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School Grades Need Improvement

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"Technology has been paying the bills in this country…we’re killing the goose that laid the golden eggs."—Stan Williams, Senior Fellow, Hewlett-Packard

Much has been written over the last decade about the abysmal state of the education arms race in the U.S., particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (popularly known as STEM) with increasing low blows to computer science. But two recently published reports make it painfully clear just how little has been done to redirect that trend over the last 10 years and what is bound to happen if this spiral does not end.

ACM and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) recently released some startling findings of an in-depth study on U.S. CS education standards in a report entitled Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age (http://www.acm.org/runningonempty/). The report found that approximately two-thirds of U.S. states have very few CS education standards for secondary school education, and most states treat high school CS courses as simply an elective and not part of a student’s core education. The report also discovered that only 14 states have adopted significant education standards for high school CS programs, and 14 states and the District of Columbia have not adopted any upper-level standards for CS instruction.

The system’s failures in the STEM disciplines also raise concerns about the U.S. status as a place to innovate, invest in the future, and create high-paying jobs, according to Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited, a report published by the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12999). This recent study looks at changes that have occurred since the 2005 publication of the landmark, 500-page report known as the "Gathering Storm," which focused upon the ability of Americans to compete for employment in a job market that "increasingly knows no geographic boundaries." Revisited opens with the telling comment: "Five years have passed since the initial report was prepared, a period in which a great deal has changed…and a great deal has not changed." It goes on to paint a daunting outlook for the U.S. if it continues down this perilous road with regard to sustained competitiveness.

As we celebrate National Computer Science Education Week (http://www.csedweek.org/) this month, we must be mindful that recognizing the need to bolster CS in all levels of educational in order for citizens to prosper in the 21st century should be a daily mantra…now, more than ever.

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