Pushing for Change in Computer Science Education

Computing in the Core logo

On October 6, the world got a double dose of computer science education awareness. Wednesday saw the launch of Computing in the Core, a “non-partisan advocacy coalition” designed to raise the profile of computer science education and elevate it to a core academic subject in K-12 education.  It also marked the launch of the ACM/CSTA report, “Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age,” which paints a stark picture of the “paradox” in the U.S. wherein a lack of and decline in rigorous computing education conflicts with a growing need for students who can fill computing-related jobs.

The goal of Computing in the Core, or CinC, is to strengthen computing education and ensure that it is a core subject for students in the 21st century.  Findings from the Running on Empty report provide stark evidence for the need to improve computing education: for example, two-thirds of states in the U.S. have few or no standards for teaching computing; only 10 states allow computer science courses to count towards graduation credit; and NO states require a computing course for graduation from high school. Paradoxically, the U.S. Department of Labor projections estimate more than 1.4 million computing-related jobs will be added to the workforce by 2018.

Wednesday’s launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. included Norm Augustine, chair of the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” committee, which five years later has released a revised version of the report that predicts a bleak outlook for U.S. innovation and competitiveness without drastic changes. U.S. Department of Education Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement James Shelton bemoaned the fact that computer science was never explicitly included in support from the STEM Education Coalition. Lucy Sanders of NCWIT spoke about having too few computing teachers in too few schools, and the need to increase and diversify the talent pool of students who study computing at the secondary level.

The CinC coalition, which  includes many of our own members (NCWIT as well as the Anita Borg Institute, ACM, CRA, CSTA, Google, and Microsoft), is just one of several efforts underway this fall to improve computing education.  Representative Jared Polis (CO-2) recently introduced H.R. 5929, The Computer Science Education Act, to expand access to high-quality computer science education for all students. In addition, Congress has re-authorized the recognition of December 5-11, 2010, as Computer Science Education Week.  There is increasing momentum and support for recognizing the importance of computing, and we hope that you will carry some of this momentum into your own organizations. Read more about these initiatives in the links below, and in the coming months, keep an eye out for more ways you can get involved with our growing computing community.

Computing in the Core: www.computinginthecore.org

CSTA/ACM "Running on Empty" report: www.acm.org/runningonempty

Computer Science Education Week: www.csedweek.org