Given the ways computer technology—from the iPhone and YouTube to uses in medical research and national security—is changing so many facets of life, you might imagine that schools have been stepping up students’ exposure to computer science to help drive the digital revolution.
But recent data suggest otherwise. One survey indicates a sizable drop in the availability of even introductory computer-science courses in public and private secondary schools since 2005. Participation rates for Advanced Placement courses in computer science have been relatively flat for years, while the rates have gone way up in traditional science and mathematics disciplines, such as calculus, chemistry, and biology.
SOURCES: College Board, Association for Computing Machinery
“We’re an order of magnitude off from these other courses,” says Janice E. Cuny, a program officer at the National Science Foundation, who argues that high-quality computer-science instruction is all too rare in public schools.
Representation of female and minority students among those studying computer science in high school and college is seen as especially low.
National statistics indicate that computing will be one of the fastest-growing areas for employment in coming years, but experts say the U.S. educational pipeline is expected to fall far short in producing college graduates in the field.
To help address the apparent disconnect between supply and demand, efforts are building to increase access at the precollegiate level to high-quality instruction in computer science, a cross-cutting subject that includes elements of math, science, and other disciplines.
A version of this article appeared in the October 20, 2010 edition of Digital Directions as Schools Seen Lagging in Computer Science