State leaders are recognizing a pressing need for computer science to be more accessible to students — but they need to build a more robust network and establish a basis to sustain programs, according to a recent report.
The report, funded by BNY Mellon, delves into state policies that support equitable K-12 computer science education and outlines 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.
The authors outline four recommendations for state officials when they think about how to bolster access to computer science education: build a leadership base that will attract diverse stakeholders, develop goals to sustain computer science programs and initiatives, collect data to monitor progress and tap into a growing pool of programming experts.
There is already a foundation for much of this work, according to the report, but there is still room for improvement.
“Even with all of the state and national progress being made, we have a long way yet to go,” the report states. “A failure to act boldly and urgently will maintain the status quo, in which access to CS is available to only a fraction of the nation’s K-12 students.”
The report lays out 10 policy recommendations that state leaders should tackle along with partners in K-12 and higher education, nonprofits and businesses. Highlighted is Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson who, along with the state Department of Education, developed a strategic plan for computer science which includes goals, mission and vision, and standards and curriculum. The California state legislature is in the process of creating a computer science advisory panel.
“Allocating funding to broad and thoughtful participation in the development of the state plan can make a significant difference by providing resources for research, regularly assembling stakeholders to provide input, and disseminating a state plan,” according to the report.
State-level initiatives should also incorporate more diversity in computer science education—areas like New York, San Francisco and Broward County in Florida provide a model to scale up other computer science programs. It is important to “more effectively recruit and engage underrepresented students,” and make computer science available to a wider range of learners.
“States can take steps to track participation in CS, identify barriers to participation, and leverage initiatives and resources such as those described above to focus on increasing access to quality CS education and inspiring students from currently underserved populations,” according to the report. “When considering the development or adoption of state policies to advance K–12 CS education, equity and diversity should be considered from the beginning.”
Another point of contention is funding. So far, nine states have dedicated state-level monies to K-12 computer science education for fiscal year 2016 and/or 2017, including Arizona, Georgia, Idaho and Rhode Island. The largest allocation was made in Arkansas, with $2.5 million each for the last two years.
Advocates are also pushing for state certification for computer science teachers. Currently, 27 states and the District of Columbia offer CS teacher certification. States are also beginning to adopt pathways to certification for teachers who can show they are knowledgeable about computer science or demonstrate basic programming abilities.
The report’s authors acknowledge that there is more supply than demand when it comes to getting trained professionals to teach the subject in schools. But they also argue that certain incentives, like tuition reimbursement for CS coursework and scholarships to become certified, can help entice more teachers into the field.
Other priorities the authors suggest include making computer science a requirement for all high schools — and allow the subject to satisfy a core high school graduation requirement — and creating a designated state-level computer science position.
“Adding a new opportunity such as computer science to the K-12 menu is exciting and brings many challenges, said Pat Yongpradit, Code.org’s chief academic officer. “The 10 policy recommendations, developed by Code.org’s Advocacy Coalition, provide a road map for states to create and sustain equitable infrastructure for rigorous K-12 CS education.”