A Look Back at PLTW Summit 2016: AP + PLTW Fireside Chat – Dr. Vince Bertram and David Coleman
Last year, PLTW announced a strategic partnership with the College Board to develop college and career pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. The goal of the partnership is to encourage more students, and a wider variety of students, to engage in STEM courses and build their interest in STEM degrees and careers. PLTW and the College Board share the belief that more students should have access to engaging academic and applied learning. The AP + PLTW program provides recognition opportunities for students who are engaged in the pathways, as well as a portfolio of career-focused opportunities.
During their Fireside Chat at PLTW Summit 2016, PLTW President and CEO Dr. Vince Bertram and College Board President and CEO David Coleman spoke directly to the strategic vision of the partnership and why it produces such value for students.
To sum up the value in one sentence, both Coleman and Bertram agreed on this: We cannot test our students to excellence. AP + PLTW engages students at a younger age in challenging, applied coursework that opens their eyes to the vast career opportunities available to them, and doesn’t just test them, but cultivates knowledge and skills that will help them excel in their futures.
“I believe the students will meet us wherever we place the bar, and for too many children, the bar’s placed too low. This is an opportunity to increase expectations, to prepare our children for college and careers,” Bertram said.
Another major impact of AP + PLTW will be to increase the diversity of students pursuing STEM degrees and career paths. Coleman cited the dire need to engage more underrepresented minority students in computer science. When College Board gave the AP® computer science exam in 2010, only 12 percent of exam takers were black or Latino students. Less than 20 percent of the exam takers were young women.
“Those patterns, if they persist, will build a wall of inequality into the next century,” Coleman stated. “We declared an all-in campaign. Get all those students who are ready for Advanced Placement®, based on our PSAT exam, into the course. The good news is, in 2015, we only had one state that had no young black people or young Latinos in the exam.”
By partnering with PLTW, the College Board can help build a more diverse pipeline of students pursuing AP® courses in computer science. PLTW exposes students to computer science and engineering as early as kindergarten, helping to eliminate perceived stereotypes and engaging students before they can self-select out of “difficult” subjects.
“The idea that students are going to opt in to computer science in high school, it would be like starting instrumental music in grade 11, or having a football team, for the first time, in grade 11,” Bertram explained. “We need a feeder system, essentially. We need children exposed at a very early age, engaged at an early age, and provide opportunity so that we open those pipelines.”
Finally, the AP + PLTW partnership is breaking down educational silos. In most schools across the U.S., students experience science in one classroom, and history or English in another.
Through the three AP + PLTW pathways, teachers are encouraged to talk with one another and integrate lesson plans and curriculum to help students make deeper connections between what they are learning and how it applies to real-world problems.
Students who complete an AP + PLTW pathway have numerous opportunities available to them. During the Fireside Chat, Coleman and Bertram announced the opening of the application process for the AP + PLTW Student Recognition, which signifies that a student who has completed an AP + PLTW pathway is college and career ready. Students can send this recognition on to admissions officers and higher education institutions. Students also will have access to a portfolio of career opportunities including internships and mentoring experiences in the future.