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Education Stats United States

Average HS Student Given Little Chance of AP CS Success 293

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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.'
  • 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.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

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

    Being Asian seems to work pretty well.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:07AM (#47245073)

    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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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: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 stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:35AM (#47245725)

    sorry, man, it's not genetics, or at least not exclusively, as much as our capitalist overlords would like to have us believe that

    Quite to the contrary: captialists (I am one) believe that it is necessity and the desire to improve one's material wealth that motivates people. You know, like those Chinese kids do you describe. And we actually believe that almost everybody has the capacity to succeed if they are only motivated, again like those Chinese kids.

    It's people like you who divide the world into "dumbfucks" and brainiacs, then want to treat low performance as a disability, and reward people for it.

  • by oh_my_080980980 ( 773867 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:48AM (#47245855)
    They are not taking college courses in high school. The student is not going to a local college and taking the course there. They are taking a "college like" course in high school. The two are not the same, not even close. High Schools like to say AP courses are the real thing but they are not. College professors laugh at you when you tell them you took a AP class.
  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> 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.

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?