School & District Management

Google Survey Shows Parents Value Computer Science, But Barriers Remain

By Liana Loewus — August 20, 2015 2 min read
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Principals and superintendents underestimate how much support there is among parents for teaching K-12 computer science, according to a recent Gallup survey, commissioned by tech-giant Google.

The survey looked at a nationally representative sample of about 1,700 middle and high school students, 1,700 parents, and 1,000 teachers contacted via telephone last year for the report. Gallup also collected responses online from about 9,700 K-12 principals and 1,900 district superintendents (though these two groups were not nationally representative).

A quarter of 7th to 12th grade students reported having no access to a computer science class or club at school. The survey also corroborated previous findings on racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to computer science: It found that low-income and black students have fewer opportunities to learn the subject at school than their peers.

Among the other key findings released in the report were the following:

  • Just 7 percent of principals and 6 percent of superintendents say the “demand is high” among parents for computer science education. Yet 67 percent of parents say they think students should be required to learn computer science in school.
  • The reasons that principals and superintendents are most likely to say their schools and districts don’t offer computer science are limited time to devote to nontested subjects and lack of money to hire or train teachers.
  • Black students, regardless of family-income levels, are less likely than white or Hispanic students to report having computer science courses or clubs at their schools. Hispanic students are less likely than white students to have such opportunities, though this difference is not statistically significant when accounting for income levels.
  • Only 40 percent of 7th to 12th graders say they have opportunities to use a computer at their school everyday. Hispanic students are less likely than white or black students to report using computers at school or having exposure to computers in their home setting.
  • Most parents and students say that students are likely to hold a job one day that will involve some computer science.

Previous studies, such as a recent one looking at California schools and analyses of Advanced Placement Computer Science participation rates, have also shown that black and Hispanic students lack access to computer science courses.

Interestingly, Google released its most recent data on workforce diversity this spring. Just 1 percent of its workers in tech-related jobs are black and 2 percent are Hispanic.

The Gallup report notes that respondents were reminded throughout the survey “that computer science involves using programming/coding to create more advanced artifacts, such as software, apps, games, websites and electronics, and that computer science is not equivalent to general computer use.” That’s an important sidenote, considering another study we wrote about earlier this year found that there’s little agreement among principals about what computer science is and how it should be taught.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.