Girl coders turn out in record numbers

Of the 40 students who plan on taking Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science next year, nearly half are girls—a new school record and around double the national average in 2016, Math Teacher Mark Fidler said.
“I’ve been teaching this course since 1985, and for many, many years there’d be either all boys or one or two brave girls in that class,” Mr. Fidler said. “Over the years [female enrollment] has been increasing slowly, and in the last five years it’s gone up the most steadily.”
In the 2015-16 school year, just 32 percent of 28 AP Computer Science students were girls. This academic year, female students constituted 41 percent of the class.
“I think what happened is that we had enough girls taking AP Computer Science that it went beyond a tipping point, and [the class] no longer had the reputation of ‘this is a guy’s class,’” Mr. Fidler said.
“Perhaps [there was a] false assumption by girls that computer programming is something only boys will like. It seems to me that girls enjoy computer programming just as much as boys once they really give it a try,” Math Department Head Chip Rollinson said.
The overall number of students taking AP Computer Science has also increased. In the past few years, the school only offered two sections of AP Computer Science, with 15 to 16 students per class, but next year, to accommodate growing enrollment, it will offer three full sections. The math department added a computer programming unit to both geometry and honors geometry a few years ago, which Mr. Fidler said has likely contributed to the rise in participation.
“With apps being so big on people’s phones, I think computer science is a hot topic around the country and the world,” Mr. Fidler said. “My goal has always been to have 50 percent of computer science students be girls. That day has come! It is very exciting.”


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