Access to K-12 computer science education grows across the country
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
One recent change in education involves a multistate initiative to expand access to and diversity in K-12 computer science. 33 states have passed legislation to that effect in 2019, and about $42.5 million has been funded for this cause.
Interest in computer science education is rising, as it should in the digital age. Stakeholders, from parents to policymakers, recognize the importance of this investment.
Much of this success can be attributed to the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, which has worked hard at advocating the cause since 2013. The group includes advocacy organizations, nonprofits, and industries working together to make computer science a fundamental part of K-12 education.
Computer skills are as essential today as reading, writing, and math. By making computer science count as a core high school graduation requirement, states can ensure that all students are ready for career opportunities in the digital economy. Policymakers are responding with new policies and sound investments in focused programs, classroom resources, and teacher training to help build skills for the rapidly changing world of technology.
The California Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan is focused on offering K-12 computer science classes to more students in the state. At present, only 39% of high schools offer computer science courses, which translates to a meager 3% of high school students enrolled in computer science courses.
The plan suggests several strategic action items to beat this conundrum. The data shows a significant demographic gap in computer science as well. But the plan doesn't come with direct funding to help school districts.
Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves recently unveiled a $100 million plan, Ready to Work, which seeks to create a new, modern generation of the workforce in the state. The plan includes expanding computer science classes to K-12 classrooms across the state.
By exposing every Mississippi student to computer science or coding courses, the state's education systems will be preparing them for the real world. The proposal involves $1.5 million to bring more computer science and software-coding classes to K-12 schools.
Utah has a similar plan, Talent Ready Utah, which seeks to expand access to computer science education for every public K-12 student by 2022. The comprehensive four-year plan aims to improve student outcomes and teacher readiness around the critical subject of computer science.
The gender gap in technology is a big concern, and equitable computer science education policies can help close it. On average, girls make up only about 35% of K-12 computer science courses.
Most state and federal computer science policies are all about access. However, there is a need to introduce equity-focused policies to put an end to the gender gap in tech and make the high-tech workforce of the future a diverse one.
Incorporating it into the curricula will help students from low-income communities to be prepared for computer science jobs, which are some of the highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs in the country. A comprehensively trained workforce will help us to drive innovation and stay competitive as a nation.
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