TeachCS zeroes in on computer science

By Laura Devaney
December 11th, 2015

TeachCS addresses critical shortage of qualified computer science teachers by connecting high school educators with computer science curricula

computer-scienceAs the nation focuses on Computer Science Education Week, December 7-13th, computer science curricula developers and professional development providers joined forces to announce TeachCS, a platform for high school teachers looking to broaden their computer science training and curricula.

Funded by private sector philanthropy, the goal of TeachCS is to match in-service high school teachers with both computer science professional development and financial support to attend training from leading academic institutions, in order to better prepare their students for the lucrative computing jobs most in demand in the future.

In its pilot year, TeachCS will provide in-service high school teachers with funding for professional development in one of three areas – Exploring Computer Science (ECS), AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP), or Bootstrap.

“TeachCS will support educators with little to no background in CS Ed who are looking to become computer science teachers. The chief requirements are the teacher’s interest in learning to teach computer science and the support of the school community in the creation and sustainment of a computer science program for at least three years,” said TeachCS Executive Director Rob Underwood.

Both requirements will be evaluated through a fellowship application to be launched in early 2016 through which any public high school teacher in the nation can apply.

“By bringing together in-service teachers looking for computer science education training, leading CS education curriculum and associated professional development providers, along with both financial support, all under one virtual roof, the TeachCS platform will connect three critical groups that must work more closely together if we’re to successfully expand computer science education in the United States,” said Pedro Torres-Picón, founder and board chair of TeachCS.

Lucy Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), is joining the TeachCS Advisory Board. Sanders noted that TeachCS’ national focus is crucial to improving diversity in technology.

“The call for increasing diversity in the technology workforce means that we need to ensure that high school educators are properly trained and equipped to prepare students for the lucrative and secure computing jobs that we are encouraging them to pursue,” she said. “TeachCS offers professional development to high school educators with a broader reach, eliminating financial and geographical obstacles that have deterred teachers in the past.”

Gail Chapman, Director of National Outreach for Exploring Computer Science (ECS), emphasized the importance of TeachCS in empowering teachers and school communities, particularly in communities that have been traditionally underserved.

“TeachCS will provide access to professional development that will support teachers in schools interested in creating CS programs without the necessity of large district partnerships. Focusing the professional development funding on programs that are well-established and backed by research will provide much needed guidance in terms of choice of curricula, while providing the flexibility to choose what best fits students, school priorities, and overall pedagogical philosophy,” said Chapman.

Lien Diaz, Senior Director of AP Computer Science for the College Board, embraced TeachCS efforts to get teachers trained to teach the new AP Computer Science Principles course (AP CSP) launching in Fall of 2016.

“AP CSP not only offers a broad introduction to computer science that goes well beyond coding, but makes computer science more inclusive and accessible for females and underrepresented groups.” said Diaz. “In high schools, 9 percent of the students who take the AP Computer Science A exam are Hispanic and 4 percent are African-American but with the help of TeachCS and the creation of AP CSP, we can create more opportunities for all students to study computer science that will help power the future.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

About the Author:

Laura Devaney

Laura Devaney is the Director of News for eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura