Computer science education is gaining momentum. But some say it’s not too early

major american companiesLawmakers on both sides of the aisle, union leaders, and some big-name city superintendents agree: Expanding computer science education is critical to preparing today’s students for the careers of tomorrow.

Despite that sentiment – and billions of dollars in one-time federal funding for new laptops, tablets and Internet connectivity – the number of students taking computer science education courses continues to grow at a modest pace and stubborn gaps in access to courses remain, Code That concludes a report released on September 21 by .org, a non-profit dedicated to increasing access to the topic.

Slightly more than half—53 percent—of US high schools offered basic computer science classes in 2022. This is a small increase from last year’s 51 percent, but a significant jump from 35 percent several years ago., And in all states, 6 percent of high school students are enrolled in computer science courses, up from 4.7 percent last year.

Black, Native American, and Native Alaskan students make up roughly the same percentage of computer science enrollment as they do of the student population in grades 9-12. For example, black students comprise about 15 percent of all public high school students and about 16 percent of enrollment in basic computer science classes.

But the representation of Hispanic and Latino students is not as good. While these students are about 27 percent of teens in grades 9-12, they represent only 20 percent of those attending foundational computer science courses.

The gap is even wider for students living in poverty, who make up 52 percent of students in grades 9-12 but only 36 percent of those enrolled in computer science courses nationwide.

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Girls also tend to lag behind boys in attending courses, making up 32 percent of high school students enrolled in basic classes nationwide. In fact, that average exceeds 40 percent in just three states: Maryland, Mississippi and South Carolina. Each of those states has made computer science education a new undergraduate requirement or the primary way to meet a graduate requirement already on the books.

Only seven states have adopted Code.org’s nine recommended policies for expanding computer science education: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada and Washington. The organization’s recommendations included creating a state plan to expand computer science education, requiring all high schools to implement computer science education, establishing computer science supervisory positions in state education offices, and establishing computer science standards. .

Taking those steps is starting to pay off for Nevada, where 95 percent of students attend a school that offers basic computer science, although only 4 percent are enrolled in courses. Notably, economically disadvantaged children make up about two-thirds of Nevada’s 9-12 grade population, but are actually over-represented in basic computer science classes at 82 percent.

Making the expansion of computer science education a policy priority “just doesn’t happen,” Nevada’s superintendent of public instruction, Jhon Ebert, said in an interview. States require the support of the governor, legislature, local superintendents and communities.

Finding Qualified Computer Science Teachers Is a Challenge

Finding qualified teachers to teach computer science has been one of the biggest challenges facing schools. Nevada has made it easy for people who have expertise in the subject—but may not have a bachelor’s or bachelor’s degree—to lead the curriculum, by crediting teachers for successful work in computer science. To be certified, Ebert said.

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Ebert said that even once all policies are in place, states should continue to follow them.

His advice to states wanting to take a big step on computer science education? “Make sure you’re working consistently with your teachers in your classes,” she said. “It’s one thing to have a policy, but it’s another to make sure it’s implemented appropriately, and to constantly look at your data” to make sure all groups of children are benefiting.

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