The College Board's AP Computer Science Principles course enrollment for 2019 is 117% higher among rural students since the curriculum launched in 2016-17, and the increase is even more pronounced for girls at 141%. The AP course teaches students how the internet works, how data is secured and transmitted, the importance of data privacy and basic programming.
The number of students earning a grade of 3 or higher on the AP CSP exam grew by 109%.
The organization cited the course's curriculum in a press release as an example of its commitment to better serve rural and small-town students — who represent about one-third of the U.S. student population overall — as well as to recruit more girls to the computer science field. Its recent initiatives with other organizations and state education agencies have also focused on expanding access for students of color.
The push to diversify computer science seems to be paying off. The number of girls who took the AP computer science exam jumped 135% between 2016 and 2017. Likewise, the number of black and Latino students who took the test surged by 170% from 2016 to 2017, totaling over 22,000 students.
A piece of U.S. legislation introduced earlier this week is designed to help schools recruit girls, young women and underrepresented minorities into STEM classes — and eventually STEM careers. The bill, called the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act, would also encourage districts to enhance STEM programs at young ages and increase funding for teacher development, parent outreach, mentoring and tutoring, after-school and summer STEM programs, and high school course selection counseling.
Getting girls hooked on STEM at a young age may be the key to solving the shortage of females in these fields. Girls’ brains function the same as boys from the ages of 3 to 10. But in middle school, boys begin to outperform girls in science and math, largely due to societal factors — which may be why boys are more likely to pursue a career in the STEM fields.