At our last meeting we talked a lot about AP exams - specifically the AP Computer Science Exam. I know Anthony already discussed the extraordinarily low numbers of students who take the AP CS Exam, but I wanted to discuss that further and also the gender distribution of the exams.
After a lot of poking around on collegeboard.com and downloading lots of files, I came up with some graphs and a spreadsheet of some AP CS gender related data from 1996 through 2009.
I found that the AP CS Exams - both the A and AB exams - have never accounted for more than 1.7% of all AP exams in a year (and that, unsurprisingly, was in 2001). It has been steadily declining since then - leveling off in recent years. The AP CS exams now make up .72% of all AP exams taken.
A small distinction is the number of students who take one of the AP CS Exams (referred to from now on as AP CS students) out of all students who take AP exams (referred to from now on as AP students). AP CS students have never accounted for more than 2.85% of all AP students and in 2009, that number was down to 1.24%.
These are alarmingly low numbers. In 2009, only 16,061 students took the AP CS A Exam and only 4,900 took the AP CS AB Exam for a total of 20,961 taking either AP CS Exam. Compare this to something like Calculus (which isn't even the most popular AP Exam) which has 108,249 students taking the AP Calculus AB Exam and 28,974 students taking the AP Calculus BC Exam for a total of 137,223 students. That's more than 6.5 times the number of students!
Well, okay, you say, Calculus is far more general subject than CS. It is far more applicable to more fields. Okay, then. Let's compare CS data against CS data. In 2009 we were less than 2500 exams off from the peak number of AP CS exams in 2002. In 2002 23,459 students took an AP CS exam. In 2009, 20,961 students took an AP CS exam. That's about 89% of what it was. "Not bad," you might say, "I still don't see the problem - 90% of the peak."
While the number of students taking the AP CS Exams has been going up over the past few years, the percentage of all AP Exams that are AP CS Exams and the number of AP Students that are AP CS Students has been declining and is only now leveling off. While the percentage of women taking AP CS Exams has been slowly increasing over the past few years, still fewer than 4,000 women are taking AP CS Exams - and the percentage (18%) is nowhere close to the number of women taking any AP Exams (55%). Fewer than 700 women are taking the AP CS AB Exam.
While I recognize that not everyone who takes CS in high school takes one of the AP CS exams, the numbers are alarmingly low. Something needs to be done to introduce students to CS in high school! I don't know what, but something...