Addressing time concerns in AP CSP in the 20-21 school year
One of the most common questions we are hearing from teachers using Code.org’s curriculum for AP CSP is, “What can I cut out of the curriculum?”. The answer to this is complicated - but we want to give as much guidance as we can.
First, let’s talk about priorities
The 20-21 school year has been unique to say the least! Every district, school, teacher, and community has different expectations and goals during this year. If your district or school allows you to, consider taking the “big picture” of the year into account. Consider asking yourself “What do I want students to walk away with from my class?” The answer to this question will be different for each teacher. It might be “I want students to pass the AP Exam,” or “I want students to know that they are capable of doing computer science,” or even “I want students to feel both challenged and successful.” We encourage you to make choices about how you will implement the course that are inline with what you want for your students in the larger scope of the class.
Still, I do not have enough time to cover all of the content. What can I cut?
We recognize that for teachers who are prioritizing preparing students for the AP exam, time is precious and many teachers are looking for guidance for what to cut from the curriculum. At a fundamental level, every lesson has some connection to the content in the College Board’s Course and Exam Description, so we do not have any “pure fluff” to really cut without any consequences for students.
At Code.org, we are committed to equity, access, and opportunity. We recognize that some students need more supports than others when learning computer science, and so those with the greatest needs should be prioritized. We also recognize that teachers want to “cover” all the material for the exam, however, we encourage you to focus on “what did students learn” versus “what did I cover”. We advocate for ensuring students are learning the content you cover in class, rather than focusing on covering all content at a pace that is too quick for learners who have the greatest needs.
As you make choices about how you will use your class time for student learning, consider the benefits and consequences to covering content in and out of the classroom.
Determine if there are units you might assign as homework for your students. Khan Academy has resources available that are aligned to the AP CSP standards and are also mapped to Code.org’s curriculum. You may use the mapping if you decide to assign an entire unit as “homework” for your class in order to allow you to spend more time on other units in the curriculum. By assigning some units for outside of the classroom learning, you are able to focus on students learning the content you cover inside the classroom. The consequence of assigning entire units as homework is that students who struggle to finish homework, may miss this content completely.
Scale back the Unit 5 “Hackathon” project. You may reduce the amount of time spent on the project and move much of the work time to outside of class if you are able to assign work outside of class. It might be possible for you to reduce the Hackathon to one or two lessons. If you are trying to decide which lessons to do “live” with students, we would recommend Lessons 13 and 14 with the class as they introduce students to the task. Later lessons are mostly work time which could be moved to independent work with students. You may need to consider how students will be able to get support when they are working independently on the task.
Skip the Unit 7 Libraries project. Students do not need to create their own library for the Create PT, but they do need to know what a library is and how to use it for the AP Multiple Choice Exam. Additionally, the libraries project benefits students by helping students gain experience with:
- Creating the types of parameterized functions needed for the Create PT.
- Writing responses to prompts similar to those in the Create PT.
Therefore, a consequence of skipping this project means that students will have less experience with these skills needed for the Create PT.
Consider changing the way you use the “Assessment Day” resources. Nearly every unit has one day dedicated to doing a multiple choice assessment. It is possible to give that assessment outside of class as part of a formative assessment for students, or use those resources at a later date as you help students prepare for the AP Exam. In either scenario, you risk not giving your students enough time to learn from the assessments. While some students will seek to understand their errors and learn from them, other students will need more guidance. Consider how you can provide structure for students to take the assessments and learn from them.
As you make choices for how you will allocate your time, keep in mind that the Create Performance Task is 30% of students’ AP score and the Multiple Choice Exam is worth 70% of students’ AP score. It may help to keep in mind that the “Big Ideas” are weighted differently on the AP Multiple Choice Exam as shown below:
We want to hear from you!
What are some other ways you are modifying the course to meet the needs of this unprecedented school year? What is your “big picture” that you are focusing your energies on this year? What do you want students to walk away with from your AP CSP class?