AP Computer Science Principles Efforts at the University of Wyoming

AP Computer Science Principles at UWyo

The AP Computer Science Principles Exam exam is a relatively new exam offered by the College Board. The first batch of students took this exam in 2017, and it was the largest, most successful launch of an AP exam ever! In 2019, around 100,000 students took the exam.

The course roughly covers the material offered in a CS1 or CS0 college course, but the emphasis is on more than basic computer programming. The College Board describes the course as follows:

AP Computer Science Principles introduces students to the central ideas of computer science, inviting students to develop the computational thinking vital for success across multiple disciplines. The course is unique in its focus on fostering students to be creative and encouraging students to apply creative processes when developing computational artifacts. Students design and implement innovative solutions using an iterative process similar to
what artists, writers, computer scientists, and engineers use to bring ideas to life.

An important feature of this course is that it is inclusive of students of all backgrounds. The only prerequisite is Algebra 1, which is unusually low for a technical AP course. Moreover, by focusing on applications of computing instead of just technical computing prowess, the course appeals to students who may not otherwise consider a computing course.

Benefits for Schools and Their Students

We believe that all Wyoming High Schools should offer the AP CSP course. Here’s why:

Opportunities for Schools and Teachers

Due to generous support from the National Science Foundation, the University of Wyoming offered Professional Development opportunities for teachers across Wyoming. A 2-week summer course provided a broad overview of the material in the AP CSP course, and how it is assessed in the AP CSP exam. The course was offered both live in the Laramie campus, as well as virtually to participants who cannot travel to Laramie. In addition, teachers who offered the AP CSP in following years were able to participate in virtual teacher circles for continuing support.

Participants in the PD received a $2,000 stipend, as well as tuition and expenses for the course. More information is available at the PD information page.

Funding for this project is no longer available, so we cannot fund teachers who wish to pursue this opportunity. However, the material is still available for teachers who wish to incorporate computing into their curriculum, especially to those who are interesting in offering AP CSP at their high schools. Teachers can sign up for a distributed version of the PD, and they may be able to use a completion certificate in partial fulfillment of the requirements for teacher certification in the State of Wyoming. See the PTSB Pathways to Computer Science for more information.

The AP CSP Course Offered at UWyo

Some Wyoming districts and high schools may find it impossible to offer an AP course in computer science, either because they do not have enough students enrolled for the course to be viable, or because they cannot afford to attract and retain teachers who can offer this course. Consequently, UWyo has offered a version of this course that is available to all Wyoming high schools. The course was offered as an online course, and it is taught by a professor in the department of computer science who is also a reader for the AP CSP exam. More information is available at the course web page.

Currently, this course is not being offered because of scheduling conflicts. But if you’re interested in making this course available to students in your high school, let us know and we will try to work something out, perhaps in tandem with personal training for a future computer science teacher at your school.

NSF Acknowledgment

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CNS-1441069. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.