Some buzz seems to have circulated on the data compiled by Barbara Ericson on AP Computer Science test takers in 2013. In addition to going to the source there was a piece in The Atlantic and in Education Week.
Some exciting results:
- In two states just as many girls passed the AP CS exam as guys!!!!!
- In two other states, just 6 more guys passed than girls!!!!!
- In yet another state, 100% of the girls passed, doing far better than the approximately 75% of the boys that passed!!!!
Wow, we’re doing terrific.
Ok, maybe not so much.
But then, I’m not saying anything false, just misleading.
And that’s the problem with the articles I’ve been reading on Barbara’s report. Take a look and you’ll see. The Education Week headline is:
No Girls, Blacks, or Hispanics Take AP Computer Science Exam in Some States
Both articles talk about how no girls took APCS in three states. Later in the article, it clarifies the situation - Wyoming had no test takers male or female, Mississippi had only 1, which wasn’t a passing grade, and Montanna only 11 test takers total.
I find the headline disingenuous.
There are other tidbits like the fact that there were no hispanic test takers from Alaska. No mention of the fact there were only 21 test takers overall and that Alaska only has 6% of it’s population identifying itself as hispanic (compared to a national number of 16%).
Clearly we have problems – not enough students are exposed to good computer science teaching and there certainly are under-represented groups, but I feel that this type of reporting detracts from the cause. All you have to do is look at the data and the credibility of the reporter is shot.
I see the same type of misleading remarks made by drop in programs that claim to solve the problem – “your kid will learn to make an app in N weeks,” or “our kids are better prepared for the AP exam than kids who take the AP class.” That’s also all nonsense but these folks are selling a product so at least it’s a little more understandable.
Then there’s the question of using the AP exam as a measure in the first place - I for one don’t feel that AP CS is a particularly good course and I’m not sold on CS Principles as the answer either.
In any event, there are a lot of important inferences we can make from the report and I encourage you to download the spreadsheet and take a look.
Not enough students are being exposed to computer science and not all groups are getting the same exposure, but when we spin the data rather than illuminate it, we don’t really help our cause.