Following years in the pilot stage, the College Board approved a new AP course—Computer Science Principles (AP CS P)—for roll-out in the 2016-17 school year.  AP CS P introduces students to the foundational concepts of computer science and challenges them to explore how computing and technology can impact the broader world. With a unique focus on creative problem-solving and real-world applications, AP CS P is designed with the goal of creating leaders in computer science fields and attracting and engaging those students who are traditionally underrepresented (particularly women, and students who are Latinx, African American, and/or Native Americans).

This project uses data collected by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey to examine the characteristics of entering college students who had taken AP CS A (the “traditional” course), AP CS P (the new course), or both AP CS courses while in high school. While our first project with these data examined the characteristics of students taking different AP CS courses, this study controls for student traits such as demographic and academic backgrounds, aspects of self-confidence, and life goals in order to explore how AP CS course-taking predicts intent to major in a computing field or aspire to a computing career, and whether this differs by gender and race/ethnicity. The project represents a collaboration between the Momentum team and Professor Joanna Goode of the University of Oregon.

The data for this study come from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s (CIRP) Freshman Survey, which is distributed by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). The survey is distributed to students prior to beginning their first year of college and asks about multiple domains of student identity and pre-college experiences. In 2017, The Freshman Survey (TFS) had more than 120,000 respondents from 168 colleges and universities. Among the respondents, 8,844 students had taken an AP CS course in high school, including 6,098 students who had taken only AP CS A, 1,851 students who took AP CS Principles, and 895 students who had taken both courses. Our research has used descriptive analyses to explore the demographic and academic characteristics of students who took AP CS courses and have used logistic regression to understand the extent to which different patterns of AP CS course-taking uniquely predict students’ intent to major in computing or aspire to work in a tech career when controlling for demographic characteristics, pre-college experiences, and proxies of academic achievement.


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