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computer science education

Computer science education is expanding, but states have work to do

A new report examines state-by-state progress toward computer science education and policies

Statistic after statistic hammers home the importance of computer science in the national and global economy, but for all the increased awareness around the demand for computing skills, state education systems still do not fully support computer science education.

A new report from examines the state of K-12 computer science education and notes that, despite half a million computing jobs sitting open in the U.S., schools still have a lot of progress to make.

Across 24 states, just 35 percent of high schools in the U.S. teach computer science–and minority, rural, and economically disadvantaged students are even less likely to go to a school offering computer science.

But in the states and districts that have made computer science education a priority, progress and policies are encouraging.

In particular, states are exploring nine specific policy areas intended to expand K-12 computer science access for students. Those policy areas fall under the principles of equity and diversity, clarity, capacity, leadership, and sustainability:
1. Create a state plan for K-12 computer science
2. Define computer science and establish rigorous K-12 computer science standards
3. Allocate funding for rigorous computer science teacher professional learning and course support
4. Implement clear certification pathways for computer science teachers
5. Create programs at institutions of higher education to offer computer science to preservice teachers
6. Establish dedicated computer science positions in state and local education agencies
7. Require that all secondary schools offer computer science with appropriate implementation timelines
8. Allow computer science to satisfy a core graduation requirement
9. Allow computer science to satisfy an admission requirement at higher-ed institutions

When’s Advocacy Coalition started in 2013, only 14 states and D.C. had at least one of the nine policies. Five years later, 44 states have at least one of the nine policies in place.

Despite this progress, only six states have strategic plans for K-12 computer science. A state is considered to have a strategic plan if the plan is developed by the state education agency; is specific to computer science education; includes a timeline, goals, and strategies for achieving the goals; and is public accessible.

Only Arkansas, Hawaii, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Wyoming have achieved this goal.

Just 22 states have K-12 computer science standards, which form a coherent progression that aligns elementary, middle, and high school expectations and also are publicly accessible on the state’s website.

Professional learning is key to helping teachers feel confident to teach new topics, but only 19 states have dedicated funding to K-12 computer science professional learning.

Just 15 states require all high schools to offer computer science, but 39 states and D.C. allow computer science to count towards a core graduation requirements.

The report also offers a detailed look at each state’s progress toward computer science education policies.

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Laura Ascione

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