States Aggressively Adopting K-12 Computer Science Policies, Report Finds

By Benjamin Herold — October 08, 2018 3 min read
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Dozens of states have adopted a wide range of policies to promote K-12 computer science education, but early data suggest only about one-third of U.S. public high schools are currently teaching computer science, a new analysis found.

“Computing is changing every part of our lives, from how we interact with each other to how we do our jobs,” according to a report from the Advocacy Coalition and the Computer Science Teachers Association. “Yet the U.S. education system does not provide widespread access to this critical subject.”

Titled “2018 State of Computer Science Education: Policy and Implementation,” the analysis focuses on the extent to which states have enacted nine policies the groups deem critical to spreading computer science. On many, they found robust progress, even compared to last year:

  • Twenty-two states now have academic standards outlining the computer-science skills and concepts that students are expected to learn, up from six states last year. (And an additional 11 states are “actively developing” standards, according to the report.)
  • Fifteen states now require all high schools to offer computer science, up from four last year. Several states, including Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Wyoming, now also require that schools offer some computer science instruction prior to high school.
  • Thirty-nine states now count computer science as a core high school graduation requirement, up from 28 last year.
  • Six states now have a statewide plan for integrating computer science as a new subject, compared to two last year.
  • Nineteen states have allocated a total of $62 million to support professional learning opportunities in computer science for K-12 educators. Ten new states have committed funding since last year.
  • Thirty-three states now have computer-science certifications for teachers, up from 27 in 2017.
  • Fourteen states now have a “computer science supervisor” or related state-level employee responsible for K-12 computer science education, up from eight last year.

The picture is not all rosy for computer-science proponents, however. and CSTA have also been working to document access to computer science in schools across the country. The project includes a review of federal and state data, information from groups such as the College Board, surveys, and reviews of individual district and school course catalogues.

The work is still ongoing; so far, data collection is near complete in 24 states.

A preliminary look based on information collected in those states shows that about 35 percent of public high schools are currently teaching computer science.

In the states in which data collection is complete, the percentage of high schools offering computer science courses ranges from 16 percent (in Louisiana) to 78 percent (in Rhode Island.) and CSTA also found that black, Hispanic, poor, and rural students are less likely than their peers to attend a high school that provides access to computer science courses. Roughly two in five high schools with less than 25 percent students from underrepresented minorities offer computer science, compared with 27 percent of high schools with 75 to 100 percent of students from those groups.

There’s also a geographic divide. Almost half of suburban high schools offer computer science, compared to 34 percent of city high schools and 29 percent of high schools in rural and small town communities, the groups found.

And the report highlights Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Virginia as three states with the highest percentage of high schools teaching computer science, noting that they “have made significant policy decisions in recent years,” illustrating that there is a “strong relationship between policy and implementation.”

The full report, including state-by-state breakdowns, can be found here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.