Posts tagged ‘public policy’
Alfred Thompson raises an important question here. I agree with him — we haven’t reached consensus. We also will never have a national CS curriculum in the United States, because we have a distributed education model. It’s a state decision. I do fear that there may be a de facto standard now.
But the bigger concern is at a higher level of abstraction: How should we make curricular decisions in CS (or anywhere else)? I hope that we make our decisions based on empirical evidence. I don’t see that we have the empirical evidence that any of the below classes ought to be the dominant model.
Oh boy are things up in the air in the HS CS curriculum these days. While we have some great advice from the CSTA (CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards) the implementation of those standards are still left up to individual schools/districts/states. Still it is easy to come to the conclusion from watching social media and some conferences that there is a consensus on a high school Computer Science curriculum. Today I got the following from a friend.
Is it an incorrect read or has a national consensus for CS in HS’s been achieved with a sequence of :
–ECS (Exploring Computer Science) Curriculum
–CS Principles/BJC Curriculum (Beauty and Joy of Computing)
–AP CS (JAVA [for now])
According to the article linked below, there is a large effort to fill STEM worker jobs in Northern Virginia by getting kids interested in STEM (including computing) from 3rd grade on. The evidence for this need is that there will be 50K new jobs in the region between 2013 and 2018.
The third graders are 8 years old. If they can be effective STEM workers right out of high school, there’s another 10 years to wait before they can enter the workforce — 2024. If they need undergrad, 2028. If they need advanced degrees, early 2030′s. Is it even possible to predict workforce needs out over a decade?
Now, let’s consider the cost of keeping that pipeline going, just in terms of CS. Even in Northern Virginia, only about 12% of high schools offer CS today. So, we need a fourfold increase in CS teachers — but that’s just high school. The article says that we want these kids supported in CS from 3rd grade on. Most middle schools have no CS teachers. Few elementary schools do. We’re going to have to hire and train a LOT of teachers to fulfill that promise.
Making a jobs argument for teaching 3rd graders CS doesn’t make sense.
The demand is only projected to grow greater. The Washington area is poised to add 50,000 net new STEM jobs between 2013 and 2018, according to projections by Stephen S. Fuller, the director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. And Fuller said that STEM jobs are crucial in that they typically pay about twice as much as the average job in the Washington area and they generate significantly more economic value.
It is against this backdrop that SySTEMic Solutions is working to build a pipeline of STEM workers for the state of Virginia, starting with elementary school children and working to keep them consistently interested in the subject matter until they finish school and enter the workforce.
For academics, this study falls in the category of “Duh! Who didn’t know that?!?” But it might not be obvious to non-academics. NSF hit-rates are below 10% in most fields. Proposals take tons of time to put together (way more than a conference paper, on par with a journal paper), and you have to keep producing them until you get hits in a research-intensive university. When hit rates were around 30%, you’d do four proposals and could expect one to hit. Nowadays, you’re doing over 10, and then you’re still not sure you’ll get funded. It’s a huge cost.
The pressure to win high-status funding means that researchers go to extraordinary lengths to prepare their proposals, often sacrificing family time and personal relationships. During our research into the stressful process of applying for research grants, one researcher, typical of many, said, “My family hates my profession. Not just my partner and children, but my parents and siblings. The insecurity despite the crushing hours is a soul-destroying combination that is not sustainable.”
Really interesting new study out of Computing Research Association (CRA). How long does it take to get a PhD in CS? How does that compare to other STEM disciplines? How does it differ based on gender or minority status?
Table 3 and Figure 1 show the median time to complete a Ph.D. since first beginning a graduate program, for each subgroup, for each cohort.
Gender . Women take longer than men. This is true in both cohorts; there is a larger difference (almost a year) in the second cohort.
Citizenship status. In the earlier cohort, students on temporary visas take less time than citizen or permanent resident students. In the later cohort, the median times of the two groups are exactly the same.
Minority status. Students from underrepresented minorities (URM) – that is, racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in computing – take longer than majority students to complete a Ph.D.. In the first cohort, the difference is almost two years; in the second cohort it is close to one year.
Carnegie Class. Eighty percent of doctorates in computing are granted by “Very high research activity” institutions; students at those institutions take noticeably less time to complete their degrees than those at the less-research-intensive institutions.
I don’t believe the main propositions of the article below. Not all STEM education will lead to more women discovering an interest in IT. Putting computing as a mandatory subject in all schools will not necessarily improve motivation and engagement in CS, and it’s a long stretch to say that that will lead to more people in IT jobs.
I addressed the quote below, by Ashley Gavin, in my Blog@CACM post for this month: The Danger of Requiring CS in US K-12 Schools.
“You make it an option, the girl is not going to take it. You have to make it mandatory and start it at a young age,” says Ashley Gavin, curriculum director at Girls Who Code, a nonprofit working to expose more girls to computer science at a young age that has drawn support from leading tech firms such as Google, Microsoft and Intel.
“It’s important to start early because, most of the fields that people go into, they have exposure before they get to college. We all study English before we get to college, we all study history and … social studies before we get to college,” Gavin says. “No one has any idea what computer science is. By the time you get to college, you develop fear of things you don’t know. Therefore early exposure is really important.”
The California state legislature is attempting to affect change to computer science education in California, and for all the right reasons. They’re getting the message that computer science is what drives innovation and economic growth in California, and that the demand for computer science graduates in California far exceeds supply. There are simply not enough students prepared or preparing to join this high tech workforce. They’re also starting to understand that computer science needs to count for something other than an elective course for more schools to offer it and for more students to take it – especially girls and underrepresented students of color. What they may not quite understand yet is that there aren’t enough teachers prepared to teach computer science in K-12, although one assemblyman spoke of the need for a single subject teaching credential in computer science, so maybe someday we’ll get there … baby steps!
So, it was exciting in Sacramento last week as the Assembly and Senate Education Committees passed a handful of CS-related bills with flying colors and broad bi-partisan support! ACCESS (the Alliance for California Computing Education in Students and Schools) was on hand to help provide analysis and information. Many thanks to Josh Paley, a computer science teacher at Gunn High School in Palo Alto and a CSTA advocacy and leadership team member, who provided substantive testimony on two priority bills*. Josh provided compelling stories of students who had graduated and gone on to solve important problems using their CS skills. Amy Hirotaka, State Policy and Advocacy Manager, of Code.org, Andrea Deveau, Executive Director of TechNet, and Barry Brokaw, lobbyist for Microsoft also testified on these bills. It was also exciting to see a wide range of organizations supporting this important discipline.
All of the following CS-related bills passed out of committee, all but one with unanimous approval:
1) AB 1764* (Olsen and Buchanan) would allow school districts to award students credit for one mathematics course if they successfully complete one course in computer science approved by the University of California as a “category c” (math) requirement for admissions. Such credit would only be offered in districts where the school district requires more than two courses in mathematics for graduation, therefore, it does not replace core math requirements.
2) AB 1539* (Hagman) would create computer science standards that provide guidance for teaching computer science in grades 7-12.
3) AB 1540 (Hagman) establishes greater access to concurrent enrollment in community college computer science courses by high school students.
4) AB 1940 (Holden) establishes a pilot grant program to support establishing or expanding AP curriculum in STEM (including computer science) in high schools with such need (passed with two noes).
5) AB 2110 (Ting) requires computer science curriculum content to be incorporated into curriculum frameworks when next revised.
6) SB1200 (Padilla) would require CSU and request UC to establish a uniform set of academic standards for high school computer science courses, to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements, as defined, for the area of mathematics (“c”) for purposes of recognition for undergraduate admission at their respective institutions.
7) ACR 108 (Wagner) would designate the week of December 8, 2014, as Computer Science Education Week (passed on consent).
AB 1530 (Chau), to be heard by the Assembly Education Committee on April 23, would encourage the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop or, as needed, revise a model curriculum on computer science, and to submit the model curriculum to the State Board of Education for adoption (specifically focuses on grades 1-6).
Anyone really interested in hearing the bill presentation, testimony and supporters can see it here:
Senate Education Committee: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2012
Assembly Education Committee: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2019
I’ll plan another update once these bills move further.
Last month, Steve Cooper organized a remarkable workshop at Stanford on the Future of Computing Education Research. The question was, “How do we grow computing education research in the United States?” We pretty quickly agreed that we have a labor shortage — there are too few people doing computing education research in the US. We need more. In particular, we need more CS Ed PhD students. The PhD students do the new and exciting research. They bring energy and enthusiasm into a field.
We also need these students to fit into Computing departments, where that could be Computer Science, or Informatics, or Information Systems/Technology/Just-Information Departments/Schools/Colleges. Yes, we need a presence in Education Schools at some point, to influence how we develop new teachers, but that’s not how we’ll best push the research.
How do we get there?
Roy Pea came to the event. He could only spare a few hours for us, and he only gave a brief 10 minute talk, but it was one of the highlights of the two days for me. He encouraged us to think about Learning Sciences as a model. Learning Science grew out of cognitive science and computer science. It’s a field that CS folks recognize and value. It’s not the same as Education, and that’s a positive thing for our identity. He told us that the field must grow within Computing departments because Domain Matters. The representations, the practices, the abstractions, the mental models — they all differ between domains. If we want to understand the learning of computing, we have to study it from within computing.
I asked Roy, “But how do we influence teacher education? I don’t see learning science classes in most pre-service teacher development programs.” He pointed out that I was thinking about it all wrong. (Not his words — he was more polite than that.) He described how learning sciences has influenced teacher development, integrated into it. It’s not about a separate course: “Learning science for teachers.” It’s about changing the perspective in the existing classes.
Ken Hay, a learning scientist (and long-time friend and colleague) who is at Indiana University, echoed Roy’s recommendation to draw on the learning sciences as a model. He pointed out that Language Matters. He said that when Indiana tried to hire a “CS Education Researcher,” faculty in the CS department said, “I teach CS. I’m a CS Educator. How is s/he different than me?”
We started talking about how “Computer Science Education Research” is a dead-end name for the research that we want to situate in computing departments. It’s the right name for the umbrella set of issues and challenges with growing computing education in the United States. It includes issues like teacher professional development and K-12 curricula. But that’s not what’s going to succeed in computing departments. It’s the part that looks like the learning sciences that can find a home in computing departments. Susanne Hambrusch of Purdue offered a thought experiment that brought it home for me. Imagine that there is a CS department that has CS Ed Research as a research area. They want to list it on their Research web page. Well, drop the word “Research” — this is the Research web page, so that’s a given. And drop the “CS” because this is the CS department, after all. So all you list is “Education.” That conveys a set of meanings that don’t necessarily belong in a CS department and don’t obviously connect to our research questions.
In particular, we want to separate (a) the research about how people learn and practice computing from (b) making teaching and learning occur better in a computing department. (a) can lead to (b), but you don’t want to demand that all (a) inform (b). We need to make the research on learning and practice in computing be a value for computing departments, a differentiator. “We’re not just a CS department. We embrace the human side and engage in social and learning science research.” Lots of schools offer outreach, and some are getting involved in professional development. But to do those things informed by learning sciences and informing learning sciences (e.g., can get published in ICER and ICLS and JLS and AERA) — that’s what we want to encourage and promote.
I was in a breakout that tried to generate names. Michael Horn of Northwestern came up with several of my favorites. Unfortunately, none of them were particularly catchy:
- Learning Sciences of Computing
- Learning Sciences for Computing
- Computational Learning and Practice (sounds too much like machine learning)
- Learning Sciences in Computing Contexts
- Learning and Practice in Computing
- Computational Learning and Literacy
We do have a name for a journal picked out that I really like: Journal of Computational Thinking and Learning.
I’d appreciate your thoughts on these. What would be a good name for the field which studies how people learn computing, how to improve that learning, how professionals practice computing (e.g., end-user programming, computational science & engineering), and how to help novices join those professional communities of practice?
I can’t remember the last time I learned so much and had my preconceived notions so challenged in just two days. I have a lot more notes on the workshop, and they may make it into some future blog posts. Kudos to Steve for organizing an excellent workshop, and my thanks to all the participants!
If states offer career and technical education in pathways (typically 3-4 courses) with a pathway completion exam, they are eligible for Perkins legislation funding to pay for staff and equipment. If AP CS is one of those courses, it’s easier to build the pathway (2-3 courses to define, rather than 3-4) and the pathway is more likely to lead to college-level CS, if a student so chooses. But as the below report mentions, many states believe that Perkins legislation disallows the AP to count. It can, and here’s the report describing how.
If you’re hearing this story in your state, be sure to send your department of education this report!
Career and Technical Education and Advanced Placement (July 2013, PDF)
Traditionally Advanced Placement® (AP) courses and exams have not been recommended for students in Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. This paper, jointly developed and released by NASDCTEc and the College Board aims to bust this myth by showing how AP courses and exams can be relevant to a student’s program of study across the 16 Career Clusters®.
I recently watched the documentary Why we fight, and was struck by the prescience of President Eisenhower’s warning. So many of our educational decisions are made because of the harsh economic realities of today. How many of these are guns-for-butter choices might we have made differently if education was considered? Here in Georgia, computer science curricular decisions are being made with a recognition that there will be little or no funding available for teacher professional development — certainly not enough for every high school CS teacher in the state. What percentage of the DoD budget would it cost to provide professional learning opportunities to every CS teacher in the country? It’s certainly in the single digits.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms in not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
via Cross of Iron Speech.
Wall Street Journal just ran an article (linked below) about people “flocking to coding classes.” The lead for the story (quoted below) is a common story, but concerning. If coding is all extra-curricular, with the (presumably expensive) once-a-week tutor, then how do the average kids get access? How do the middle and lower kids get access? Hadi Partovi and Jane Margolis talked about this on PRI’s Science Friday – CS education can’t be an afterschool activity, or we’ll keep making CS a privileged activity for white boys.
Like many 10-year-olds, Nick Wald takes private lessons. His once-a-week tutor isn’t helping him with piano scales or Spanish conjugations, but teaching him how to code.
“I always liked to get apps from the app store, and I always wanted to figure out how they worked and how I could develop it like that,” Nick says.
As the ability to code, or use programming languages to build sites and apps, becomes more in demand, technical skills are no longer just for IT professionals. Children as young as 7 can take online classes in Scratch programming, while 20-somethings are filling up coding boot camps that promise to make them marketable in the tech sector. Businesses such as American Express Co. AXP -0.57% send senior executives to programs about data and computational design not so they can build websites, but so they can better manage the employees who do.
Interesting and detailed response to the decision in Texas (and proposed in New Mexico and Kentucky) to count programming as a foreign language.
When these policy makers look at schools, they see that computer science is not part of the “common core” of prescribed learning for students. And then they hear that Texas has just passed legislation to enable students to count a computer science course as a foreign language credit and it seems like a great idea.
But all we have to do is to look at Texas to see how this idea could, at the implementation level, turn out to be an unfortunate choice for computer science education. Here are the unintended consequences
1. If a course counts as a foreign language course, it will be suggested that a new course must be created.
2. If a new course is created, chances are that it won’t fit well into any of the already existing course pathways for college-prep or CTE.
3. This new course will be added to the current confusing array of “computing” courses which students and their parents already find difficult to navigate.
4. There will be pressure brought to ensure that that course focuses somehow on a “language”. For the last ten years we have been trying to help people understand that computer science is more than programming. Programming/coding is to computer science as the multiplication table is to mathematics, a critical tool but certainly not the entire discipline.
5. If this new course is going to be a “language” course, we have to pick a language (just one). And so the programming language wars begin.
An interesting piece on “The importance of expanding CS Education in Massachusetts.” I’m particularly interested in her use of AP CS data to argue for the need to broaden access to computing education.
In July, the Boston Globe reported that, of the nearly 86,000 Advanced Placement tests taken by high school students in Massachusetts, only about 900 were in computer science. This is far too low for a state that aspires to lead the world in technological innovation.
Part of the problem is that, too often, students simply don’t have the interest, or the basic computer skills, necessary to tackle higher-level computer science courses. But the greater challenge, across all levels, is that we do not have enough computer science teachers, so students who are interested are left out in the cold. In 2012, more than half of all students who passed the computer science AP exam came from just 14 high schools around the state, meaning that the other 364 high schools in Massachusetts accounted for only around 275 students who passed the exam.
Mihaela Sabin at University of New Hampshire Manchester took Barb’s AP analysis, and produced a version specific to New Hampshire. Quite interesting — would be great to see other states do this!
77% exam takers passed the test, which is closer to the upper end of the 43% – 83% range reported across all states.
Only twelve girls took the AP CS exam, which represents 11.88% of all AP CS exam takers. This participation percentile of girls taking the exam is 4 times smaller that female representation in the state and nation.
Half of the girls who took the exam passed. 82% of the boys who took the exam passed.
One Hispanic and two Black students took the AP CS exam. The College Board requires that a minimum of five students from a gender, racial, and ethnic group take the test in order to have their passing scores recorded.
2012 NH census data reports that Blacks represent 1.4% of the state population and Hispanics represent 3%. Having two Black students taking the test in 2013 means that their participation of 1.98% of all AP CS exam takers is 1.4 times higher than the percentage of the Black population in the state of NH. However, Hispanics participation in the AP CS exam of 0.99% is 3 times lower than their representation of 3% in the state.
The article below describes a political furor over appointing someone to lead an effort to support computing education — who doesn’t herself understand much about computing.
But this is a general problem, and is probably a problem for engineering education, too. Most US politicians in Washington DC don’t have STEM backgrounds. Few know anything about engineering. Fewer still know anything about computer science. Even if they really want to support STEM, engineering, and computing education, not knowing what it is themselves makes it more challenging for them to make good choices.
The row over Tory cronies in taxpayer-backed positions look set to intensify after it emerges the boss of the government’s coding education initiative cannot code — or even give a decent explanation of what is involved. Figures behind the scheme include Michael Gove, who is at the centre of the furore over Conservative placemen in Whitehall and the ‘quangocracy’.
Conservative activist Lottie Dexter was ridiculed by IT experts and educationalists for her clueless performance on Newsnight — in which she claimed that teachers could be trained how to educate students in computer programming “in a day”
ACM has just released a report arguing for the need for computer science in K-12 schools. They are very strongly making the jobs argument. The appendix to the report details state-by-state what jobs are available in computing, the salaries being paid for those jobs, and how many computing graduates (including how many AP CS exams vs other AP exams were taken in 2013) in that state.
The report Rebooting the Pathway to Success: Preparing Students for Computing Workforce Needs in the United States calls on education and business leaders and public policy officials in every state to take immediate action aimed at filling the pipeline of qualified students pursuing computing and related degrees, and to prepare them for the 21st century workforce. The report provides recommendations to help these leaders join together to create a comprehensive plan that addresses K-12 computer science education and that aligns state policy, programs, and resources to implement these efforts.