Education's Most Startling Paradox: K-12 Computer Science Education Declines
New Report Outlines Deficiencies in Preparation for Computing Careers; Leading Industry and Non-Profit Organizations Form Coalition to Raise National Profile of Field
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 6, 2010— As computing continues to drive job growth and new scientific discovery, a non-partisan advocacy coalition--Computing in the Core (CinC)-- was announced today to address the vital need to build a strong K-12 computer science education program in our nation’s schools, which today largely does not exist. Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age, a new report released today by Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), found that roughly two-thirds of the country have few computer science education standards for secondary school education, and most states treat high school computer science courses as simply an elective and not part of a student’s core education.
The founding members of CinC, a coalition of associations, corporations, scientific societies and other non-profits, include ACM, Microsoft, Google Inc., CSTA, National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Computing Research Association, SAS and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI). CinC’s website, www.computinginthecore.org, features computer science education research, facts, resources, and actions for the public to take to become involved in advocacy outreach.
“This coalition seeks to strengthen K-12 computer science education and ensure that computer science is one of the core academic subjects that prepares students for jobs in our digital society,” said Bobby Schnabel, chair, ACM’s Education Policy Committee. “Given computing’s central role in society and innovation, our nation requires a core K-12 curriculum that includes rigorous computer science education. To ignore this need would be a national failing.”
Highlighting the need for a powerful voice such as CinC, Running on Empty found that only 14 states have adopted significant education standards for high school computer science, and 14 states and the District of Columbia have not adopted a single upper-level standard for computer science instruction. Further, Running on Empty shows that in states where computer science standards are in place, they focus largely on skill-based aspects of computing (i.e., using a computer in other learning activities), instead of the deeper conceptual knowledge (e.g., develop an understanding of an algorithm) students need to succeed in the 21st Century. The report also found that only 10 states count high school computer science courses as a core academic subject in their graduation requirements. This data adds to recent CSTA findings that exposed the nation’s nearly nonexistent K-12 computer science teacher certification system.
“If students are to thrive in the new global economy, it is essential they are provided with high-level computer science skills,” said Chris Stephenson, executive director, CSTA. “No other subject will open as many doors in the 21st Century, and this report’s findings bring attention to a severe lack of rigorous computing opportunities at the K-12 level. Computer science education needs to move beyond mere technological literacy, such as keyboarding and use of the Internet, to focus on advanced concepts such as understanding and applying algorithmic and computational thinking.”
As schools continue to cut funding to programs not currently recognized as core disciplines, few students have the opportunity to take rigorous, engaging computer science courses, and among those who do, there is little ethnic and gender diversity. CSTA survey data has shown that from 2005 to 2009, offerings of introductory computer science courses and Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science courses have fallen significantly across the nation. Further, according to College Board data, in 2008 only 17 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science test-takers were women, although women represented 55 percent of all AP test-takers; and only 4 percent of AP Computer Science test-takers were African Americans, although African Americans represented 7 percent of all AP test-takers.
CinC is dedicated to influencing federal and state policy, such as the recently introduced Computer Science Education Act, which calls for grants to states to develop plans to improve computer science education and programs to support computer science teachers; and raising awareness of computing through avenues such as Computer Science Education Week (December 5-11, 2010), a weeklong national event celebrating the far-reaching impact of computing.
CinC applauds the recent inclusion of rigorous computer science in the definition of STEM within the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report, Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future, and views this as a small step in battling the misconceptions about computer science education and advocating for its inclusion as a core subject.
“Computer science is foundational to commerce and innovation and needs to be informed by the diversity of thought represented in our population as a whole,” said Lucy Sanders, CEO, NCWIT. “Any creative endeavor needs to be inclusive and computer science is no different. CinC will work to assure that computer science is a field attractive to all groups, and one in which all groups can succeed.”
"Given that computing now permeates all aspects of business, government, and research, it is more important than ever to enhance computer science education at the earliest years, K-12", stated Dan Reed, corporate vice president, technology strategy and policy, and director, eXtreme Computing, Microsoft. "To that end, Microsoft is proud to be a part of Computing in the Core and support its mission to grow and improve computer science education at the K-12 level.”
“Computer science is a crucial part of creating the technology that is central to our world and which will be increasingly important in the future, such as making our energy infrastructure more efficient, securing our cyber-infrastructure, improving education, and implementing electronic health records,” said Alfred Spector, vice president of research and special initiatives, Google Inc. “As members of the computing industry, Running on Empty's findings make it our responsibility to communicate computer science’s central role and make rigorous computer science education a reality in our nation’s classrooms.”
About Computing in the Core (CinC)
Computing in the Core (CinC) is a non-partisan advocacy coalition of associations, corporations, scientific societies, and other non-profits that strive to elevate computer science education to a core academic subject in K-12 education, giving young people the college- and career-readiness skills necessary in a technology-focused society. CinC encourages awareness building activities, policy changes and research at national, state, and local levels to build a strong foundation for the future of computer science instruction. It will engage federal and state policy makers, educators, the public, and the media to meet these goals. www.computinginthecore.org