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Measuring Success- Anecdotes from Teaching AP Computer Science

This year, I was able to teach our first class of AP Computer Science Principles. It was some of the most fun I have had teaching, though that is not to say it didn't have it's challenges. It was challenging to have days without internet when we were programming on a cloud based platform. It was challenging to have 5 snow days in the months before the AP exam. It was challenging to have Prom on the Friday before digital portfolios were due.

When I started this course, I was thrilled to have almost 30% of the senior class enrolled. This year it was all seniors. They were excited for something new, and from the beginning identified that CS would be important in their futures somehow. I had them take a survey on the first day to get a baseline. I tried to get them to take the survey again on the last day, but anyone who teaches second semester seniors knows I didn't get a response from all of them.

Since my survey data is a little lacking, I would like to share with you a few anecdotes that are how I am measuring my success this year.

While I may not be able to put a number on it, I can tell you that this course improved problem solving skills. Students are able to logically analyze situations and come up with creative solutions. They learned the real power of collaboration when they were each responsible for part of a project and their code had to actually work when you put all the pieces together. 

I cannot tell you that I created 24 new programmers. I can tell you that I have 24 young men AND women who are able to make an informed decision about if they want to pursue computer science related fields. I can tell you that there are 24 critical thinkers that are leaving my school with a better understanding of the world around them. 

I am so proud of the 24 members of our first AP CSP class. They worked their butts off and no matter what their AP score is, they learned a lot and are better for the risk they took in trying something new. 

So today, on our seniors' last day I am reminded that not all data is numbers. I will leave today with the "data" that came from talking with two of my students who are rooming together next year as they both pursue comp sci degrees at my Alma Mater. Their excitement for CS and fond memories of the course are all the data that this teacher needs on a Friday afternoon.

Happy weekend. 


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