Byram Hills High School has won an AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award, an honor from the College Board that recognizes schools that are closing the gender gap and engaging more girls in computer science.
Byram Hills won the new award for having high female representation in the AP Computer Science Principles course during the last school year, the first time the class was offered at the high school.
“I am thrilled that Byram Hills has been given this honor,” said Lisa Pellegrino, the Byram Hills mathematics chairperson. “This is a testament to the District encouraging students to take risks and become 21st-century leaders.”
The award is given to schools that have either 50 percent or more female representation in one of two AP computer sciences courses or a percentage of girls who took the AP exam for the course that is greater than the school’s female population. Byram Hills met both criteria, with female students representing 65 percent of test takers, according to the College Board.
Out of the more than 18,000 schools that offer AP classes, Byram Hills was one of 490 schools that earned the award for the AP Computer Science Principles class.
This year, 60 percent of students in the class are female.
The course provides an introduction to computer science, with an aim of making the field more accessible. Byram Hills offers a more rigorous version of the course.
“Because of this we are really giving students the knowledge to be successful, should they choose computer science as a major, a minor, or if they just want to take one class in college,” Ms. Pellegrino said.
Students do not need a computer science background to take the course.
“We have artists and business-minded students and scientists who are recognizing the impact and relevance of computer science to their particular field of study,” Ms. Pellegrino said.
“We have students who are just now being exposed to programming but have grabbed onto it and have been able to think at a level I had not achieved until my sophomore year as a computer science major,” she added. “That is what is great about computer science - you can learn so much in such a short period of time.”
The course is already having an effect. Two female students who took the class last year as seniors are now majoring in computer science in college, Ms. Pellegrino said.
“In some respects, they are more successful than their traditional counterparts who have more programming experience because they learned the elements of iterative design and proper debugging of their programs through the AP Computer Science Principles course,” Ms. Pellegrino said. “They also understand more than just one particular programming language.”
“They have been exposed to a variety of different languages and programming environments, and also have an understanding of how those languages fit in with the rest of computer science,” she said.
“The best part of the AP CSP class is that it prepares students not just to study computer science, but provides skills that any student can immediately list on their resume,” Ms. Pellegrino said. “It also provides students with a way of thinking that is applicable to any profession.”