Jan. 28, 2021 — The College Board has recognized Northfield Mount Hermon for expanding girls’ access to AP computer science courses and its work toward equal gender representation in the field during the 2019–20 school year.
NMH earned the College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award in the category of AP Computer Science A. NMH is one of 232 schools recognized in this category out of 20,000 institutions. The award goes to schools with AP computer science classes in which at least half of the students identify as female, or where the percentage of female students was at least equal to that of the school’s female population.
“At NMH, we have worked really hard to create an environment where students are excited and interested in taking computer science, no matter who they are,” NMH computer science teacher David Warren said. “I’m especially proud of the students who have come through my class.”
In AP Computer Science A, students learn to design and implement computer programs that solve problems or accomplish tasks. They learn the fundamentals of computer science using the programming language Java. Focusing on syntax, algorithms, and object-oriented programming, students develop the skills necessary for success in higher level computer science courses.
According to the College Board, students who take AP computer science are more likely to major in computer science in college, but female students and students of color have been underrepresented in computer science courses, majors, and careers for decades.
Warren said highlighting the equity problem has been part of NMH’s strategy in encouraging more students to take computer science, and he and his colleagues have pushed for more sweeping solutions. “At NMH we have strived to expand access to computer science," he said. "We need everyone to be included in computer science if we want it to represent everyone.”
Getting female students into computer science courses is critical to ensuring gender parity in the industry’s high-paying jobs. More diversity has also been shown to drive innovation and creativity. Currently, less than half of the nation’s high schools teach foundational computer science, according to the College Board, and a code.org analysis of 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics data finds that women represent just 24 percent of the 5 million people in computing occupations.