CSEdWeek progress in Georgia: Math and Science teachers in CS/IT and a Transfer Summit

December 20, 2014 at 8:32 am 4 comments

The Code.org site (see here) describes some of the successes of CSEd Week.  Over 81 million people tried the Hour of Code.  President Obama became the first US President to program (see Forbes piece).

I’m sure that there were a lot of outreach activities going on in Georgia, too.  I wasn’t involved in those. I want to report on two points of progress in Georgia that was more at an infrastructural level.

Chris Klaus (as I mentioned in this blog previously) has gathered stakeholders in a “Georgia Coding” group to push on improving computing in Georgia.  That effort bore fruit during CSedWeek.  Georgia had its first “Day of Code,” but Barb and I were most excited to visit the Georgia Professional Standards Commission website on Monday to see this:


All the high school IT/CS classes in Georgia can now be taught by teachers with Mathematics or Science certifications.  Previously, only Business Education and Mathematics teachers could teach AP CS, and only Business Education teachers could teach other IT/CS classes. (Even though AP CS counted as a science credit, science teachers couldn’t teach it.)  Now, it’s all open.  It’s much easier to teach Math and Science teachers about CS than Business Education teachers. Now, we have a much larger pool of possible teachers to recruit into CS classes.  I’m grateful that Georgia House Representative Mike Dudgeon took this from the Georgia Coding group and made it happen.

On Thursday, I hosted a Transfer Summit at Georgia Tech.  We had 15 attendees from 11 different institutions in the University System of Georgia, some two-year-mostly institutions and others four-year degree institutions.



The goal was to ease transfer between the schools.  This was a strategy that CAITE used successfully to increase the diversity in computing programs in Massachusetts.  Two year programs are much more diverse than universities (see some data here), but only about 25% of the students who want to transfer do so.  Part of our strategy with ECEP is to set up these meetings where we get schools to smooth out the bumps to ease the transition.

I learned a lot about transfer at this meeting.  For example, I learned that it’s often unsuccessful to have students take all their General Education requirements at the two-year institution and then transfer to the four-year institution, because that leaves just intense CS classes for the last two years — no easier classes.  At some schools, the pre-requisite chains prevent students from even getting a full load of just-CS classes, since students have to pass the pre-req before they can take the follow-on class.

At the end of the meeting, we had 9 new transfer agreements in-progress.  Some of the participants had come to a similar meeting last year, and they said that they were able to make more progress this year because they knew what to have ready.  Wayne Summers from Columbus State actually came with a whole new agreement with Georgia Perimeter College (a two-year institution) already worked out and ready to discuss with GPC representatives.  I was grateful that GPC brought three faculty to the meeting, so that they could have multiple agreements worked out in parallel.

Getting math and science teachers into high school CS classes and helping students in two-year institutions move on to bachelors degrees isn’t as flashy as the Hour of Code and programming at White House.  Teacher certifications and transfer agreements are important when we move beyond the first hour and want to create pathways for students to pursue computing through graduation.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  December 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Mark, you only just learned that general-ed courses should be spread over 4 years? Have you not advised any transfer students before? I would have thought that a CS education researcher would have been well aware of the problems faced by transfer students.

    This is something that our faculty has been aware of (and trying to convince the community colleges of) for about 20 years. We refer to the problem as the IGETC mistake (IGETC is California’s Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum—students completing that in community college have general-education requirements waived at the UC and CSU colleges). Transfer students in engineering (and to a lesser extent in science) need to load up in community college on the prerequisite math, physics, and other lower-division major requirements, and save at least half their general education requirements for their junior and senior years.

    This has three major effects:
    • they can lighten their junior and senior years with less difficult general ed courses
    • their long prerequisite chains are spread over 4 years, so that they can complete in 2 years after transfer
    • they can get into physics and calculus classes, which often have the longest waiting lists at the 4-year schools.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  December 22, 2014 at 10:35 am

      In the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, the 1500+ students are advised by three full-time advisors. Faculty only advise graduate students. I’m just learning about transfer student issues because of ECEP and my collaboration with Rick Adrion and Renee Fall at UMass-Amherst.

  • 3. Bonnie  |  December 21, 2014 at 8:18 am

    We get a lot of transfer students from CCs, and we see all these problems. The problem with students who have taken all of their general ed in the first 2 years and now have nothing left to take but math and CS is huge. Besides the very real difficulty of taking 18 credits of nothing but math and CS, and all of the problems with prerequisites, it also means that if a student is closed out of an advanced course, or is off-sync (for example, can only jam Compilers into the fall semester, but Compilers is only offered in the spring), things get even trickier.

    We also encounter the problem that introductory CS courses at CCs can be wildly different. I had one student recently who was approved to transfer CS1 and CS2 credits from a CC. I had him in a upper division course on OO design. It was clear that he couldn’t write a single line of code and was absolutely floundering. When I asked him about his background, it turned out that his CS1 and CS2 were taught in Visual Basic, with heavy doses of Word and Excel. These had been approved as transfer credits because the CC catalog description made them sound like CS1 and CS2, but they didn’t correspond to our courses.

  • 4. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  December 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    The problem with articulation agreements can be reduced somewhat by requiring a syllabus and example assignments (not just catalog copy) for articulation. Of course, many students transfer courses for which no prior articulation agreement has been made (with 112 community colleges, 23 Cal States, and 9 UCs there are 3584 pairs of CC and 4-year colleges—and that’s not counting CSU-UC or UC-UC transfers, which also occur).

    I don’t favor standardizing courses to make transfer easier, though, as the result is an inflexible curriculum that enshrines the most traditional teaching, not allowing the experimentation needed to make improvements.


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