Sacred Heart Prep achieves greater gender parity in STEM
Sacred Heart Prep (SHP) in Atherton has received the College Board’s AP® Computer Science Female Diversity Award for the school’s work to expand young women’s enrollment in AP Computer Science Principles (CSP), making it one of only 760 schools nationwide to be recognized for this result in the 2020-21 school year.
Research shows that young women who take AP CSP in high school are more than five times as likely to major in computer science in college.
“By encouraging young women to study advanced computer science coursework, SHP is closing the gap in computer science education and empowering young women to access the opportunities available in STEM career fields,” says Stefanie Sanford, College Board chief of global policy and external relations. “Computer science is the foundation of many 21st–century career options, and young women deserve equal opportunities to pursue computer science education and drive technological innovation.”
Kevin Morris, SHP computer science teacher, noted that the number of young women enrolling in computer science courses has risen, including in AP Computer Science (CS), which is the more advanced course after AP CSP. Efforts to increase those numbers have included communicating to young women at SHP that “they won’t be the only ones in the class,” and addressing biases, says Morris.
Bias affects the entire field, causing a lack of gender representation, he added. “There are all sorts of bias issues, even in things like facial recognition algorithms. The biggest barrier is getting students to see themselves as computer scientists… I don’t want students to think, ‘I’ve never done this before, so it’s not for me…’ All of the CS courses at SHP are designed for total novices—I’ll teach you what you need to know.”
Of the more than a half-dozen young women currently enrolled in the most advanced AP CS course this semester, Morris said, several are “considering being CS majors (in college)… This is how it should work.”