The NYC Department Of Education announced yesterday that almost 4,000 high school students took an AP Computer Science exam in the school year that ended in June. This news was part of a larger announcement that total NYC students taking AP exams increased 7.5% last year to almost 50,000.
The NYC public school system is the largest school system in the country with about 1.1mm students, about one third of which are in high school. So moving the needle in a system that big is hard but when you do it, you can really have an impact.
The AP CS news was particularly gratifying to me as I have been working for most of this decade to get computer science broadly offered in the NYC public school system. I see this work as an important investment in the children of NYC and in the NYC economy and business community too.
When I started this work, about 600-700 students from the NYC public school system would take the AP CS exam each year. And most of them were from the top schools in the system (Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech). That number slowly grew, to 926 students in 2015, and to 1,137 in 2016.
So what happened this year to cause an almost 4x expansion in one year?
Well first and foremost, the The College Board added a second AP CS exam, called AP Principals of Computer Science. That opened up the AP CS population to students who are not deeply skilled/schooled in Java (which is a big part of the AP CS exam).
But equally important, the CS4All program in NYC, which is bringing CS to every school and supporting 40 middle schools and 40 high schools to offer full multi year programs in CS, is starting to kick in. Over 90,000 NYC public school students studied CS in their school last year. That is starting to have an impact.
So where do we go from here? Well I expect we will see over 10,000 NYC students take an AP CS exam within another few years and that number will get even larger before the ten year CS4All program is fully deployed in 2025.
We are also seeing the AP CS test taking population starting to more closely mirror the demographics of the NYC public school system. More girls are taking it. More black and hispanic students are taking it.
AP CS exams put students on a path to attend college and study CS. They will do that in NYC where the local colleges, including CUNY, are upping their CS game significantly. And they will do that at leading engineering schools around the country.
And that, in the end, leads to a more diverse set of skilled talent for our economy, both locally in NYC and around the US, in the coming years. And god knows we need that. Badly.
CS4All is a public private partnership between the city government which is putting up half the funds for it and private donors who are putting up the other half in a $40mm capital campaign that I chair. If you know of a person, a foundation, or a company that would like to support this work, please have them contact me or my colleague Jennifer Klopp who is the Director of the CS4all Capital Campaign. We will gladly come talk to them about our work and how they can support it.