Should CS Ed be in bed with the College Board

I'm guessing my views on this aren't very popular -that's OK, every community needs a curmudgeon.

A few years ago, I cautioned if we weren't careful, once the big players got involved, CS Ed would go the way of other disciplines, and not in a good way. It looks like indeed we're well on our way down that road.

I've ranted before about things like non-profits, drop in and summer programs. STEM Oil Salesmen 1 selling easy fixes, exciting kids and parents, using the Think Method just like Professor Harold Hill only to send the kids off where they can blame a future teacher for failure.

I've also ranted about teacher preparation and how all the rage is short term, Superficial PD and scripted curricula and my concern that once the politicians can say CS is in the schools, we'll be done.

I've been working towards getting CS to all students for most of my career and while it's wonderful to see us getting closer to the goal, I'm seeing more and more signs that my caution is becoming reality. and CS Ed is going the way of other Ed - aligned to testing and more to the whims of the power players and politicians than to teachers and students.

The other week I noticed, this post by Code.org trying to encourage more students to take the APCSP exam - not encourage more students take the class or some other class or to have more students be exposed to CS but to actually sit for the APCSP exam. That post was followed by this one which also highlights actually taking the exam.

This didn't sit well with me.

What does the exam do for the kid? It doesn't drive instruction - by that time, any good teacher knows their student and is better served by using their own assessments. The college credit thing? I'm skeptical. Fewer and fewer schools are giving credit for APCSA let alone this new CS0 non major course. Blanket credit? Since full time students pay for a range of credits, I'm still skeptical here. Placement? It's a course for non-majors - what exactly are you placing out of?

Reasons not to take the exam?

  • If it doesn't do anything for the kid, why take it
  • Stress of taking the exam
  • There are other ways of placing out of courses once in college
  • Save the expense

As a general rule, I'm against forcing students to sit for AP exams. At the extreme case, since we've been brainwashed to think that a school that has lots of kids sitting for exams is good, I've seen at least one case of a principal having all his kids sit for, and just about all fail AP Calculus - that is, get a 1 or 2 on the exam. This principal had all his students take the exam, and only 2 scores were 3 or higher. This principal then parlayed his success into a higher profile gig - he's moved up in the world while setting up his students to fail.

This follows last year's announcement that code.org was partnering with the College Board - offering PD to teachers for free if the schools signed up their students for the PSAT 8/9 - another meaningless exam. So, we get teacher training light 2 as long as the school pays for the PSAT8/9 for every kid so that the kid can take yet another test with really no value3.

Why should students pay for an AP exam that doesn't do anything for them? Why should Jane Q Taxpayer pay for exams that only server to enrich the College Board.

True, The College Board is a big player. They already have much more influence of American High School education than they should. It's easy to climb on board the AP train for entre into our schools. The question is, should we use positions of influence to push efforts that might help our end but leave collateral damage to students and the public.

I don't doubt code.org's sincerity in wanting good CS in all schools nor the efforts or value as an advocate for CS Education. I'm concerned that the desire to win big and win now is moving us in a direction that we'll regret years from now.

Footnotes:

1

Not my term, but I really like it

2

If you think that PD based teacher training is OK, ask yourself if you want your own child's chemistry teacher to be a history teacher with a few weeks summer training in chemistry

3

And I'm guessing the exam will be offered during the day so teachers will proctor for free rather than be allowed to, you know, teach their students.

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