States should create opportunities and certification paths for teachers to ensure that computer science is a subject taught in every K-12 school, according to a new report from Code.org.
According to the recently released report, states should develop “multi-pronged approaches” to prepare and license a new generation of computer science teachers. All states deal with teacher certification differently, but they should “create pathways that align with their existing preservice teacher preparation, certification, and endorsement pathways,” according to the report.
Currently, just 29 states offer clear pathways for computer science teachers, and there is a lack of clear and consistent rules and policies that teachers must follow from state to state to receive full certification to teach the subject — in much higher demand now than it was several years ago.
The paper lays out what should be done in the short and long terms, as well as right now, in order to guarantee that there will be enough computer science and programming teachers to fill the schools that need them. The authors highlight Arkansas and Utah as model examples of certification procedures and outcomes.
In the immediate future, the report’s authors envision teachers being able to receive a temporary license after receiving professional training that has been approved by the state.
This would be ideal for educators who are currently teaching computer science courses or going to teach them in the next school year. Temporary licenses would allow states to build a solid foundation of teachers, while still cementing a more long-term plan for teachers to get formally certified.
In Arkansas, any teacher can obtain a computer science approval code by showing proof that they’ve taught a course in the subject during four of the past seven years, or if they have a minor in computer science or an approved computer science certification. They could also have a combination of industry accreditation plus documentation that they took computer science courses in college.
This approval code is a temporary measure for Arkansas — it helps schools meet immediate needs while providing teachers with jobs and options to demonstrate their mastery of the content.
“Teachers could apply for this temporary license after completing a minimum set of requirements, and while working towards completion of more in-depth computer science methods and content requirements,” the report’s authors note.
States could have teachers meet content requirements by attending workshops, taking computer science courses, or passing a certification assessment. States could also “explore the use of micro-credentials to allow teachers to teach specific computer science courses after successful completion of professional learning or submission of a portfolio.”
Micro-credentials, which have gained popularity in recent years, allow learners to show they’ve mastered a certain skill. They can then include the credential on a resume or CV.
As more long-term pathways are developed, temporary licenses can be phased out after a few years, according to the report.
Also in the short term, states could create a secondary alternative pathway to certification after they’ve shown that they have completed content and methods requirements. This could be for teachers who have already earned or are in the process of earning full certification in another content area, like math or science.
Many of these routes to fill computer science teaching slots are just stopgaps; they are not solutions. The report also offers long-term channels for certification, and urge states to create a full certification pathway for teachers after they fulfill their requirements. This could work even for people who are thinking about changing careers.
“A full certification pathway is important for creating a sustainable computer
science teaching force,” according to the report. “Eventually, teacher preparation programs would create preservice programs
for computer science teachers, similar to existing ones for mathematics and science teachers.”
In a way, this would be easiest for states to fulfill because the certification requirements for computer science would align with those that are already in place for other subjects.
Teaching candidates could prove that they are eligible for the job by completing coursework in curriculum design and development and using technology in the classroom, and they’d also have to show a passing score on a state-approved assessment on teaching and learning. They could also complete coursework at a college or advanced degree level, and pass the assessment.
“The growth and sustainability of K-12 computer science depends on having an adequate number of well-prepared
computer science teachers,” according to the report.
The recommendations reflect a broader push by computer science education advocates to get states to focus on the importance of computer science instruction.
A separate report, released earlier this month, funded by BNY Mellon, examined state policies that support equitable K-12 computer science education and outlined four steps states should take to foster wider access to computer science instruction. It was co-authored by a coalition of leading educational organizations, including Code.org, EDC, Education Commission of the States, NSF BPC Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance and SageFox Consulting Group.