By Julie Flapan and Allison Scott, co-directors, CSforCA
Our culture’s reliance on computers has never been stronger — whether we are working from home, schooling from home, shopping from home or socializing from our home — the pandemic has demonstrated technology’s increasing presence in our lives. But, how are we preparing our students for their technological future?
Computer science is critical to preparing our students for the 21st-century workforce.
As students have grappled with learning loss over the past year, instruction in computer science can help students get back on track with their education while paving a path forward. Fewer than half of high schools teach computer science — even though it provides foundational learning that prepares students for college, career and civic participation — and, low-income students and students of color are even less likely to study computer science.
It’s past time to fund quality and equitable computer science education
States and local educational agencies should consider the critical importance of computer science in their education plans. The good news is there are resources available to do just that. The federal government has provided state and LEAs emergency relief funds to help address COVID-19’s impact on elementary and secondary schools. This unprecedented funding for education can support any activity or program authorized by education statutes, including the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. How can these funds support computer science locally?
- K-12 teacher professional development in computer science (funds provided to both districts and schools)
- 1:1 devices for elementary, middle and high school computer science courses
- Robot kits, circuit playgrounds and other physical computing devices
- AP Computer Science exam fees
- After-school and summer school opportunities in computer science to address learning loss
Where should the money go, specifically?
When education leaders are asked what is holding them back from implementing high-quality computer science education, a lack of teachers prepared to teach computer science is frequently cited as the greatest barrier.
States and LEAs can use the influx of funds mentioned above to provide professional learning for educators to teach K–12 computer science. This investment will yield the most immediate and significant returns in increasing student access to computer science education and will set students up for continued success.
Not sure where to find quality teaching education programs?
The Summer of CS is a specially designed week of free professional learning for teachers, counselors and administrators. With several equity-minded curriculum providers, educators can access this evidence-based collection of high-quality computer science education resources in a virtual environment. Learn more and register for the free workshops at SummerofCS.org.
Education leaders can no longer deny the importance of equity and access in computer science education, and we now have the funding to support it. If administrators are unsure where to begin, the CSforCA equity implementation guide is an excellent resource designed with input from early-adopter California districts sharing their lessons learned to support administrators new to computer science. In addition to the guide, there is an accompanying online interactive workshop designed for school leaders to troubleshoot common challenges with equitable implementation.
Good news for California
In addition to federal funds, Gov. Gavin Newsom has continued his support for computer science education in his May Revise of the California 2021–22 state budget. Gov. Newsom has long been a champion for equity in computer science education in California, lending his support to launch CSforCA when he was Lieutenant Governor. This budget is a step in the right direction, expanding teaching and learning opportunities in K-12 computer science education by including funding for teacher professional learning, and restoring funding for the CS Coordinator.
What’s included in the California May Revise?
- $15 million for teacher certification and support: This funding, spread over the next three years, supports the training of 6,000+ teachers in completing coursework to receive certification to teach computer science.
- Computer Science Coordinator: The budget funds the position of Computer Science Coordinator for the California Department of Education, restoring ongoing funding for a critical advocate for equity and inclusion across California.
- Additional one-time funds: The budget also includes additional one-time funds that aim to increase educator training and resources in computer science.
This funding is not set in stone, and we need your help to make sure it’s passed. Use your voice and spread the word — this new funding will begin to fill in longstanding gaps for California’s students. Computer science must be prioritized in order to prepare our students for the highly digitized 21st-century workforce.
CSforCA is a multistakeholder coalition that advocates for equity, access and inclusion in computer science across California. California has made a commitment to computer science education — the approval of Computer Science Standards, a new CS supplementary credential authorization, the Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan, and the UC system’s recognition of computer science toward A-G requirements in math and science. CSforCA looks forward to a world where all students have access to high-quality CS education and are not just prepared for the future, but are the ones creating it.