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More students want in on the benefits of Computer Science courses at Jones


Computer Science (CS) students and teachers are upset that class availability stays stagnant as interest in the subject grows, making it difficult for students to take higher-level CS courses as seniors.

“Recently, it has been brought to our attention by several students and a parent that rising juniors cannot register for AP Computer Science A (AP CS A) because the two AP CS A sections (30 students/section) are already filled with seniors, who have priority,” said CS teacher Cynthia Lilagan at a recent Local School Council (LSC) meeting. “Those same students also noted that they will not be able to take Data Structures during their senior year.”

Data Structures is a dual-enrollment self-study course offered in partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). A prerequisite to the course is to take AP CS A, but since limited sections of the class are only available to seniors, Data Structures can be out of reach for those interested.

Despite this, students and staff view Data Structures as an invaluable class to take during high school.

“To be able to take Data Structures, the independent study class through IIT, in the low-key environment of high school is a big advantage because it is low risk, especially when students will likely take the course in college,” said CS teacher Michael Kolody.

According to John Fabrycky ‘23, who is currently enrolled in Data Structures, the course has been helpful in preparation for next year at college, where he plans to major in CS.

“I think taking Data Structures gives me a lot more confidence going into college, because I’ve already seen most of the content I will be studying freshman year,” said Fabrycky.

Beyond college, students also value this course as an opportunity to prepare for future opportunities in the CS field.

“What we learn in AP CS A and Data Structures are the courses that the top tech companies [value] in terms of material. These courses are a golden ticket into the internships, at Google and Amazon for example, that you want to pursue,” said Data Structures student Kathryn Harper ‘23.

Across the board, Data Structures and the other CS courses offered at Jones have set students up for achieving awards, internships, jobs and more.

“I’m amazed at how many Jones students or alumni have won the Amazon Future Engineers Scholarship and internship, along with the opportunity to get a job at Google,” said Kolody.

Students and faculty also expressed concern about students losing out on the chance to learn about CS earlier in their high school careers.

“If you can’t take AP CS A until your senior year, you don’t have nearly as long to decide whether you really like CS or not. With college supplemental essays, it can really help if you can explain why you want to do this,” said Kolody.

Fabrycky also thinks students learning about CS in the classroom is vital to them considering it as a pathway in college.

“I think for people who don’t have a professional or in-the-field connection, it’s probably more important to be able to take more CS in high school because you can’t major in something you don’t know about,” said Fabrycky.

Others note that ensuring Data Structures is available to all qualified students would continue to help close the gender gap in CS, an issue the Jones CS Department has focused on.

“One of the reasons why women drop out of CS at much higher rates than men is because of lack of prior experience,” said alumni Sejal Sharma ‘20, a CS major at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “Jones is uniquely positioned where it has an almost 50-50 gender ratio in most CS classes. By offering Data Structures to all, we can better prepare our students for success in college and beyond, ultimately enhancing the reputation of Jones as a leading institution in STEM education.”

CS teachers believe that a robust CS program is an important part of Jones’ school culture, and making it available to as many students as possible is essential in helping students succeed outside of the classroom.

“I want to work on making sure the second a student sets foot in the door at Jones, they are aware that CS is something that they can do here,” said Kolody. “Whatever else you are interested in, ranging from art to economics, by adding some CS, you can help your dreams come true.”