August 2, 2019

Renton Prep Is Approved and Authorized for AP Computer Science Principles

The 2019-2020 academic year at Renton Prep will be exceptional. Our school just received the authorization to use the AP designation for the Computer Science Principles course. So what does that mean for Renton Prep? It means that we meet or exceed the expectations that colleges and universities have for AP Computer Science Principles.

Adopting AP Computer Science Principles

Although we just received the AP designation, our school is no stranger to this course. For some time, there has been coding teaching going on in all the classrooms from KP through 10th grade. However, last year was the first year we had industry professionals lead full, year-long, computer science in partnership with TEALS. This year is the first year it is AP.

One of our instructors, Susan Thompson, shared that when she taught kindergarten, she did the Hour of Code as far back as 6+ years ago. Renton Prep emphasizes the importance of equipping students with the necessary tools to know how to navigate a technology-driven world.

“One of the important take-aways for me was starting young to aid students in gaining comfort and familiarity with computer science as well as the fact that computer science/programming has many more jobs than applicants.”

Susan Thompson’s thoughts on implementing computer science and programming in her teaching

Our school understands that computer science opens more doors than any other discipline. By learning the basics from an early age, students will be ready for any career. The AP Computer Science Principles course will prepare students to work in fields such as architecture and even zoology.

Unplugged Activity: Paper Airplanes

There are many ways to incorporate activities that use computer science principles. For instance, Renton Prep instructor Susan Thompson did a paper airplane construction unplugged activity with her 2nd grade class. This activity made the perfect STEM project with planning, following instructions, construction, measuring distance traveled, aerodynamics, etc. The activity was fun, motivating, and useful to help move students from hands-on to the actual programming.

“[For the activity], I set up a programming grid with masking tape on the carpet to aid in following the flow of programming using the symbols. We would have great laughs in class as students and I would set up the program only to have [the paper plane] take off in a totally opposite direction. It definitely gave us many opportunities for embracing a growth mindset, learning from failure, perseverance and a can-do attitude. I understood firsthand the struggle as I tried to stay a step ahead of students doing the programming as part of my planning!”

Susan Thompson on the paper airplanes activity
Hands-on Programming Activity

Computer Science Teacher Training

At Renton Prep, we make sure our educators possess the skillset necessary to prepare the leaders of tomorrow. When it comes to Computer Science, it’s no different. Renton Prep instructors undergo training in multiple areas of technology to model to students and to ensure the best quality of teaching.

“All of our teachers are trained in technology from early childhood and up.”

Dr. Michelle Zimmerman

When our teachers fully understand the material that our school offers, it exposes our students to endless opportunities. For instance, our students are accepted into competitive programs in college, such as Informatics and degrees focused on quantum computing. Moreover, the UW Computer Science is a highly competitive program to get in, but we have multiple students who have been accepted immediately into this program. This is all thanks to the level of education that Renton Prep offers, and it all begins with our teachers.

Computer Science Is the Future

Computer science is not only a fad or a course that students love. Studies show that 90% of parents want schools to teach computer programming. Also, 71% of all US jobs now require digital skills. Reports also show that high-skilled computing occupations are the fastest-growing, best-paying, and now the largest sector of all new wages in the US. Studies have discovered that computing occupations are the largest category when it comes to new wages in the United States. They’re ahead of management, healthcare, finance, engineering, sales, or any other category. With this in mind, Renton Prep integrates technology to foster the advancement of students’ computer science knowledge.

To go even further, 9 out of 10 parents want schools to teach computer science according to a Gallup poll. Further, students rank computer science to be among their favorite subjects, behind only art and music.

While these are not measures specifically about demand, they do suggest parents are more enthusiastic about computer science education than administrators realize.

What Schools Desire

In a recent training that Dr. Michelle Zimmerman attended, she had the opportunity to connect with other instructors from public school districts all over Washington State. In one of the sessions, teachers had to come up with ideal dreams for their schools. The common theme among educators was that there is only one teacher in each school or district who teaches technology and computer science. With a lack of technology trained professionals, schools are not able to offer courses where computer science is imparted. In addition, another dream of these schools is to integrate technology throughout the curriculum, rather than a separate, isolated course.

“[Teachers] feel alone and don’t have administrative or other teacher support. They have one lab with limited computers. [Schools] are only allowed to offer teaching technology as an elective but wished all kids would have access to learn about technology.”

Dr. Michelle Zimmerman

Equity in Technology Courses

In addition to wanting more technology instructors, schools also dream of better plans for equity. Most schools have predominantly white and Asian male populations enrolled in these courses; and counselors who discourage other kids from from going into AP Computer Science or other computer science electives because they think it will be too hard for them.

At Renton Prep, we know all kids are capable of completing computer science learning successfully. We don’t offer it as an extracurricular option or elective, because we believe strongly in equity and giving access to all students, and making it part of normal learning. Additionally, our school has had the most diverse group of students completing high levels of technology training.

Living the Dream at Renton Prep

At Renton Prep, we are living the dream of these school districts. Our school understands the opportunities that computer science and programming offer; and our mission is to prepare students for their future careers. With the implementation of AP Computer Science at our school will also give students the chance to gain college credits before graduating high school. Contact us today to find out more about our school and enroll your child today.