ACM Transactions on Computing Education

Why Latino high school students select Computer Science as a major: Analysis of a success story

View publication


This article reports on a public school that is succeeding in encouraging Latino high school students to select Computer Science (CS) as a major. The students attend a charter high school designed to encourage low-income Latino students to attend college and attain proficiency in English, Spanish, and computers. Using data from surveys and by analyzing test scores, the authors quantify the characteristics of students who are likely to choose CS as a major. A survey of 139 tenth-through twelfth-grade Latino students is used to determine factors that influence CS major selection. The survey includes questions from a previous study (836 high school math students from 9 public and private schools) as a control. Additional questions measure student interest in 20 STEM, business, and humanities subjects. Standardized test scores are correlated with factors affecting choice of CS as a major. Environment and intervention programs in, after, and outside of school are examined to consider their impact on student development. The article provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the relationship among academic environment and performance, subject interests, gender, and teaching methods that influence the interest of Latino high school students in choosing CS as a major. © 2011 ACM 1946-6226/2011/07-ART10.