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ACM Expert Cites Crisis in K-12 Computer Science Education as Threat to Robust IT Workforce

Schnabel recommends steps for NITRD to address education and workforce issues

Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession


Virginia Gold

Cameron Wilson

ACM Public Policy Office


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WASHINGTON – September 21, 2011 – At a Congressional hearing today on oversight of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program, Dr. Robert Schnabel, who chairs the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Education Policy Committee, testified that the current education pipeline is not producing enough graduates in IT fields.  Schnabel, dean of the School of Informatics at Indiana University, said that the current rate of qualified IT graduates entering the workforce cannot meet the nation’s growing need for computing professionals throughout all sectors of the economy.  He added that the crisis in K-12 computer science education is a direct threat to the pipeline for a healthy IT workforce, and warned that if these issues are not addressed, the computing pipeline will continue to suffer.

“If we fail to address the issues facing K-12 computer science education, students will have little exposure or familiarity with this critical discipline or its concepts before beginning higher education.  As a result, the IT workforce will continue to lack the capacity needed to meet the nation’s growing IT needs,” he said.  “NITRD and the National Coordinating Office (NCO) can play a key role in addressing the obstacles impeding K-12 computer science education.  As the committee works to reauthorize NITRD, we encourage it to help our nation address this problem.”

Schnabel said NITRD’s role in coordinating and focusing federal programs that invest in IT research confers a responsibility to address both education and workforce issues, including diversity of the IT workforce population, as part of its strategic planning process.

“Computing is transforming our world—driving innovation in numerous fields,” Schnabel said.  “Fueling this engine of innovation are investments from various entities in the computing research enterprise and the workforce that supports it.  These investments lead to entirely new multi-billion dollar industries, creating thousands of new jobs and transforming how we live, work and socialize.”

Schnabel recommended that Congress enhance provisions for NITRD programs to explicitly address the systemic issues facing K-12 computer science education. Among the recommendations are that NITRD:

  •      Report to NCO on steps they are taking to address K-12 computer science education reform
  •      Incorporate the Department of Education in the NITRD program
  •      Clearly define computer science in federal education programs
  •      Create state planning and implementation grants for computer science K-12 curriculum and build national networks of support for K-12 computer science education
  •      Create pre-service and professional development opportunities for K-12 computer science teachers

Speaking before the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, Schnabel praised H.R. 2020, as it passed the House in the 111th Congress.  It proposes enactment of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) recommendations for assessment and strategic planning of the NITRD program. He noted that these elements will strengthen the overall NITRD program.

The complete testimony from Schnabel at today’s hearing is available on the USACM website at


With 100,000+ members, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) 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. The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council (USACM) serves as the focal point for ACM's interaction with U.S. government organizations, the computing community and the U.S. public in all matters of U.S. public policy related to information technology.