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Gearing up for Next School Year

Now that the AP Computer Science test is over, my thoughts have turned to the next school year. I had finished my recruiting campaign in February but I had to wait for the data to be entered. I was anxious to get those numbers because I had tried something different this year and was hoping that it was successful.

My California school district administration has expectations of a "reasonable" number of students when offering an elective class. With the budget deficit, that number seems to be increasing each year so I felt I needed to try a different approach to recruiting students. During the Grace Hopper Conference in Portland I had attended a breakout group about recruiting. One of the suggestions was to mail home letters to the parents. I decided to try it even though I would have to find the money to pay for the postage.

I went to work and asked for lists of students from the data tech. I used recruiting letters that other computer science teachers had successfully used to create a letter that would meet my needs. Next, I personalized each letter using mail merge, printed labels, assembled them and mailed them off I did get responses. Students dropped by the computer lab to speak to me about the class and I received phone calls from parents who told me they did not realize that computer science was offered at our school and wanted to know more about the class. I was hopeful that the efforts would pay off. What I learned last week was that my numbers are up in A.P. Computer Science by about 40%. However, because I did not send as many letters to the introductory students my numbers remain about the same.

After I asked about the number of students who registered for computer science, I spoke with the new assistant principal about other types of recruiting activities I could be doing. He suggested that I visit math classes. That is something I had wanted to do but was I was never offered the opportunity by the previous administrator. For next school year that is added to my list. Another surprise, I received is that the principal told me that she also mentioned my computer science class at the PTSA meeting and told the parents that I offer a supportive environment in which to learn computer science. I plan to remind the administration about computer science by sending them examples of student work and invitations to the peer reviews of student projects so that they will continue to help me recruit students.

Another development that could help with recruiting is a recent change to the minimum graduation requirements in California. With permission of the school board, computer science can be substituted in place of the Visual and Performing Arts requirement. I will be investigating how that process works and soliciting the assistance of my administration.

During the summer, I will continue to investigate successful classroom management and delivery strategies for multiple subjects during one class period. I want to improve my students' experience in the classroom which is why I enrolled in an online teacher certification program. I want to use those techniques to improve the learning experience for all of my computer science students.

In June and July, I am looking forward to the professional development opportunities that I can take advantage of. I will be attending a Tapestry Workshop where I will learn more about recruiting and retaining students in computer science and the CS & IT Conference where I am always exposed to more ideas to try out and investigate. Summer is my time to recharge and think deeply about what I want to try out the next school year.

Myra Deister
CSTA Board of Directors


Wonderful to read of your successful strategies. 40% increase - wow!!! Thanks for sharing this.

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