A plan to add a computer-science program to its offerings was recently announced by the The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program.The first new test in seven years, this move signals the growing efforts to interest students in STEM careers.
The new AP Computer Science Principles program will focus on the “creative aspects” of computing and is funded in part by a $5.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The agency aims to train some 10,000 computer-science teachers across the same number of high schools nationwide by 2016 as part of an effort to improve education in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields. The College Board will chip in about $3.5 million for teacher support and equipment.
Advanced Placement, which allows students to earn college-level credit in high school, offers 34 classes and exams across various fields, such as art history and foreign languages. It offers 10 classes and exams in STEM subjects, including one in computer science.
The existing AP computer-science program, Computer Sciences A, focuses specifically on programming. The latest addition, which has been tested by 10 high schools so far, intends to spur interest in the field by teaching the intellectual concepts and practical applications of computer science.
About 2.4% of bachelor’s degrees earned in the 2009-10 school year were in computer science, according to the College Board. A National Center for Education Statistics report showed that computer-science participation in high school has been falling, to 19% in 2009 from 25% in 1990.
“The idea of computing really does apply to almost anyone who would want to continue in post-secondary education because these are essential concepts and skills that cut across a lot of different fields of study,” said Lien Diaz, the senior director of AP curriculum and content development.
About 32% of public high-school graduates took AP exams in 2012, an increase of about 14 percentage points since 2002.
The last time new AP programs were added was in 2006, with the introduction of Chinese and Japanese language and culture.