Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Observations on Parents Shopping for High Schools

We had an open house for prospective students and their parents at school on Sunday. We’re a private school so getting parents to see a reason to spend the money for their children to come is important. We talk to a lot of parents at these events. While not data I had a few interesting observations.

One: More and more girls are expressing interest in computer science every year. Many of them are actually doing some programming of sorts in middle school. Some in school, some in clubs, some in FIRST Lego league, some on their own. A lot of Scratch for sure. But that’s fine. It is driving interest in learning more. Girls have been happy to talk about what they are doing.

Two: Parents often tell me their child is into computers. I ask the student if that means they play video games or do they write programs. For boys it is usually video games or a mix of video games and some programming. For girls it is almost always programming. There is more programming by both boys and girls than these was a few years ago.

Three: Lots of interest in robotics. I credit FIRST Lego League. On the other hand I had one father ask about girl's involvement in our robotics team. He seemed surprised when I told him that team wide and in leadership roles it was about 50/50 boys and girls. I think that was the answer he wanted though.

Four: Mothers are as likely to come visit the CS department table as fathers. And both ask tough questions about the curriculum. Parents are looking for a solid CS program in high schools. One popular question is how long do students have to wait to take a CS course. For us, freshmen year with a required course. Parents seem to like that we start early and have a solid path for more depth in CS.

Five: I'm hearing about more middle schools using Scratch with students. It will be interesting to see how that rolls into HS CS. Clearly though middle schools are jumping into computer science in increasing numbers. I worry about the students at those schools who go to high schools without real computer science programs. Will they lose the interest that is built in middle school?

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