Saturday, September 22, 2012

AP Computer Science

At PdC Public Schools, we are opening the discussion to climb back into advanced computer science instruction. To do this we need to accomplish a goal of adding AP Computer Science for the fall of 2014.

The AP Computer Science description: emphasizes object-oriented programming methodology with an emphasis on problem solving and algorithm development and is meant to be the equivalent of a first-semester course in computer science. It also includes the study of data structures and abstraction.

Click here to see the full AP course description and outline

At one time, almost all high schools had advanced computer science offerings and many still do. When I went to college a Basic Programming class was required. I am not sure, but I would guess that over the years, with the inventions of click ready programs, these types of requirements have fallen off.

Why are we looking back in this direction? The why, is that there are jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities available in this field for our future graduates. Manipulation of data is only going to become more important as we go forward. One glaring example is to, while driving to Madison, observe the growth of EPIC. Of course, medical data is only one example. Everything from accounting to zoology is using computerized algorithms of some sort to operate or do research. Agriculture is using GIS and advanced program technologies to become more efficient. Machine tool operations are increasingly more technical, even at the entry levels. Etc., etc.

This Computer Science knowledge base should not, nor cannot, be limited to only a select few people. A report, already somewhat dated as it was released in 2005, entitled The New Educational Imperative: Improving High School Computer Science Education; Final Report of the Curriculum Improvement Task Force (CSTA), stated “The body of research from around the world relating to high school computer science education indicates that learning computer science provides direct benefits to students. While there are distinct differences between how various countries implement their high school computer science programs, a growing number of countries already require computer science education of all high school students.”

Click here to see full CSTA report.

Where are we at? At PdC Public we do not offer advanced computer science. We do an excellent job of bringing students to the operational levels of standard programs such as word processing in MS Word or Google Docs, but no programming. Our Business Department has scheduled instructional units for all middle level students starting in grade 5 and continuing through grade 8. For this year we have added high school sections of GameIT which is a computer game programming class. As an experiment, so-to-speak, we are offering GameIT to fifth grade students who are choosing to give it a try. This is not required, students that are involved are on a totally voluntary basis, but we are very interested to see how this progresses. Across our whole set of offerings we are embedding technology and stepping forward such as in Tech. Ed. and Math we have done a great job of modernizing our STEM offerings such as Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering coursework which is highly technical. However, none of that is designed as Computer Science at the core programming levels.
If we look down into how to do this there are few, if any, roadblocks. The student education requirements for the Computer Science class in the description, linked earlier, shows very plainly that we have the preparatory pieces already firmly in place.

So, now that we have the what, when, how, and the why with regard to offering AP Computer Science outlined; the discussion is now open and moving on to the who and where this will be accomplished.
Of course, the biggest question internally usually boils down to the 'who'. We do have one staff member currently with a Computer Science license, but Mr. Antoniewicz is full with PLTW and Math sections. We are already very tight on staff to cover math sections. This is due to the good issue of the increasing number of students taking advanced math. This is a great problem, but we most likely cannot add this new offering into the current staffing in the Math department. We fully understand that we will need to go through a process to professionally develop and certify someone already on staff to teach this, or there may be a need to hire on a teacher with the qualifications to teach AP Computer Science.

This potential addition of AP Computer Science increases rigorous and relevant offerings for PdC Public students, and it is another step that achieves the goal of exceeding consistently increasing expectations of excellence. AP Computer Science will add to the extensive PdC Public High School AP offerings which now  total 14 different AP classes and for 2013-2014 will expand to 18 offerings as the plan is to add 4 more AP classes for next fall.

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