In 11 states, not a single student of color took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam. Not. One. African-American students consisted of only three percent of all the students who took the test last year, ThinkProgress reports.
The highest proportion of Black students who did take the AP Computer Science exam were in Maryland; they only made up 10 percent of the test-taking population. Most dishearteningly, Black students have the lowest pass rate compared to girls, white boys, and other students of color.
Female students were also underrepresented among the exam’s test takers. In two states — Mississippi and Montana — there was not one girl who completed the test. Out of the 47 states where girls took the exam, Utah had the lowest percentage of female students at 4 percent with Tennessee having the highest at 29 percent. Out of 30,000 students who took the exam, only 20 percent were female students.
“We were not surprised by [the] findings because unfortunately,” Deborah Davis, a spokeswoman for the College Board said, “computing courses have historically been dominated by white, male students.”
But what did surprise experts was that even though Mississippi has a Black population of 37 percent, it was one of the states that didn’t have any African-American students taking the AP Computer Science exam.
“It was also a bit surprising that so few African-American students (74) took the test in California, [Barbara Ericson — the lead investigator] said—but the pass rate for African-American students there was above many states’, at almost 57 percent,” Education Week reports.
In Alabama, the amount of Black students who took the exam could be counted with two hands: eight. Six of them passed. “It’s sad that there were only six,” Ericson noted, “but it’s good that they’re doing a good job.”
Aside from looking at gender and race, Ericson looks examines how a student’s’ microsystem can effect their interest in STEM: Advanced computer science courses are scarce in “urban, poor schools” and are more prevalent in private or suburban schools. Adding to this issue, only 17 states accept computer science as a core credit for math and science.
Mississippi only had one test taker. Wyoming had none. Zilch.
College Board, the organization that administered the AP exam, emphasized its determination to expand computing courses to girls and students of color.
“In order to address this issue, we are collaborating with national organizations, other nonprofits and the private sector to ensure expanded access,” Davis said, pointing to Code.org.