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Alfred Thompson, a former high school computer science teacher and now a Microsoft employee, blogged today on taking a look at AP Computer Science. 

Quite timely I thought even after I posed this question last week to Microsoft boss Bill Gates, "Is computer science education dead". Quite timely indeed even after I said something to my Associate Director here at school on Friday about how frustrated I am teaching AP Computer Science and that when our school hires another Computer Science Teacher next year that maybe that's when I have that teacher teach AP Computer Science and not me.

Alfred walks on dangerous waters posing this question but kudos to him for stating what he believes in. To give history to those that don't know about the Advanced Placement courses: The program began in 1955 as a way to give bright high-school students a chance to get ahead before college. That year, 1,300 students took AP exams nationwide, compared with more than 660,000 last year according to the College Board (,0,479211.story?page=1)

The program charges $85.00 per test and last year 14,059 students took the AP Computer Science A exam. It is a tough exam that students are required to take and a tough job for AP computer science teachers to prepare students. Teaching in the south allows me to have more time to teach my students than teaching in the north. Our school year starts in August and in the north they start after labor day. The exam is in early May and the AP curriculum consists of several standard topics to cover along with a case study. In the past, my students have done well on the exam. I teach bright students at a private school. All my students passed the exam last year.

If you're interested you can find out more about the curriculum at this site:

I have taught AP Computer Science for 11 years now and there have been 3 languages. Pascal, C++ and now JAVA. When new versions and improvements of JAVA come out then the curriculum gets changed. The case study is also going to be changed for the next school year.

I only teach one section of AP Computer Science and my enrollments have always been low for this course. We have made changes at our school where we are now requiring incoming Grade 9 students to take Honors Programming or Web Design to meet the school's computer science requirement. We are also requiring students in lower and middle school to get introduced to programming at our younger age. I'm also changing the curriculum for our Honors Programming II class to teach XNA and C# so students can create games and deploy them to their XBOX console. Hopefully, more interest in the Advanced Placement course will take place with these changes.

Back to Alfred's blog.... He brings up good points but as they say "You're not going to change city hall".   The language JAVA will stay the same because it's free and is an OOP language that runs on all platforms, the test will be the same because the rubric works with the questions that are asked, the level of difficulty will remain the same because it's a college course and students get college credit. What still needs to get addressed is why some  colleges and universities don’t accept the AP score that a high school students gets for taking this difficult course and exam.  Many schools don’t accept a 3 or 4 which is a passing score for the AP exam. They might take a 5. This has always been the case with students getting frustrated for passing the exam but not being able to get 3 college credits by certain universities. Maybe something can be done about that. Alfred, can you add that to your list?


Posted on Monday, March 19, 2007 9:32 AM Teaching AP CS , Celebrate Computer Science Education , XNA Programming | Back to top

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