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Computer science education is on the rise in high schools, but access barriers remain for traditionally underserved student populations

Computer science claims slight victory in high schools


Computer science education is on the rise in high schools, but access barriers remain for traditionally underserved student populations

For the first time, a slim majority of all U.S. high schools–51 percent–offer foundational computer science, up from 35 percent in 2018.

The new statistics come from the 2021 State of Computer Science Education: Accelerating Action Through Advocacy, released by Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance.

The latest data reveals that disparities exist regarding who has access to and who participates in computer science education. Students who attend rural schools, urban schools, or schools with higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students are less likely to have access to computer science.

Published annually, the report provides a comprehensive analysis of national progress in computer science education, featuring national and state-level policy and implementation data with a focus on equity and diversity.

The report updates each state’s status toward adopting the nine policies recommended by the Code.org Advocacy Coalition and includes updated school-level data collected for the K-12 Computer Science Access Report on the availability of computer science in high schools.

“It’s time for policymakers, industry leaders, and stakeholders to advocate for policies that make computer science a fundamental part of the education system. By following the data, trends, and recommendations in the 2021 State of Computer Science Education, we can work toward eliminating access and participation gaps and look forward to a world where every child everywhere has access to computer science,” said Dr. Katie Hendrickson, president of the Code.org Advocacy Coalition.

Key findings from the 2021 State of Computer Science Education report include:

  • Fifty-one percent of high schools in the US offer foundational CS (up from 47 percent last year), but disparities still exist in terms of who has access and who participates. Rural schools, urban schools, and schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students continue to be less likely to offer computer science.
  • Black/African American students, Hispanic/Latino/Latina/Latinx students, and
    Native American/Alaskan students are less likely to attend a school that offers it.
  • Across 37 states, only 4.7 percent of high school students are enrolled in foundational CS.
  • Nationally, Black/African American, Native American/Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific
    Islander students are represented in computer science courses at similar rates as their
    overall population, but disparities differ by state.
  • English language learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged
    students are underrepresented in high school computer science relative to their state
    populations.
  • Fewer disparities exist in computer science participation for students in K–8 than in
    high school and beyond: Female students make up 49 percent of the elementary students
    enrolled in computer science, 44 percent of the middle school students, and only 31 percent of high school students enrolled in foundational computer science.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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