In 2013, no female students took the AP computer science exam in three states (Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming). In eight states (Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming), no Hispanic students took the exam. And in 11 states (Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) no black students took the exam. Notice that the three states where women test takers were absent all also appear on the other two lists. It’s not a good scene.
The stats come from College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson, who runs outreach efforts for the Institute for Computing Education at Georgia Tech. As the Atlantic points out, big talk about starting students early is still not reflected in numbers like these.
And one of the most concerning aspects of the whole situation, as contextualized by College Board spokesperson Deborah Davis in an email to Education Week, is that some of these states just didn’t really have any students taking the exam at all. The College Board administered only 11 AP computer science exams in Montana, one in Mississippi, and none in Wyoming. None!
Davis also wrote, “We were not surprised by Barbara Ericson’s findings because unfortunately, computing courses have historically been dominated by white, male students.” It’s true! She did say that the College Board is collaborating with national nonprofits and outreach groups to work toward access to AP courses for everyone.
It’s also worth noting that female and minority students interested in pursuing computer science in college could still be using AP math and physics courses as preparation even if they’re not taking the AP computer science exam itself. But nevertheless, these numbers are pretty bleak.