Posts tagged ‘public policy’
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.
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:
6:10-6:40 Choose Group that is most important to your state (or you). Complete short questionnaire and hand to Group Leader.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Atlanta Public Schools has a short article about their involvement in the Hour of Code — and it was all elementary school children. As far as I know, there is no more AP CS in any Atlanta Public high school. I’m wondering if the emphasis on “starting early” is having an unexpected effect. Are schools seeing activities like Blockly and Scratch as elementary school activities, and computer science belongs there, not in high schools?
As members of the APS IT department went out to observe students throughout the district participating in the Hour of Code they observed computer science education at its finest. Students were actively engaged in challenges that required them to utilize high level problem solving and critical thinking skills. Students identified and found ways to correct their mistakes until they were successful in completing the activity.
Lavant Burgess, a fifth grader at E.L. Connally Elementary, stated, “I like how it made me think. I had to keep using different strategies to figure out how to get the robot to the right squares.”
Google is making some serious investments into South Carolina CS education, with their CS Fellows program and with this CS First after-school program. I’m curious as to why South Carolina first, but with my ECEP hat on, I’m glad!
Through a pilot program launched in July 2013 at Google’s South Carolina data center, Google has been working with students to encourage their interest and show them some of the cool things they can do in the field of computer science, according to a Jan. 15 post by JamieSue Goodman, the program lead of the nascent CS First program. The computer science pilot program is especially aimed at gaining the interest of minorities and girls, who are typically underrepresented in the field of computer science.
The program has been under way as a partnership of Google and the South Carolina Lowcountry school systems and teachers, according to Goodman’s post. The goals of the program include helping students develop a positive attitude toward CS and computers, as well as develop the confidence and curiosity to jump into a new computing experience, she wrote. Also integral in the program is showing the students that coding is used in a diverse set of jobs and hobbies and that to do the work, they have to have a “debugging mindset.”
All the press coverage of Barbara Ericson’s AP CS 2013 exam results analysis has led to a lot of discussion among my Facebook friends. The results are even more telling than the raw numbers.
- Rebecca Dovi and Ria Galanos, both exceptional AP CS high school teachers and both in Virgina, started comparing notes on the Hispanic students who took the AP CS exam from that state. They could name half of them. Looks like those two teachers were responsible for half of the Hispanic exam takers from Virginia.
- Why is that Tennessee has ranked so well for female AP CS exam takers among all the states? It is due to one exceptional AP CS teacher, Jill Pala, who teaches at an all-girls school. Barb verified this claim. Jill’s class generated 30 of the 71 female exam-takers in Tennessee. Without Jill, Tennessee would be in the middle of the pack. With Jill, they have the highest percentage of female AP CS exam-takers among all the states.
On the one hand, what a wonderful statement about the impact that a single exceptional teacher can make! Hey, states that want to raise their exam taker numbers — go hire yourselves a Rebecca, Ria, or Jill! Or provide the professional development to grow your own!
On the other hand — our numbers are SO small that a single teacher can make the difference for a whole state. There were 2103 schools that passed the AP CS audit in 2012. That’s probably exactly the number of AP CS teachers, too. There were 11,694 schools that passed the audit for AP Calculus! Great teachers matter in Calculus, too. But there are so many teachers, an individual teacher probably can’t make or break a whole state’s ranking. Wouldn’t it be nice for AP CS to be in that position?
The scope of the Chicago plan is impressive. In case you thought that the idea of offering foreign language credit for CS was a joke, it’s being considered as part of the Chicago plan. The rationale for the plan is interesting: Arguing that it’s about national competitiveness, and about democratization.
On the first day of Computer Science Education Week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett announced the most comprehensive K-12 computer science education plan in a major school district. This plan includes creating a pipeline for foundational computer science skills in elementary schools, offering at least one computer science class at every high school, and elevating computer science to a core subject.
“This plan will help us compete with countries like China and the UK, where children take coding classes in elementary school, and create an environment where we can help support the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marissa Mayer,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By democratizing computer science, we are leveling the playing field for all children to have the same skills, appetite to learn, and access to technology to excel in this growing field.”
The K-12 program will expand student access to computer science literacy over the next five years. The program will include:
- In the next three years, every high school will offer a foundational “Exploring Computer Science” course.
- In the next five years, at least half of all high schools will also offer an AP Computer Science course.
- Chicago will also be the first US urban district to offer a K-8 computer science pathway, reaching one in four elementary schools in the next five years.
- Within five years, CPS will allow computer science to count as a graduation requirement (e.g. possibly as a math, science, or foreign language credit). Only thirteen other states have elevated computer science to a core subject instead of an elective.
A slightly different pattern for me: Check out the quote first, and I’ll add comments after.
Let us consider the conundrum facing the computer field in higher education first. It is experiencing an exponentially increasing demand for its product with an inelastic labor supply. How has it reacted? NSF has made a survey of the responses of engineering departments, including computer science departments in schools of engineering, to the increasing demand for undergraduate education in engineering. There is a consistent pattern in their responses and the results can be applied without exception to the computer field whether the departments are located in engineering schools or elsewhere. 80% of the universities are responding by increasing teaching loads, 50% by decreasing course offerings and concentrating their available faculty on larger but fewer courses, and 66% are using more graduate-student teaching assistants or part-time faculty. 35% report reduced research opportunities for faculty as a result. In brief, they are using a combination of rational management measures to adjust as well as they can to the severe manpower constraints under which they must operate. However, these measures make the universities’ environments less attractive for employment and are exactly counterproductive to their need to maintain and expand their labor supply. They are also counterproductive to producing more new faculty since the image graduate students get of academic careers is one of harassment, frustration, and too few rewards. The universities are truly being choked by demand for their own product and have a formidable people-flow problem, analogous to but much more difficult to address than the cash-flow problem which often afflicts rapidly growing businesses. There are no manpower banks which can provide credit.
This quote was presented by Eric Roberts in his keynote earlier this month at the NSF-sponsored Future Computing Education Research Summit (well organized by Steve Cooper). The highlight is my addition, because I was struck by the specificity of the description. I find the description believable, and it captures the problems of CS higher-education today, especially in the face of rising enrollments in CS classes (discussed by Eric Roberts here and by Ed Lazowka and Dave Patterson here).
What makes this analysis scarier is that the paper quoted was published in 1982. Back in the 1980′s, the state Universities had the mandate and the budget to grow to meet the demand. They didn’t always have the CS PhD graduates that they needed, so some Math and EE PhDs became CS faculty. Today, though, the state Universities are under severe budget constraints. How will we meet the demand in enrollment? In the 1980′s, some CS programs met the demand by raising the bar for entering the CS major, which ended up make CS more white and male (because only the more privileged students were able to stay above the bar). Will our solutions lead to less diversity in CS? Will we lose more faculty to industry, and replace them with MOOCs?
Thanks to Duncan Buell for this:
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Asa Hutchinson is calling for expanded teaching of computer science in Arkansas’ public schools.
Hutchinson on Monday proposed changing state law to allow math or science credit for computer science courses in high school. Hutchinson said he believed changing the law would give schools an incentive to offer the courses and encourage more students to take them.
Hutchinson also called for expanded training of teachers for computer science courses with the goal of teaching of it in every high school in the state within four years.
The threat of “within the next few years” sounds imminent in the quote below, but the graph looks like the threat is more immediate.
Within the next few years, it is likely that low income students will become a majority of all public school children in the Untied States. With huge, stubbornly unchanging gaps in learning, schools in the South and across the nation face the real danger of becoming entrenched, inadequately funded educational systems that enlarge the division in America between haves and have-nots and endanger the entire nation’s prospects.
Thanks to Alfred Thompson at Computer Science Teacher: How is Computer Science NOT a 21st Century Skill.