Posts tagged ‘public policy’

Guest Post: Debra Richardson on Progress on California CS Ed Legislation

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.

April 17, 2014 at 9:41 am Leave a comment

Naming a field: “CS Ed Research” isn’t going to work

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!

April 11, 2014 at 9:29 am 57 comments

AP in Career and Technical Education: They go together

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®.

via National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium : Policy & Legislation : Issue Briefs & Papers.

April 9, 2014 at 1:15 am 2 comments

Eisenhower’s Cross of Iron Speech: Trade-offs for the Defense Budget

I recently watched the documentary Why we fightand 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.

April 3, 2014 at 1:14 am 4 comments

Who Needs to Know How to Code? More than just the rich white boys

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.

Nick, a fifth-grader in New York, went in with no experience and has since learned enough HTML, JavaScript and CSS to build a simple website. He is now working in Apple’s XCode environment to finish an app named “Clockie” that can be used to set alarms and reminders. He plans to offer it in the iOS App Store for free.

“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.

via Who Needs to Know How to Code – WSJ.com.

March 20, 2014 at 1:06 am 4 comments

Why Counting CS as a Foreign Language Credit is a Bad Idea from CSTA Blog

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.

via Computer Science Teachers Association.

March 19, 2014 at 1:06 am 3 comments

Candidate for Massachusetts Governor pushing CS Ed

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.

via Boston Governor Martha Coakley Economy, Education & Job Creation Platform | BostInno.

March 18, 2014 at 1:05 am Leave a comment

Studying under-representation in AP CS from the perspective of a single state

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.

nh-underrepresentation-hs-computing-education – Google Drive.

March 17, 2014 at 1:10 am 6 comments

Getting politicians to support CS, when they don’t understand CS

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”

via Tories’ ‘Year of Code’ boss Lottie Dexter can’t code | Political Scrapbook.

March 6, 2014 at 1:54 am 1 comment

New ACM Report on the Need for CS in K-12

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.

via ACM Report – Rebooting the Pathway to Success.

March 5, 2014 at 11:55 am 2 comments

SIGCSE Preview: A BOF on State-Level Computing Education Policy Change

Please do consider coming to the Birds of a Feather session (#20) this Thursday (see SIGCSE 2014 Program) from 6:10-7:00 where Rick Adrion (my ECEP friend and co-PI) will be hosting a discussion on state-level change to education policy in support of computing education.  Here’s what we have in mind:

Agenda:

6:10-6:40 Choose Group that is most important to your state (or you). Complete short questionnaire and hand to Group Leader.

Groups:

- Making CS Count

- Getting Computing into K12: curricula, standards, promoting

- K12 Teacher Certification/Licensure

- Teacher Professional Development

- Creating/Expanding State-Based Alliances for CS Ed Reform

Groups will identify 3-4 Action Items and/or Best Practices (30 minutes)

6:40-6:55 Report Out (5 minutes each)

State-Level Advocacy for Computing Education Reform

While it is exciting to see an increasing number of national efforts to reform computing education, such as those led by CSTA, Computing in the Core, ACM, NCWIT, code.org and many others, real change at the state, district and school level requires the active participation of individuals and local organizations to engage policy makers, superintendents and communities. The U.S. education system is highly distributed, with critical decisions pushed more to the community level and less at the national (or even state) level – with large differences between neighboring states. The system is organized along pathways of elementary schools, middle and high schools, community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. A reform process for improving computing education pathways will take place at multiple levels and state by state. This birds-of-a-feather session will bring together emerging leaders at the state level with representatives from national initiatives to share best practices for implementing change.

March 3, 2014 at 1:12 am Leave a comment

There are no computer science teachers in NY

Here’s the next step after the Hour of Code and plans to implement comprehensive CS reform (like in Chicago): Where are you going to get the teachers?

It is widely acknowledged that for New York City to prosper in the 21st century, its middle and high schools must teach computer science. What is not so well known is that there are no computer science teachers in New York—at least not on paper.

The state does not recognize computer science as an official subject, which means that teachers do not get trained in it while they are becoming certified as instructors.

That’s one reason public-school students have little exposure to the skills needed to snag computer software programming jobs, which are expected to grow faster than any other profession during the next decade.

Out of 75,000 teachers in New York City public schools, fewer than 100 teach computer science. While state officials are trying to modernize the education syllabus, industry leaders have been filling in the gap with a handful of innovative efforts that illustrate the ad hoc nature of the solution to the shortfall of qualified teachers. But it will be years before all 800 of New York’s middle schools and high schools can offer even a single computer science class.

via There are no computer science teachers in NY | Crain’s New York Business.

February 27, 2014 at 1:38 am 8 comments

Massachusetts prepares K12 CS education standards

Thanks to Ben Shapiro for the pointer.  My ECEP colleague, Rick Adrion, is part of MassCAN.  Massachusetts has just decided to develop K-12 standards that will include computer science.

These discussions have led to a vision of expanded computing education opportunities for all students. To realize this vision, the Department will be collaborating with MassCAN on the development of voluntary Computer Science Standards for Massachusetts schools. The current Technology Literacy standards will be analyzed and updated and a decision will be made whether to fold Technology Literacy standards into a single document with computer science (Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards), or to produce two separate documents.

The standards development committee plans to present draft standards to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about a year from now, in winter 2014-15. Given the significant education initiatives already underway, I would recommend putting the standards out for public comment no earlier than fall 2015, and would ask the Board to vote on adopting the standards no earlier than spring 2016.

via Briefing for the February 24, 2014 Special Meeting and the February 25, 2014 Regular Meeting – Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

February 25, 2014 at 9:55 am 3 comments

NPR: A Push To Boost Computer Science Learning, Even At An Early Age (with listener pushback)

Nice coverage in NPR, including Barb’s AP CS data, with interviews with Hadi Partovi and Chris Stephenson.

What’s most striking about this piece are the comments.  These are NPR listeners, and by and large, they are a reasonable group.  But by and large, they are against  teaching computer science in elementary school.  Their arguments are interesting. Many are of the form “In my day…”  Others are pushing back against the idea of teaching kids in elementary school something that is supposed to be a job skill.  Still others are making an argument that I made this month in CACM: If the goal is more CS graduates, and there’s nothing in high school or middle school, what’s the point of making a significant effort to get computer science into elementary school?

Part of the problem here is the kind of argument that we’re making for CS in schools, including this NPR piece.  I believe that the strongest argument is that most professions need computing, so it makes sense to build up that literacy.  But it’s a hard argument to sell, and we keep falling back on the “CS jobs are going unfilled” argument.

A handful of nonprofit and for-profit groups are working to address what they see as a national education crisis: Too few of America’s K-12 public schools actually teach computer science basics and fewer still offer it for credit.

It’s projected that in the next decade there will be about 1 million more U.S. jobs in the tech sector than computer science graduates to fill them. And it’s estimated that only about 10 percent of K-12 schools teach computer science.

So some in the education technology sector, an industry worth some $8 billion a year and growing, are stepping in.

At a Silicon Valley hotel recently, venture capitalists and interested parties heard funding pitches and watched demonstrations from 13 ed-tech start-ups backed by an incubator called Imagine K-12. One of them is Kodable, which aims to teach kids five years and younger the fundamentals of programming through a game where you guide a Pac-Man-esque fuzz ball.

via A Push To Boost Computer Science Learning, Even At An Early Age : All Tech Considered : NPR.

February 18, 2014 at 1:21 pm 27 comments

NYTimes: Tech’s Diversity Problem Is Apparent as Early as High School – interview with Barbara Ericson

On the ongoing thread of media coverage over Barbara’s analysis of AP CS 2013 exam results, this is a standout.  The NYTimes had a blog post interviewing Barb, and they did a nice job.  They highlighted not just the outliers (like Wyoming with no test-takers) but the interesting trends (there used to be a good number of AP CS exam takers in Wyoming).

Even in California, where it would seem that more children would be exposed to adults working in computer science, just 22 percent of test takers were girls, 1.5 percent were black and 8 percent were Hispanic.

The A.P. data also shows how the situation in computer science has worsened over time. In Wyoming, for instance, no high school student of any race or gender took the test, while 35 students took the test there in 2001.

via Tech’s Diversity Problem Is Apparent as Early as High School – NYTimes.com.

February 7, 2014 at 1:47 am 2 comments

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