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CS in Tennessee

Graph representation from 2017–2020 by demographic of passing test-takers. In general, more students are enrolling in AP CSP and more students are passing the exam.

One of the most important metrics we use at the high school level is the AP Computer Science Principles’ passage rate. The AP CSP exam is a relatively new exam — officially launched in the 2016–2017 SY — and seeks to introduce students to core computer science concepts before taking a more advanced course like AP CSA. Given that there is no prerequisite for the course and that it has increased in popularity among AP students, it’s a good metric to compare performance across regions and demographics.

Graph representation of performance within student demographic.

In 2020, there was a sizable drop in passage rates across demographics, with the exception of Black students and multiracial students. This was particularly striking given that Black and Latinx communities were disproportionately affected by Covid-19 in a number of ways. What contributed to that 13% jump for Black-identifying students? 📈

The Opportunity. Schools, companies, and bootcamp programs must do more to engage our high school population if we wish to truly diverse the tech pipeline in Tennessee.

The tech industry is overwhelmingly white and male. Despite efforts to increase access and exposure to underrepresented students, the performance gap remains wide. Given that Oracle recently announced their new office in Nashville, along with the arrival of 8,500 jobs by 2031, we must meet the moment of our city’s growing hiring demands.

The data above shows the percentage of passing students from RePublic High School – an open-enrollment, public charter school in Nashville. RHS is also an “AP-For-All” school where 90% of the student body identify as students of. color. Roughly one-third of passing Black students have consistently come from RHS over the past 4 years. With some fluctuation, the Latinx demographic looks similar. This is a strong indicator that we need to partner with more schools to provide opportunities and programs for diverse students.

Map shows AP Course offerings for high school students across Tennessee.

While other programs targeting high school learners exist across the nation, very little resources have been invested to creating similar opportunities for the high school market in Tennessee, and more specifically middle TN. If Nashville is to become the tech epicenter of the South, we must invest more resources, time, and funding in supporting K-12 initiatives focused on diversifying the tech talent pipeline and equipping our young people with industry-aligned skills.

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