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Facebook and Apple backing AP Computer Science Principles, a course that could improve diversity in tech



Tim CookGetty

  • Big companies like Apple,
    Facebook and Amazon are
    supporting a new AP level computing course for high school
  • The course was designed to attract a broader group of
    students into the field and to ameliorate the industry’s
    so-called pipeline problem.

Many engineers and software developers can trace their formative
coding experiences to a class they took in high school: Advanced
Placement Computer

But two years ago, the College Board — the body that administers
AP tests — decided to try something different. It introduced an
alternative advanced computing class for high schools in the
hopes that it might draw a broader, more diverse group of
students into computing. 

The new course, called AP Computer Science Principles, covers a
broader range of topics than the coding-focused Computing Science
course. It was developed alongside the National Science
Foundation, and programming is only one part of Computer Science
Principles — other topics include data and information, the
internet, and abstraction.

The idea was that high school students who weren’t already
experienced in coding might be more inclined to try a
college-level computing course if it had a broader curriculum.

It seems to be working. 

“We’re seeing huge increases in the number of women taking AP
Computer Science Principles over those who traditionally took
Computer Science ‘A,’ underrepresented minorities, black
students, Hispanics and rural students,” Maureen Reyes, the
executive director of AP program management at College Board told
Business Insider.

Now big tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are
throwing their weight behind AP Computer Science Principles,
which gives students a one-through-five score, like other
AP courses, and is accepted as as credit by many colleges.
hile there’s still a lot of work to be done, the momentum
of the Principles course is providing a new cause for optimism in
the tech industry’s efforts to address its longtime “pipeline
“: The fact that most programmers tend to be white and
Asian men. 

An endorsement process

Tim Cook lettermanApple

One company that has fully embraced AP Computer Science
Principles is Apple, which is currently in the process of
developing and reviewing a new course along with College Board,
focusing on Apple’s open-source programming language,

“In the next school year, Apple will release a free AP Computer
Science Principles course syllabus and curriculum, giving high
school students the opportunity to earn Advanced Placement credit
for learning App Development with Swift,” Apple
on Monday. 

“The great thing about AP Computer Science Principles and
teachers can teach any language they want,” Reyes said. It helps
expand the number of teachers that can teach the course, she
explained. The older AP Computer Science course focused on Java

“We recognized very early on that we were going to need
additional support for teachers to be able to teach this course,
because many schools don’t have an existing computer science
teacher that can just pick this up,” she continued. 

That’s where Apple comes in. There’s a College Board process now
that endorses providers of curriculum and classes for teachers so
that they can teach the course. Right now, there are 10 endorsed
providers, like, and Apple wants to join the

“We have had conversations with Apple over the last couple of
years that how they support teachers and teaching Swift, et
cetera,” Reyes said. “Finally they made that commitment this year
to become an endorsed provider for AP CS Principles, which means
they’re developing the full curriculum that’s aligned to the
course, they’re going to have professional development for
teachers that’s aligned to their curriculum.”

Right now, Apple is going through the endorsement process — if
they’re approved, College Board will announce it in March so that
it can start being implemented next fall. 

Apple’s Silicon Valley neighbor Facebook hasn’t developed its own
course, but it has also backed AP Computer Science

Facebook has hosted an annual summit for 100 computer science
teachers at its Menlo Park campus for the last two years in
conjunction with College Board, a spokesperson told Business
Insider, and it plans to host the summit again next year. 

“Facebook hasn’t developed any sort of content related support,
but they’ve hosted an teachers summit over the last two summers
at their headquarters in Menlo Park to support teachers,” Reyes
said. “Really the goal of that was to give the teachers a glimpse
into what it’s like to work at a big tech company.”

Amazon is also working on education at the high school level,
including a program called “Amazon
Future Engineer
” that funds a curriculum called “Edhesive”
for AP computer science courses.

“Amazon has created or is in the process of creating cloud based
modules that can be incorporated into an AP CS Principles
course,” Reyes said. 

A success so far

Facebook teachers AP
The Teacher Summit hosted at


But big tech companies may be contributing resources to support
AP computer science courses because it looks like it’s working.
According to College Board, AP CS Principles ended up being the
largest course launch in the nonprofit’s history. 50,000 students
took it in 2017, and 76,000 are taking it this year.

Over half of those people, or about 38,195, are female students,
and enrollment for both black students and Hispanic students rose
over 40% over the first year. Those are growth numbers that many
big tech companies would love to brag about in their diversity

That’s a large number of students who could potentially get
college credit for the course, allowing them to skip intro
classes in college if they were to pursue a career in

Given that many Silicon Valley leaders have blamed the “pipeline”
for lackluster progress on diversity, it turns out that big tech
companies may need this AP course to be a success. 

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