Keystone Oaks High School earns dual AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award
In 2021, Keystone Oaks High School was one of only 61 schools nationwide, and one of only three Pennsylvania schools, to be recognized for closing the gender gap in both AP computer science courses. Across the United States, more than 1,000 institutions achieved either 50% or higher female representation in AP computer science courses or a percentage of the female computer science exam takers meeting or exceeding that of the school’s female population during the 2020-21 school year.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for our female AP computer science students, their teacher, and our administrative team, who have worked diligently toward gender parity in computer science education,” said William P. Stropkaj, Ed.D., superintendent, Keystone Oaks School District. “We are honored that our school has earned this distinction and we look forward to seeing these young women and others pursue and achieve success in computer science education and careers.”
In 2017, when Keystone Oaks High School first added computer science courses to its curriculum, 25 students enrolled in courses, with only five students in AP CSP. Since then, nearly 200 students have taken either AP CSP or AP CSA. In addition, a computer science course is now a graduation requirement for every KOHS student. Over the past five years, enrollment has reached as high as 75 AP Computer Science students in a single year, including 50% female in AP CSA during the 2020-21 school year and again this year in AP CSP. The percentage of minority students in AP classes has increased significantly from 0% in 2017 to a high of 33% this school year.
“It’s been inspiring to watch students learning the fundamentals of coding while embracing the creativity that is possible in computer science,” said Keystone Oaks High School computer science teacher Kevin Gallagher. “To watch them take an idea from a concept, to a working app, and to see them take pride in it, is, to me, the most rewarding part of the class,” he added.
Providing female students with access to computer science courses is necessary to ensuring gender parity in the industry’s high-paying jobs and to driving innovation, creativity and representation. The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $91,250 in May 2020. However, a code.org analysis of 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics data finds women represent just 24% of the 5 million people in computing occupations. Computing jobs are the number one source of new wages in the U.S., although 67% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, only 11% of STEM bachelor’s degrees are in computer science.
According to a Google study, 54% of female computer science majors took AP CSA in high school. College Board research about AP CSP also finds AP CSP students are nearly twice as likely to enroll in AP CSA, and that for most students, AP CSP serves as a stepping stone to other advanced AP STEM coursework.
These findings highlight the importance of schools nationwide achieving gender parity in AP computer science classrooms. Overall, female students remain underrepresented in our high school computer science classes, accounting for just 34% of AP Computer Science Principles participants and 25% of AP Computer Science A participants. Currently, 51% of high schools teach foundational computer science, including Keystone Oaks where numbers have grown from 22 students in 2017 to over 100 students in 2022, half of which are female. The 1,020 schools that receive this year’s AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award serve as inspirations and models for all U.S. high schools.