Project Rise Up 4 CS: Alumni survey results show students intend to persist in CS

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ECEP co-principal investigator Barbara Ericson presented her paper, Helping Underrepresented Students Succeed in AP CSA and Beyond, along with Tom McKlin of The Findings Group, at the recent SIGCSE Technical Symposium. The paper showcases the results from an alumni study of Ericson’s Project Rise Up 4 CS program that helps underrepresented students succeed at Advanced Placement (AP) CSA.

Project Rise Up 4 CS grew from Ericson’s interest in AP CSA and her annual analysis of the College Board’s AP program data. Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist for the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, reports on the participation and success rates in AP CS for women and underrepresented groups. In 2017, Georgia Tech won an award, in part for her work, from the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT) - the first annual CMD-IT University Award for Retention of Minorities and Students with Disabilities in Computer Science.

Summary from Ericson’s paper:

Rise Up 4 CS was created at Georgia Tech in the spring of 2013 to help African American students succeed in their Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science A (CSA) high school course and on the exam. The AP CSA course is intended to be equivalent to a college level CS1 course. In the fall of 2014, Sisters Rise Up 4 CS was also created to help female students succeed. Rise Up (RU) and Sisters Rise Up (SRU) both offer remote and in-person help sessions led by undergraduate students, who serve as near-peer role models.

The long-term goal of these projects is to attract more underrepresented students to computing careers by increasing their self-efficacy, the belief that one can succeed in a particular task or field. Thanks to support from Google, RU and SRU have been offered at several colleges and universities.

Ericson’s paper summarizes the results from spring 2013 to summer 2016, reports on an alumni survey answered by 68 (32%) of the 211 alumni, and includes excerpts from five semi- structured interviews. The majority (63%) of the alumni survey respondents, who are in college, are majoring in computing. A similar percentage of the alumni who are still in high school intend to major in computing (62%). When asked about the programs’ impact on their career choices and interest in computing, 61% of respondents indicated that the program increased their interest in computer science and 24% indicated that it changed their career plans to computing.

The paper provides evidence for the long-term effects of RU and SRU, which help underrepresented students succeed in the AP CSA course and on the exam. It provides evidence that these projects attracted underrepresented students to computing and encouraged them to persist in computing in their post-secondary education by improving their self-efficacy in computing. By helping more underrepresented students succeed in AP CSA we may be able to improve the gender balance in computing and the representation of underrepresented minorities.


Barbara Ericson and Tom McKlin. 2018. Helping Underrepresented Students Succeed in AP CSA and Beyond, In SIGCSE ’18: 49th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, Feb. 21–24, 2018, Baltimore, MD, USA. ACM, NY, NY, USA, 6 pages.