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Average HS Student Given Little Chance of AP CS Success

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the inopportunity-for-all dept.

Education 293

theodp (442580) writes AP Computer Science is taught in just 10% of our high schools," lamented The White House last December as President Obama kicked off CSEdWeek. "China teaches all of its students one year of computer science." And the U.S. Dept. of Education has made the AP CS exam its Poster Child for inequity in education (citing a viral-but-misinterpreted study). But ignored in all the hand-wringing over low AP CS enrollment is one huge barrier to the goal of AP-CS-for-all: College Board materials indicate that the average 11th grader's combined PSAT/NMSQT score of 96 in reading and math gives him/her only a 20%-30% probability of getting a score of '3' on the AP CS exam (a score '4' or '5' may be required for college credit). The College Board suggests schools tap a pool of students with a "60-100% likelihood of scoring 3 or higher", so it's probably no surprise that CS teachers are advised to turn to the College Board's AP Potential tool to identify students who are likely to succeed (sample Student Detail for an "average" kid) and send their parents recruitment letters — Georgia Tech even offers some gender-specific examples — to help fill class rosters.

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Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in TI (5, Funny)

louic (1841824) | about 4 months ago | (#47244759)

Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in TI

Re:Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in (2)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about 4 months ago | (#47244769)

+1 WTF too many TLAs.

Re:Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 4 months ago | (#47244807)

It's OK AS. TM ABR in TI would be "AVG(HSS) good AP CS Success%"

Re:Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 4 months ago | (#47245273)

Yep, I thought Armor Piercing CS (gas) round might be useful for getting the crew to bail out so you can capture the tank and use it afterward.

Re:Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in (2)

gsslay (807818) | about 4 months ago | (#47245323)

In all seriousness, would anyone like to provide a glossary?

CS I can guess, but AP??

Re:Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#47245373)

Advanced Placement (aka 'grade inflation').

Re:Average SD article containing TM unclear ABR in (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245459)

Advanced Placement is not just grade inflation.

Scoring high enough on an Advanced Placement test will give the student college credit for that course, allowing it (and its tuition) to be skipped.

Really? (3, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about 4 months ago | (#47244761)

So you're suggesting that a K-12 focus on self-esteem doesn't result in outstanding academic ability?

This just in: difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

Re:Really? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#47244823)

According to our presently available research and body of technique is there really anything on the table that 'results in outstanding academic ability'?

We know about some "Don't fuck it up" procedures (lead is not a dietary supplement, lots of early childhood stimulus is good, malnutrition stunts mind as well as body, etc.); and we know some things about getting better or worse results out of students of a given level of ability; but for anything that has some element of 'born, not made', it's a good day when we can accurately identify the good candidates, much less upgrade inadequate ones.

If your thesis is that 'difficult things are hard and most people can't do them', it wouldn't much matter if the K-12 focus is 'self-esteem', 'classical philology', or 'Measure Theory Bootcamp: No Place For The Weak.'

Re:Really? (3, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 months ago | (#47245047)

Being Asian seems to work pretty well.

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 months ago | (#47245155)

That's just the visual cue that comes with having parents that give a shit about their children's education.

Re:Really? (0)

retchdog (1319261) | about 4 months ago | (#47245225)

uh, yeah, i've taught quite a few dumbfuck asians (mainland Chinese, no less) at an ivy league university.

raising your kid in a totalitarian hellhole where their major hope to avoid a life of reselling used cooking oil out of sewer [wikipedia.org] is to force them to 'study' for 10+ hours a day imitating Americans is a pretty good motivator. would you do it to your kid?

sorry, man, it's not genetics, or at least not exclusively, as much as our capitalist overlords would like to have us believe that; never trust statistics out of a totalitarian regime. it's mostly misery and desperation, and the work ethic of a chinese once the whip is removed from his back is right around nonexistent. their society is sort of, barely, working for catch-up. if they ever get to the point where they are innovative leaders, they are going to have a really tough time.

Re:Really? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#47245389)

So the US is right on target to increasing academic performance?

I guess 'ol Winston was right - "you can count on Americans to do the right thing after they've tried everything else".

Re:Really? (5, Insightful)

khchung (462899) | about 4 months ago | (#47245079)

According to our presently available research and body of technique is there really anything on the table that 'results in outstanding academic ability'?'

Parental involvement.

Mod Parent Up (1)

FearTheDonut (2665569) | about 4 months ago | (#47245163)

I already commented on this thread, or else I"d give you a +1 Insightful.

Re:Mod Parent Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245231)

I got him for you.

Re:Mod Parent Up (2)

FearTheDonut (2665569) | about 4 months ago | (#47245259)

Muchas Gracias.

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245245)

It would also help to have El-Ed majors who aren't totally freaked out by the prospect of basic math. Trying to learn how to deal with fractions when the teacher pees herself whenever the concept of Least-Common-Denominator comes up teaches you to be afraid of fractions, too.

Re:Really? (1)

rsmith-mac (639075) | about 4 months ago | (#47245291)

That falls under "'born, not made". You're either born to good parents or you're not.

Re:Really? (2)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 months ago | (#47244847)

This just in: difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

"Educational Standards" proving that if you lower the bar enough, even an idiot can graduate. - Tropico 3/4

Re:Really? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 months ago | (#47245149)

Re ""Educational Standards" proving that if you lower the bar enough, even an idiot can graduate."
With scholarships, testing early and often you can have the best of both worlds. A large pool of average happy students trapped in debt after 5 years of French or The Silmarillion or interpretive dance vs that few percentage who just seem to find real math jobs?
The US only has to ensure support a small pool of elite students who where on scholarships or had wealthy parents to fund them into the very best math and science courses.
Once they have been identified, sorted, supported and found jobs in the military industrial complex - what the rest of the over educated population enjoys is of no further concern.
You don't need that many to run the NSA, CIA, NRO, NGA (Geospatial) and others.
The rest of the consumer hi tech sector can be filled with cheap smart staff from other parts of the world- lower wages, union free and interchangeable.
People looking after the next gen multisensor systems will always be looked after.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244867)

Meh... AP classes just offer more rote memorization. They don't really improve the current situation.

Re:Really? (1)

quetwo (1203948) | about 4 months ago | (#47245077)

I found the CS AP class that I took in HS was actually pretty good. My University didn't accept the credit (even though I got a 5 on the exam), but I'd say we got a further into the true CS topics than I did in my earlier college classes. The class was built around C++ and included all the fun stuff like memory management, pointers, etc. The non-AP class was done in Pascal.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245157)

but I'd say we got a further into the true CS topics than I did in my earlier college classes.

Most colleges are garbage, too.

Re:Really? (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 4 months ago | (#47244915)

My cousin said his CS 101 class had about an 80% drop out rate because it was too hard for most. I wonder if the HS classes would be of high enough standard to have the same. I guess I could see the benefit of teaching CS just for "fun", but I would hope the HS doesn't give the children a false sense of hope for their college expectations.

Re:Really? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 months ago | (#47245061)

High School is completely different than college. If you show up to class in Highschool it is the teacher's job to make sure you pass, and courses do not cost you money either way, so almost no one drops courses

Re:Really? (1)

tsqr (808554) | about 4 months ago | (#47245337)

High School is completely different than college. If you show up to class in Highschool it is the teacher's job to make sure you pass, and courses do not cost you money either way, so almost no one drops courses

I guess things have changed quite a bit since I was in high school back in the stone age. Difficult elective classes had a significant drop rate, with the droppers usually opting to transfer into one of the "manual arts" (e.g., auto shop or wood shop) classes.

Re:Really? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47244955)

This just in: difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

Correction: most persons can't do them without studying / practicing hard.

The distinction is absolutely crucial to schools, parents, and nations.

There is such a thing as natural aptitude (3, Interesting)

sirwired (27582) | about 4 months ago | (#47245143)

Throughout my entire educational career, I was a slacker. I got decent grades (if not straight A's) without studying, paying much attention in class, or doing homework. I have a natural aptitude for the humanities and the sciences, and am adequate in math. (Better with applied vs. theoretical math.)

My one exception was foreign languages; I have absolutely no ability whatsoever in foreign languages. In American, I can speed-read, and have reasonable facility with writing. In any other language, it mattered not at all how much I studied, practiced, or did my homework, I was horrible, even by the low standards of an American high-school foreign language class. French, Latin, even American Sign Language as an adult, and I was hopeless. I got barely passing grades in French and Latin out of pity more than anything else.

Some difficult things are simply difficult for some people, and no amount of hard work is going to fix that. Throwing students against subjects they are unable to master is a waste of resource and is discouraging for both the student and teacher. I'm not saying students shouldn't be challenged; just that the idea that "hard work" will magically enable a student to master any subject is toxic.

Re:There is such a thing as natural aptitude (1)

jeIlomizer (3670951) | about 4 months ago | (#47245177)

My one exception was foreign languages; I have absolutely no ability whatsoever in foreign languages. In American, I can speed-read, and have reasonable facility with writing. In any other language, it mattered not at all how much I studied, practiced, or did my homework, I was horrible, even by the low standards of an American high-school foreign language class. French, Latin, even American Sign Language as an adult, and I was hopeless. I got barely passing grades in French and Latin out of pity more than anything else.

Have you considered that your education was poor, and that it's not very efficient to learn a foreign language by just sitting in a classroom and simply doing what they tell you?

Did you read my post on your way to a rant? (1)

sirwired (27582) | about 4 months ago | (#47245215)

I wasn't complaining that after two years of language instruction, I was not fluent in a language. I was stating that even compared the low bar set by the standards of the class, I was horrible, even in relation to my peers, who were being taught in the same way and came from the same background.

You'll get no argument from me that waiting until high-school to teach foreign language, and then doing so in typical lecture classes, isn't very effective. But that's not what my post was addressing.

Re:Did you read my post on your way to a rant? (1)

jeIlomizer (3670951) | about 4 months ago | (#47245333)

I was stating that even compared the low bar set by the standards of the class, I was horrible, even in relation to my peers, who were being taught in the same way and came from the same background.

Yes, I saw that. So? Some people aren't cut out for sitting in a classroom and do worse than others, even if just for specific subjects.

Re:There is such a thing as natural aptitude (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 4 months ago | (#47245457)

Have you considered that your education was poor, and that it's not very efficient to learn a foreign language by just sitting in a classroom and simply doing what they tell you?

I don't think that a good education is ever likely to make me a sociable person, and a lot of careers require being sociable. I actually even got fired once for not being sociable enough in a job that's infamous for being non-sociable.

I'm great at intuitive leaps in thinking. I'm utterly horrible in line-by-line "bookkeeper" tasks, and am eternally grateful that other people are not just like me so that they can do the essential bookkeeping and allow me to do the intuitive stuff. No, not for being surly and hateful. Simply for not schmoozing enough.

People are not interchangeable cogs where anybody can do anything well if they simply try hard enough. Even CEOs know that. Else why would they deserve so much money while hiring and firing identical-cog workers en masse? Obviously, it's because they're special and not identical cogs that can be bulk-purchased at a discount.

Re:Really? (1)

Hodr (219920) | about 4 months ago | (#47245169)

Certain disciplines require critical thinking, not just rote memorization or application of formula. I would suggest that some (possibly many) people cannot study their way into being good at critical thinking and problem solving.

Why Bother? (4, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | about 4 months ago | (#47245127)

All those jobs will be going to H-1B visa owners.

Re:Really? (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 4 months ago | (#47245181)

So you're suggesting that a K-12 focus on self-esteem doesn't result in outstanding academic ability?

This just in: difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

Especially those people. Right? You've either missed the point of TFA or you are a racist. Don't feel bad. Not everyone gets it. You're still a very special person, in your own way.

Re:Really? (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about 4 months ago | (#47245237)

difficult things are hard, and most people can't do them.

Presumably with "difficult" being defined as "something most people can't do."

AP is what exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244763)

They keep mentioning AP but its not actually written anywhere what this abbreviation stands for.

Re:AP is what exactly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244789)

They keep mentioning AP but its not actually written anywhere what this abbreviation stands for.

It means Advanced Placement, obviously you're not a golfer...

Re:AP is what exactly? (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47244825)

They keep mentioning AP but its not actually written anywhere what this abbreviation stands for.

"AP" means "Advanced Placement". It is basically a college level class taught in high school, and intended for advanced college-bound students. The "news" in TFA is that "average" students would have difficulty in these classes. In other news: the sky is blue.

Re:AP is what exactly? (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 months ago | (#47244853)

Welcome to Lake Wobegon High School.

Re:AP is what exactly? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47244965)

Welcome to Lake Wobegon High School.

Well duh, of course all of /. 's men are good looking!

Re:AP is what exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244877)

Even though schools in the US are just rote memorization factories, people still have difficulty with them. I'm not sure why.

But AP classes are much the same. If you want a real education, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Re: AP is what exactly? (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 4 months ago | (#47245203)

There is very little rote memorization in APCS.

Re:AP is what exactly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245105)

"AP" means "Advanced Placement". It is basically a college level class taught in high school, and intended for advanced college-bound students.

The funny thing is, at least in Maths and Science subjects, US college 100-level materials are just high school level in many Asian countries. E.g. calculus, mechanics, optics (diffraction, refraction, etc).

Re:AP is what exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245419)

Then why aren't they leading the way with new technologies? They outnumber the west 3 to 1. We should be seeing amazing, civilization rocking advancements at a pace the world has never seen from Asian countries with so many people that are so well educated. We don't though. It is mostly just farmers and factory workers. The engineers and designers are all from California, Chicago, New York, London, or Berlin. All westerners. Where is their contributions?

What is going on with education and test scores over there is probably similar to their currency markets: artificially manipulated.

Re:AP is what exactly? (1)

Hodr (219920) | about 4 months ago | (#47245187)

Which I never understood. My highschool had AP courses, but they also had actual college credit courses (mostly CS, Math, and Physics). With the AP classes you had to take a test, and the university may or may not accept the results for credit. For the college courses, the grade you receive goes on the college transcript (in this case the city's JC) and can be transferred just as you would transfer any junior college credits to a university.

Re:AP is what exactly? (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about 4 months ago | (#47245263)

They're not anywhere near college level. I've tutored the calculus variants and they do not cover anywhere near the full material for calc 1 let alone 2. At best it's a crappy outline of things to come in college. I would not want someone passing over calculus in college because of those classes.

Re:AP is what exactly? (1)

B33rNinj4 (666756) | about 4 months ago | (#47244851)

It stands for "Advanced Placement." It supposed to represent a more challenging level of work. However, from what I've seen of my sister-in-law's work, it's just a tremendous amount of busy-work wrapped around what I learned in "regular" classes. However, that might be a Texas thing. Our standards are lower, because we're just sittin' around waitin' fer the Rapture. At least, it feels that way.

Not a shocker. (3, Informative)

B33rNinj4 (666756) | about 4 months ago | (#47244781)

Well, when US schools put emphasis and financial focus on sports, something has to be cut or ignored. I live in Texas, and have seen middle schools with larger stadiums than what I had at my high school in Michigan. Sadly, throwing more money at the problem won't solve it, because it's too ingrained in our culture.

Re:Not a shocker. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 4 months ago | (#47244857)

Hey now, this is Texas! Guns, God, and Football. The holy trinity! Our places of worship is loud and clear.

Re:Not a shocker. (1)

rsmoody (791160) | about 4 months ago | (#47244905)

I've seen high schools in Texas (Hastings in Aliefe) with larger sports complexes (and much much nicer) than some universities. I particularly recall the swimming and diving building that was as nice as any Olympic facility.

Re:Not a shocker. (2)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47244973)

That might be a Texas-specific problem. In New England we don't tend to have that.

Re:Not a shocker. (2)

Hodr (219920) | about 4 months ago | (#47245209)

I would suggest that this may have more to do with you living in Texas, than the US. I went to school in 7 different states (military family), and the only one that had any emphasis at all outside of mandatory PE was Texas. For most of my schools they didn't even advertise the football games,so unless you played or knew a player, you had no idea when and where the game took place or who you were playing against.

It's called Advanced Placement for a reason (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 months ago | (#47244817)

College Board materials indicate that the average 11th grader's...

The "average" 11th grader isn't going to be taking AP classes. There is a reason they call it ADVANCED placement. It's supposed to be hard. It's supposed to be for the top end of the bell curve.

Re:It's called Advanced Placement for a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244861)

But it is somehow sexist, racist and classist that some animals are more equal than others, even though its true. Public policy must stem the tide of nature, comrade!

Wat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244827)

Average HeadShot Student Given Little Chance of ArmorPiecing CounterStrike Success

Not a sure fire thing anyway (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244869)

I took AP Computer Science in 10th grade, scored a 2 on it. I had some friends who were passionate about programming (doing it outside of High School like myself in C++) who ended changing their career choice just off of that test score, who also got 2s. On one hand, yes the AP class was great in that I got good practice every other day in C++ with a pretty good teacher there to ask questions, but the test itself I found very one sided for the folks who were great test takers. Just because I scored a 2, doesn't reflect the teacher's ability to convey how to do a linked list nor does it really reflect a student's abilities.

The emphasis in High School today shouldn't be "well Johnny you probably won't score a 3 so don't bother taking AP CS", but "Johnny we see you're really passionate about programming, why don't you take AP CS?"

Teach CS with Math classes (3, Insightful)

jimharris (14678) | about 4 months ago | (#47244873)

They should integrate programming with math classes. They should start students using Mathematica or Sage as early as possible. Programming math problems would teach both math and programming. Students would see programming as a problem solving tool, and not just another burden of something else to learn. If they integrated programming into math classes they wouldn't have to worry about adding programming classes to their curriculum. They could also integrate programming into other classes like science, or even English.

Re:Teach CS with Math classes (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47244981)

I dunno... You could alway make an argument for integrating any topic into any other, pretty much. Or for keeping them separate.

Re:Teach CS with Math classes (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245073)

Yes, you *could*, but you wouldn't always be as right as the one you replied to. Humans are tool-using creatures. Something as abstract as mathematics can be seen as a tool if programming is integrated with mathematics. Plus, it'll make it easier to understand why it works, which is something we desperately need in math education.

"When am I ever going to use this?" Well, how about right now?

Re:Teach CS with Math classes (1)

jimharris (14678) | about 4 months ago | (#47245083)

But don't think that math and programming go together like peanut butter and jelly?

To figure out how to program a math problem requires learning the math. Turning a problem into an algorithm means learning how the problem works in a very fundamental way.

Re:Teach CS with Math classes (3, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47245235)

I'd say there are two very different levels of connection.

At the most obvious and shallow, computers are good at crunching numbers quickly, and early programming languages were designed to put that power to good use. But nowadays, at least at the application programming level, the focus of average programmers' work tends to be much more on string processing (for web pages, twitter feeds, etc.) and storage/retrieval (databases, etc.) There are certainly mathematical implications of that work, but not so much numerical math.

Then at the much deeper level you find out that graph theory, topology, and computability have powerful connections to type systems, program correctness proofs, etc. I suspect that my mind can only hold a small fraction of the interesting connections in this area. This is what I'd call serious, deep Computer Science, and this is where I see it really tying in fundamentally to math. To me, this is the purest form of CS, and most CS grads barely grok it and/or care about it. Advances in this area are probably like advances in pure mathematics: it may take decades or even centuries for us to understand their application to the software development changes right in front of us, but when we do, they're transformative. Although maybe that's over-selling it a little.

Re:Teach CS with Math classes (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47245239)

Sorry, I forgot to include rewriting systems in all of that. No disrespect, yo.

Re:Teach CS with Math classes (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about 4 months ago | (#47245299)

I disagree, on the grounds that math ought to be studied for itself. If you try to do everything in math through CS then you'll get a poor grasp of what math is really all about.

Re:Teach CS with Math classes (1)

jimharris (14678) | about 4 months ago | (#47245415)

I agree that everyone should learn as much math and statistics as they can. I think it turns off most kids to math when they teach pure abstract math. Adding programming might make math more appealing and less abstract. Have you ever used Mathematica? I bet grade school kids wold think math was a lot more fun if they learned math with Mathmatica. You wouldn't even have to mention that it involves programming. They should learn the basics of mathematical problems without calculators and programming first, but should be shown applied math next with real world problems, and then shown how to automate the problem solving with tools.

What about AP math? (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 4 months ago | (#47244881)

If students are capable of handling AP math, they should be able to handle AP CS--since the way most CS college programs are run, they're basically the same thing.

Re:What about AP math? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244933)

If students are capable of handling AP math, they should be able to handle AP CS--since the way most CS college programs are run, they're basically the same thing.

That would be because CS is a branch of Math. If you were thinking about some sort of programming class. That is not CS.

Re:What about AP math? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47244989)

Obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com] reference.

Re:What about AP math? (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 4 months ago | (#47245007)

That would be because CS is a branch of Math.

Yeah, that's what I just said. You apparently didn't take AP English.

Re:What about AP math? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245093)

If students are capable of handling AP math

AP math is different from actual math, in the sense that you're not getting any sort of understanding of why any of it works.

So yes, if you consider handling AP math as memorizing facts and patterns, then they should be able to do more of the same for AP CS.

Like swimming (1)

cablepokerface (718716) | about 4 months ago | (#47244883)

I believe two things should be just as important as swimming lessons for kids: coding and judo. Judo because it challenges them physically, improves their confidence and helps them recognize conflicts. Coding because it helps their creativity and computer literacy. In a perfect world, everyone eventually learns how to automate their tasks (or at least to some degree). My two cents though.

Computer Science curriculum (1)

FearTheDonut (2665569) | about 4 months ago | (#47244889)

Does anyone know exactly what is taught in a CS AP class? I'm sure a lot of people would love to be in a "AP CS" class, but the cold, hard reality is that CS can be very different than what many people thing. Just learning JavaScript to make a hip HTML 5 website, while entertaining to some, is not Computer Science. But teach Lisp/Scheme to the students to learn the value of S-Expressions, or algorithm development will help lead others down the road of Computer Science. Just Building A WebSite != Computer Science.

Re:Computer Science curriculum (2)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47245005)

I'm not sure we should hit kids with the full force of CS theory in their first CS course. I suspect there's a real benefit to giving them something with tangible results and immediately useful skills, like Javascript. Without that, I think they might be unable to see the relevance of the more advanced theory, and lose interest in CS altogether.

Re:Computer Science curriculum (1)

FearTheDonut (2665569) | about 4 months ago | (#47245069)

For a standard high-school "computer" class, yes, I agree with you. 100%. But I'm referring to Advanced Placement classes, where it's gearing you for college credits. It should teach them the same things I've had to learn my first class in CS: basic algorithm development, pointer arithmetic, registers. (My first intro to CS class has us learning C inside and out).

Is this the exception for CS classes now? Or a typical program?

Re:Computer Science curriculum (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 months ago | (#47245183)

There's probably more than one way to skin the cat, and I don't have enough experience in the design of CS curricula to know which works out better.

When I took CS 101 as an undergrad, the focus was primarily on using and implementing abstract data types, and getting the hang of programming in general. We did use pointers, but it was in Pascal.

It worked out okay in the end - most/all of us in that CS 101 class have good careers, and I managed to end up with a PhD in CS. But I suppose data isn't the plural of anecdote.

Re:Computer Science curriculum (1)

FearTheDonut (2665569) | about 4 months ago | (#47245287)

That's interesting to hear. I think my school (University of Delaware, class 2003) mostly assumed you had that entering in the program. It might well have changed.

That being said, I do take issue with one thing: as far as I can imagine, there is only one way to skin a cat. :)

Re:Computer Science curriculum (1)

Hodr (219920) | about 4 months ago | (#47245233)

No, that's standard fare for a BS in CS. Problem is, many take BA/ or Associates of Arts in CS and believe they are the same thing.

Re:Computer Science curriculum (1)

cryptizard (2629853) | about 4 months ago | (#47245089)

It's pretty much equivalent to a CS 101 class in college. Basic object-oriented design, introduction to programming, simple data structures and common algorithms, etc.

Re:Computer Science curriculum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245111)

Here is a link to the course outline [collegeboard.com] (PDF). The emphasis is on good design with the goal of solving problems. Less on the theoretical aspects of computer science, more on the engineering practice of designing software from what I gather in the outline.

It's not just CS. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#47244895)

The headline could just as easily read: Average HS student given little chance of ----------------- success.

There's not a thing wrong with being average. By its very definition,and including those slightly above or below the mean, it describes the bulk of our human resources.

Identifying and lifting the gifted out of the noise is always a noble project.

CS is not for everyone (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 months ago | (#47244949)

I do not know why anyone with any sense would worry about low enrollment in CS. A significant number of people do not get Math, and if you do not get Math becoming a programmer is just stupid. CS is a niche subject, worry about how those few in it perform, not filling up classrooms.

Re:CS is not for everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47244999)

It isn't the best career/college major choice either.

Let's do a study on how successful STEM majors are at relationships with attractive women compared if they went into another field...

Love the gender examples (3, Funny)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#47245011)

And we wonder why females have little interest in CS? The male version talks about gaming and creating toys, while the female version sounds like they want to target non-mathphobic social workers.

All the female programmers I know (yeah yeah, n=3, anecdata sucks) got into it for the same reasons as their male counterparts - The love of ripping into the metaphorical guts of a computer and bending it to their will. The love of gaming, whether or not it satisfies the current BS about "strong female protagonists". The pure joy of losing countless hours in the trance-like state we enter in a really good coding session.

Then again, they all self-describe as "Tom-boys", so I see it as entirely plausible that those women currently in CS simply fall into the small minority that do like the same things as male geeks. Even if that holds true, however, I find it fairly disturbing that anyone would seriously try to promote a CS degree by offering it in pink.

Re:Love the gender examples (1)

cryptizard (2629853) | about 4 months ago | (#47245107)

Yeah, I'm not sure what those examples were about. It seems like there should just be one letter that is somewhere in between the boy and girl one, emphasizing the "cool" factor along with the good job prospects and flexible working conditions.

Re:Love the gender examples (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | about 4 months ago | (#47245131)

No, they're targeting potential breeders, implying that a woman's place is at home, pumping out spawn. Hence the focus on part time and home working.

Re:Love the gender examples (1)

jkhuggins (460033) | about 4 months ago | (#47245361)

This isn't about offering a "pink CS degree".

There is a common cultural stereotype about what a CS major "looks like": their skills, their interests, their demeanor, and so on. Basically, if you want to be a CS major, you're supposed to be like Bill Gates or Steve Wozniak or Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer. There are plenty of folks driven off from even considering CS as a vocation because of that stereotype. Sure, many of those driven off are women, but I've seen men driven off by the same stereotype.

Given the predicted shortage of CS/IT professionals coming in the next ten years, CS can't afford to be driving off anyone due to some sort of cultural stereotype. Offering a different version of a CS curriculum isn't offering a "pink CS degree"; it simply shows that there are different ways to be a CS major.

And ... you know, some boys like pink, too. :)

Re:Love the gender examples (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 4 months ago | (#47245427)

And we wonder why females have little interest in CS? The male version talks about gaming and creating toys, while the female version sounds like they want to target non-mathphobic social workers.

Yep. Full versions of the letters are available here [gatech.edu] . Also notice that the "Girl" letter states that a computing class may be required for any "science and math fields", while the "Boy" letter notes that a computing class may be required for any "science, engineering, and math fields." Even the signature blocks are different, with the "Boy" letter signed by GT's Director of Computing Outreach, while the "Girl" letter is signed "Teacher Name". There are many subtle differences throughout the letters that really have no place to be there.

Back in the '80's (2)

Greyfox (87712) | about 4 months ago | (#47245067)

I'm an air force brat and moved around a lot. Back in the '80's I did three years of high school in a school in upstate New York. They had a program with a very clear progression -- they offered a programming course in BASIC, a more advanced programming course in BASIC, a programming course in Pascal and an AP programming course in Pascal. I did the first three and got a look at one of the projects one of the guys in the AP class was doing -- a recursive descent parser in Pascal. Unfortunately in my last year, Dad got moved to Alabama. The school down there didn't have an AP CS class at the time. They did have a couple of fairly basic classes -- one with BASIC and one with Fortran that they'd just started that year. I took the Fortran one just to keep my hands on computers and ended up showing the teacher and the class how to use the system environment, which was the same one we'd been using for Pascal up in New York.

Even though there was a bit of a gap between the two schools' programs, 30 years ago you could get an introduction to programming and CS concepts in both of them. It seems like we've been back-sliding since then.

Re:Back in the '80's (2)

HBI (604924) | about 4 months ago | (#47245165)

The main problem is that computer education fails to teach the basics - the simple lessons about input and output. Then, isolates the student so far from the hardware atop multiple layers of software cruft that you'll never get an idea how the real machine works.

I took an undergrad Computer Architecture class which was very nice. Had an excellent, simplistic virtual machine environment (MARIE) with a very short list of opcodes. By the time you were done with that, you should understand the things we understood back in the 70s and 80s working on Z-80 CP/M boxes or 8088s (or 6502s...). We should teach that class at the High School level.

I flunked the AP CS test (4, Insightful)

sirwired (27582) | about 4 months ago | (#47245071)

Waaaayyy back in the mid-90's, I took the AP CS test my junior year of HS. The test was scheduled right after I took the AP US History test in the AM (I rocked that test with a 5 and passed out of 2 semesters of history for it) and as my brain was fried, I staggered into the principal's conference room to take the AP CS test with another dozen or so kids from my class.

I completely bombed the test (a 2)... my brain was so scorched from the history exam that morning I couldn't make heads or proverbial tails of the essay questions. I got a 2, and I'm glad I did. Why? Because that was when the test was still being administered in Pascal, and by the time I got to college, my school had shifted over to C++ as their main "teaching language". It's no fun taking an advanced CS class when all your assignments take extra time while you give yourself a crash course in C-style syntax everybody else is taking for granted.

That said, despite the fact I flunked the test, my actual high school CS class was excellent. It meant that when I had to re-take intro-to-CS in college all I had to do was learn new syntax for the concepts I already knew; the overlap of the theory was pretty complete.

On another note, why would we expect the average high-schooler to pass a college-level CS exam? It's a hard test, just like it's supposed to be. And it's a subject that many students, no matter their other virtues, don't have much aptitude in. (I'd be interested to know what this one year in "Computer Science" that all Chinese kids are given actually consists of...)

All that said... yes, waaayyyy more than 10% of our high schools need to be offering the class. Every high school surely contains some students with both the aptitude and desire to take such a class.

I suppose that explains (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 months ago | (#47245087)

I suppose that explains why a loser on another thread was telling me that single bit operations are faster than if you operate on whatever size the processor handles internally (eg. 8bit, 16bit, 32bit and now 64bit). Everyone in my high school maths class knew better than that in the 1980s before we even got a chance to get near a keyboard.

Lurking,,, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245125)

Lurking behind this is the Silicon Valley's crony capitalism that's be throwing large sums at the Democratic party and expecting something in return. Glutting the market with programmers offers those companies a way to slash those currently high salaries.

Why would a prospective CS major take the AP test? (1)

russotto (537200) | about 4 months ago | (#47245139)

AP tests are made to get you college credit, but many CS programs won't accept AP credit to fulfill requirements in CS. So there's not a lot of point for a student wanting to become a CS major to take the AP CS test.

Also note it is (or was, it's been a while) possible to take the AP test without taking the AP class.

Re:Why would a prospective CS major take the AP te (1)

quintessentialk (926161) | about 4 months ago | (#47245255)

There may be something to this. The principal advantage of the AP credit I earned before college was that I was able to avoid some of the required courses outside my major. Though, I certainly would have taken an AP course in my area of interest had my school offered it, because I would likely score and grade well and that would have helped my GPA if nothing else.

Re:Why would a prospective CS major take the AP te (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47245359)

This is a good point.

If all you are after is a bit of paper. Do not bother with the AP classes.

All of my AP classes transferred but did not get me credit hours. What that meant was I was just simply taking harder classes earlier. I still had to take enough hours to graduate. Which mean I was taking a few 'fluff' classes as I had maxed out on the bachelors for CS. I found my fluff classes intensely dull. Which mean I was wasting money to just get my hours.

I took the AP classes for the same reason. I had maxed out on the normal curve. Instead of heading home at noon I would hang around a couple hours extra to get more free study. Thinking I could use them in college.

I'm glad I never took any HS computer classes... (1)

jjn1056 (85209) | about 4 months ago | (#47245265)

Think of all the unlearning that would get in the way of me actually being a decent programmer.

Does it have to much theory and lacking in real sk (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 4 months ago | (#47245325)

Does it have to much theory and lacking in real skills that are more use fully in the over all IT field?

A lot of the posters here have it part right (2)

zkiwi34 (974563) | about 4 months ago | (#47245399)

However, I reckon the real issue is that CS at university cares less about what you did at high school. They want Calculus/Further Mathematcs and Physics for sure, and having Chemistry is a help. It is rare than a college cares about AP CS other than in a token way. All this has the effect of making CS in high schools a complete and utter waste of time, for the student and for the school, which is why CS in high school will (unless things change) always have a wave of enthusiasm sinking back into a slough of "why did we even care?"

Think of it this way, if you go to university wanting to major in X (be it Art, Music, Languages, Sciences, Mathematics etc, anything but CS), they check that you've done X in high school. CS doesn't want X, they want Y and Z. So, the failing to have a proper CS program in high schools that would properly prepare students for CS (and for that matter Engineering and to a degree the Natural Sciences) is that the universities cannot or will not agree to what constitutes a proper preparation for CS.

What makes it worse is the likes of Google, Microsoft etc plump down money for these "feel good, everyone can/should code" initiatives. The kids, their families etc get all excited and then it hits them like a brick - the universities do not care.

I believe if the universities got their act together, or were presented with a solid CS program that fed into their undergraduate core on much more than a "Whee! We can now write functions!" (which is all AP CS provides) then things would get real and be of actual practical good to all. I know there's the smarts for this in high schools, and I know if universities got over themselves they'd be able to as a team come up with something great.

I taught myself programming and did fine (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 4 months ago | (#47245411)

Many good software engineers I know did the same. I passed throught the educational system before a lot of this material was distilled into coursework. With all the public resources out there now- half the MOOCs are on CS topics- its even easier for a motivated person to learn things than when I did. I wish people would stop whining about education.
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