Losing CS Teachers in Scotland: Latest report on CS teacher numbers from Computing At School Scotland
If you can forgive the bias in the graph (what looks like a 90% drop is actually a 25% drop), you will find this to be an important and interesting report. Scotland has one of the strongest computing at schools efforts in the world (see site here), with an advanced curriculum and a large and well-designed professional development effort (PLAN-C). Why are they losing CS teachers?
When I wrote about this in 2014 (the trend has only continued), I pointed out that part of the problem is teachers refusing to shift from teaching Office applications to computer science. The current report doesn’t give us much more insight into why. The point I found most interesting was that Scottish student numbers dropped 11%, and teacher numbers in the other disciplines are also declining (e.g., mathematics teachers are declining by 6% over the same period), but at a much slower rate than the CS decline of 25%. That makes sense too — if you’re a teacher and things are getting tough, stick with the “core” subjects, not the “new” one. It’s worth asking, “How do we avoid this in the US?” and “Can we avoid it?”
We know too little about what happens to CS teachers in the US after professional development. I know of only one study of CS teacher retention in the US, and the observed attrition rate in that study was far worse than 25%. Do we know what US retention rate is for CS teachers? Maybe Scotland is actually doing better than the US?
Today we launch our latest report into the numbers of Computing Science teacher numbers across Scotland. We have carried out this survey in 2012, 2014 and now 2016 as we are concerned about the decreasing number in Computing teachers in Scottish schools. Nationally we now have 17% of schools with no computing specialist and a quarter of Secondary schools have only one CS teacher.