Posts tagged ‘public policy’
The latest Freakonomics podcast is on tipping and whether it should be banned, i.e., made illegal. One of the arguments for banning tipping is that it’s discriminatory. White servers get more than Black servers, for example. Professor Michael Lynn cited a Supreme Court case that I found described below. If a neutral practice disproportionately affects minorities or women in an adverse manner, then the practice is illegal.
I’ve raised the question here before, whether CS departments could be forced to change their teaching practices in order to comply with Title IX provisions so that more women might participate. One of the arguments I got in response was that no one adopted any practices to explicitly exclude women. This ruling says that the motivation for the practice doesn’t matter — even if it’s a “neutral” practice, if the effect is discriminatory, it has to go. We certainly have evidence that implicit bias exists in computing classrooms and that CS teachers allow their classrooms to develop a defensive climate. Further, we know a lot about how to improve women’s participation in computing. If we have a legal requirement to make computing education available to women, my guess is that we could be required to make change. For example, could we be forced to give up MOOCs as a discriminatory practice, since MOOCs have a measurable discriminatory effect?
In Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Supreme Court decides that where an employer uses a neutral policy or rule, or utilizes a neutral test, and this policy or test disproportionately affects minorities or women in an adverse manner, then the employer must justify the neutral rule or test by proving it is justified by business necessity. The Court reasons that Congress directed the thrust of Title VII to the consequences of employment practices, not simply the motivation. This decision paves the way for EEOC and charging parties to challenge employment practices that shut out groups if the employer cannot show the policy is justified by business necessity.
My colleagues at CAITE sent me a PDF of the whole article, since you can only get the lead paragraph at the Boston Globe site. It’s good news!
Executives from Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., and other leading firms want to require all Massachusetts public schools to teach computer science, so local tech companies don’t have to rely on foreign workers to fill future programming and engineering jobs.
This is big news — Code.org has hired Cameron Wilson for a year. Take Code.org’s reach and combine it with Cameron’s understanding of how public policy works. Cool!
Cameron Wilson, long-time Director of Public Policy for ACM, has been given a special assignment for 12 months to work at Code.org as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Government Relations.
Code.org was founded by Seattle tech entrepreneur Hadi Partovi to create, launch, and lead a new initiative for scaling K-12 computer science education. A phenomenal video produced as part of the launch attracted widespread attention. Today, 9 out of 10 schools nationwide don’t offer computer science; in 40 states, computer science does not count towards math or science graduation requirements; the NCAA doesn’t consider computer science as an academic credit for aspiring student-athletes; the recent National Research Council “Framework for K-12 Science Education” ignores computer science, as does the “Next Generation Science Standards” document derived from this framework.
We need to change this. Computer science teaches you to think – it needs to be viewed as an essential component of STEM.
One year, I gave an assignment in my Objects and Design class (in Squeak!) to construct a personal newspaper by reading bits of news (based on user interest) from local news sites. The night before the assignment was due, so many students tested their buggy fetch-and-scrape code on one poor site that they killed the site — a pedagogical denial-of-service attack.
Should I or my students have been arrested and taken away in handcuffs? It seems like the direct computing world analogy from the story quoted below.
Fortunately, the student has now been cleared of charges. It’s still a scary story.
It’s a sad commentary on our alarmist society that a similar deed would probably land a modern day budding Oliver Sacks in jail. That is exactly what it has done to a young aspiring scientist named Kiera Wilmot from Bartow High School in Florida, and in the process it has almost certainly deprived this country of exactly the kind of scientist whose shortage its politicians and educators are so fond of lamenting. The student conducted a common experiment mixing Drano and aluminum foil on the grounds of a school. The exact details are unknown but the incident led to a minor explosion, hurt nobody and damaged no property. This relatively harmless bit of curiosity led to Ms. Wilmot being handcuffed, arrested and expelled from the school. Irrational State Overreach: 1, The Much Touted American Edge in Science: 0. Whatever else the school was trying to achieve, it definitely succeeded in squelching independent scientific curiosity in its students.
Having Congress trying to invent new criteria for judging NSF grants is concerning, but most especially because US Congressional representatives rarely have science or engineering backgrounds. Isn’t having Congress rethinking NSF reviewing criteria like having dancers reviewing farmer’s seeding practices, or having scientists working on water polo rules?
This idea was particularly well said in this letter from Eddie Bernice Johnson (thanks to Brian Dorn for pointing it out to me): “Interventions in grant awards by political figures with agenda, biases, and no expertise is the antithesis of the peer review process.”
In effect, the proposed bill would force NSF to adopt three criteria in judging every grant. Specifically, the draft would require the NSF director to post on NSF’s Web site, prior to any award, a declaration that certifies the research is:
1) “… in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
2) “… the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and
3) “… not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.”
This caught my eye as something that we really need to push computing education. For CS10K to be successful, we need a mesh of education research with public policy work. That’s what ECEP is about. In particular, this kind of multiple stakeholders work is what I think that the U. Chicago Landscape Study is pointing toward.
“Design-Based Implementation Research applies design-based perspectives and methods to address and study problems of implementation…DBIR challenges education researchers to break down barriers between sub-disciplines of educational research that isolate those who design and study innovations within classrooms from those who study the diffusion of innovations.”
From the Introduction to the forthcoming NSSE Yearbook, Design-Based Implementation Research: Theories, methods, and exemplars.
This web site presents resources related to an emerging model of research and development called Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR). DBIR has four key principles:
- a focus on persistent problems of practice from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives
- a commitment to iterative, collaborative design
- a concern with developing theory related to both classroom learning and implementation through systematic inquiry
- a concern with developing capacity for sustaining change in systems
Useful piece that helps to explain how the US can be doing so well in terms of education and so awful at the same time. The problem is our enormous variance, in part explain by our enormous size. Averages are way different than individuals.
Part of this is easy to explain: The United States is big. Very big. And it’s a far bigger country than the other members of the OECD. We claim roughly 27 percent of the group’s 15-to-19-year-olds. Japan, in contrast, has a smidge over 7 percent. So in reading and in science, we punch above our weight by just a little, while in math we punch below.
But the point remains: In two out of three subjects, Americans are over-represented among the best students.
If we have so many of the best minds, why are our average scores so disappointingly average? As Rutgers’s Hal Salzman and Georgetown’s B. Lindsay Lowell, who co-authored the EPI report, noted in a 2008 Nature article, our high scorers are balanced out by an very large number of low scorers. Our education system, just like our economy, is polarized.
And that makes it 10.
Today, Washington Governor Jay Inslee is signing a bill that will allow high schools across the state to count the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science course as a math or science credit, making Washington one of only 10 states that counts computer science towards high school graduation.
Before today, AP Computer Science counted as an elective—making it a tough choice for students looking to pack their transcripts with math and science courses and those that might be curious about computer science. Currently, only 35 of the state’s 622 high schools offer AP Computer Science. The hope is that this change will encourage more students to take the course and many more schools to offer it.
On May 17, I am going to be attending a summit for computing education in Maryland at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Rick Adrion and I are going to talk about the efforts in Massachusetts and Georgia, and elsewhere through ECEP. I’m looking forward to it (but observant readers will note that I’m traveling to Maryland the day after returning from Denmark!).
On Friday, May 17, 2013, CE21-Maryland will host a Summit for Computing Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) campus in Catonsville, Maryland. We invite teachers, administrators, legislators, industry leaders, and others who have an interest in expanding computer science in high school or middle school to attend. Space is limited to 150 people.
At this summit, the attendees will:
Learn more about computer science high school education across the state of Maryland.
Network with others with an interest in computer science education.
Exchange strategies with other education professionals.
Plan with others to help expand student interest and to increase the number and diversity of students studying computer science in Maryland.
In an open letter to a Harvard professor who built a MOOC, faculty at San Jose State University urge him and other MOOC-offering professors to stop. “Professors who care about public education should not produce products that will replace professors, dismantle departments, and provide a diminished education for students in public universities.”
“In spite of our admiration for your ability to lecture in such an engaging way to such a large audience,” the letter’s authors write, “we believe that having a scholar teach and engage with his or her own students is far superior to having those students watch a video of another scholar engaging his or her students.”
The letter is part of a brewing debate about how MOOCs might deepen the divide between wealthy universities, which produce MOOCs, and less wealthy ones, which buy licenses to use those MOOCs from providers like edX.
The authors say they fear “that two classes of universities will be created: one, well-funded colleges and universities in which privileged students get their own real professor; the other, financially stressed private and public universities in which students watch a bunch of videotaped lectures and interact, if indeed any interaction is available on their home campuses, with a professor that this model of education has turned into a glorified teaching assistant.”
The report on the requested NSF budget for 2014 has a pretty dramatic list of programs that have been cancelled as part of the administration’s desire to reorganize and “consolidate” federal STEM education programs.
CAUSE is an NSF-wide investment that incorporates funding from established programs in the EHR directorate and other NSF directorates funded though the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account. It is created by consolidating three Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) programs: STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP), Widening Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence- based Reforms (WIDER), and Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM (TUES); several R&RA programs: BIO’s Transforming Undergraduate Biology Education (TUBE); ENG’s Research in Engineering Education and Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education (NUE); GEO’s Geosciences Education and Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG); and the cross-NSF program, Climate Change Education (CCE).
TUES used to be the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program. TUES and CCLI have funded most of the federally-funded efforts presented at SIGCSE. Earlier, CE21 was cancelled, and its replacement isn’t announced.
An article in the latest Science magazine describes the new programs (and how surprised everyone in the STEM education community has been). K-12 belongs in the Department of Education (what does this mean for CS10K?), undergrad and grad in NSF, and informal ed in the Smithsonian (the Smithsonian?!?).
As far as I can tell, the NSF budget document is the only reference to the new NSF CAUSE (Catalyzing Advances in Undergraduate STEM Education). There is no solicitation, and no date for submitting proposals. Bottomline: the programs that have funded most of CS curriculum support are now gone, and the replacements do not yet exist. I hope that this all works out well, but it’s a little scary right now.
A difficult but fascinating piece. I found most interesting this contrast between Stallman’s “free software” and O’Reilly’s “open source.” These are important distinctions for computing education, as we think about the culture that we’re inviting students into.
This stood in stark contrast to Stallman’s plan of curtailing—by appeals to ethics and, one day, perhaps, law—the freedom of developers in order to promote the freedom of users. O’Reilly opposed this agenda: “I completely support the right of Richard [Stallman] or any individual author to make his or her work available under the terms of the GPL; I balk when they say that others who do not do so are doing something wrong.” The right thing to do, according to O’Reilly, was to leave developers alone. “I am willing to accept any argument that says that there are advantages and disadvantages to any particular licensing method. . . . My moral position is that people should be free to find out what works for them,” he wrote in 2001. That “what works” for developers might eventually hurt everyone else—which was essentially Stallman’s argument—did not bother O’Reilly. For all his economistic outlook, he was not one to talk externalities.
David Brooks considers the role of the university in today’s society in the United States, and how those responsibilities might be shared across online and face-to-face education. A more reasonable response than the MOOCopalypse. Recommended.
Are universities mostly sorting devices to separate smart and hard-working high school students from their less-able fellows so that employers can more easily identify them? Are universities factories for the dissemination of job skills? Are universities mostly boot camps for adulthood, where young people learn how to drink moderately, fornicate meaningfully and hand things in on time?My own stab at an answer would be that universities are places where young people acquire two sorts of knowledge, what the philosopher Michael Oakeshott called technical knowledge and practical knowledge.
I read with great interest Neil Fraser’s fascinating account of computer science education in Vietnam. The efforts going on in Vietnam are really terrific, and Neil does a good job of describing what he saw there.
Then a colleague sent me a link to the Slashdot discussion about Neil’s blog post. The focus of the discussion was on Neil’s description of the state of computer science education in the United States, which is not nearly as accurate or as well-informed as his descriptions of the state of Vietnamese CS education.
Here’s what Neil says, with my responses interspersed. His original is more detailed than the bits I’m grabbing here.
The state of American computer science education is striking in comparison.
School boards fight to keep CS out of schools, since every minute spent on CS is one less minute spent on core subjects like English and math. The students’ test scores in these core subjects determine next year’s funding, so CS is a threat.
I have never heard of a school board fighting to keep CS out of their schools. Describing it like that paints a picture of a poor group of School Board members fighting against the hoards of computer scientists. A more accurate analogy is School Board members riding on the backs of lumbering elephants, and every once in awhile, a pesky computer scientist mosquito tries to annoy the elephant. If there ever was a massive battle for the schools’ curriculum, the CS army would have lost, because it never showed up!
Computer science does not count toward Annual Yearly Progress, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t. It’s absolutely true that computer science is not part of the Common Core — that’s the goal of the “Computing in the Core” group. Computer science does count towards high school graduation in nine states now. It could be more, but it hasn’t happened yet. There’s a big effort going on in Washington and in Massachusetts now. I don’t know of any organized effort anywhere to keep CS out of schools. Rather, there’s not enough effort to get CS into schools yet. (There is no school suffering the problem of too many hours and too few things to teach!)
There’s an implicit assumption here that School Boards make the decision on what gets taught and what doesn’t. I keep learning how different each and every state is. Decisions about what gets taught (and what doesn’t get made) at the State level, the district level, and the individual school/teacher level, and what gets decided at what level differs from state to state.
Teachers often refuse to teach real CS because more often than not they don’t understand it. Instead, they end up teaching word processing and website construction, while calling it CS.
I have been involved several studies of high school teachers (e.g., DCCE and Lijun Ni’s work and through GaComputes). Teachers want to teach what they know and what their students need and want. Absolutely, they are unlikely to know real CS, but not knowing something isn’t the same as “refusing to teach” it. Professional development to prepare high school teachers in computer science is a huge international problem. Absolutely, applications and keyboarding skills often get misclassified as computer science. I recommend the CSTA report Running on Empty to see where this is happening and about the efforts to explain what is real computer science.
Parents often oppose CS classes since the grade has no direct benefit on their child’s academic prospects. This is compounded by a lack of understanding of the difference between their child playing video games and their child writing video games.
Absolutely, I believe this happens. I have heard similar stories. I don’t know how widespread it is. I have not seen any data showing that parents oppose CS classes in enough numbers to influence participation in a significant way. I have never seen any data that parents are confused about the difference between playing video games and writing video games. In general, we know that parents influence students’ educational decision-making processes, but we don’t know that parental recommendations away from computing prevent computing education from growing.
Students intentionally tune out of CS class since there are few things worse in American high school than being labelled a nerd.
Studies like the ACM-WGBH image of computing, Stuck in the Shallow End, and Betsy DiSalvo’s work with Glitch all say that students value computing and want computing courses, but rarely get access to it. Agreed that nobody wants to be labelled a “nerd,” and Betsy’s work shows that “face-saving” is an important part of her efforts. But that’s not the main reason why students aren’t taking computer science. The real problem is a lack of access. Remember that there are 2K AP CS teachers for 24K high schools in the United States. If students WANTED to be “labelled a nerd” and take a CS course, they are unlikely to get a chance.
The result in America is a prefect storm of opposition from every level. Effecting meaningful change is virtually impossible. I work for the education department at Google and the stories our external educators return with are as shocking as they are unpublishable. We’ve been spending enormous resources with frankly minimal impact.
I am absolutely sure that Neil is hearing all kinds of awful stories, but that’s not the same as careful studies. Those are anecdotes. Efforts to measure what’s going on paint a somewhat different picture.
At the ACM Education Council meeting last month, we learned that China is spending $25 BILLION per year on computer science education. Those are enormous resources. The United States has barely started.
I firmly believe that a strengthening computer science education program has to be one of the most obvious and cost effective things we can do to ensure future economic prosperity. Israel has the highest rate of startup per capita anywhere and that in part stems from its strong computer science education program. Estonia, another country with both a strong tech sector and economy, recently announced a plan to expand teaching of computer science to all primary school children. Do we want to be left in the dust by these countries, or left unable to compete with the growing economies of India and China? What is it going to take to get computer science education moved up the agenda in the USA and here in the UK?