The CSforAll Consortium announced commitments from over 170 organizations this week to develop and support computer science programming and train teachers, the latest in a series of recent efforts to promote STEM education and computing.
Just last month, the White House released a memorandum instructing the U.S. Department of Education to direct up to $200 million a year for the next five years toward STEM and computer science. In relationship to the White House announcement, a collection of tech and education companies pledged $300 million to funding computer science programming.
The CSforAll Consortium’s slate of new commitments, announced at this year’s summit in St. Louis, came from companies, universities, national nonprofits, cities, school districts, and state departments of education. These initiatives vary widely in scope, but many are directed toward addressing persistent challenges in the field—like teacher-training pathways and professional development, curriculum resources, and accessible out-of-school time programs.
Major announcements highlighted by the organization include:
- The Girls Scouts of the USA will introduce computing programs serving 400,000 girls ages 12-18 annually (Earlier this year, the Girl Scouts announced that they would offer badges in cybersecurity.)
- The Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools is launching a CSforCA campaign to bring computer science education to 6 million students across the state.
- Public universities across the country, including the University of Texas at Austin, City University of New York, and Michigan State University’s college of education, will expand computer science development for pre-service and in-service teachers.
CSforAll has posted a list with details of all of the commitments on their website. The consortium, a national organization launched by New York’s CS4All nonprofit and orginially funded by the National Science Foundation, includes members from industry, nonprofits, government, and educational organizations
The organization has focused on efforts that will cause systemic change, said Ruthe Farmer, chief evangelist at the CSforAll Consortium. Farmer’s goal is a “360=degree surround” computer science environment for students. That includes a supportive school environment—with a principal that embraces computer science education and counselors that get students into those courses—but also extracurricular programs that are accessible for all children.
That’s why integrating computer science into long-established and geographically widespread youth programs, like Girl Scouts, is so important, she said.
“It’s really unlikely that a kid is going to be in a coding club for eight straight years. But they’re going to be in Girl Scouts, or Boys and Girls Club. It’s the only thing that parallels the school system for an extended period of time.”
These youth programs also already reach millions of children across the country, including those in underserved or rural areas.
Attending a Girl Scouts meeting doesn’t present any of the same financial, geographic, or cultural barriers that are often embedded in coding camps or computer science clubs, said Farmer.
Advocates need to find ways to bring computer science to kids where they already are, she said, not the other way around. “Anytime you’re asking the kids to come to you, you lose the very kids that need it the most.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.