the course ever again. Since it was
not a requirement for anyone, few
students signed up for the pilot offering. Given the massive enrollment
surge, there is little appetite for creating and offering additional classes—
especially when no degree programs
on our campus require anything like
Question 2: Will colleges and universities give placement or credit for a
course they do not offer?
I do not know how all universities
deal with AP credit. At Georgia Tech,
we can only give credit for an existing course. An AP course might count
as taking some course, or might allow you to skip to a more advanced
course. If we do not offer a CSP-like
course, we cannot give credit for it.
We do offer a Media Computation introductory course in computing for non-CS majors (http://coweb.
If a student was admitted to Georgia Tech having passed the AP CSP
exam, we might give them credit for
the Media Computation. The problem is that our non-majors course has
much more programming in it than
AP CSP, and there is a pathway from
the Media Computation course into
other CS courses. If students come
in with CSP credit and choose to take
more CS courses on that pathway,
they will not have the background to
Question 3: Will high school students take AP CSP if it doesn’t count for
credit or placement?
Students take AP classes for a variety of reasons. My daughter is a high
school senior, and she has been taking AP classes to demonstrate to college admissions officers that she can
handle rigorous courses, but she is
picking AP classes that she thinks are
relevant to her college plans.
Some high school teachers have
told me their students choose AP
courses in order to decrease their
future college costs. High school AP
classes are typically far cheaper than
college classes. Taking equivalent
classes at the high school level buys
college credits at a lower cost. If the
AP class has no college credit equivalent, it may be less attractive to the
students who care about the credit or
Action Item: Come up
with an AP CSP Plan
U.S. college and university CS departments need to figure out their plans
for how they will handle students
who are admitted having passed the
AP CS Principles exam. We need to be
able to explain how AP CSP will count
in our programs. In my institution,
some possible options (like creating new classes, or getting other degree programs to offer credit for new
classes) take a long lead time.
For students who care whether AP
courses count for credit or placement,
we should have answers for them
soon, as they plan to register for the
Fall 2016 school year. We need to be
able to tell high school principals and
teachers it is worthwhile to offer the
course, and tell high school students
it is worthwhile to take the course. The
time to figure that out is now.
From the outset, I have liked the content
of the Principles course.
But from the outset, I have raised the
objection that Principles will be something
of an orphan course because it is not and
will not be an intro course in the CS major.
There was a time when all of this
might have been worked out. Way back
at SIGCSE 2011 in Dallas, there was a
presentation on the not-yet-finished new
version of the CS curriculum guidelines.
I argued then that the Powers That Be
who were looking at curriculum in the
universities ought to be figuring out
where Principles might fit in, and the
Principles people needed to be working
with the curriculum people in order to
negotiate a place.
Apparently that did not happen.
The two groups seem to have followed
independent paths. Did the Principles
people get involved in Curricula 2013?
Did they then get rebuffed? If so, on
I do not think it makes sense to say
that higher education MUST change
just because there is this new course. If
change is necessary, then change should
be justified based on educational merits
that could have been argued years ago. I
would like to hear the history of why the
content of Principles did not make it into
You could have asked question 4: Why do
university CS programs demand Calculus
and Physics, but not CS at high school?
Duncan, higher education should take
this as an opportunity. AP CS Principles
is a good course. By giving some kind of
credit or placement in higher education,
we encourage more schools to offer AP
CSP and encourage more students to take
AP CSP, which gives us more and more
diverse students in higher education.
It is a good deal for us.
Andrew, if university CS programs
were to demand CS at high school, we
would accept very few students. For
example, less than 10% of high schools
in New York City offer any CS at all
(see http://nyti.ms/1NGh8Xe) and less
than 10% of high schools nationwide
offer AP CS. I ask a different question,
Andrew. Why aren’t we requiring CS of all
undergraduates? It is cheaper and easier
to do than changing elementary and high
schools, and leads to greater long-term
Mark Guzdial is a professor in the College of Computing
at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
© 2016 ACM 0001-0782/16/02 $15.00
Some high school
told me their students
choose AP courses
in order to decrease
their future college
equivalent classes at
the high school level
buys college credits
at a lower cost.