Conversations for Change: Promoting Equity In Computer Science Education

Come learn about Lien’s journey and the lessons that have led to her work on challenging the status quo and broadening participation in computer science education, including her work with the Constellation Center which she founded in order to advance equitable computer science education through a comprehensive approach.


EDIE CHENG: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the NCWIT Conversations for Change, an online thought series. My name is Edie Cheng and I’m the Director of Aspirations in Computing at NCWIT. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to this series which features speakers from a diverse range of opinions and hopefully provocative opinions and worldviews. I want to recognize and thank the many NCWIT sponsors and collaborators who are making this event possible, and I also want to thank all of you, the viewing audience, in advance for your attendance and patience should we experience any bandwidth or other technical issues. During the talk today I encourage you to post your thoughts, questions and comments on the Q&A board as we go using the zoom icon in the bottom of your screen. We will be monitoring this and try to get to as many of your questions as we can. Please complete the short pop up survey at the end of the webinar. Your input is very valuable to NCWIT. 

\We are very excited today to have Lien Diaz as our Conversations for Change speaker for CS  Education Week. She is especially well-suited for this conversation, given the 25 years of experience challenging the status quo in STEM and CS education. Today Lien is founding director of the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at Georgia Tech. She has made the center a leader in expanding computer science education through an equitable and comprehensive approach; she was also a principal investigator on the effort to create a new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles course, making it the largest course launch in the history of the AP program. Lien also draws on her experience as a former classroom teacher implementing cutting-edge math and science curricula and pedagogy to engage students in high-quality learning experiences in the classroom. She firmly believes that equity must be at the heart of collaborative efforts to overcome socioeconomic barriers and issues of race, gender and identity that persist in education. She’s here today to talk about this important work and some of the lessons she has learned and her thoughts on ways to address the pressing challenges for achieving equity. In CS education. I am thrilled to welcome Lien Diaz. 

LIEN DIAZ: Hi Edie, can you hear me okay? 

EDIE: You sound great. Welcome Lien. 

LIEN: Thank you so much for having me, before I begin I just want to make sure you can hear me and see me okay.  I am hoping that I will not be experiencing any technical difficulties and/or Wi-Fi issues. So if you see that the connection is kind of off, please let me know. But with that I want to thank you and the NCWIT Conversations for Change team for inviting me here today. I am super excited and super humbled and honored to be a part of these webinars, of this webinar series. 

I am going to start out by also thanking each and every one of you for taking the time of being here today and participating in these webinars which I believe are truly inspirational. And very much needed. It has created, it has created a space for educators like myself to be able to share our stories. One second. Excuse me. Okay I apologize for that. I got too excited and I had a dry throat there. Again as I was saying I really appreciate the time and the space to be able to share my experiences and my story with you in hopes that it can create conversations for change when it comes to computer science education and that is what I want to focus on today. 

I want to start out by saying just a little bit about my background, where I come from, it shouldn’t matter but it does you know, we always say it shouldn’t matter what ZIP Code kids come from or where they live, but it does. And just in recent years it has become increasingly important for me to acknowledge and identify as an immigrant. I was born in Saigon Vietnam towards the tail end of the Vietnam War where my father was a soldier in the United States Army. And because of him, my mother and I were able to be airlifted out of the aftermath of the Vietnam war, which would have been detrimental I believe to the future of our family if he hadn’t been able to do that. 

And still today as a United States citizen I am reminded daily  that even though I have taken an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States that the status of people like my mother and me, our status is still very fragile in America. Just in light of the political environment and also the beliefs that have really now surfaced to a level about people of color and immigrants in our country. It has placed me in a position as an educator and as a professional in this discipline to really take a stance and be able to share my story and my experiences and be able to stand in solidarity with others that are just like me.  

I do consider myself an American. I grew up, ironically I grew up in Mexico because my father was Mexican born. We lived in Mexico after he was able to bring us, or save us from Vietnam, we lived in Mexico across the border from El Paso Texas, we lived in my grandmother’s house where he would commute across the border to El Paso to go to Fort Bliss where he was stationed to go to work. And eventually I guess to ease that commute and for other reasons we moved to a small rural town north of El Paso Texas and there is where I started most of my formative education. I started in second grade and in second grade at that age I had been speaking multiple languages. I did speak English. I spoke Vietnamese. I spoke Spanish and I may have even spoken a little bit of Thai because my dad was stationed there in Thailand for a little bit. And I don’t remember the exact scenario or conversation that was happening, but one day I said something in a different language. It was not English, and my second grade teacher scolded me for not speaking English. He called me up to the front of the classroom where his desk was situated in the front center of the classroom and told me that because I was in America that I had to, that the only language I could speak, especially in his classroom was English. And that frightened me as a young girl. New to the school system, new to this classroom and so when I went home, you know, I was distraught and my parents then decided that they would help to solidify my identity as an American by helping me to speak more English, no Vietnamese, no Thai but because of the surrounding environment I did learn Spanish as well too. So that was really a first experience for me as a young girl, you know, that started shaping my experiences about what it’s like to live in America. 

I grew up with modest means. When my dad retired from the Army we went through some financial hardships. He retired because there was really no upward mobility for him. He did not have a college degree and he was pretty much stuck in the position he was in. And we ended up losing everything. We lost our mobile home. We lost our cars and we had to leave. I was a teenager by then and I started working in restaurants and didn’t go to school. And when a counselor realized what was happening he was really the one who helped me get back to school. I had fallen behind. By the time I was a senior in high school he knew I was really good at math. I was a very good student. He knew I was good at math and he somehow convinced the math teachers to let me take pre-calc and calculus at the same time so I can have it on my transcript. And one day he pulled me out of class and sat me in his office and handed me these papers and he said answer these essays, write these three essays and what he was asking me to do was… [technical issues]

EDIE: It seems like we have lost Lien Diaz for a moment and hopefully she will be able to reconnect, but just hang on for one moment. Lien are you back? I don’t have audio for you right now. 

LIEN: I am, are we experiencing difficulties? I need to change perhaps my Wi-Fi connection if you would just give me a couple of seconds here I think I can do that. 

EDIE: Okay of course. This is what it is to present in the Zoom era I guess. Thank you all for your patience. And I know that I’m riveted by Lien’s back story and her personal history so I’m looking forward to hearing her continue. 

LIEN: Okay I think I am back. 

EDIE: Yes, I can hear you beautifully. 

LIEN: Okay I’m going to try one more time. I’m going to share my screen and do I need to swap screens? 

EDIE: if you can make it full-screen that would be great. It would be easier to see. That looks great. Yep. We are back and up and running. 

LIEN: I apologize for that. You know. 

EDIE: No worries. Let’s just keep going. 

LIEN: Okay thank you. All right. I will just keep going. So these are some of the schools that I taught at. And I basically want to say that when I first started teaching it wasn’t until I was actually in the classroom that it hit me so hard that there were so many inequities that existed in schools. And especially in our classrooms and I know I went through it, as a young teenage girl young and growing up in West Texas, but it wasn’t until in the classroom that it all started making sense that I had a responsibility, that I had a responsibility to help others that were facing the same kinds of challenges that I had faced. That there was no reason for them to be facing those kinds of challenges that we as educators could do something about it. And if I go on to the next slide, one of the questions that I wanted to address today is so, what does upward mobility look like for a person like me? And as a young teacher I took up all the opportunities that I could learn to do better. I got connected to programs at the university that were addressing systemic barriers in math and science. That was an initiative that I felt very strongly about. I’ve been working on this for decades, I’ve been working on it for 25 years now. And you know, I think it was when I started teaching curricula that was funded by the National Science Foundation that I finally had the research to back up the kind of pedagogy that would increase engagement with my students who were largely low socioeconomic and Hispanic students. And you know, it worked. Many people came to my classroom to observe what I was doing. I was teaching middle school at that time. Kids were working together. They were talking about math. They were asking questions. They were not shy about letting me know when they understood something and when they didn’t. And that is the kind of classroom environment that I thought, that I felt was just and equitable and the kind of environment that I wish that many of us had, that I had. I wished that I had had that growing up to feel comfortable and free to express my thinking in ways that would not attract… [technical difficulties]] 

EDIE: Okay Lien …

LIEN: I am sorry. 

EDIE: No worries …

LIEN: I am so sorry. We are working on it and it looks like it’s inclement weather that is causing terrible Wi-Fi. I apologize for that, everyone. I’m just going to keep going until you tell me we can’t. 

EDIE: You are doing great and you have so much passion to share. I love hearing your story about the curriculum and pedagogy with NSF. Thank you so much.  

LIEN: All right so this is all leading really to collective experiences that have shaped a lot of decisions that I have made during my professional career. And I was indicating that as I was doing, as I was implementing this pedagogy that was engaging my kids, they started succeeding. Their test scores went up and seemingly they enjoyed doing math. Quality education only happens by design. I strongly believed that then and I still believe that now: being equitable for all students and classrooms is by design from the beginning. Making sure everyone feels safe, these were foreign to my colleagues at the time. This was 25 years ago. And some criticized harshly about the lack of organization in my classroom. It was too noisy. It was chaotic. Students were not sitting in rows. They were working together. And then they question the achievement of my students. There was no way that a new teacher could be teaching in a classroom where students increased their scores on state exams. So you know some things are not meant to be easy. Not only was I fighting for my kids’ academic future, I was fighting for my own integrity too, you know so those were some harsh lessons, but a silver lining always exists on the horizon if you look in the right direction. I had a lot of support from really great people. I will never forget that. And this was when all of the sudden I was recruited by the same team at the University that was recognizing the achievements in my classroom to become a mentor for other teachers and this is when I learned about coaching. This is when I learned about the strength of coaching, specifically cognitive coaching, which helps to address biases and misconceptions, and then of course content focused coaching, which helps to increase teaching and learning capacity. And combined, these can be very powerful tools to help create change and to get at issues that can create a more equitable environment for students. I don’t want to get into the details of these approaches, but coaching can really help shift mindsets. I have practiced that for many years in my profession and again always I am reminded that there is an indoctrination of keeping the status quo. It is so deep that sometimes we don’t even know when we talk about stereotyping especially in computer science and I think we really need to see teachers or help develop teachers and educators at all levels as change agents so that we can be collectively reflective of our own biases. And really analyze our behaviors. Like that teacher in, my second grade teacher. I don’t want to believe that there was mal intent, but the words that he chose to make me understand that I would get in trouble if I spoke a different language, that impacted me for years and years and years. And so you know, I think that these are really good tools to help us understand and analyze policies, behaviors and biases that still exist in our education system. 

So what does this have to do with STEM education and challenging the status quo? Well first, coaching is linked to higher student achievement. We have to recognize that in order to really elevate the teaching profession which is another one of my goals, is we have to meet teachers where they are at and then follow them through the path that they choose being supportive the entire way. That applies to all educators by the way, not just teachers. And I also think that coaching really helps to make teachers feel like they truly are professionals. And you know, I just have carried that with me like I said earlier, over many many years. Working in education. So let’s start talking about how this applies to STEM and computer science education. My professional career shifted the greatest when I worked on AP Computer Science Principles. I am hoping that there are some of you in the audience today that shared that experience in creating AP computer science principles. I was a principal investigator along with a professor from Duke University whose name is Owen Astrachan also with another professor from Middlebury College, her name is Amy Briggs. But there were hundreds of other educators, high school teachers, administrators, college professors that were a part of this. When I worked in the advanced placement program at College Board, we were approached in 2007 by the National Science Foundation who pretty much exposed the AP program as a source of the problem in CS education at the time. So let’s say 15 or so years ago the majority of students taking advanced placement computer science were not students of color and they were not girls either. So ultimately what was concluded was that in order to change the kinds of opportunities that were being provided to high school students to take computer science was to create this new AP computer science principles course based on the values of participation and based on increasing activity for all students regardless of background, socioeconomic status, or gender, and it took nearly 11 years to complete this course and exam. It had to be aligned to college expectations. It had to be piloted in colleges. It had to be piloted in high schools across the nation. We basically had to get hundreds of people to agree to this course. And that is where my coaching skills really came in handy. One of my biggest goals was to build a community of educators that would come on board with the mission of access and equity for this course. And having difficult conversations about who can take AP, creating opportunities for educators to consider what the systemic barriers are the  prevent girls and students of color into advanced computing in the tech workforce, I recall in one meeting that I was facilitating with a group of expert subjects matter experts; one of them came up to me and asked me, do you think in a different language? And this was after a conversation we were having about what this course was supposed to be about, who it was for and so on and this person asked me this question and it took me, I was taken aback because honestly at first I really didn’t understand the question and where she was coming from and for a split second later I realized that this person had assumptions about my expertise. My credibility, you know, leading the development of the course. Do you think in a different language? Meaning you know, is it bad that if people think in a different language? So I quickly shifted gears and I recall the conversation was not a pleasant one at all. I worked very hard to push back all the emotions about being considered less than. And I remained professional and worked very hard to listen to this person’s concerns. 

So the coaching skills really help to instill the value of listening. Suppressing emotions to be able to listen well and make the conversation as fruitful as possible. That was very hard for me. It is the conversation that actually fueled my desire to work harder, even harder toward addressing bias and racial equity. We cannot solve the problems we have with inequity in CS without talking about bias that affects minoritized groups in our country, and this has been a fact for me throughout my career; and if we really want to take things better we have to talk about diversity, we have to talk about inclusion while also reflecting on our own individual biases. 

So ultimately, though I believe we created a really awesome community of educators that shared the broadening participation values for this course, and this was like Edie mentioned at the beginning the largest course launch in the history of the AP program and I’m very proud of that and very proud of all the people that were a part of this. We could not have gotten there without a collective national effort on this and also thanks to the National Science Foundation as well. So this is just some quick data on what AP computer science exam takers look like. This was 2020 data, this is last year’s data. The majority, so first let me point out there were 65,000 students who took the AP CS exam incredible and over 14,000 since who took the AP science principles exam. This is incredible. We have increased the number of students taking advanced courses. And you can see the distribution there between the different race categories there. We still have a lot of work to do. Still have a lot of work to do because we may have increased access, I’m not sure that we have really reached the equity part in this piece. It has absolutely changed AP computer science and AP computer science principles have absolutely changed the landscape of computer science education in our nation. But like I said there’s a lot more work to do. 

So I think I’m going to jump ahead a little bit, just in the interest of time here. There are you know, there are still policies and behaviors that leaves our kids locked out of opportunities in STEM and an advanced computing courses and thus prevent their potential to succeed in our workforce, whether they go on to study STEM or computer science without the computing skills they don’t have that extra leverage to thrive and have the upward mobility opportunities as if, with computing skills. So I came to Georgia Tech after the AP computer science principles course launched. To start a new center called Constellation Center for Equity in Computing. There are a few other leaders as well too. I want to acknowledge Charles Isbell, who is now the  Dean of College computing, Cedric Stallworth— all alumni from Georgia Tech. I’m not an alumni from Georgia Tech but I’m fortunate to have collaborated and worked with them on the center. And here in this space, I get to declare that CS education is a social justice issue of our time. I’m not the only one that believes this, thank goodness, but I want to state that today. To this audience. Without computing skills, marginalized people will become even more marginalized for not being able to thrive in a digital society. And in terms of gender and identity and racial and economic equality broadening participation in itself is also a social justice issue. And it is about the structures. It is about the policies that continue to exist that oppress underrepresented groups of individuals. It prevents them from entering into computing education, into computer science education. And it is not just enough to have access. You know, we really need to work on the equity piece. 

We know that one of the biggest barriers is a lack of teachers to teach computer science. We are really working hard to address that issue. Because that disproportionately impacts schools in low income communities, whether they are in rural communities or urban districts, you know it becomes even more severe when we look at teachers that are qualified to teach advanced placement computer science for our underrepresented groups and individuals in our schools. Our mission is to democratize computing. Our workforce, I want to talk about our workforce because our workforce does depend on diverse perspectives and expertise. We need to equip the next generation of students to address a wide variety of issues that we can’t even think of today, a wide variety of complex problems in the world. And it remains critical that the people with these computing skills, that are going to solve these problems, that they are representative of the world we live in today. 

And I want to say just a little bit about the state of Georgia. We are living in very historical times, where the population of students in K-12 are now made up of more than 50% students of color: Black and Hispanic specifically, especially. But that also includes Native American, Pacific islanders, the few that we have, you know the few percentage-wise that we have in our state… make up more than 52, 53 percent of our student population. Yet, they are not well represented, especially in STEM and computing education. So one of the things that I do here at the Constellation Center is that I get to lead this Computing Equity Project, and I have an awesome team. I want to quickly introduce them. I have three Constellations fellows; Terry Foster, Sababu Barashango, and Yolanda Payne are all phenomenal. They are instructional coaches and I have worked hard to provide them all the opportunities to develop as instructional coaches. Over the last several years they have increased their coaching expertise so that we can be as effective as possible with teachers in the most harsh and unforgiving conditions in metro Atlanta.

Georgia still suffers from a spirit of segregation that impacts many of our school systems. It doesn’t just rob our schools of funding; it takes away the attraction of the kind of expertise that is needed to truly raise students from impoverished conditions. So we purposefully choose to seek out partnerships with school systems that serve majority minority students, like Atlanta Public schools. The majority of their students identify as Black. We do have some Hispanic students. We do have some white students, and this graph here shows the student population that we worked with in Atlanta Public Schools over the last three years. The fellows have been key to our implementation, which focuses on the capstone and advanced level courses, and let me tell you why we focus there. And that is, we believe that students without those AP experiences or capstone level course experience have less opportunities for post secondary. They have less opportunities for good paying jobs in the workforce. So by design, we have chosen to focus on those courses. 

So I think I might have just a few more minutes here. We customize support for teachers. And we do contest issues of race and gender and poverty so that when students complete our program they are ready for higher learning and opportunities in real-world experiences. The fellows provide a comprehensive approach to professional development. They support teachers with over 100+ hours in the form of workshops and classroom-based planning and coaching. They model in the classroom. They raise teacher confidence and efficacy and content knowledge. They show students how, they show students that they are worth it and that they  belong in AP computer science and they deserve the chance to succeed in this discipline, and in the last three years or so we have been able to recruit and retain 600 students in the schools that we are working with in Atlanta public schools. Before that, before we entered into a partnership with Atlanta public schools there were less than 20 students, or actually there were about 20 students taking an AP course in the entire district. Today about 65% of our students take an AP exam, either AP CSA or AP CSP, because we do focus on both courses, and that’s a great spike from three years ago where less than 20 students took an AP CS exam. 

This is not easy work. This is not easy work. You know, we share the belief that becoming an ambassador for equity and an antiracist educator means that we must become race conscious. Every day. For me it requires that I choose every day to think and act and advocate for equity and equality, every day. It also requires policies and systems to change and we are working on that. Systems have gone unexamined for far too long. Today even after AP CS Principles has launched, and we have provided opportunities for more students to take AP computer science, I would say especially because AP Computer Science Principles as well has become more popular today we must do what we can now collectively and on an individual level, and that is to pay attention to our own behaviors and to our own biases so we can take care of each other. And especially take care of our students. So that is sort of the approach that we have taken over the last three or four years and we are going to continue to take that approach and Edie, I don’t know if I have a little bit more time but I wanted to just kind of maybe go into what I will be working on next and then perhaps open it up to questions or conversations that the audience might want to engage in. So I will  go through these very quickly. 

The next phase of the work that we will be engaging in at the Center is now providing greater student agency. For students to have a voice, and for us to better understand what it is going to take to change what’s happening in classrooms, for students to have a greater sense of identity in computer science. We are not going to tell them they can’t speak a different language. We are not going to tell them they have to think a specific way. We are going to figure out inclusive pedagogy, culturally responsive approaches and curricula and antiracist approaches that are going to help them thrive and succeed inside of computer science classrooms, outside of that classroom, into postsecondary and into the workforce. That is our dream. So we are working with the Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Education. We want to address some of these questions that are on this slide: what are students’ beliefs about computer science? How are we using student agency to help them prioritize and succeed in computer science? We are also going to be increasing our cohort of CS equity coaches based on the principle that coaching works; it doesn’t happen overnight, but over a sustained period of time it is very effective and it is sustainable. So we will be building out a cohort of CS equity coaches, and then we are also looking into addressing racial equity in STEM education and this is via another grant funding opportunity through the National Science Foundation where we will be looking at policy implementation and partnerships and a combination of approaches to work with school systems that will address all of these issues at these different levels. So I think I will stop there, Edie. And have you open it up for discussion and questions. 

EDIE: Yes.. Thank you so much; there’s a lot to unpack and everything Lien has shared today and the Q&A is brimming. So if we don’t get to all the questions I apologize. We’re just going to jump right in. I love the way that you have pulled together your personal history and your experience of coaching and how that’s effective, into this new program that you are working on with the Constellation center. Let’s just jump in and the first question related to educators recognizing and addressing bias, what kinds of things do you do, or what have you seen that seemed to be most effective when helping educators recognize or address bias? 

LIEN: Yes, so the approach that I have taken both in personal experiences and also in the work that I’m doing now at the Center is again, you have to make decisions about when to confront them up front and when to take a more, how would I say… more safe approach. To avoid confrontation. And I think we individually need to make those decisions for ourselves. Sometimes I have been very confrontational and it depends on the context. It depends on the situation where I will literally say, hey, that is not cool. Why? So you have to make those decisions, but I will tell you that in a professional environment and based on the research and my experiences and the outcomes that we have now coming from the Constellation Center, taking a coaching approach does work. But it also takes time to acquire those skills. When we are planning lessons or having discussions with educators and with teachers and we are talking about the engagement level of students, this is just an example. When we talk about engagement level for students we get to ask, hey, what about this group of Hispanic girls? What are we going to do specifically for them to ensure that they will engage at high levels, and therefore help them achieve at greater levels. We get to ask those kinds of questions in a coaching context and environment. When we are talking with administrators, we get to use data of course, but you know we get to ask those kinds of questions and say, what are we doing for the Black population of students that aren’t taking STEM, but that could? Why aren’t they taking STEM courses and AP Computer Science Principles and the rest of that. So we leverage that, we absolutely leverage the opportunities to ask those hard questions and addressing those racial and gender inequities, as well, too. 

EDIE: That’s great. I think absolutely believing that every student has that fundamental capacity and right to participate fully and then speaking up for them at every point. Following up on that, do you have any specific suggestions or ideas on basic everyday changes educators can implement to improve the experience of marginalized, or minoritized students experience? 

LIEN:Yeah [laughter] that’s a tough one. That’s a big question. 

EDIE: Just a little tiny question there. 

LIEN: I want to reiterate that this is not easy work, but it is necessary work. And things that we need to do for each other and for ourselves every day, especially given the couple of years we have had due to Covid that have exposed a lot of injustices and inequities is, I don’t know how else to say it but we need to take care of ourselves, we need to take time for self-care which also provides time for us to be self reflective. And that adage, or that saying that goes, it starts from within, it starts with you and it starts from within, I truly believe in that. So I wanted to emphasize that, but in terms of other important and practical strategies too, is preparing to have these conversations is a big must. Okay, like I said we, I should back up and say earlier when I said sometimes the confrontational conversations that I have had often, I’m going to say nine out of 10 times happen because I didn’t plan to have those conversations. They maybe have taken me by surprise and I was not planning on having confrontational conversations about my gender, my sex, how I choose to identify myself or how I stand up for others who may not fit the norm in some people’s perspectives. And so planning and preparing for those conversations I think is an advantage. Is something that we can do well. And it might mean drafting a few questions just to ask in case it comes up. It might mean to write down important issues that you see and figuring out a way to make those issues aware in a professional manner. So planning is key and the team that I work with now, we work very hard on doing that. We work very hard on making sure that we plan ahead for the work and the activities in the school systems that we work in. In terms of other professional environments let’s say noneducational professional environments we also do that too, amongst ourselves. I think that helps us practice that behavior. Because you need time to also practice that behavior. And it helps to also solidify your beliefs. If you truly believe in equity, if you truly believe in providing everyone the opportunity they need to succeed you have to practice it. It’s not  perfect, Edie, I’m not saying I’m a perfect person because I’m not. I don’t believe anyone of us is that, but I do, and my team will tell you too, I do provide ourselves opportunities to practice that behavior, which only helps to solidify our collective mission and beliefs. 

EDIE: Absolutely. I feel like it is an everyday practice, and you need to flex those muscles frequently, so that they are strong and you have that capability, right? 

LIEN: Absolutely yes. 

EDIE: You can’t  let them just languish. Here is a related question which is kind of speaking to the people who are in positions of power or influence, you know, who really are focused on providing access that we just need to get students the opportunity to build their CS skills, and how do you help those people understand the difference between access and equity? 

LIEN: Yeah. So that’s also another good question. I think one good way of doing it is through data. The data that I showed earlier in terms of AP exam takers shows that a lot more students are taking AP exams but if you look at it at a finer grade level, you know, let’s say via the race categories, we see that there are still disparities in students who are taking AP exams. And so we do that a lot. We use data to leverage meaningful conversations and promoting equity. Sharing stories, too. I want to put a plug in for sharing experiences and becoming better at storytelling too. Part of our approach that I take with my team, and even with educators is coming to a comfort level of being vulnerable. It is okay to be a little vulnerable when you’re having these kinds of conversations with educators or with anyone really. And being able to share your stories helps to be empathetic to others that may have similar stories or have serious questions and do not know how to address those issues for themselves. Being a little vulnerable can help open the door for others to take the next step and have a shift in their mindset. So I think also sharing your stories, being a little vulnerable can provide opportunities to shift mindsets and beliefs. 

EDIE: That is very, very good advice. I did want to also connect back to your work with AP CS Principles and note in addition to the graphs that you showed students of color participation we also know that the AP CS P program has had a far greater uptake among female students and of course with NCWIT and Aspirations that is very impactful and exciting to see. So I think that you can look at that kind of program from a number of different lenses and in terms of reaching marginalized students.   

LIEN: Yeah absolutely. Absolutely. I just kind of wanted to share another fact that we just had a discussion about here in the state of Georgia is that you know, there are, I don’t know, 90-some thousand high school students that identify as Black female. And only about 200 of them actually took an AP exam, AP CS exam, which then spurred lots of emotion and lots of conversation. You know. So I do believe it has been wonderful and I hope that I didn’t lose. 

EDIE: You are still with us. 

LIEN: It has been wonderful that we have had an increase of girls taking AP computer science. I absolutely love that. Now it’s a matter of let’s dig deeper and make sure we are truly addressing the issues where we need to address them.  

EDIE: Absolutely. And I think we’re getting close to the top of the hour. Maybe one last question, related to that, which is I think the question was asked about how can we spread the work in Georgia across the country, and I think that they are referencing all of the great work you’re doing with the Constellation Center. 

LIEN: Yeah Edie I’m going to ask you to maybe repeat the question. I think it was coming in and out for me. 

EDIE: Okay. The question was how can we spread the work in Georgia that you are doing across the country. 

LIEN: That’s a great question, I love that question. We have thought a lot about that and we are at a point where we are taking our lessons learned, everything that we know we can share with the CS education community, we are at a point where we are starting to do that and I want to work hard to be effective, to be able to share out what we have learned. So we are starting to do that and I think once that is shared and once we can start having conversations about lessons learned, I think we can start talking about all right. What are some things we can do, maybe a little bit more at scale? And still with quality. Still with the kind of emphasis on equity. That we would like to see. So I think those conversations are forthcoming and I am open to any and all conversations suggestions about that so I think we’re moving in that direction. Thank you for that question. 

EDIE: I know I and everyone in the audience are looking forward to seeing how you progress in that work. And excited to have the potential to participate in growing it. Really really wonderful to hear from you today. I realize we are now at the top of the hour and so I think we are going to bring the Q&A to a close, very sadly. Thank you so much to Lien Diaz today for sharing your personal story as well as your many professional experiences and wisdom, and persevering through the technical hiccups. It was wonderful to hear from you today. And thank you to everyone who has tuned in to join us. For this Conversation for Change, especially for CS Ed Week. Really appreciate having you all here, and thank you again to the NCWIT sponsors who support the important work and bring these Conversations for Change to you. One special note I have been asked to share, and I’m really excited to put this out into the world, is to pencil in and save the date for the next NCWIT Summit, May 16-19, 2022. So mark that on your calendars right away. Thank you again Lien, and I guess we will wrap up here. 

LIEN: Thank you, I apologize for the technical difficulties but I truly am honored to have been here. Thank you.

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