Computer Science Education Getting Short Shrift, Study Finds

By Erik W. Robelen — October 06, 2010 2 min read
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Even as the role of computing in society and the economy has grown rapidly, quality computer science education is being “pushed out of the K-12 education system” in the United States, a new report concludes.

The report was released this morning at the launch for a new coalition called Computing in the Core, whose founding members include Microsoft, Google, as well as the Association for Computing Machinery and the Computer Science Teachers Association. The group aims to advocate for elevating computer science education to a core academic subject at the K-12 level.

There has been a “marked decline” in the number of both introductory and Advanced Placement computer science courses being taught in secondary schools, according to the report, which relied in part on a survey of states and schools. It found “numerous and significant gaps” between state standards and “nationally recognized” computer science standards. Furthermore, it found that few states allow computer science courses to count toward a student’s required credits for high school graduation.

“Computer science and the technologies it enables now lie at the heart of our economy, our daily lives, and scientific enterprise,” declares the report, issued by the Association for Computing Machinery and the Computer Science Teachers Association. “As the digital age has transformed the world and workforce, U.S. K-12 education has fallen woefully behind in preparing students with the fundamental computer science knowledge and skills they need for future success.”

(If this sounds familiar, you may have read my story on these concerns from a few months back.)

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk about the report and the new coalition with Bobby Schnabel, who chairs the Association for Computing Machinery’s education policy committee and is also the dean of the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington.

“The basic issue is that the nation is understanding rightfully the importance of STEM education, and computer science is being largely left out of the conversation,” he told me, “although if you were to look where the job demand is going to be and what drives the economy, ... computer science is huge.”

“This report simply shows very clearly how much computer science is being neglected in our K-12 system,” he added.

The coalition is a group of companies and associations that wants to change that, Schnabel said. “Ultimately, it’s trying to work with the federal government and the states to have the teachers and the courses.”

At the federal level, the coalition is touting legislation introduced by Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, in late July called the Computer Science Education Act. The bill, which currently has four Democratic co-sponsors in the House, aims to expand access to high-quality education in this subject.

Among other things, the bill would support:

• planning grants for states to assess their K-12 computer science offerings and develop steps to make them stronger;

• implementation grants for states, in partnership with local school districts and institutions of higher education, to carry out their plans; and

• computer science teacher preparation programs.

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