Oak Knoll Earns Fourth-Consecutive AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award

Teacher helps student on a laptop during a computer science classFor the fourth consecutive year, Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child has earned the College Board AP® Computer Science Female Diversity Award for expanding girls’ access to AP Computer Science. The award acknowledges 1,020 schools for their work toward equal gender representation during the 2020-21 school year.

Oak Knoll is one of only 61 schools to be recognized for achieving this result in both AP Computer Science A and Computer Science Principles courses for 2021. The school is committed to student access to computer science because research demonstrates that women are more likely to pursue computer science if they are given the opportunity to explore it in high school.

According to new College Board research, female students who take AP CSP in high school are more than 5 times as likely to major in computer science in college, compared to similar students who did not take CSP. The study also finds AP CSP students are nearly twice as likely to enroll in AP CSA, and that for most students, AP CSP serves as a stepping-stone to other advanced AP STEM coursework.

Through diversifying computer science education, schools including Oak Knoll are preparing its female students for the high-paying, in-demand jobs of the future and giving them the opportunity to solve some of society’s most challenging problems.

However, despite growing demand, women still only earn 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees and make up a mere 28% of the science and engineering workforce, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.

Danielle Coiro, Oak Knoll Upper School computer science teacher, said that technology is rapidly changing and becoming more intertwined in our everyday lives.  

“In Computer Science, problem-solving and risk-taking both take on a major role in the curriculum. It is very helpful to have the OKS community also echo the importance of these skills. Coding languages update very frequently, and it is important to set a good foundation so that when it does change, students can easily adapt,” she said. 

Coiro has personal experience with the underrepresentation of women in programming classes (high school, college, grad school) and in the workforce. 

“In my own personal experience in college, it was very common for me to either be the only girl or one of few in a computer programming class.  This type of atmosphere can be intimidating for someone just starting out in programming.  So, it is helpful for girls to be exposed to programming earlier on (elementary, middle, high school) when the environment is comfortable and nurturing, especially in the all-girls setting we have.  This way if they choose to take the next step, they have already had the exposure to programming and can go into any setting with the confidence to succeed,” she said. 

Oak Knoll senior Sophia Kaiser ’22, currently enrolled in AP Computer Science A, said Oak Knoll helped her discover and pursue a passion for the field. 

“The challenging but engaging course load inspires me to use my critical thinking skills in a new way to solve problems and create programs using code,” said Kaiser. “I am excited to continue my study of Computer Science in college and eventually work in the field. If it was not for the Oak Knoll Computer Science Department and my teacher, I would have never felt so much of an interest in coding!” she said.

Paula Sefia ’22, also currently in AP Computer Science A, has been interested in the field of Computer Science since third grade.

“I am glad that Oak Knoll offered a stellar set of classes that helped me work on my coding skills,” said Sefia. “I hope to use what I have acquired throughout my high school career to become a software engineer, and I believe the Oak Knoll AP Computer Science classes that I took and am currently taking made me excited to pursue a career in that field,” she said.