Partnership Seeks to Ignite Student Interest in Computer Science

Governors for Computer Science (GovsforCS) wants to advance funding and policies that support K-12 computer science education.

by Susan Gentz / February 8, 2018 0
Computer science. It used to be its own little world filled with engineers and software experts, who went to a good college with strong computer and engineering programs, and were quietly sought after by top companies. I know this because my brother is a computer engineer who went to Iowa State (a great engineering school) and was then flown all over the country to be interviewed by companies like IBM and Texas Instruments. I used to think that my brother and I had nothing in common, like we spoke two very different languages, as I was a political communications major. How could our fields possibly ever cross over?
As our workforce evolves with technologies, it seems now as if every major industry has a strong interest in helping next-generation learners, which includes providing the upcoming workforce with at least a base knowledge in computer sciences. These days, because every industry needs an expert in this space, my brother and I cross over more than I could have ever imagined. Now, policymakers are fully supporting every student’s right to access computer science curriculum.
GovsforCS is a partnership of bipartisan state leaders committed to advancing policy and funding to expand access to, and increase equity in, K-12 computer science (CS) education. The partnership came together to create awareness and policies that ignite interest for today’s students in skills that will be essential for the workforce. According to The Conference Board, there are currently more than 500,000 open computing jobs across the country.
GovsforCS believes that “every student who wants to take computer science during their K-12 years should have the opportunity to do so, regardless of their race, gender, or socioeconomic background. But today, only 1 out of 4 schools offers high-quality computer science courses. In addition, only about 1 out of 5 students taking (Advanced Placement) AP computer science courses is female, and even fewer are students of color.”
To belong to the partnership, governors must work toward these three things:
  • Enabling all high schools to offer at least one rigorous computer science course.
  • Funding professional learning opportunities so teachers can be prepared to teach these courses.
  • Creating a set of high-quality academic K-12 computer science standards to guide local implementation of courses.
The partnership, chaired by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, shows how each state has established, or is working to establish, legislation that falls under each of the three goals; this also shows the progress and status of each state.
For example, in Iowa three bills have been passed that begin the process toward meeting the goals of the partnership, which include:
  • Enable all high schools to offer computer science. SF 274 set a goal for each high school, middle school, and elementary school to offer computer science courses by July 2019.
  • Fund computer science professional development. $250,000 is allocated for CS PD for FY 2019.
  • Create High Quality CS Standards. 2016’s SF 274 requires the development of K-12 computer science standards.
However, in other states, it’s more of an uphill battle. Hawaii, for instance, doesn’t have any legislation on the books for these goals yet, while some states are in the middle, passing policies for one or two goals. For a full list of members of GovsforCS and legislation, visit here.
As governors and state leaders increasingly take a role in computer science and the impacts on the workforce, the Center for Digital Education community must use their experience as district leaders to ensure that governors and state legislators are creating policies that are truly helpful. Legislation often has unintended consequences, and as states work out the best incentives and most helpful policies, district leader experience and voice is critical. It’s critical to bring the perspective to the table that computer science is not a silver bullet but another tool for student-centered learning.
What do you think about your state’s Computer Science laws? What could they do better? Let #teamCDE know!