Drop in H.S. Computer Courses Causes Concern

A recent survey of high school computer science teachers conducted in spring 2009 by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) demonstrates a precipitous decline in the overall number of students enrolled in high school computer science courses.

The CSTA survey, conducted every two years over a six year period, shows that the number of schools offering Advanced Placement Computer Science (AP CS) has declined significantly in the last six years. In 2005, 40 percent of respondents indicated AP CS was offered at their school. This number decreased to 32 percent in 2007 and to 27 percent in the 2009 survey. AP CS is in many cases the most rigorous course offered by schools.

The surveys show a similar drop in the number of students taking introductory level (pre-AP) computer science courses. In 2005, 78% of responding schools indicated that they offered an introductory computer science courses. By 2009, however, the percentage had dropped to 65 percent.

In addition to schools providing fewer computer science courses for students to take, another reason that qualified students are not taking more computer science courses has not changed in the last few years: they don't have room in their schedules.

Computer science educators see rapidly changing technology as a challenge in teaching computer science, according to the survey. A lack of staff support and curriculum resources also adds to the difficulties both teachers and students face.

The survey, developed by CSTA's Research Committee, was administered to high school teachers who defined themselves as computer science, computer programming, or AP CS teachers. The online survey was sent to a total of 14,000, and elicited a total of 1,094 eligible respondents - a response rate of 8.2 percent.

For complete survey results, visit www.csta.acm.org