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US Congressman Introduces Measure to Address Crisis in K-12 Computer Science Education

Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession


Virginia Gold

Kyle Gunnels

Widmeyer Communications


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JULY 30, 2010, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) today introduced the Computer Science Education Act, a key legislative initiative that is part of a continuing effort to address the growing crisis in K-12 computer science education. The legislation will bolster computer science education programs across the country, and help ensure that the education pipeline will produce the workforce the nation will need to thrive and compete in the 21st century. 

The Act targets a variety of factors that currently work against quality computer science in K-12 education.  They include uneven or nonexistent computer science learning standards across the states; scant availability of professional development for computer science teachers; deep confusion about certification for computer science teachers; and a declining number of K-12 computer science courses. 

The legislation is supported by major stakeholders in the computing field ranging from industry—Microsoft, Google, Intel and SAS—to nonprofit associations including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), Computing Research Association (CRA), and Anita Borg Institute (ABI).  As Congress reviews the recently enacted Elementary and Secondary Education Act, these organizations are working to make sure that the proposed Computer Science Education Act is a central part of the discussion. 

“Computer science is driving an economic and cultural revolution across the globe at the same time that it is fading from the K-12 landscape in the U.S.,” said John White, ACM Executive Director and CEO. “We simply are not doing enough to help students get exposure to engaging and rigorous computer science.  This legislation is a watershed moment that will steer the movement toward strengthening U.S. K-12 computer science education.” 

The central part of the Act proposes grants to assess the current condition of computer science education in the states, and create state plans and actions for reform. It also calls for the formation of a commission to review the national computer science education environment, and create strong teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education.  

“The computing and information technology-related sectors are among the fastest growing sectors in the economy, and we need to guarantee a well-trained and creative workforce to maintain and expand it,” said Dan Reed, Corporate Vice President of Technology Strategy and Policy at Microsoft. “It’s clear that students need to be exposed to computer science education and its exciting applications, starting at the K-12 level.” 

“It is often assumed that K-12 computer science is part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education reform wave that is sweeping the country, but regrettably, it is not usually included,” said Alfred Spector, Vice President of Research and Special Initiatives at Google.  “We need to stimulate state and local actions so that all students are able to access high-quality computer science education.”

Key features of the Computer Science Education Act legislation include plans to: 

  •  Fund planning grants for states to work with stakeholders to assess their computer science offerings in K-12 and develop concrete steps to strengthen them 
  •  Fund five-year implementation grants for states, in partnership with local school districts and institutions of higher education, to carry out state plans by: developing state computer science standards, curriculum, and assessments; improving access to underserved populations; building professional development and teacher certification programs; creating online courses; and, ensuring computer science offerings are an integral part of the curriculum 
  •  Establish a blue-ribbon commission to review the state of computer science education nationwide, and bring states together to address the computer science teacher certification crisis 
  •  Establish computer science teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education 
  •  Create an independent, rigorous evaluation of state programs funded under this Act with results reported to Congress and the Administration

This legislation addresses the policies and practices that are undercutting K-12 computer science education in the United States and provides a much-needed catalyst for reform.  It also acknowledges the central role of computer science in the digital revolution that is sweeping commerce, society, and all fields of science.  

Government projections show that in the next 10 years, more than 1.5 million high-wage jobs in the technology sector will be created in the U.S. economy, making computing one of the fastest growing occupational sectors.  Studying computer science, regardless of a student’s ultimate occupation, will provide the critical computational thinking, knowledge, and practices necessary to be ready for college or career.


About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery , is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges.  ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence.  ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.