Curriculum Updates 2017-18

Hey CS Principles Community,

We’re excited to let you know that soon we’ll be making updates to the CS Principles curriculum! To guide this process we’ve consulted with a variety of sources including teacher and student surveys, system data, focus groups with experienced CSP teachers/facilitators, and meetings with our partners at the College Board.

The primary themes that emerged from this process were:

  • PT Prep: A need to improve preparation for the Performance Tasks as well as teacher supports for the tasks. This is particularly the case in light of the updated PT rubrics.
  • Pacing: Improving pacing to ensure teachers have time to finish the course (esp. Teachers new to the course)
  • Assessment: The need for clearer communication on assessment opportunities and practices, especially for first year teachers

Based on this feedback we will soon be developing and sharing a plan to make updates to the curriculum. We’ll be updating you on our progress right here on the forum. By all means feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions. We’re looking forward to an even better CS Principles course, and we hope you are too!

The CSP Team

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I was going to finish Unit 2 (per your new recommendations) and then do part of unit 4, then complete the Explore Task in December.
Would you recommend waiting to do Unit 4 until the revisions are done?

Dear Intrepid CS Principles Teachers,

After a period of review of our CS Principles curriculum, we’ve set out to make some targeted updates. Key inputs into our review were direct teacher feedback, last year’s AP results, and the updated Performance Task Scoring Guidelines that were released in August 2017. We will be releasing these updates on an ongoing basis so that this year’s teachers can benefit from the process.

Some of the updates we’d like to make cannot be done at this time because it would be too disruptive to the roughly 40,000 students currently engaged in the course. However, we know many folks are in the middle of Unit 2 and, based on the feedback, we thought we could offer a (hopefully) timely set of recommendations for how teachers can approach the lessons in Unit 2 Chapter 2 of the course.

Consider cutting lessons 11, 12, 13, and 14 that deal with cleaning and analyzing data.

There are several lessons in Unit 2 (marked in red in the diagram) that teach students to manipulate, analyze, and visualize data using spreadsheets. When written, the primary goal of these lessons was to provide students with the general-purpose skills they could use to create a computational artifact for the AP Explore PT.

Based on the updated Explore PT Scoring Guidelines, we now know these specific skills go beyond those necessary for the task. Per the current guidelines, the artifact need only “Provide an illustration, representation, or explanation of [a] computing innovation’s intended purpose, function, or effect.”

While many teachers reported that these lessons and the associated Practice PT offer students valuable skills and insights, we also know that they use valuable class time (at least 8 days) in an already packed year.
Lesson-by-Lesson Recommendations

Lesson 7 (in yellow) offers an important introduction to data, but also has you set up the “Class Data Tracker” project. The data collected in this project is used in lessons 13, 14, and 15. Read the rest of the recommendations below first, but you might consider still doing the class data tracker, just over a shorter period of time so that you have a source of some authentic data to work with or look at for other lessons in the unit. Some of the topics about trends, biases, and visualizations can be more illuminating for students when looking at data about themselves. It might be a nice dataset to have in your back pocket.

Lesson 8 - 10: Teach these lessons as written. They cover important learning objectives under the Big Ideas of Data and Global Impacts.

Lesson 11 - 14: (in red) Consider skipping or significantly shortening these lessons.

Lesson 15 - Practice PT (in green) The existing Practice PT is no longer closely aligned with the AP Explore PT, given the updated scoring guidelines. We have two possible recommendations:

  1. Skip this Practice PT and move on to Unit 3. We are planning revisions to Unit 4 that will more directly address skills required for the AP Explore PT that should prepare students adequately. You do not need to be overly worried about students missing out on skills or practice required for the real performance task.

  2. If you would still like to use these lessons and project, we recommend:

  • Reviewing the 2018 Explore PT Scoring Guidelines to understand the skills students will be expected to demonstrate on the Explore PT. Determine whether you can make modifications in your classroom to better address those skills.
  • Consider simplifying the data manipulation skills you ask of your students.
  • Consider shortening the amount of class time committed to this project.
  • Additional Pacing Resources

As a reminder, the CS Principles Curriculum Guide contains a number of pacing recommendations, both for the entire course, and in some cases, for individual units. The pacing recommendations start on Page 32. Again, if you want to converse more about this (virtually) we’ve set up a thread on the forum related to this update.

Happy teaching!

Baker Franke and GT Wrobel


I was anticipating having my students complete the Explore PT before the holidays in December. Today, I taught Unit 2, Lesson 9 (Check Your Assumptions) and have been using the Class Data Tracker. The next lesson is on Good and Bad Visualizations, but I don’t see how the Class Data Tracker is used there.
Should I abandon the Class Data Tracker? Or, does it pick back up in Unit 4?
Should I do all of Unit 4 before Unit 3 now, since I want to be finished with Explore PT by mid-

Hey @reillys, if possible we would recommend waiting until we release the revised version of Unit 4. We don’t anticipate making significant changes to the lessons, but it’s the only unit where we’ll be adding additional resources or updating a Practice PT to prepare students for the updated Explore PT scoring guidelines.

Hey @kselle the Class Data Tracker does not pick back up in Unit 4. There’s no need to continue it if you opt not to do the Practice PT in Unit 2.

We’re making updates to the curriculum in unit order, starting here with quick recommendations in Unit 2 and then with more comprehensive supports in 3, 4, and 5. We’re currently in the process of finalizing updates to Unit 3 and will probably publish those in the next week or so. After that we’ll begin work updating Unit 4.

We haven’t started the work in Unit 4 so I can’t say precisely when we’ll be ready to publish those updates. Based on the timeline you shared, however, I think you’ll be looking to use them before they’re ready. If this turns out to be the case my advice would be to go to Unit 3 first.

As I noted above, we don’t anticipate making significant changes to the individual lessons so if you feel strongly that you’d like to go directly to Unit 4 I would recommend carefully reviewing the updated scoring guidelines as well as the Explore PT exemplars on the College Board website (scroll down to “Scoring Guidelines and Notes for the 2018 Exam Administration”) to understand how best to prepare your students for the exam. This is essentially the same work we’ll be doing.

Hope that helps but let us please let us know if more information would be helpful!

I think using technology (especially on the students’ phones) would be a great addition to this unit. Instead of a google form to have students type answers into, if we could use an app like IFTTT to obtain data from their phone (how many pictures they took over a a two-week span or something), it would be really meaningful and interesting.
Any thoughts on that?

Thank you for your feedback. I’m still uncertain as to the best course of action, since I had planned to teach Unit 2, Lesson 10 tomorrow. I would be on course to start Lesson 11, Unit 3, or Unit 4 then on Tuesday if I abandon the current Unit. It sounds like Unit 3 won’t be ready for me to begin it this week, either, even if I decided to wrap up Unit 2 with an assessment.

It sounds like it might be best for me to continue with Unit 2, but scaling down the lessons and the PT. Maybe instead of the PT, we can do an in-depth look at the Explore PT requirements from the CED, alongside the new information that was released from the College Board. I was worried about beginning the Unit 3 on Programming before January because the Explore PT doesn’t require much in the way of programming anyway.

Do you think the natural flow for the Explore PT would be from Unit 2 to Unit 4? Is there any reference to Unit 3 or a skill from Unit 3 that is needed in Unit 4? (I haven’t read the entire curriculum, as I started school about two weeks after attending TeacherCon. I’m also not familiar with the flow of the lessons, so I have been relying heavily on’s curriculum.) I appreciate your help.

Thank you for the updates and editing. We just lost over a week due to the wildfires and this will certainly help me adjust!
Very timely.
K. Drew

Thank you so much for these recommendations. I had made the decision to do pretty much what you are recommending, so this is very reaffirming that I am on the right track.

Last year my students needed more programming time that was allocated and we never did really get to do a practice PT for the Create Task. We practiced several times on the Explore PT.

This year, in fact tomorrow (10/17) I plan to have my students work on their first practice PT for Explore. They will do everything except create an artifact. We will practice on that next time. I plan to come back from Christmas Break and give my students the class time to work on and hopefully submit their Explore PT.

Thanks again for the great communication!

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I am teaching this as a semester class. What suggestions would you recommend to speed up the curriculum? Today, I taught Unit 2 Lessons 9 & 10 and based on your recommendation will start Unit 3 or Unit 4 tomorrow. Will there be many modifications to Unit 3?


I think you are on the right track for adjusting your lessons to accommodate the updates. At your current pace, you will have some time and flexibility with future lessons. After U2L10, you might look at how you emphasize the remaining lessons in Unit 2. Many teachers feel strongly that the Data Story PT is not only an option for Explore but a key connection to data science and future careers in CS. I am also pondering how to balance preparing students for the exam and allowing them to explore CS. The curriculum, as is, prepares students well for the exam.

For teachers who decide to do the Explore task early, it is helpful to complete Unit 4 before giving that task. Or if you feel your students would appreciate a shift to programming, then continue into Unit 3. Either way, change is inevitable and we will all have to be flexible. Reach out to other teachers in your cohort to get suggestions that work in your region. Feel free to keep posting on the forum. These threads are helpful to everyone including those of us in Year 3+. :wink:

Hope that helps,


@kdrew glad this is going to help!

@marilyn.crump updates to Unit 3 are primarily

  1. Updating the Practice PT in Lesson 10 to more closely align with the updated Create PT scoring guidelines
  2. Adding a couple resources and practice writing prompts to Lessons 5-9 that prepare them for the new Practice PT

So that means Lessons 1-4 are completely unchanged and the later lessons will have the same activities, just with a couple additional supports added.

I would recommend beginning Unit 3 as written. I believe the added resources will be in place before you are teaching Lesson 5 and should be fairly straightforward to understand and adopt. We’ll of course post more instructions and updates here when those resources are published.

Hope that helps!

@kselle the only specific thing I’d add to @anmrobnott’s reply is that the programming skills in Unit 3 are not explicitly required in Unit 4 or on the Explore PT.

Many teachers, including a few we’ve seen on this thread, have opted to teach Unit 2 and then Unit 4 before teaching the Explore PT and then moving on to the programming units. In fact there was a time when the curriculum itself was written in this way. The feedback we got from classrooms was that teachers wanted to be programming a little earlier in the year and that doing all the programming together actually could become a bit tedious for students. Obviously you should do what you think will be best for your students and on our end we’ll be doing our best to support you!

Let us know if you have more questions. Also see my earlier reply but I think if you did opt to teach Unit 3 you’d probably be able to benefit from the additional resources we’re adding (primarily to Lessons 5-10).

Hope that helps!

@carole_black we’re actually trying to model the recommendations YOU (by which I mean experienced CSP teachers) gave to us. Many of those teachers essentially gave us this same recommendation on Unit 2 Chapter 2, and after we had a chance to review the updated Scoring Guidelines we agreed this was the best recommendation for the current year of teachers. We of course would loved to have not waited until the school year to address it, but alas, these are the timelines we’re working with :slight_smile:

We are happy that we’ll have more time to make updates to Units 3 - 5 and feel confident your students will be better prepared for the PTs as a result. In the meantime keep sharing thoughts or questions here!

Sounds like a crazy notion, but I actually asked my students which they would prefer. None wanted to continue with Unit 2, although I will do the Practice PT. Ultimately, they chose to go to Unit 4 because they felt like it was a more continuous path.

You mentioned that the lessons would not largely change in Unit 4, but I will look for the changes to the PT at the end of the unit. Because of the extra days I’m likely to have now, we will spend a good amount of time going through the CED and making checklists before the actual PT.

@kselle I’m glad you and your class were able to come to a decision. If you go directly to Unit 4 then I agree looking at the Explore PT exemplars on the College Board website as well as the Course and Exam Description (or “the Purple Book”) and the updated Scoring Guidelines will be important and helpful.

Let us know if more questions arise and keep an eye here for more updates on the curriculum. Cheers!


Thank you all for the suggestions and discussions that really help me the reasoning behind why/how/when I’d do what I do.

One big dilemma/question: If I don’t do the Practice PT, are there some additional assessment strategy/ideas I can use? My school and I care about giving them feedback on a timely basis through assessments that are often enough and are related to their retention of concepts/knowledge/application of those concepts.

Thank you for your replies in advance.

This is regarding Unit 2, by the way. I’d still like a substantial assessment end of the unit even if I’ll move on with Unit 3 after Lesson 10.
Thank you!!