6 ways to support computer science education

By Laura Devaney, Director of News, @eSN_Laura
June 2nd, 2016

computer science education

New report offers policy recommendations to sustain momentum for computer science education

U.S. schools should make every effort to expand computer science education to keep up with workforce demands, according to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

And though interest in computer science education, and access to it, is growing, the report found that not enough students are taking high-quality computer science classes at the high school and university levels.

The report found that just half of U.S. states actually count computer science as a math or science credit rather than an elective, and 29 states lack computer science teacher certification programs.

The computer science Advanced Placement exam represents only 1.1 percent of all AP exams offered, has the largest gender disparity of any AP exam, and underrepresents minority students, according to the report–only 22 percent of students taking AP computer science are female, less than 10 percent are Hispanic, and less than 4 percent are black.

High school students take five times more AP biology exams than AP computer science exams, they take nine times more AP calculus exams, and they take 20 times more AP English exams.

The authors offer a series of recommendations for federal and state policymakers to leverage this momentum:

Reform curricula for existing technology classes to focus on core concepts of computer science in primary and secondary schools
Allow computer science to count as either a math or science requirement in high school
Teach computer science in all high schools
Increase the number of qualified computer science teachers by providing resources to train and recruit
Establish more STEM-intensive public charter high schools
Create incentives for universities to expand their offerings in computer science and prioritize retaining students interested in majoring, minoring, or taking courses in the field

In the report, ITIF makes the case for public action to support and maintain the groundswell of interest in computer science and capture the economic and social benefits that will come from fostering a more highly skilled workforce.

“Despite the growing use of computers and software in every facet of our economy, computer science education is just beginning to gain traction in American school systems. It should be an urgent priority to make much greater progress,” said Adams Nager, an ITIF economic policy analyst and the report’s lead author. “Computer science is the most important STEM field for the modern economy, but it is not even represented in the acronym, and it is the discipline that the fewest high school students study. It is encouraging that the number of high school students taking AP computer science has more than doubled in recent years, from about 20,000 in 2010 to almost 50,000 in 2015. But that figure pales in comparison to the number of students taking AP calculus—and in California, there are still more kids taking ceramics.”

The report was co-authored by ITIF President Robert D. Atkinson.

Nager and Atkinson say the outlook for computer science education is improving, however. Spearheaded by nonprofit initiatives, the importance of coding and computer science has led to concerted efforts to increase the number of students taking computer science courses, provide teachers with resources, and generate interest in the field.

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