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College Board Sees Bumper Crop of CS AP Test-Takers, Intros New Resources and Processes

College Board Sees Bumper Crop of CS AP Test-Takers; Intros new Resources, Processes 

Just as the College Board announced new resources and processes for its Advanced Placement exams, the organization also said that the number of students tackling an AP Computer Science assessment grew by nearly a third over last year's count. That count includes record participation by underrepresented groups, including girls and black and Latinx students.

The CS courses and their requisite exams come in two flavors. AP CS A delves into programming, including coverage of algorithms, data structures and the use of logic and formal methods. AP CS Principles introduces students to the fundamentals of computing, including programming, abstractions, algorithms, large data sets, the Internet, cybersecurity concerns and computing impacts.

A total of 137,320 students tackled at least one of these two CS exams during 2018's testing period, a 31 percent increase over 2017. Among those who took CS A, nearly 68 percent received an exam score of at least 3, generally considered a passing score; 71 percent received a score of 3 or higher for CS Principles.

Although the College Board is expected to release additional data later this year regarding this year's testing results, according to reporting by USA Today, participation by female students has risen by 39 percent; it has grown by 44 percent among black/African-American students; and it has increased by 41 percent among Hispanic/Latinx students.

Beginning in August 2019, the College Board will give AP teachers and students access to a new set of classroom resources intended for use during the 2019-2020 school year. Among them will be an online question bank and a performance dashboard.

The AP Question Bank is an online library of "real" AP exam questions that can be filtered by topics and skills. Instructors will be able to use the bank to develop custom sets of practice questions for in-class work or homework and can also add their own questions. The dashboard will display interactive reports with results by question for each student, class and school, with the intent of helping educators and the students pinpoint areas of weakness and strength. The new resources also include formative AP questions in each unit to serve as a check on how well students understand a given topic.

The organization is also updating its participation process. A new digital activation feature will let teachers and students sign into a "classroom support system" as the kick-off for accessing resources and ordering exams. Teachers will also now play a role in exam registration, which takes place in October and November.

Tests will still be given during the first two weeks in May, and results will continue to be reported under the same timeline.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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