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Computer science courses still lack minority representation
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2014 11:20 AM

Science, technology, engineering and math fields in the U.S. are dominated by men. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, men are hired in STEM fields at twice the rate women are. What's more, Hispanics and blacks have been historically underrepresented in these industries. To combat this, more educational programs and nonprofit organizations have attempted to pique STEM interest in minority students (in this case, minority includes women, blacks and Hispanics). For instance, the Girl Scouts of America has created a computer game that teaches players the ins and outs of developing video games. Code.org provides free resources that teach students how to code. Despite these efforts, computer science is still most popular with boys.

Computer science and AP
The College Board recently released data from fall Advanced Placement 2014 testing, and computer science participation showed that boys dominated the students taking the exam. Some minorities were more represented in 2014 than in 2013, but the gap is still looming. Here's a look at who took the test this fall:

  • Women: 20 percent (up from 19 percent in 2013)
  • Black: 4 percent (same as 2013)
  • Hispanic: 9 percent (up from 8 percent in 2013)
  • Asian: 30 percent
  • White: 52 percent

Additionally, this percentage breakdown is a national average. In some states, such as Wyoming and Montana, no Hispanic students took the AP computer science exam. Other states had virtually no black student representation.

Common Core and STEM
The Common Core State Standards provide benchmarks for English/language arts and math, which includes only one of the STEM subjects. Many educators worry that a lack of standards for computer science and technology will fail to encourage students to explore such subjects - the Next Generation Science Standards offer science benchmarks for participating states. Fortunately, some states allow students to take computer science courses in place of a math or science credit. If more states adopt this approach, however, that still does not solve the issue of demographics.

"We believe low AP Computer Science A Exam participation among traditionally underrepresented minority and female students has been an encouragement and access issue, but are hopeful to see the focus is shifting," Katherine Levin, spokesperson for the College Board, told Education Week. "Twenty-five states now allow computer science to count towards high school graduation requirements, and organizations like Code.org are helping to introduce the subject in earlier grades."




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