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Concerns About a Computer-Based AP CS Principles Exam

As you know, CSTA has given enthusiastic support for the new Computer Science Principles course but as we move toward its widespread adoption in schools. We believe this is a great course and a game-changer for high school computer science education, but we are also worried about the fact that he current proposal is to have the Advanced Placement CS Principles exam offered exclusively online. Much of our concern is exemplified by the results of the E-Rate and Broadband Survey released by the Consortium for School Networks and MDR.

The results of this survey indicate that there are serious issues of access to broadband that will inevitably impact the ability of schools to offer this course and enable students write the exam. They show that the average school network cannot support broadband due to poor and outdated internal connections/wiring, backbone in the school LAN, and lack of sufficient wireless access points:

  • 57% of districts do not believe their school's wireless networks have the capacity to currently handle a 1:1 deployment.
  • Half of the wiring in school buildings is older, slower wiring (Cat5 and Cat3) that will not carry data at broadband speeds.
  • 26% of districts are using slower copper or 2.3% wireless backbones in their school LAN.
  • Other key survey findings include:

  • Only 57% of elementary schools and 64% of secondary schools have all classrooms fully equipped with wireless Internet connectivity.
  • 45% of districts participate in consortium buying, including 37% for Internet bandwidth, and overall nearly 44% of districts participate in more than one purchasing cooperative.
  • Rural schools pay six times more for connections than other schools/school systems. Likewise, very large school districts (+50K students) spend over three times more for WAN than other schools/school systems.
  • Schools need both financial support for ongoing monthly costs AND cost of capital or up-front/nonrecurring expenses covered by E-rate if we are to achieve broadband in schools. According to the survey, ongoing monthly costs (79% agreement) and cost of capital or up-front/nonrecurring expenses (59% agreement) are the two biggest barriers for schools.

    Clearly, there are major issues of access to we need to grapple with before we can truly make this course available to all students in all schools.

    Chris Stephenson
    CSTA Executive Director

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