Oakland makes enormous strides in AP Computer Science

You may have seen the exciting news that participation skyrocketed for young women and students of color on this year’s AP Computer Science exams. The students of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) are among those who contributed to this growth. This year we offered a new course, AP Computer Science Principles, at six high schools through a partnership with Code.org. The preliminary results are compelling.

Comparing to all other AP exams offered in OUSD, Computer Science Principles was:

  • The 5th most popular AP exam in Oakland in its first year;
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AP Computer Science Principles course at Castlemont High School in Oakland, CA. Photo credit

Student performance on AP Computer Science exams was above the district average

The chart below represents all AP tests taken by OUSD students. Students in AP Computer Science Principles scored an average of 2.5 compared to a district-wide AP score average of 2.3.

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Oakland’s AP Computer Science program attracted a uniquely diverse student group

Given the nationwide underrepresentation of minorities and women in computer science, Oakland Unified has seen fantastic results in our collaboration with Code.org to increase diversity in computer science.

In Oakland, AP Computer Science Principles had the 3rd most students from underrepresented minority backgrounds (African American, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Native American), as defined by the College Board.

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In a field that’s been recently dominated by males, the young women of OUSD demonstrated their CS prowess; in fact, it was the 4th most passed exam by female students of all taken.

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One student’s viewpoint

These statistics are a glimpse into the work our teachers and students have been doing over the course of the year; they do not represent a full understanding of our progress. To make this all more real, I want to share Alazja’s story.

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Photo credit: Jen Early

Alazja (Castlemont HS ’17) arrived to my class having heard little of computer science. Intrigued by the relevancy of the first unit about the Internet, she stayed; a quick study in programming, she thrived. Mid-year, her family responsibilities suddenly increased. Distressed, she asked to drop the class, but I was determined to keep her so I worked around her modified schedule. This summer, we both were elated to find out that Alazja passed her AP CS Principles exam. Next year, she will start at the local community college assured that she is capable of college-level work in a subject this time last year about which she knew little. There are many Alazjas across Oakland and we are thrilled to unleash their potential.

This wouldn’t have been possible alone

We would not be where we are today without the support of the team at Code.org, whose course we use widely across the district, nor without the help of the companies that support Code.org, particularly Microsoft, Facebook, and Infosys Foundation.

Oakland Unified’s Computer Science initiative is the work of a dedicated team of teachers, administrators, students, and their families. We benefit from the support of Intel, Salesforce, and the rich tech ecosystem in Oakland that includes for profit, nonprofit, and government agencies aligned to ensure Oakland is a leader in diversifying tech.

We are looking forward to making significant progress next year on these results. We know that representation in tech matters, and OUSD will be part of the solution.

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