Participation in AP Computer Science Principles More Than Doubles 3 Years After Launch

Female and underrepresented minority participation outpaces overall growth

New York – Nearly 100,000 students took the AP® Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) Exam in 2019, more than doubling participation since the course launched during the 2016-17 school year. Over that span, the number of female students and students of color taking AP CSP also more than doubled, exceeding the overall growth.

“We need more students ready to shape technology, not just cope with it,” said Stefanie Sanford, the College Board Chief of Global Policy and External Relations. “AP Computer Science Principles is inviting a broader, more diverse set of students to master technology and write the code of the future.”

Katherine’s Story

One student who took AP Computer Science last year was Katherine C., a rising senior at Kennesaw Mountain High School in Georgia.

“Prior to taking AP CSP, I thought computer science would be boring, was ‘for boys,’ was weird, full of just video games, and definitely would not be a part of my future,” Katherine said. “I wanted to get computer science over with so I wouldn't have to take it in college. A year later, I have transformed into a completely different person who is interested in pursuing computer science in college, and I was inspired to create a computer science club for middle school girls in my community. This AP class has changed my life.”

Katherine was inspired to encourage more young women to pursue computer science and with three friends from class started a computer science club for girls at the local middle school. In a regional computer science competition nine of the girls placed in the top three and one girl moved on to the state competition. Katherine and two AP computer science classmates competed in Lockheed Martin’s Code Quest Competition and placed second.

“It is crazy to think that none of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken AP computer science. Not only did AP CSP allow me to find a passion for computer science, it helped me make my community a better place,” Katherine said.

“Katherine’s story is exactly what we at the National Science Foundation were hoping for when we started our investments in CSP Principles and its teachers back in 2007,” said Janice Cuny, Program Director for Computing Education at the National Science Foundation, which drove the creation and awarded funding for the development of AP CSP. “Before CSP, too many students thought they didn’t like computing. CSP is changing that, engaging and empowering students with hands-on projects that connect computing (and coding) to their own interests and concerns.”

2019 Data

Female Students

In the 3 years since the launch of AP CSP, the number of female students has increased 136%, from 13,328 to 31,458. The number of female students scoring a 3 or higher on the AP CSP Exam increased 133% since 2016-17.

In March, the College Board announced recipients of its first AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award, which recognizes schools for closing the gender gap in AP CSP and/or AP Computer Science A (CSA). The award honors schools that reached 50% or higher female representation in either of the two AP computer science courses or have a percentage of female examinees that met or exceeded the school’s percentage of female students. Out of more than 18,000 secondary schools worldwide that offer AP courses, only 685 schools have achieved this important result: 490 were honored for AP CSP, 167 for AP CSA, and 28 for both.

Black/African American Students

The number of black/African American students participating in AP CSP has increased 121% since the course launched, from 2,981 to 6,589. The number of black/African American students scoring a 3 or higher on the AP CSP Exam increased 118% since 2016-17.

Hispanic/Latino Students

The number of Hispanic/Latino students participating in AP CSP has increased 125%, from 8,334 to 18,780 since the course launched. The number of Hispanic/Latino students scoring a 3 or higher on the AP CSP Exam increased 116% since 2016-17.

Encouraging More Students to Study Computer Science

AP CSP participation is increasing the number of students studying computer science and persisting in CS in high school when it’s available. Students who take the AP CSP Exam are nearly 6 times more likely to go on to take CSA compared to other AP STEM examinees, and about 15 times more likely than non-AP STEM examinees.

“This course was a brilliant introduction to computer science. AP CSP showed me that with a push in the right direction, I could create a project that solved a real-world problem just from my pure imagination,” said Elaine L., a rising junior at Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School in Virginia. “To any future students who are interested in taking AP CSP, be prepared to push your limits! Computer science knows no bounds, and neither should your creativity.”