Girls participation in Computer Science skyrockets past boys

This article originally appeared on the Code.org Medium site and was authored by Hadi Partovi, CEO of Code.org


Ten years ago, just 2,600 female students took the AP Computer Science Exam.

Fast forward to 2017. Over 29,000 female students took an AP CS exam this year, which is more than the entire AP CS exam participation in 2013 when Code.org launched. Though computer science has seen sustained growth year after year, the introduction of AP CS Principles this past school year was the largest College Board AP exam launch in history, and has skyrocketed participation in CS especially among female students and minorities.

Female - Minorities in AP CS

The growth among female students has been incredible, increasing participation in AP CS exams by 135% since 2016. Not to be outdone, underrepresented minorities have increased participation by nearly 170% over last year!

Participation by girls and minorities outpaces the rest

We’ve seen steady improvement in the diversity of AP Computer Science in the four years since since Code.org was launched in 2013, thanks to the collaboration of many partners and the dedicated effort of thousands of computer science teachers. While participation in AP Computer Science is growing as a whole, the greatest gains are among female students and underrepresented minorities, whose representation among exam-takers is increasing each year.

% Female - Minorities in AP CS

Racial diversity in Code.org’s AP Computer Science classrooms exceeds the nation’s average, because of our work in urban schools. While we’re not ready to report aggregate statistics for Code.org’s partner schools, the results we’ve seen from school districts using Code.org are incredible. For example, in Broward County Public Schools, FL, more African American students took AP computer science exams this year than in the entire state of Florida last year, and a significantly higher percentage received a passing grade. Broward County Public Schools also saw record participation by Latinx students, whose participation in AP computer science more than tripled since last year.

Because 70% of students in Code.org CS Principles classrooms indicate they want to pursue computer science after graduation, we are optimistic that these gains will have a downstream impact on diversity in tech at the university and workforce level.

We still have a long, long way to go

Participation in AP Computer Science is still far from balanced — female students still account for only 27% of all students taking AP Computer Science exams and underrepresented minorities make up just 20%. This problem continues through to higher education, where 83% of university computer science majors are men, and into the workforce as well.

Although Code.org has become the most popular curriculum for AP Computer Science, these results are much larger than any one organization, thanks to a community effort by nonprofits, educators, philanthropic efforts by corporations, and even local government support. We should all celebrate the incredible results in the first year of the College Board’s launch of the new AP Computer Science Principles exam.

The future looks even rosier

In grades K-8, Code.org has prepared almost 60,000 teachers to introduce computer science in their classes, and diversity across our classrooms nearly matches that of the overall U.S. population. As these students move to high school, we hope many of them will continue their interests in computer science.

And this summer alone we’re preparing almost 900 new teachers to begin teaching AP Computer Science Principles, expanding access to tens of thousands of students in urban or rural schools which previously had no computer science offering. Our focus on diversity pervades our work, from curriculum, to teacher development, to even government affairs, and we’re excited to see results in the classroom.

These changes wouldn’t be possible without the passion and effort of teachers who have embraced computer science to help open doors for their students. This teacher-led movement continues as more female and underrepresented minority students are trying computer science than ever before!

Together we are changing the face of computing.

Hadi Partovi, Code.org

P.S. There are far too many groups who deserve collective credit that it would be too difficult to list them all. But certainly, I’d like to acknowledge the NSF for the idea for a new AP course, the College Board for making and administering the exam, many different organizations who created curriculum or prepared new teachers, dozens of private philanthropists and corporations who funded the work, and of course thousands of teachers in classrooms. At Code.org we celebrate everybody’s contribution to the movement to give every student in every school the opportunity to learn computer science.

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