Code.org AP CSA curriculum is a hit with teachers and students

After years of requests from educators and students, Code.org is now offering a curriculum for AP© Computer Science A (CSA) — a course that has historically suffered from gender and racial gaps in participation. True to our commitment to equitable learning, we’ve reimagined and redesigned CSA from the ground up to better engage and empower students from all backgrounds.

Available at no cost, the new curriculum emphasizes creativity, with lessons connected to the real world presented in a user-friendly and visually rich multimedia environment. One teacher who participated in our pilot program said this curriculum was “more fun and engaging than what I had used in the past.”

To further improve access to CSA, our curriculum uses a new browser-based programming environment, Java Lab. It’s specifically designed for learning and exploring the CSA concepts on a wide range of computers with minimal setup — thus eliminating the need to install software on school computers to teach the course.

More info about the curriculum, which is supported by a $15 million donation from Amazon Future Engineer, can be found at code.org/educate/csa, and teachers can apply today for professional learning workshops that begin this summer.

Teachers at a Code.org professional learning facilitators summit in May 2022. (Photo by Melissa Rocha, Code.org.)

What makes our CSA curriculum different

The Code.org CSA curriculum is designed for equity and considers the diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of all students in the classroom. That includes vocabulary, visuals, strategies for processing and understanding content, and more. As one teacher in our curriculum pilot program said:

“It stands out from the pack in contextualizing what students are learning in a culturally relevant and responsive framework.”

Code.org’s CSA curriculum uses strategies from Culturally Responsive Teaching pedagogy. For example, Call and Response — shown to be especially effective with students from cultures with oral traditions of learning and affirmation — is used to help build a positive community environment and create routines in the classroom. The curriculum also uses concept learning videos populated with diverse presenters who work in technology to help students from different backgrounds visualize opportunities for their own futures.

A class of high school computer science students. (Photo by Code.org.)

Acknowledging diversity of experiences and interests is essential to equity. Projects are carefully designed to be instructive yet open-ended, without making assumptions about students’ cultural backgrounds or life experiences. Our hope is that every teacher and student finds this curriculum to be “creative, inclusive, and engaging,” as one pilot teacher reported.

Software engineering for all

Our curriculum incorporates a “Software Engineering for All” narrative intended to help students envision themselves as software engineers. Global director of Amazon’s philanthropic education initiatives, Victor Reinoso, says:

“The CSA curriculum teaches more than programming skills to help prepare students for jobs of the future. It helps students build and model critical career skills, while learning how to conduct code reviews, trace code segments, read documentation, and write code with both the user and other developers in mind. Through this project-based learning approach, students also have ample opportunity to engage in collaboration and problem solving.”

Throughout the curriculum, students will develop and model valuable, real-world career skills like working in pairs or small teams to brainstorm and test solutions. The curriculum promotes collaboration skills, incorporating a student-friendly tool for code reviews, a common quality assurance practice in the technology industry.

“I like the change to real-world projects,” said Sammy, a student who participated in Code.org’s CSA Student Advisory Council, established to incorporate student responses and feedback into the design of the curriculum. “Real-life application is very important.”

Another student on the council, Anneliese, said, “Having the projects more like what we would do in real life is very confidence boosting, and the work we would do in these would be more like what we would do on the AP exam.”

Echoing Anneliese about the AP exam, one pilot teacher remarked:

“I feel like my students are farther ahead in preparation for the test than in previous years.”

Another teacher said, “The curriculum does a great job of giving students the practice in talking about code, which helps them better understand and prepare to be successful on Free Response Questions.”

A screenshot of a lesson in the Code.org AP CSA curriculum.

Envisioning the future together

We are excited that both teachers and students find the Code.org CSA curriculum relevant and engaging. As with all of our curricula, we will continue to listen for feedback from students and teachers to update and improve the curriculum regularly to ensure it continues to engage and empower students as technology, culture, and society evolves.

Like all Code.org curricula, CSA is available at no cost for anyone, anywhere to teach. (You must become a verified teacher to use the CSA curriculum and JavaLab; please fill out this verification form.) Professional learning for teaching our CSA curriculum is available this summer.

Our goals in creating this curriculum were to develop a more equitable curriculum, connect students to possible CS career paths, design relevant and engaging activities, and incorporate best practices from the field. Our hope is that our curriculum not only achieves these goals, but also empowers students to both succeed on the AP CSA exam, as well as envision the future and their place in it.

— The Code.org Team

Join us in empowering classrooms by making the most generous gift you can to Code.org. Your support makes Code.org’s curriculum and learning tools free and accessible to all students around the world. For questions or assistance, please contact the Office of Development at giving@code.org or (206) 593–5521.

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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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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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