grade!
          Maybe Seattle is just a bad example.
          I am aware there are real parents out there, pe

      • by gweihir (88907)

        The focus on "self-esteem" can make people with high STEM potential think that it doe snot pay off to work hard (and all reasonable STEM education is hard), because the lazy and non-talented ones get just as much recognition and mire for what they invest.

        • I know a fair number of grad students and postdocs who (despite a recent encounter with an aspect of education notably not focused on self esteem) are still extremely pessimistic about the payoffs of working hard at STEM as compared to, say, shmoozing through an MBA and getting an honest job offshoring STEM nerds.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      This just in: difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

      "Educational Standards" proving that if you lower the bar enough, even an idiot can graduate. - Tropico 3/4

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Re ""Educational Standards" proving that if you lower the bar enough, even an idiot can graduate."
        With scholarships, testing early and often you can have the best of both worlds. A large pool of average happy students trapped in debt after 5 years of French or The Silmarillion or interpretive dance vs that few percentage who just seem to find real math jobs?
        The US only has to ensure support a small pool of elite students who where on scholarships or had wealthy parents to fund them into the very best ma
      • by gweihir (88907)

        Graduating is not hard. Graduating in places where the degree actually has meaning is.

    • by Bengie (1121981)
      My cousin said his CS 101 class had about an 80% drop out rate because it was too hard for most. I wonder if the HS classes would be of high enough standard to have the same. I guess I could see the benefit of teaching CS just for "fun", but I would hope the HS doesn't give the children a false sense of hope for their college expectations.
      • High School is completely different than college. If you show up to class in Highschool it is the teacher's job to make sure you pass, and courses do not cost you money either way, so almost no one drops courses

        • by tsqr (808554)

          High School is completely different than college. If you show up to class in Highschool it is the teacher's job to make sure you pass, and courses do not cost you money either way, so almost no one drops courses

          I guess things have changed quite a bit since I was in high school back in the stone age. Difficult elective classes had a significant drop rate, with the droppers usually opting to transfer into one of the "manual arts" (e.g., auto shop or wood shop) classes.

    • This just in: difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

      Correction: most persons can't do them without studying / practicing hard.

      The distinction is absolutely crucial to schools, parents, and nations.

      • by sirwired (27582) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:18AM (#47245143)

        Throughout my entire educational career, I was a slacker. I got decent grades (if not straight A's) without studying, paying much attention in class, or doing homework. I have a natural aptitude for the humanities and the sciences, and am adequate in math. (Better with applied vs. theoretical math.)

        My one exception was foreign languages; I have absolutely no ability whatsoever in foreign languages. In American, I can speed-read, and have reasonable facility with writing. In any other language, it mattered not at all how much I studied, practiced, or did my homework, I was horrible, even by the low standards of an American high-school foreign language class. French, Latin, even American Sign Language as an adult, and I was hopeless. I got barely passing grades in French and Latin out of pity more than anything else.

        Some difficult things are simply difficult for some people, and no amount of hard work is going to fix that. Throwing students against subjects they are unable to master is a waste of resource and is discouraging for both the student and teacher. I'm not saying students shouldn't be challenged; just that the idea that "hard work" will magically enable a student to master any subject is toxic.

      • by Hodr (219920)

        Certain disciplines require critical thinking, not just rote memorization or application of formula. I would suggest that some (possibly many) people cannot study their way into being good at critical thinking and problem solving.

    • Why Bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sycodon (149926) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:15AM (#47245127)

      All those jobs will be going to H-1B visa owners.

      • All those jobs will be going to H-1B visa owners.

        Not all of them. Many will leave the North American Continent entirely.

    • by Jawnn (445279)

      So you're suggesting that a K-12 focus on self-esteem doesn't result in outstanding academic ability?

      This just in: difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

      Especially those people. Right? You've either missed the point of TFA or you are a racist. Don't feel bad. Not everyone gets it. You're still a very special person, in your own way.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Indeed. Most people have no chance of being any good at a STEM subject. It requires specific talents, dedication and a true passion for the subject. Nobody sane would suggest increasing the number of mathematicians by teaching more mathematics in HS (not that HS mathematics has any real connection to University mathematics....). The same approach fails just as well for CS. The only thing you can do is identify those with a STEM talent (1-5% or so of the population) early on, support them with easy access to

  • Not a shocker. (Score:4, Informative)

    by B33rNinj4 (666756) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:18AM (#47244781) Homepage Journal
    Well, when US schools put emphasis and financial focus on sports, something has to be cut or ignored. I live in Texas, and have seen middle schools with larger stadiums than what I had at my high school in Michigan. Sadly, throwing more money at the problem won't solve it, because it's too ingrained in our culture.
    • Hey now, this is Texas! Guns, God, and Football. The holy trinity! Our places of worship is loud and clear.

    • That might be a Texas-specific problem. In New England we don't tend to have that.

    • by Hodr (219920)

      I would suggest that this may have more to do with you living in Texas, than the US. I went to school in 7 different states (military family), and the only one that had any emphasis at all outside of mandatory PE was Texas. For most of my schools they didn't even advertise the football games,so unless you played or knew a player, you had no idea when and where the game took place or who you were playing against.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:23AM (#47244817)

    College Board materials indicate that the average 11th grader's...

    The "average" 11th grader isn't going to be taking AP classes. There is a reason they call it ADVANCED placement. It's supposed to be hard. It's supposed to be for the top end of the bell curve.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I took AP Computer Science in 10th grade, scored a 2 on it. I had some friends who were passionate about programming (doing it outside of High School like myself in C++) who ended changing their career choice just off of that test score, who also got 2s. On one hand, yes the AP class was great in that I got good practice every other day in C++ with a pretty good teacher there to ask questions, but the test itself I found very one sided for the folks who were great test takers. Just because I scored a 2,

  • by jimharris (14678) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:35AM (#47244873) Homepage

    They should integrate programming with math classes. They should start students using Mathematica or Sage as early as possible. Programming math problems would teach both math and programming. Students would see programming as a problem solving tool, and not just another burden of something else to learn. If they integrated programming into math classes they wouldn't have to worry about adding programming classes to their curriculum. They could also integrate programming into other classes like science, or even English.

    • I dunno... You could alway make an argument for integrating any topic into any other, pretty much. Or for keeping them separate.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, you *could*, but you wouldn't always be as right as the one you replied to. Humans are tool-using creatures. Something as abstract as mathematics can be seen as a tool if programming is integrated with mathematics. Plus, it'll make it easier to understand why it works, which is something we desperately need in math education.

        "When am I ever going to use this?" Well, how about right now?

      • by jimharris (14678)

        But don't think that math and programming go together like peanut butter and jelly?

        To figure out how to program a math problem requires learning the math. Turning a problem into an algorithm means learning how the problem works in a very fundamental way.

        • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:32AM (#47245235)

          I'd say there are two very different levels of connection.

          At the most obvious and shallow, computers are good at crunching numbers quickly, and early programming languages were designed to put that power to good use. But nowadays, at least at the application programming level, the focus of average programmers' work tends to be much more on string processing (for web pages, twitter feeds, etc.) and storage/retrieval (databases, etc.) There are certainly mathematical implications of that work, but not so much numerical math.

          Then at the much deeper level you find out that graph theory, topology, and computability have powerful connections to type systems, program correctness proofs, etc. I suspect that my mind can only hold a small fraction of the interesting connections in this area. This is what I'd call serious, deep Computer Science, and this is where I see it really tying in fundamentally to math. To me, this is the purest form of CS, and most CS grads barely grok it and/or care about it. Advances in this area are probably like advances in pure mathematics: it may take decades or even centuries for us to understand their application to the software development changes right in front of us, but when we do, they're transformative. Although maybe that's over-selling it a little.

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      I disagree, on the grounds that math ought to be studied for itself. If you try to do everything in math through CS then you'll get a poor grasp of what math is really all about.

      • by jimharris (14678)

        I agree that everyone should learn as much math and statistics as they can. I think it turns off most kids to math when they teach pure abstract math. Adding programming might make math more appealing and less abstract. Have you ever used Mathematica? I bet grade school kids wold think math was a lot more fun if they learned math with Mathmatica. You wouldn't even have to mention that it involves programming. They should learn the basics of mathematical problems without calculators and programming fir

  • If students are capable of handling AP math, they should be able to handle AP CS--since the way most CS college programs are run, they're basically the same thing.

  • Does anyone know exactly what is taught in a CS AP class? I'm sure a lot of people would love to be in a "AP CS" class, but the cold, hard reality is that CS can be very different than what many people thing. Just learning JavaScript to make a hip HTML 5 website, while entertaining to some, is not Computer Science. But teach Lisp/Scheme to the students to learn the value of S-Expressions, or algorithm development will help lead others down the road of Computer Science. Just Building A WebSite != Computer Sc
    • I'm not sure we should hit kids with the full force of CS theory in their first CS course. I suspect there's a real benefit to giving them something with tangible results and immediately useful skills, like Javascript. Without that, I think they might be unable to see the relevance of the more advanced theory, and lose interest in CS altogether.

      • For a standard high-school "computer" class, yes, I agree with you. 100%. But I'm referring to Advanced Placement classes, where it's gearing you for college credits. It should teach them the same things I've had to learn my first class in CS: basic algorithm development, pointer arithmetic, registers. (My first intro to CS class has us learning C inside and out).

        Is this the exception for CS classes now? Or a typical program?
        • There's probably more than one way to skin the cat, and I don't have enough experience in the design of CS curricula to know which works out better.

          When I took CS 101 as an undergrad, the focus was primarily on using and implementing abstract data types, and getting the hang of programming in general. We did use pointers, but it was in Pascal.

          It worked out okay in the end - most/all of us in that CS 101 class have good careers, and I managed to end up with a PhD in CS. But I suppose data isn't the plural

          • That's interesting to hear. I think my school (University of Delaware, class 2003) mostly assumed you had that entering in the program. It might well have changed.

            That being said, I do take issue with one thing: as far as I can imagine, there is only one way to skin a cat. :)
        • by Hodr (219920)

          No, that's standard fare for a BS in CS. Problem is, many take BA/ or Associates of Arts in CS and believe they are the same thing.

    • It's pretty much equivalent to a CS 101 class in college. Basic object-oriented design, introduction to programming, simple data structures and common algorithms, etc.
  • The headline could just as easily read: Average HS student given little chance of ----------------- success.

    There's not a thing wrong with being average. By its very definition,and including those slightly above or below the mean, it describes the bulk of our human resources.

    Identifying and lifting the gifted out of the noise is always a noble project.

  • by pla (258480) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:59AM (#47245011) Journal
    And we wonder why females have little interest in CS? The male version talks about gaming and creating toys, while the female version sounds like they want to target non-mathphobic social workers.

    All the female programmers I know (yeah yeah, n=3, anecdata sucks) got into it for the same reasons as their male counterparts - The love of ripping into the metaphorical guts of a computer and bending it to their will. The love of gaming, whether or not it satisfies the current BS about "strong female protagonists". The pure joy of losing countless hours in the trance-like state we enter in a really good coding session.

    Then again, they all self-describe as "Tom-boys", so I see it as entirely plausible that those women currently in CS simply fall into the small minority that do like the same things as male geeks. Even if that holds true, however, I find it fairly disturbing that anyone would seriously try to promote a CS degree by offering it in pink.
    • Yeah, I'm not sure what those examples were about. It seems like there should just be one letter that is somewhere in between the boy and girl one, emphasizing the "cool" factor along with the good job prospects and flexible working conditions.
    • No, they're targeting potential breeders, implying that a woman's place is at home, pumping out spawn. Hence the focus on part time and home working.

    • And we wonder why females have little interest in CS? The male version talks about gaming and creating toys, while the female version sounds like they want to target non-mathphobic social workers.

      Yep. Full versions of the letters are available here []. Also notice that the "Girl" letter states that a computing class may be required for any "science and math fields", while the "Boy" letter notes that a computing class may be required for any "science, engineering, and math fields." Even the signature blocks are different, with the "Boy" letter signed by GT's Director of Computing Outreach, while the "Girl" letter is signed "Teacher Name". There are many subtle differences throughout the letters that rea

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:06AM (#47245067) Homepage Journal
    I'm an air force brat and moved around a lot. Back in the '80's I did three years of high school in a school in upstate New York. They had a program with a very clear progression -- they offered a programming course in BASIC, a more advanced programming course in BASIC, a programming course in Pascal and an AP programming course in Pascal. I did the first three and got a look at one of the projects one of the guys in the AP class was doing -- a recursive descent parser in Pascal. Unfortunately in my last year, Dad got moved to Alabama. The school down there didn't have an AP CS class at the time. They did have a couple of fairly basic classes -- one with BASIC and one with Fortran that they'd just started that year. I took the Fortran one just to keep my hands on computers and ended up showing the teacher and the class how to use the system environment, which was the same one we'd been using for Pascal up in New York.

    Even though there was a bit of a gap between the two schools' programs, 30 years ago you could get an introduction to programming and CS concepts in both of them. It seems like we've been back-sliding since then.

    • by HBI (604924)

      The main problem is that computer education fails to teach the basics - the simple lessons about input and output. Then, isolates the student so far from the hardware atop multiple layers of software cruft that you'll never get an idea how the real machine works.

      I took an undergrad Computer Architecture class which was very nice. Had an excellent, simplistic virtual machine environment (MARIE) with a very short list of opcodes. By the time you were done with that, you should understand the things we unde

  • by sirwired (27582) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:07AM (#47245071)

    Waaaayyy back in the mid-90's, I took the AP CS test my junior year of HS. The test was scheduled right after I took the AP US History test in the AM (I rocked that test with a 5 and passed out of 2 semesters of history for it) and as my brain was fried, I staggered into the principal's conference room to take the AP CS test with another dozen or so kids from my class.

    I completely bombed the test (a 2)... my brain was so scorched from the history exam that morning I couldn't make heads or proverbial tails of the essay questions. I got a 2, and I'm glad I did. Why? Because that was when the test was still being administered in Pascal, and by the time I got to college, my school had shifted over to C++ as their main "teaching language". It's no fun taking an advanced CS class when all your assignments take extra time while you give yourself a crash course in C-style syntax everybody else is taking for granted.

    That said, despite the fact I flunked the test, my actual high school CS class was excellent. It meant that when I had to re-take intro-to-CS in college all I had to do was learn new syntax for the concepts I already knew; the overlap of the theory was pretty complete.

    On another note, why would we expect the average high-schooler to pass a college-level CS exam? It's a hard test, just like it's supposed to be. And it's a subject that many students, no matter their other virtues, don't have much aptitude in. (I'd be interested to know what this one year in "Computer Science" that all Chinese kids are given actually consists of...)

    All that said... yes, waaayyyy more than 10% of our high schools need to be offering the class. Every high school surely contains some students with both the aptitude and desire to take such a class.

  • I suppose that explains why a loser on another thread was telling me that single bit operations are faster than if you operate on whatever size the processor handles internally (eg. 8bit, 16bit, 32bit and now 64bit). Everyone in my high school maths class knew better than that in the 1980s before we even got a chance to get near a keyboard.
    • He may have meant checking ZF or something, but I am guessing not.

      In any case smaller data size does take less time to process for many instructions, for instance a 32 bit DIV is faster than doing so on 64-bits, even on a 64-bit processor (it takes about a third the time.)

        If you are packing bits it can also save time in transferring from memory (although you need enough bits to make it worthwhile.)

    • That can actually be true depending on the processor, but I can only think of a few very old examples where you could save a cycle or two that way (although one has to admit, with the speed these things ran on, that cycle actually could make a bit of a difference...).

  • AP tests are made to get you college credit, but many CS programs won't accept AP credit to fulfill requirements in CS. So there's not a lot of point for a student wanting to become a CS major to take the AP CS test.

    Also note it is (or was, it's been a while) possible to take the AP test without taking the AP class.

  • Think of all the unlearning that would get in the way of me actually being a decent programmer.

  • Does it have to much theory and lacking in real skills that are more use fully in the over all IT field?

  • However, I reckon the real issue is that CS at university cares less about what you did at high school. They want Calculus/Further Mathematcs and Physics for sure, and having Chemistry is a help. It is rare than a college cares about AP CS other than in a token way. All this has the effect of making CS in high schools a complete and utter waste of time, for the student and for the school, which is why CS in high school will (unless things change) always have a wave of enthusiasm sinking back into a slough o

  • Many good software engineers I know did the same. I passed throught the educational system before a lot of this material was distilled into coursework. With all the public resources out there now- half the MOOCs are on CS topics- its even easier for a motivated person to learn things than when I did. I wish people would stop whining about education.
  • When I took AP CS in highschool, they were just switching to C++. We actually hard two years of courses and AP was the second year. I pushed to skip the first class (which was basic at the time) and after taking the final was able to.

    The school didn't even normally give the exam. After some parental rage, they finely setup so I could take the exam (just me). 45 minutes of test taking earned me a 5/5. Though since all the changes in the exam at the time my college just gave credit for an elective instead of

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:09AM (#47245505)

    Now we learn from them?

    The older ones amongst us might still remember how Japan was all the craze. Everything in your company had to be done the Japanese way. You had books and whole seminars dedicated to how the Japanese did stuff. Fully ignoring (just like this does) that there just might be a hint of a cultural difference that makes the systems fully incompatible.

    Then the Japanese economy collapsed because, as we found out, it was all just a huge bubble they inflated for years. At first their economic growth was real. Well, duh! After WW2 their industry was in ruins. Growth rates in the two digit percentage are a given if you go from NOTHING to something. At least it's heaps easier than having two digit growth rates if you are already near the ceiling of what's possible.

    Now the same shit again with China. Oh, China has an economic growth! We have to copy China! No, we don't you idiots! China has an economic boom because not only they had jack shit before but also because we let them. That's what makes China's economy grow by leaps and bounds. Going the Chinese way could only cripple our economy (actually, since we're already on the path, it does. Look around yourself and tell me that we're really so much better off than we were a decade ago). Why? Because we already have a living standard the Chinese may only dream of, and we don't have a USA that we can sell our cheap crap to.

    Fuck, people, you can't simply copy another country and pretend it will work! Sure as hell it doesn't for economy, why the heck should it for education?

  • AP is "advanced placement", and the average student should not pass. That would make it meaningless.
  • An average HS student has little chance of getting AP chemistry, physics, calculus, english, etc. Even AP gym if that were a thing. Average HS students are.. Average.
  • Teacher here.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by parliboy (233658) <parliboy AT gmail DOT com> on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:34AM (#47245717) Homepage

    I teach a section of AP Computer Science, so I'm getting a kick out of these replies...

    To people who don't have any programming experience coming in to the course, the class is a real bear. One of the big issues from the early days of the exam was the push-and-pull between high school instructors and college professors over just what an AP computer science student should proficiently be able to do.

    The professors won, and began to dominate the content choices of the course and the exam. Of course, they were full of shit when they did so, and found that people who passed the course weren't usually well prepared for additional CS courses unless they had additional experience outside of APCS. This means that APCS wasn't the predictor it should have been. So there's been all kinds of fun content changes over the years. (I'm not talking about the language change from Pascal to C++ to Java; the material on the exam will be changing about 20% for just the coming year, for example, and I'm making sure I'm at an AP seminar this summer so I can properly prepare.)

    As trite as it sounds, part of the challenge is funding. In Texas, where I teach, AP Computer Science is funded with the usual tax dollars, where "business programming", which is too often VB-oriented, is funded at a higher level, making it a more attractive course if you're going to teach programming. Districts and high schools are financially disincentivized from offering this course, and lesser resources are generally available.

    Want to teach Microsoft Office? Here, have a brand new lab. Then have a new one three years later. Want APCS? We're sure we can scrounge up something for you. And then they wonder why no one teaches AP Computer Science. Don't get me wrong; I actually think there's a lot of value to be gained out of a properly taught Office course with proper content. But the imbalance is too great.

    About 5 years ago, I was asked to go to a meeting of all of the AP teachers of the East region of Houston ISD, in order the share information and resources. (This was back when they grouped schools by geographic regions.) I really didn't want to go, but our counselor convinced me that it was important. So many if not most of the AP teachers are sitting there on gym bleachers. And we're told to meet our cohorts and talk amongst ourselves. And all of these signs go up for the different courses -- US History, Spanish, etc. And I'm sitting there at Computer Science. Then I look to my left, look to my right. And I realized that I'm the only one.

    And that's what it's like to be an AP Computer Science teacher.

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