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The University of Alabama

College Board Selects UA as Test Site for New Computer Science AP Program

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama is one of 10 selected schools to participate in the College Board’s Advanced Placement Pilot Study to develop and test a new computer science course and exam.

The course, “Computer Science Principles,” is listed at UA as CS 104, and it will focus on increasing secondary and post-secondary educational interest in computer science and improving collegiate preparation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, majors.

UA was chosen from more than 220 applications and will receive a $20,000 grant from the College Board. The development of this course is led by computer science educators in partnership with the College Board and the National Science Foundation.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, UA’s computer science department, led by Dr. Jeff Gray, associate professor of computer science, will partner with Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery to test the new program. The College Board requires universities offer college credit for corresponding courses to make the new course and exam successful. Therefore, the pilot sites are working in parallel to help demonstrate how that transition may occur.

“For UA, this means that we have a chance to be a national leader in the future of computer science education at the K-12 level,” said Gray. “We have the chance to influence the future of a new way to teach computer science to high school students through the curricula we will be developing.”

A+ College Ready, which focuses on increasing access to rigorous college-level AP content throughout Alabama, is partnering with the University for this pilot study. If the pilot is successful, A+ College Ready program schools throughout the state will offer the new computer science course, increasing access for Alabama students to rigorous and engaging coursework in STEM subjects. A+ College Ready is currently in 64 high schools across the state.

The AP course’s curriculum will introduce students to a broad range of computer science topics, to basic computing concepts and to how technology is constantly changing the world. A particular focus will be instruction on how to program smartphone applications on the Android platform and how such applications affect many different segments of society.

The Pilot II study will include pre- and post-pilot surveys, an evaluation of the proposed curriculum and its implications for both participating students and faculty. The College Board plans to make “Computer Science Principles” a regularly offered AP exam provided an ample amount of colleges and universities agree to honor the course with appropriate college credit and funding for the AP exam development, administration and grading is secured. The new exam is expected to be available in the next two to three academic years.

“A new method for introducing computer science is needed nationally to prepare the future workforce for the demand expected for technology workers,” explained Gray. “Many states, including Alabama, have only a small handful of high schools that teach computer science at the current AP level, yet computer science is frequently the top career option in terms of starting salary and job availability. This new AP course will be designed to introduce computing principles to a broader range of teachers and students.”

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s fully accredited College of Engineering has more than 3,100 students and more than 100 faculty. In the last eight years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater scholars, Hollings scholars and Portz scholars.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Mary Wymer, engineering public relations, 205/348-6444, mwymer@eng.ua.edu; Lauren Musselman, engineering student writer, 205/348-3051