Prescribing a lifetime drug at high cost: New York City sets 10 year goal to offer CS in all schools

October 5, 2015 at 8:11 am 9 comments

NYC has joined Chicago and San Francisco and Arkansas in requiring CS in all schools.  I appreciate that they recognize the value of computing education.  I worry that the people making these decisions don’t realize what’s involved in covering them.  In particular, is de Blasio’s decision in New York City a commitment to a long-term cost that they can’t sustain?

de Blasio’s program is going to spend $81M to help existing teachers become CS teachers over the next ten years. Let’s imagine that he succeeds and his program prepares enough CS teachers so that every school has enough teachers to provide CS learning opportunities to every NYC students.

What happens after that? A lot of the teachers going through CS teacher professional development today are new teachers, less than five years into the job. Across all STEM subjects, we lose about 50% of all new teachers within five years. In an ECS study, it was closer to 60% attrition in 3 years. We’re going to burn through those teachers quickly. counts on CS teachers being in the classroom for only three years.

Where will NYC get the teachers to sustain the effort? Do they need to raise another $81M to keep retraining existing teachers?  It’s far cheaper to get teachers pre-service, straight from undergraduate. There are less than five pre-service CS teacher education programs in the United States. None are currently in New York (city or state).

de Blasio’s decision is like an architect’s decision to design a building using a particular kind of material that is hard to make and for which there are no current manufacturers. Or a doctor prescribing a drug that you’ll need for the rest of your life — but which can only be made by a specific pharmacy company at a high cost.

Some of that $81M should be used to build the infrastructure, to create the system that will keep supplying CS teachers for NYC — to create teacher certifications, start teacher education programs, and hire education faculty who will focus on CS education.  I pointed out previously that that’s how Germany is bootstrapping CS education. They’re making the investment in CS ed faculty who will keep programs running for decades.  My Blog@CACM post (link here) this month is on how CS departments can help grow CS teachers.

CS education is important to 21st century literacy. It’s so important that we shouldn’t promise it only to kids who are in NYC over the next 10 years.  What I hope is that de Blasio’s decision leads to that kind of investment. I hope that NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Arkansas are going to direct attention to what’s needed to create the steady-state flow of new computing teachers into classrooms.

Meeting that goal will present major challenges, mostly in training enough teachers. There is no state teacher certification in computer science, and no pipeline of computer science teachers coming out of college. Fewer than 10 percent of city schools currently offer any form of computer science education, and only 1 percent of students receive it, according to estimates by the city’s Department of Education.

Computer science will not become a graduation requirement, and middle and high schools may choose to offer it only as an elective. But the goal is for all students, even those in elementary school and those in the poorest neighborhoods, to have some exposure to computer science.

Source: De Blasio to Announce 10-Year Deadline to Offer Computer Science to All Students – The New York Times

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Muvaffak Gozaydin  |  October 5, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    81 million $ to train CS teachers.
    Am ı the only smart fellow in the world.
    Pay. MIIT Harvard. Edx consortium only $10 million.
    Let them develop the best. CS coursesin the world for even 10 million high school children in the world ONLINE within one year .
    Yes all high school children must be able to use computers efficiently .

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  October 5, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      $81M is to do everything — not just train CS teachers. MOOCs are not an effective/efficient way of preparing high school CS teachers. The completion rates are too low. See a recent SIGCSE 2014 paper and this 2015 CCSC paper. If the goal is to make sure that there is CS education in every school at every grade, MOOCs alone won’t get us there.

      • 3. mgozaydin  |  October 6, 2015 at 10:15 am

        ” MOOCs are not an effective /efficient way of preparing high school CS teachers ”
        I did not mean MOOCs . I mean real online courses for HS teachers just for what they need by MIT and Harvard
        To me MOOCs are nothing . But MOOCS served that ONLINE courses became popular ..
        The Master online CS at Georgia Tech can be adapted for HS CS teachers very well . Then the cost is really nothing .
        As an employer I do not care for MOOCS certificates at all. But if an applicant gets a degree online from Georgia Tech he is valuable for me .

  • 4. MDP  |  October 5, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for raising this important issue. We — both CSNYC and NYCDOE — know that teacher education programs are essential for a sustainable and high-quality supply of CS teachers.

    We expect the next couple of years to be a continuation of our current strategy of training the existing teacher workforce because we can’t wait for the local universities to develop these programs. We also know they won’t create programs until there’s a viable job market and a certification pathway for their graduates, which is understandable.

    So we are working on both things. The first one is easy: CS4All creates a job market for CS teachers by inducting hundreds of schools every year for 10 years. The second one is harder, but smart people at the DOE have been developing pathway recommendations for State Ed, and we are hopeful that this will yield real results in the not-too-distant future.

    We’ve already had promising conversations with many local universities, both public and private. A few already have small programs in place, or concepts they hope to develop very soon, both for pre-service and in-service teachers.

    Overall there has been a lot of interest in helping CS4All, and we expect to do more concerted outreach very soon.

    Michael Preston
    Executive Director

  • […] about the costs of large scale implementation before we know what we’re doing — both in terms of making it work, and in what happens when it […]

  • […] The NPR piece that came out Wednesday (thanks to Shuchi Grover for the link) did a nice job of touching on a wide range of issues to address in meeting this goal, and talking to people like Mitchel Resnick, Alfred Thompson, and my favorite quote, from Leigh Ann DeLyser which touches on what I think is the most critical issue — where are we going to get the teachers? […]

  • […] my concerns about where we’re going to find enough teachers for the NYC initiative (see blog post here).  I found it interesting that the New York Post is raising the a related concern. […]

  • […] is a nation-size gamble.  I’m interested in how Japan goes about this — they face the same challenges as NYC does in their initiative, at an even larger […]

  • […] into the education system.  NYC is working on developing per-service programs now, because it’s a necessity for their CS education mandate.  No reform takes root in US schools without being in schools of […]


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