No African-Americans, Hispanics or Girls Took The AP Computer Science Exam In Some States

If you were counting on Montana or Mississippi to provide diversity in the tech field in the near future, you can probably count them out.

According to data compiled by Georgia Tech, not a single girl, African-American or Hispanic student took the computer science Advanced Placement test in Mississippi or Montana last year.  What’s disheartening is that  more than a third of the population in Mississippi is black.

Via the National Journal:

There are 11 states where not a single African-American took the test, and eight states where no Hispanics sat for the exam.

We’re not talking here about people who passed or didn’t pass, either. We’re talking about people who simply took the test, which means African-Americans, Hispanics and girls aren’t enrolling in AP computer science classes in the first place.

Of the approximately 30,000 students who took the exam in 2013, only around 20 percent were female, according to the analysis, and a tiny 3 percent were African-American. Just 8 percent were Hispanic.

One reason there are so few students enrolling in the class and taking the test is that AP computer science courses are more common in suburban and private schools, Barbara Ericson, a senior research scientist with Georgia Tech who compiled the data, told the blog Education Week, and those schools tend to be less diverse than urban and public schools.

Another potential reason is that there are so few women, African-American and Hispanic instructors teaching computer science and so few working in the computer science field. Students are more likely to pursue a course of study if they have mentors with similar backgrounds to emulate.

On the flip-side, it looks as though Maryland and Texas may provide a bit of diversity in the future of tech. Maryland had the largest percentage of African-American test-takers, at 10 percent (170 students). Texas had the largest percentage of Hispanic students take the exam, at 18 percent (751 students).

Here’s a breakdown of the findings:

  • No females took the exam in Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming.
  • For states that had some females take the exam the percentage female ranged from 3.88% in Utah to 29% in Tennessee.
  • 11 states had no Black students take the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • The following states had the most Black students taking the exam: 1) Maryland with 170, 2) Texas with 132, 3) Georgia with 129, 4) Florida with 83, 5) Virginia with 78, 6) California with 74, 7) New York with 68, 8) New Jersey with 34 9) Mass with 34 and 10) North Carolina with 28. The pass rates for Black student in these states: Maryland 27.06%, Texas 48.48%, Georgia 21.7%, Florida 19.28%, Virginia 28.21%, California 56.76%, New York 33.82%, New Jersey 47.06%, Mass 38.24%, and North Carolina 21.43%.
  • The pass rate for Black students in states that had at least 5 Black students take the exam ranged from 19% (Florida) to 75% (Alabama) with 6 of 8 passing.
  • 8 states had no Hispanic students take the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
  • The following states had the most Hispanic students taking the exam: 1) Texas with 751, 2) California with 392, 3) Florida with 269 , 4) New York with 150, 5) Illinois with 142, 6) New Jersey with 96, 7) Virginia with 90, 8) Maryland with 88, 9) Georgia with 71, and 10) Mass with 56. In report the Hispanic numbers I cam combining the College Board categories of Mexican American, Other Hispanic, and Puerto Rican. The pass rate for Hispanic students in these states: Texas 44.47%, California 47.45%, Florida 44.61%, New York 35.33%, Illinois 39.44%, New Jersey 52.08%, Virginia 46.67%, Maryland 44.32%, Georgia 40.85%, and Mass 39.29%

When I was in high school,  STEM wasn’t something that was encouraged to students.  Don’t get me wrong, we had every AP class available, and most of my friends were either taking AP Chemistry or AP Bio by their senior year, but AP Computer Science wasn’t offered. Even back then, computer science was an elective course and not mandatory. But my mother made sure I participated every summer in a program at Stevens Institute of Technology. It was there I took advanced classes in engineering, science and math, along with hundreds of other minority students.  Although I didn’t appreciate spending every summer living on a campus and studying, in the long run it was beneficial. Even though I didn’t study engineering or science in college, it’s still a huge part of my life.

The issue a lot of these states are facing is the lack of resources to provide these courses. Ericson said AP computer science courses “are more prevalent in suburban and private schools than in urban, poor schools.” Until resources are available, students will miss out on the opportunities.


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