Tesla STEM earns first AP computer science female diversity award

The school is one of nine schools in the state to earn award for achieving high female representation in AP computer science courses.

Nikola Tesla STEM High School has earned the first College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for achieving high female representation in AP computer science A (CSA) and/or AP computer science principles (CSP).

According to a Lake Washington School District (LWSD) press release, schools honored with this award have expanded girls’ access in AP computer science courses. Out of more than 18,000 secondary schools worldwide that offer AP courses, 685 have achieved this result.

“This is a foundational piece of our work at Tesla STEM High School,” principal Cindy Duenas said in the release. “We have a long-term goal to strategically support gender balance not only in our STEM course enrollment but also in our goal for gender balance in all STEM and STEM-related fields.”

In the release, Tesla STEM computer science instructors Andy Christensen, Mike Hansen, Bethany Kankelborg and Melissa Wrenchy added, “The way to do is by doing. All students take the class, start to code and actually learn that because they can code, they then can take more advanced computer science courses. We know that when we require the curriculum and put focused and engaging instruction in front of our students, they succeed in the course and in their future readiness.”

“We celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of the students and educators at Tesla STEM for closing the gender gap in computer science,” LWSD Superintendent Jane Stavem said in the release. “We’re committed to continuing to provide female students with access to AP computer science courses to help prepare a more diverse workforce in critical STEM jobs.”

Schools receiving the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award have either 50 percent or higher female representation in one of the two AP computer science courses or a percentage of the female computer science examinees meeting or exceeding that of the school’s female population. Of the 685 schools that received the award, 490 were honored for AP CSP, 167 for AP CSA and 28 for both courses.

“By inviting many more young women to advanced computer science classrooms, these schools have taken a significant step toward preparing all students for the widest range of 21st Century opportunities,” Trevor Packer, College Board senior vice president of the AP program, said in the release. “We hope this inspires many other high schools to engage more female students in AP computer science and prepare them to drive innovation.”

The AP CSP course launch in 2016 was the largest in program history, the release states. AP CSP has driven the growth of AP computer science in high schools. AP computer science course participation has increased 135 percent since 2016. The number of female, rural and under-represented minority students taking AP computer science exams has more than doubled in that period. In 2018, more than 38,000 female students took an AP computer science exam.

According to UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics data, less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women; in North America and western Europe, it’s just 32 percent. Research shows women are more likely to pursue computer science if they’re given the opportunity to explore it in high school.