Amazon, Code.org plan new curriculum for breakthrough in computer science diversity

State leaders support equity-focused curriculum and commit to expanding computer science

Learning computer science is crucial in our increasingly digitized, technological world. Computer code, algorithms, and artificial intelligence help us in just about everything we do, from shopping and communicating to finding novel cures for deadly diseases. Studying the subject sets up students for academic, professional, and personal success, regardless of which path or career they pursue.

Code.org and Amazon are excited to announce the development of a first-of-its-kind Computer Science A (CSA) Java programming curriculum designed with equity at its core. (Photo by Code.org)

Closing the gap where it begins

According to the College Board, Black students who take the Advanced Placement Computer Science A (AP CSA) exam are seven times more likely to study computer science in college. In 2020, while Black students made up 15% of the U.S. student body, they comprised only 3.5% of AP CSA exam takers — down from 3.9% in 2019 and largely flat for the past several years. Just 14% of the 70,000 students who took the AP CSA exam were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups,* and only 25% of students identified as female.

Just 14% of the 70,000 students who took the AP CSA exam were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups,* and only 25% of students identified as female. (Data source: code.org/promote/ap)

Reimagining AP CSA

AP CSA courses have traditionally focused on the building blocks required to design solutions to problems through programming. Creating this new curriculum with equity in mind means reimagining the structure and pedagogy. We need to not only teach the technical building blocks to successfully prepare students for the AP exam, but also excite and inspire a wide range of students and engage them in the various ways they learn.

Code.org’s approach will focus on equity in the following ways:

  • The curriculum is designed for equity and considers cultural references and learning styles in every facet. That includes vocabulary, visuals, and the sequence of concepts taught. Code.org’s CSA will use strategies from Culturally Responsive Teaching pedagogy.
  • Acknowledging diversity of experiences and interests is essential to equity. Students will investigate real-world problems during class activities and make connections to their own work. Projects will be carefully designed to be instructive yet more open-ended, without making assumptions about students’ cultural background or life experiences, enabling students to demonstrate mastery of concepts and engage in their passions.
  • Diverse representation brings to life “Software Engineering for All.” A new “Software Engineering for All” narrative will help students envision themselves as software engineers, and the curriculum will extensively use videos populated with diverse presenters who work in technology to help students visualize opportunities for their own futures.
  • Students will develop and model valuable, real-world career skills. In addition to skills like tracing code segments and documenting code, Code.org’s new curriculum will incorporate collaboration and career skills that go beyond the College Board’s CSA framework. For example, curriculum tools will include a system for students to do code reviews, a common quality assurance practice in the technology industry.

Support from state governments, industry and high education

Code.org’s new curriculum for AP CSA already has support from significant stakeholders. State leaders from New Mexico, Oklahoma, Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania have pledged to expand AP CSA during the 2021–22 school year, and have committed to requiring all high schools in their states to offer computer science.

New Mexico, Oklahoma, Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania are set to participate in a pilot of Code.org’s AP CSA curriculum .

Looking ahead

Code.org and Amazon believe every student benefits from learning computer science in the 21st century. Not every student will or needs to become a programmer, but every student should be able to envision themselves as a software engineer and to see people who look like them in these roles. As a society, we need our software engineers to represent all of us, and we need to design and create solutions with all of us in mind.

Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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