I recently attended the Infosys Crossroads Conference in beautiful Scotts Valley, Calif. For the fourth year in a row, Infosys Foundation USA handpicked thought leaders to explore ideas around increasing access to high quality education in computer science, coding and making.
Infosys challenged attendees to brainstorm around the best use of effective computer science education as a driver for greater diversity, faster economic growth, and better preparation for 21st century careers. The conference roster is always diverse, including practicing computer science teachers and administrators from K12 and higher education, policymakers, industry professionals, “makers,” creative technologists, and (of course) computer scientists.
As you can imagine, these people are incredibly passionate and opinionated about computer science education. We don’t all agree on the details, but there is one thing we do all agree on. All kids should be exposed to computer science, and in fact CS should be a core subject taught in schools, alongside the “three R’s”—Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.
Current State of CS Education in the U.S.
The CS “wave” is picking up strength in the U.S., but we have a long way to go. Only 12 states have adopted a policy to give all high school students access to computer science courses (and of those, only five states give all K-12 students access). There are 557,903 open computing jobs nationwide, yet only 49,291 computer science students graduated into the workforce last year.
Government policies and funding drive what actually gets taught in our public schools. At national, state and local levels, important policy issues include standardized testing, curriculum standards, and teacher certification, just to name a few. There are always a few innovative districts who are ahead of the curve when it comes to keeping up and preparing students for a fast-changing job market. But until public school policy gets current, the majority of students will not reap the benefits provided by the leading districts. This leads to unequal and limited access to high-quality computer science education for both students and teachers.
Together We Can Make a Difference
So how can you help promote equal and fair access to computer science education for all students and adequate preparation for teachers? The presenters in the “Policy Track” at the conference shared a ton of great information that everyone who cares about computer science education can use in their own advocacy efforts.
One of the most informative sessions I attended was presented by Anthony Owen from the Arkansas Department of Education, and Dawn Morrison from the Alabama Department of Education. The CrossRoads 2018 Education Policy Track Committee created a template that you can copy and use as a collaboration tool. It includes important CS statistics, a State Computer Science Planning Toolkit, Arkansas’s CS Strategic Plan, and much more.
Connect with Me
Especially through my work as a STEM ambassador, I passionately advocate for CS education as well as computer science professional learning for teachers in my home state of Pennsylvania. I’d love your feedback and comments on the CS Advocacy one-pager that I’m using to communicate my message(s) to anyone who will listen! In particular, I am targeting Pennsylvania state legislators. Getting changes to education policy enacted “takes a village” and I’d love to hear your successes (and failures). Together we can make a difference.
Image courtesy of Heather Lageman.