Computer science access grew significantly in 2023; California has room for improvement

This year saw the largest growth in the percentage of high schools offering foundational computer science since 2018, according to the 2023 State of Computer Science Education, released on Nov. 1 by the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance (ECEP), and the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Published annually, the report includes descriptions of policy trends, an in-depth view of each state’s policy and implementation, and data on disparities in access to and participation in computer science.

“For us, policy work starts with the democratization of data,” Sarah Dunton, director of the ECEP Alliance, said in a statement. “When states have access to what is happening on the ground through data, they can advocate at all levels to champion equitable computer science education pathways.”

As of the report’s publication, 34 states adopted or updated 38 policies for computer science in 2023, including 28 states that funded computer science education. More than $120 million was allocated for computer science in state budgets — the most ever allocated in one year, according to the report.

Twenty-nine states have now adopted at least seven of the 10 policies recommended by the Advocacy Coalition to improve clarity, capacity, leadership and sustainability. These include creating a statewide plan for K-12 computer science, establishing dedicated computer science positions within state education agencies, allocating funding for rigorous computer science teacher professional development and requiring the completion of a computer science course to earn a high school diploma.

In the last six years, eight states have made computer science a graduation requirement. As a result, 57.5 percent of U.S. high schools offer foundational computer science — up from 53 percent in 2022 — but disparities in access persist.

Schools spanning both rural and urban areas as well as those with smaller student enrollments were less likely to offer these courses, and low-income youth, multilingual learners and students with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in computer science course-taking.

Computer science in California

In California, 45 percent of high schools offer a foundational computer science class — up from 40 percent in 2022 but still well below the national average of 57.5 percent.

Of the 10 recommended policies, the Golden State adopted six:

  • Create a statewide plan for K–12 computer science
  • Define computer science and establish standards for K–12 computer science
  • Allocate funding for rigorous computer science teacher professional learning
  • Implement clear certification pathways for computer science teachers at elementary and secondary levels
  • Establish dedicated computer science positions in a state education agency
  • Allow computer science to satisfy an admission requirement at higher education institutions

States that have adopted at least seven policies have 73 percent of their high schools offering foundational computer science, compared with 50 percent in states that adopted fewer than seven policies, according to the report.

“California should require all high schools to offer at least one computer science course, and require schools to submit computer science course offerings and enrollment to the Department of Education. This data should be made publicly available,” the state analysis recommends. “California should [also] require all preservice teachers to receive instruction in computer science education. This will ensure there are enough teachers prepared to teach computer science in every school.”

Download the full report and state-specific analysis here.