April 20, 2021

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Amazon funds equitable computer science curriculum | Technology & AI

Amazon has made a US$15 million donation via its computer science education program, Amazon Future Engineer, to non-profit Code.org to support the development and launch of a new equity-minded Advanced Placement computer science programming curriculum.

While the new curriculum will teach students the same tools and concepts as the existing AP Computer Science A (AP CSA) course, it is built inclusively to take into account the unique cultural perspectives, interests, and experiences of Black, Latino, Native American (BLNA), and other minority students. 

By using a research-backed and culturally responsive approach to teaching in the curriculum, Code.org and Amazon Future Engineer hope to increase equitable access, participation, and achievement in computer science (CS) among high school students of all backgrounds and encourage more BLNA students to pursue careers in engineering.

Black students made up just 15% of the US student body in 2020 and with the College Board reporting that black students who take the AP CSA course are seven times more likely to study CS in college, Amazon’s hope with this new course is that “even more students, from a wider variety of backgrounds, will inspired and prepared to pursue computer science in high school, college, and beyond”, states Jeff Wilke, former CEO Worldwide Consumer, Amazon. 

So how will the new curriculum be more equitable?

To make AP CSA more equitable and accessible to all, Code.org will design the new curriculum to incorporate students’ diverse interests and experiences into CS concepts. The goal is to empower students to investigate real-world concerns during class activities. Add to this, open-ended projects to enable students to demonstrate mastery of concepts that make no assumptions about their cultural backgrounds or life experiences. 

Students will also develop and model valuable, real-world career skills, such as conducting code reviews, tracing code segments, reading documentation, and writing code, with both the user and other developers in mind. Through first-hand experiences, students will ultimately be able to envision themselves as capable software engineers.

Rolling out the curriculum nationwide

State education leaders in the states of Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have pledged to expand AP CSA during the 2021-2022 school year, with Code.org making the new AP CSA curriculum available for all schools nationwide for the 2022-2023 school year. 

Code.org will supply the curriculum and professional development workshops needed to offer the curriculum to all participating schools. 

In addition to working with states, Code.org is forming both an Education Advisory Council, composed of representatives from non-profits, colleges, and universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and an Industry Advisory Council with representatives from a variety of employers. These will provide feedback to ensure the new AP CSA curriculum best prepares students for the next step in their education and careers.

Amazon’s program inspires and educates

Passionate about the power of computer science to unleash creativity and unlock human potential, Amazon Future Engineer is the ecommerce giant’s signature CS program intended to inspire and educate students from underserved communities and groups currently underrepresented in tech to pursue careers in computer science. 

In addition, AWS is the strategic cloud solution that powers the Code.org platform for this new curriculum and other offerings like Hour of Code tutorials, ensuring millions of students across the world can learn uninterrupted using advance, secure cloud computing technologies.