Sign In

Communications of the ACM


CAPE: A Framework for Assessing Equity throughout the Computer Science Education Ecosystem

Black girl and woman at computer

Credit: Monkey Business Images

Women and people of color are underrepresented in the U.S. computing workforce5,6,8 and in computing majors and coursework in higher education and K–12.1 Addressing this lack of diversity requires interventions in both the culture and practice of the computing industry as well as earlier in the education pipeline. The National Science Foundation has made significant investment over the past decade to broaden participation in computing (BPC) through programs such as CS10K, RPP for CS, and BPC Alliances like Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP). The release in 2017 of a new high school course in the U.S. called, AP CS Principles, has resulted in some improvements in diverse participation in high school CS,3 and the Computing Research Association has reported modest improvements in the enrollment of women and students of color in introductory CS major courses.2 However, it remains to be seen whether this limited progress will result in substantive improvements to diversity in the computing industry.

Moving the needle on diverse representation in computing coursework is often the de facto, end-of-the-line measure of success in these various efforts. Less attention has been paid, however, to the entire ecosystem of CS education and the precursors or root causes of underrepresentation. The CAPE framework is a lens for assessing equity not simply as an end product, but as an integral component to each element of the systems that support computing education. The framework addresses four key components of CS education: Capacity for, Access to, Participation in, and Experience of equitable CS education (CAPE). The CAPE pyramid shown in the figure in this column is meant to illustrate how the four components of the framework interact progressively, building and relying on the previous component. For example, if students are to have equitable experiences learning CS, they must first participate in CS courses and programs. If students are to choose to participate in CS, they must first have equitable access to CS courses and programs. If schools and universities are to provide students access to CS, they must first have the capacity to offer inclusive CS instruction for all students, not just a privileged few. We posit that until we begin to address the root causes of underrepresentation in CS at each of these levels, the U.S. will continue to struggle in developing a CS education system and workforce that fully leverages the contributions of our diverse national populace.


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account