As we approach Computer Science Education Week 2012 (CSEdWeek), December 9-15, I have been taking stock of the things I have seen over the past several months, and the state of K-12 computer science education is heading down a dangerous path.
Running On Empty: The Failure to Teach K–12 Computer Science in the Digital Age released by ACM and CSTA, found that only one-third of states in the United States have rigorous computer science education standards for high school, and most treat computer science courses as an elective (often in vocational technology) and not as part of a student's core education. This not only fails to encourage students to seek out opportunities in this rapidly growing field, it actively discourages students from taking a computer science academic track, since it is not offered or does not satisfy a graduation requirement.
Even interested, high potential students are being kept out. I recently spoke with a young woman in Massachusetts, who when asked if she planned to take the Advanced Placement Computer Science (APCS) course, said, "I'm hoping my teacher will let me sit alone in a classroom and work on it by myself," and that it wasn't offered at her school or through their virtual school exchange. Nationwide only 7% of high schools offer the APCS course. This is a wake up call. We are squandering a precious resource — our students.
CSEdWeek is a call to action to raise awareness about the importance of computer science education and its connection to careers in computing and many other fields. Getting involved is easy. The first step is to voice your support by taking the pledge. Next, do something. It can be as simple as writing to your local school superintendent to express your concern about the issue, or as big as organizing a public event. Wondering where to start and how to plan it? CSEdWeek has a toolkit to help you organize an event that fits your needs.
And new this year, we will be holding the first global Twitter Conversation. I hope you will consider joining us on December 11 at 6 p.m. ET for this important conversation. Just follow us and use the #csedweek hashtag. Committed thought leaders include:
See the complete list, learn more, and add it to your calendar at http://csedweek.eventbrite.com/#.
We are seeing some pockets of hope in places like Massachusetts and Georgia, having just received a National Science Foundation grant to build on their successful work in drawing more women and under-represented minority students to study computer science, as well as Chicago's Taste of Computing project which is working to improve and expand computer science education at the high school level throughout the Chicago Public Schools system.
These are all steps in the right direction, but there is still more to be done. To learn more about this issue and ways to support CSEdWeek, please visit www.csedweek.org.
Ruthe Farmer, chair of CSEdWeek 2012, is Director of Strategic Initiatives for the National Center for Women and Information Technology. CSEdWeek is an outreach activity of Computing in the Core, a non-partisan advocacy coalition that strives to elevate computer science education to a core academic subject in K-12 education.