“Florida is killing Computer Science”

November 9, 2012 at 8:12 am 11 comments

“Florida is killing Computer Science,” was the first thing that Joanne Barrett told us when we asked her how things were going in Florida. Barbara and I went to Orlando to give the Technology track keynote (joint! It was fun!) and two breakouts at the FCIS Conference on Thursday. Joanne ran the Technology track at FCIS. (Our travel was sponsored by CSTA and Google – thanks!) The mood of the CS teachers we met was dismal.

Currently, computer science is part of the academic high school degree in Florida — the classes that one would take as College preparation. It’s mostly taught by mathematics teachers. This year is the end of that. This is the last year that the current CS classes will be offered.

As of next year, all the computer science classes in Florida will be moved into business, as part of career preparation. As we understand it from Joanne, they literally won’t count for credit towards an academic high school degree. The AP CS will stay in the academic track, but all the other computer science courses will move to business.

Why? Exactly the same issue as in Georgia: Perkins funding will pay for hardware, so career prep has the computers, and it gets computer science. We spoke to one business teacher who is desperately seeking professional development to prepare herself for teaching all these new computing courses. We met one of the teachers at the Florida Virtual High School (which has a really cool CS sequence, and an astounding success rate for their students on AP CS), and she said that they may not even be able to offer any CS next year. FVHS is about academic subjects, and CS is being re-classified. Florida is also looking for industry certification for the end of the Perkins-funded pathway, and the teachers we talked to said that they’re currently considering an IEEE Certification — which is explicitly for graduates of four year degree programs, not high school students.

What will this do to CS education in Florida? it won’t be “killed,” but it will be changed. I worry about the quality, when swapping out all the experienced math teachers for inexperienced business teachers. I can’t the impact on CS10K goals.

Can AP CS succeed (in particular, the new CS:Principles effort) as a standalone AP, with all the other CS courses in another track? Maybe. I wonder how much effort school districts will put into AP CS, if they have a different, funded CS pathway. I also wonder if CS:Principles can meet its goal of helping to broaden participation in this context — the career prep programs that I’ve seen are far more heavily under-represented minority than the college prep programs. What if the minority students you want to draw into computing via AP CS are off taking the career prep classes?

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gflint  |  November 9, 2012 at 10:55 am

    It is weird that the teachers do not go with the course, but with the department. Sounds like they need to departmentalize.

    Reply
    • 2. alfredtwo  |  November 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

      I suspect that the teachers are not going with the courses because of certification issues. I’ve seen this before where certified to teach “business” is required for some courses while certification in “math” is required for others. By moving the courses from math to business the certification rules change. Not always smart but logical in a bureaucrat’s mind.

      Reply
  • 3. GaTechGrad (Levi D. Smith)  |  November 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    The only computing class that I had in high school in the late 90’s was keyboard typing and word processing. I graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science, and I got a decent job after graduation. Computing classes in high school are probably helpful, but it is still possible to be successful without them.

    Reply
    • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  November 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      Absolutely — people can succeed in CS without computing in high school. But if we want to get MORE people in computing than we currently do (which we do), then we need to find different ways to attract and engage them. Computing in high school is a way to draw more in — but not if the computing in high school leads away from the better-paying jobs with more computing education.

      Reply
  • 5. Bri Morrison  |  November 10, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I wonder if they had pre-engineering courses (or engineering prep – http://www.pltw.org/our-programs/high-school-engineering-program) if they would also be classified in “business”. Seems to me they would have the computer / software / hardware needs much like CS (actually more). And there would be no industry certification at the end of the pathway.
    This definitely strikes me as a policy problem – educating the legislators on where CS belongs and having the money follow. If legislators are serious about wanting more STEM graduates then they need to be aware of the effects that their policies have on the ground.

    Reply
  • 6. OTR Links 11/11/2012 « doug – off the record  |  November 11, 2012 at 12:31 am

    [...] “Florida is killing Computer Science” « Computing Education Blog [...]

    Reply
  • 7. Leigh Ann Sudol-DeLyser  |  November 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Mark,

    If you have connections with any of the people communicating with Florida’s DOE, there is some precedent in NY for AP exams being counted as a part of a CTE sequence. (may help get away from the “certification” blues). At AFSE we are also looking at how to fulfill our CTE requirements and finding that some of our teachers are also needing to be “recertified”.

    Reply
    • 8. Mark Guzdial  |  November 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Can you expand on how NY is using AP exams for a CTE sequence? (BTW, that’s Barb commenting as me — I was logged into her computer.)

      Reply
  • 9. Bill Jordan  |  December 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    This is indeed a sad situation, especially since Florida consistently ranks 2nd or 3rd lowest nationally in APCS A test results each year. Over the past two years, Florida Virtual School has taught an introductory programming course (Computer Programming 1) using the IPRE robotics curriculum developed by Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr College to teach the basics of Python and then moves on to teach the basics of Java with the Guzdial/Ericson media computing curriculum (students are actually loaned a Scribbler robot for the course). When CP1 students move on to APCS, 100% have completed the course and averaged 4.3 on the APCS exam. We see this as a clear indication that an intro programming course obviously prepares students for APCS. But CP1 is on the list of courses to be daggered by DOE. It is interesting to speculate that if more students took a pre-AP programming course if the results would improve and if more students would stick with computer science because they were successful. I’m not sure we can wait another 3-4 years to find out if that will be the case with students who take APCS Principals and choose to move on to APCS A.

    Reply
  • [...] “Florida is killing Computer Science” (computinged.wordpress.com) [...]

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  • [...] Thanks Mark for trying to help the cause here in Fl. [...]

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