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Computer science education still not in majority of schools

New research reveals that fewer than half of U.S. schools offer computer science education--what gives?

Although U.S. schools have made progress with computer science education, new research shows that fewer than half of schools are teaching computer science.

2020 State of Computer Science Education: Illuminating Disparities, co-authored by, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, offers a comprehensive look at K-12 computer science education progress across the U.S.

The report combines state-level policy with course access and participation data in a way that assesses the progress of the computer science community through a lens of equity and diversity.

Related content: A plan for teaching coding and robotics from home

For the first time ever, the State of Computer Science Education report is able to report on which high schools teach foundational computer science and which do not.

Across the country, 47 percent of all high schools teach at least one CS course, meaning that students attending more than half of schools do not have access to a single course. Further, access is not equal for students from all demographics.

Most notably, Native American or Alaskan students, Black or African American students, and Hispanic, Latino, or Latina students are the least likely to attend schools that teach computer science, as are students from rural areas and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We’re incredibly proud of the teachers across the country stepping up to ensure more students learn computer science,” said Jake Baskin, Executive Director of the CSTA. “But the unfortunate truth is that most schools still do not offer computer science, and the vast majority of students do not take a single CS course. Moreover, this year’s report makes it clear that deep inequities still exist in the field, and we call on policymakers and instructional leaders to support their teachers in eliminating these inequities; a key approach is funding professional development focused on equity and inclusion in the CS classroom.”

To address these findings:

1. States should develop policies and plans focused on getting computer science into new schools so that every student can have access to high-quality computer science education.

2. Within schools that offer CS, administrators, teachers, and counselors need to make a concerted effort to reach students from underrepresented groups and states need to develop more robust data systems so we can evaluate this progress.

There’s still much work to be done, but this year’s report reveals bright spots, particularly in terms of statewide adoption of policies that support computer science education.

In the last 12 months, 28 states have collectively passed 42 policies to support computer science education. The Advocacy Coalition has a set of nine policies that help build and sustain a comprehensive policy framework that broadens the teaching and learning of computer science.

At the time of writing, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, and Nevada have adopted all nine policies recommended by the Advocacy Coalition. Two of these states — Arkansas and Maryland — had some of the highest percentages of high schools teaching CS at 89 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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