GPS recently received the College Board’s AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for achieving high female representation in AP Computer Science A during the 2018-19 school year. The only other Tennessee schools to receive this award for 2018-19 are also girls’ schools—Harpeth Hall School (Nashville) and Hutchison School (Memphis).
“Girls Preparatory School is empowering young women to see themselves as creators, innovators, and problem solvers,” said Stefanie Sanford, College Board Global Policy Chief. “We hope to see even more high schools inspire female students to harness the potential of an AP computer science education.”
GPS began offering computer science classes shortly after the school launched the laptop program in 1998. Currently all sixth- and seventh-graders take computer science classes—Discover Computer Science 6 and Design & Discovery 7—and can choose to take a host of additional classes in grades 8-12. By beginning students’ exposure to computer science in sixth grade, GPS helps girls build confidence while providing a safe space in which to take risks.
“When a girl takes AP Computer Science A at GPS, she is in a class with all girls; whereas at other Chattanooga schools, she is likely to be one of only a few in a class with mostly boys,” says Jill Pala Piertiz ’97, who taught the class last year.
“By offering computer science classes, we work to break the stereotypes around computer science and give our students a chance to thrive in the supportive environment of all-girls education,” Pieritz adds. “This is where girls are able to build their confidence and skills before stepping into a STEM environment in college, where they will often find themselves in the minority.”
Providing female students with access to computer science courses is necessary for ensuring gender parity in high-paying technology jobs
and to drive innovation, creativity, and competition. A recent Google study
found that women are more likely to pursue computer science if they are given the opportunity to explore it in high school.
“I am proud that we continue to receive recognition for our computer science program,” Pieritz says.
Enrollment in AP Computer Science A grew significantly at GPS around 2010, with GPS representing 40 percent of the female AP CS A test-takers in Tennessee in 2013. The class continues to prepare girls to perform well on the AP exam.