Montana near bottom for AP Computer Science tests


Montana near bottom for AP Computer Science tests

BOZEMAN, Mont. - A new report shows no girls in Montana took the Advanced Placement test for Computer Science in 2013. With a push to get more students involved in the field, we decided to take a closer look at the data.

AP classes are college-level courses offered to students still in high school. Tests are administered at the end of the course track to rate the students performance on a 1-5 scale.

Data for 2013 shows 3,162 Montana students took more than 4,868 AP tests. The subjects ranged from Biology to U.S. History. Only 11 tests were given in the subject of Computer Science. Not one of Montana's AA high schools offered an AP course in Computer Science last year.

We wanted to know more about what Bozeman High School offers in the field of Computer Science. Kerri Cobb sat down with us Wednesday afternoon. She has been teaching at Bozeman High for seven years. Cobb started teaching the one and only Computer Programming course in Fall 2013.

"I definitely see interest growing, a lot," said Cobb.

Sixteen students were enrolled for the very first semester of the course last fall, and Cobb expects even more to sign up for the class that starts in just a few weeks.

Cobb tells us interest in the field has just began to surge in the past few years. They are taking the amount of interest one year at a time.

"I think to have the only course offered be an AP Computer Science is intimidating, you would really have to have some kind of previous knowledge of coding coming into the course," said Cobb.

Cobb knows demand is high in the field of Computer Science.

"We are more than a million short in the demand and the programmers needed," said Cobb.

Cobb hopes courses at Bozeman High will get students interested in the subject. We found one student who is exploring Computer Science. McKinley Hall is a Sophomore and one of 16 students who signed up for the first class. She is also the only girl.

"It was cool creating programs that are actually useful," said Hall.

Hall is not intimidated by being the only girl and knows that this type of skill set could be useful in the future.

"They are looking for a lot of women and there are a lot of uses they might need in their future career," said Hall.

Cobb tells us they are expecting a bigger class this time around, and even says one more girl has signed up and will join McKinley.

Even though AP Computer Science is not offered at Bozeman High, over the past five years we are told they have administered two tests in this subject. One was a Heritage Christian student and the other was a Bozeman High student who was just interested in taking it. We are told both students passed the exam.

While the school does not have AP Computer Science, we are told they have 22 AP subjects available. School officials say they administered 926 AP exams in the 2012-2013 school year.

Another option for students in Montana interested in Computer Science is Code Montana. Co-founder Greg Gianforte spoke with us Wednesday. He tells us since the launch of the program in September, they have more than 900 students enrolled statewide. We showed Gianforte the recent data about AP Computer Science test takers in Montana to get his take on the matter.

"We have a little bit of a chicken and an egg problem, in that we don't have a lot of teachers that have a lot of computer background and its is not just women that are not going into Computer Science, our universities this past spring only graduated around 40 students with Computer Science degrees and yet there is over 400 jobs across this state," said Gianforte.

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