AP Computer Science Principles: Research Findings

Black, Hispanic, and female students have been underrepresented in computer science courses, majors, and careers for decades. To address this disparity, in the 2016-17 school year College Board launched AP Computer Science Principles, a course designed to change the invitation and to attract students from a broader range of groups to computer science.

To see how well the course was meeting this goal in its first years of existence, in 2020 we carried out a research study (.pdf/827 KB) using data from the high school graduating classes of 2016 (before AP CSP was available) and 2019.

Here’s a summary of the conclusions of our data analysis.

AP CSP students are more likely to declare computer science and STEM majors in college.

The research suggests that AP CSP participation is related to students’ college major choice. The data show that students who take AP CSP are more than three times as likely (11.7 percentage points) to declare a computer science major at the start of college compared to similar students who did not have AP CSP available to them. Differences are similarly large for female, Black, Hispanic, and first-generation college students. AP CSP students who also take AP CSA are even more likely (16.5 percentage points) to major in computer science.

AP CSP students are more diverse than AP CSA students, and AP CSP often provides the first AP STEM experience for Black, Hispanic, and first-generation students who take it.

Students who take AP CSP are more representative of groups historically underrepresented in computing with a greater proportion of female, Hispanic, Black, and first-generation students than AP CSA in the class of 2019. AP CSP serves as the entryway into STEM for many CSP students. In the class of 2019, AP CSP was the first AP STEM course for more than half of Black students (68%), Hispanic students (59%), and first-generation students (60%) taking AP CSP.

AP CSP students are more likely to enroll in AP CSA and AP STEM.

New research shows AP CSP students are nearly twice as likely (14.3 percentage points more likely) to enroll in AP CSA compared to similar students who went to high school before AP CSP launched. This result holds for female, Hispanic, and first-generation students, and is even larger for Black AP CSP students, who are three times more likely to later enroll in AP CSA if they have taken AP CSP.

For more information about the research and data, check out the complete research report.