New Course and Exam — AP® Computer Science: Principles to Launch in Academic Year 2016–17
The College Board plans to launch a new course, AP Computer Science Principles (CSP), in fall 2016, with the first AP CSP Exam scheduled to be administered in May 2017.
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Background and Rationale
At a 2008 National Science Foundation-supported conference with the theme of "Computational Thinking and Fluency in the 21st Century," a group of the nation's leading computer scientists and educators agreed that students require increasing skills in computing across all STEM fields.
Advancing U.S. students' understanding of the principles and practices of computing is critical to developing a more competitive workforce for the 21st century. Yet the number of students studying computing and computer science at both the high school and college levels has been declining alarmingly — the number of students taking the AP Computer Science Exam fell 15 percent between 2001 and 2007, while the number of college freshmen intending to major in computer science plummeted more than 70 percent this decade. Conference scholars further noted that given the changing educational needs of students, computer science in the 21st century must build beyond the programming-centric orientation that was prevalent during the discipline's infancy.
To that end, the investigators proposed developing a curriculum for a new Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) course that would fill a critical gap as an adjunct to the existing AP Computer Science A course. In 2009, the College Board, in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF), received a grant to prototype the development of this new course, titled AP Computer Science: Principles. The new course will introduce students to programming but will also give them an understanding of the fundamental concepts of computing, its breadth of application and its potential for transforming the world we live in. It will be rigorous, engaging and accessible. To learn more, see www.csprinciples.org.
Impetus for Development of Framework and Course
The AP Computer Science Principles (CSP) course is intended to foster a wider appeal for the computer science discipline and to better prepare a pipeline of STEM majors. The College Board's meticulous AP course development process, already proven and thoroughly vetted in the NSF-funded redesign of other AP science courses, provides the framework in which the new course's curriculum has been designed. Currently, the AP CSP project has completed the following:
- The AP CSP Curriculum Framework (detailed learning objectives and clearly articulated computational thinking practices);
- The design and implementation of course pilots in both secondary and postsecondary settings;
- Curriculum evaluations; and
- A suite of computer-based prototype assessment items.
The AP CSP Curriculum Framework focuses on the creative aspect of computing and computational thinking practices that enable students to experience how computing impacts their everyday lives. See Acceptance of the New Course by Higher Education Institutions for more information about how AP CSP is comparable to an introductory college computer science course. A series of pilot courses were conducted to verify implementation feasibility of the course content. The first group of pilot institutions included five major colleges and universities. The following institutions completed the first pilot of the course in 2010–2011:
- Metropolitan State University of Denver
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of California, San Diego
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- University of Washington
A second group of 18 pilot institutions was selected for academic year 2011–2012. The selection of these schools included a review of submitted institutional data with plans to increase student enrollment, in particular, women and underrepresented minorities.
The third group of pilot institutions was a subgroup of the second pilot and largely focused on the implementation of performance-based assessment tasks. The following schools completed their pilot in 2012–2013:
Moving forward into Phase II of development for the AP CSP course and exam, a large cohort of 50 pilot institutions has been selected to begin in fall 2013. Selected schools will pilot the course under the auspices of the College Board for three consecutive years until the official launch of the course in fall 2016. Schools submitted institutional data and all information was reviewed against rigorous criteria, including:
- Essential recruitment efforts to increase and diversify enrollment, especially with female and underrepresented students;
- Experience with implementing a performance assessment aligned to instruction supporting the intent of the CSP Curriculum Framework; and
- Alignment of course syllabus with the CSP Curriculum Framework.
Instructors at the pilot sites are charged with developing and implementing a recruitment plan focusing on increasing minority and female student enrollment, planning and delivering the newly designed course and participating in course evaluation activities, such as pre- and post-course surveys (including surveys of students).
For more information about recruiting female and underrepresented minority students, see Resources for Recruiting Female and Underrepresented Students (.pdf/360KB).
Phase II Pilot Institutions (2013–2016):
Acceptance of the New Course by Higher Education Institutions
The NSF has generously funded the development of the curriculum and the piloting of the AP Computer Science Principles course. The next step in moving forward would be to complete AP Exam development and create teacher professional development in support of the new course. The College Board is committed to providing experiences for students leading to placement in advanced college courses and to the awarding of college credit. AP students and teachers have clearly stated that a primary value of the AP Program is the course credit that colleges award for AP Exam scores of 3 or higher in a given subject.
In the spring of 2011, attestations were collected from over 100 college/university computer science department chairs and professors who reviewed the AP CSP Curriculum Framework and provided the following attestations:
- 87% believe the course is a college-level computing course.
- 70% will offer a comparable course.
- 86% will award credit.
See the sidebar to the right for a list of representatives from colleges who have provided attestations to the College Board in support of the development of the Computer Science Principles course and exam. Also included are external statements from education and computer science organizations and attestations from education and computer science professionals.
AP Computer Science Principles — Attestation of Intent Form
Please fill in the fields below to let us know whether your institution intends to grant credit and/or advanced placement for scores on the AP Computer Science: Principles Exam.
AP Computer Science Principles Curriculum Framework
Read more about the curriculum framework
Computational Thinking Practices, Big Ideas, Key Concepts, Supporting Concepts
- Connecting computing
- Developing computational artifacts
- Analyzing problems and artifacts
- Computing is a creative activity.
- Abstraction reduces information and detail to facilitate focus on relevant concepts.
- Data and information facilitate the creation of knowledge.
- Algorithms are used to develop and express solutions to computational problems.
- Programming enables problem solving, human expression, and creation of knowledge.
- The Internet pervades modern computing.
- Computing has global impacts.
AP Computer Science Principles Prototype Assessment Questions
The Computer Science Principles free-response questions were developed by the College Board and the NSF-funded CSP Project for piloting purposes. They were piloted across 10 high schools and eight colleges during the 2011-12 academic school year. The free-response questions included here were designed to enable students to demonstrate mastery of learning objectives in the CSP Curriculum Framework and to assess how open-ended questions work in a CS: Principles course. Student responses to these questions were part of the pilot assessment; these responses have provided statistical and evaluation data to inform a proof of concept for the development of an AP CSP Exam. Such an exam would likely contain objectively scored questions in addition to open-ended questions. The piloted free-response questions included here do not necessarily reflect the types of questions that would be contained in an official AP Exam. Each question is followed by a brief commentary on the intent of the question, as well as a list of the learning objectives and evidence statements elicited by the question.
The CSP performance assessment tasks were developed by the College Board and the NSF-funded CSP Project for piloting purposes. They were piloted across four high schools and two colleges during the 2012-13 academic year. The performance assessment tasks included here were designed to enable students to demonstrate mastery of learning objectives in the CS: Principles Curriculum Framework, especially the learning objectives that include collaboration. Student submissions during the pilot assessment have provided statistical and evaluation data to inform a proof of concept for the development of an AP CSP Exam.
AP Computer Science Principles Development Committee
These dedicated educators play a critical role in the preparation of the Course Description and exam for the AP Computer Science Principles course. They represent a diversity of knowledge and points of view in their fields and, as a group, are the authority when it comes to making subject-matter decisions in the exam construction process. The AP Development Committees represent a unique collaboration between high school and college educators.
- Rich Kick, Newbury Park High School, Calif.
- Fran Trees, Rutgers University, N.J.
- Dan Garcia, University of California, Berkeley, Calif.
- Christina Gardner-McCune, Clemson University, S.C.
- Andy Kuemmel, Madison West High School, Wis.
- Dale Reed, University of Illinois, Chicago, Ill.
College Board Adviser:
- Deepa Muralidhar, North Gwinnett High School, Ga.
Statements of Support
- Renee McCauley, Chair of the SIGCSE Board
- Owen Astrachan, Professor of the Practice of Computer Science, Duke University
- Lucinda Sanders, CEO of National Center for Women and IT
- Larry Snyder, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington
- Andrew McGettrick, Chair of ACM Education Board and Education Council
- A Letter from the AP Program
Institutions that have Attested
- University of California Irvine
- University of Maryland Baltimore County
- University of Washington
- Stanford University
- Harvey Mudd College
- See the full list of institutions that have attested.