Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced a $15 million donation from Amazon Future Engineer to nonprofit Code.org to support the development and launch of a new equity-minded Advanced Placement computer science programming curriculum. The new curriculum will teach students the same tools and concepts as the existing AP Computer Science A (AP CSA) course, and it will be 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.
For many students, taking AP CSA is an opportunity to earn a college credit equal to a first semester college CS course—a critical step in a student’s CS journey for long-term success. For example, Black students who take the AP CSA course are seven times more likely to study CS in college, according to the College Board, which administers the AP program. However, while Black students made up 15% of the U.S. student body in 2020, they comprised only 3.5% of exam takers—down from 3.9% in 2019 and largely flat for the years prior. Additionally, only 14% of the 70,000 students who took the AP CSA exam in 2020 were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups* and only 25% of students identified as female, according to Code.org.
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. Additionally, open-ended projects will 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 firsthand experiences, students will ultimately be able to envision themselves as capable software engineers.
“Since its inception, our Amazon Future Engineer program has worked to ensure more students have the resources and skills they need to build their best futures,” said Jeff Wilke, former CEO Worldwide Consumer, Amazon. “With our donation to Code.org, we hope that even more students—from a wider variety of backgrounds—will be inspired and prepared to pursue computer science in high school, college, and beyond.”
“We are excited to develop a much-needed AP-level programming curriculum to inspire, engage, and prepare a more diverse population of students in high school computer science,” said Hadi Partovi, CEO and Founder of Code.org. “With our experience of designing CS curricula that break records in student participation and diversity, we are confident of the curriculum’s potential impact, and we are grateful for Amazon’s generous support to make it possible.”
State education leaders in Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have pledged to expand AP CSA during the 2021-2022 school year. Code.org will supply the curriculum and professional development workshops needed to offer the curriculum to all participating schools, ensuring all interested students will have a trained teacher to prepare them for the year-end exam administered by the College Board. Additionally, each state has committed to requiring all of its high schools in their states to offer computer science. Teachers and others interested in the program can sign up to receive news and updates as the curriculum development progresses. Code.org will make the new AP CSA curriculum available for all schools nationwide for the 2022-2023 school year.
“The Georgia Department of Education is committed to transforming computer science education from an elective available for a few students, to a foundational educational discipline accessible to all,” said Richard Woods, Georgia State School Superintendent. “This new AP Computer Science A curriculum will be designed to inspire, support, and prepare students from all backgrounds who want to pursue a CS path.”
In addition to working with states, Code.org is forming both an Education Advisory Council—composed of representatives from nonprofits, colleges, and universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities—and an Industry Advisory Council with representatives from a variety of employers. These councils will provide feedback in the development process to ensure the new AP CSA curriculum best prepares students for the next step in their education and careers.
The $15 million donation from Amazon Future Engineer, paid over three years, will also help Code.org enhance student awareness around academic and career pathways in computer science. The nonprofit will also use the funding to provide tools to help students succeed in college-level computer science classes and beyond. Amazon Future Engineer is Amazon’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.
Amazon’s partnership with Code.org is only one part of the company’s ongoing work to support education and racial equality initiatives in communities across the country. Recently, the company donated $10 million to organizations that are working to bring about social justice and improve the lives of Black and African Americans. Recipients are selected with the help of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN) and include groups focused on fighting systemic racism through the legal system as well as those dedicated to expanding educational and economic opportunity for Black communities. Amazon followed its donation with an employee match program that garnered an additional $17 million, meaning the organizations received a total of $27 million from the Amazon community. In addition, Amazon teamed up with musician Pharrell Williams, his education equity nonprofit YELLOW, and the Georgia Institute of Technology last month to announce an ongoing collaboration called “Your Voice is Power” to encourage middle and high school students to share their voice about the importance of racial justice and equity while learning to code new music remixes.
About Amazon Future Engineer
At Amazon, we believe in the power of computer science to unleash creativity and unlock human potential. We also know that while talent and passion is spread across all young people, opportunity is not. That is why we created Amazon Future Engineer: our signature computer science education program designed to offer all young people the chance to build their best future. Amazon Future Engineer is a childhood to career program, offering programming that starts with primary school and continues through secondary into career. Amazon Future Engineer inspires and educates millions of students globally, including hundreds of thousands of students in the U.S. each year. Students explore computer science through school curriculum and project based learning using code to make music, program robots, and solve problems. Amazon Future Engineer also awards 100 students each year with four-year, $40,000 scholarships and paid internships at Amazon, and celebrates teachers with professional development and $25,000 Teacher of the Year Awards. Amazon Future Engineer is part of Amazon’s $50 million commitment to STEM and computer science education. The program is available in the U.S., UK, Canada, and France.
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*URG or underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, by Code.org’s definition, refers to students from marginalized racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in computer science including students who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/Latina/Latinx, Native American/Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. See more at code.org/diversity.