K-12 CS Framework: Best we can expect. Maybe as good as we need.
The CS K-12 Framework was released Monday. This has been an 11 month long process — see first blog post about the framework, first blog post on the process, and the post after my last meeting with the writers as an advisor. The whole framework can be found here and a video about the framework can be found here:
A webinar about the Framework will be held on Wednesday, October 19, at 12 PM Pacific / 3 PM Eastern. Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmxyZ1DFBwk for more details and to watch the webinar on the 19th.
I believe that this framework is about as good as we can expect right now. Pat Yongpradit did an amazing job engaging a broad range of voices in a short time. The short time frame was forced on the process by the state policymakers who wanted a framework, something on which they could hang their state standards and curricula. The NGSS veterans did warn us what could happen if we got it wrong, if we went too fast. Maybe the framework process didn’t go too fast.
The framework document is impressive — comprehensive, carefully constructed, with a rich set of citations. It’s teacher-centric, which may not be the best for a document to inform state standards, but that’s the constituency with the strongest voice in CS Ed today. There are too few CS Ed informed policymakers or district administrators to push back on things that might not work work. The CS Ed researchers are too few and too uncertain to have a strong voice in the process. Computer scientists (both professional and academic) generally ignored the process. The CS teachers had the greatest political influence.
I predicted in January that this would be a “safe list,” a “subset of CS that most people can agree to.” I was wrong. There’s a lot in there that I don’t see as being about computation. Like “Create team norms, expectations, and equitable workloads to increase efficiency and effectiveness” — that’s a high school computing recommendation? Like “Include the unique perspectives of others and reflect on one’s own perspectives when designing and developing computational products” — you can achieve that in high school?
Those “aspirational” statements (Pat’s word) mean that the writers went beyond defining a consensus document. They tried to push future CS education in the ways that they felt were important. Time will tell if they got it right. The framework fails if schools (especially under-resourced schools) decide that it’s too hard and give up, meaning that underprivileged kids will continue to get no CS education. If teachers and administrators work harder to provide more and better CS education because of this document, then the framework writers win.
This is an important document that will have a large influence. Literally, millions of schoolchildren in several states are going to have their CS education defined by this document.
Typing that statement gives me such a sinking feeling because we just don’t have the research evidence to support what’s in the framework.
When I went to meetings, I too often heard, “Of course, teachers and students can do this, because it works in my program.” So few computing education programs (e.g., packages of curriculum, professional development, assessment, and all the things teachers need like pacing guides and standards crosswalks) have scaled yet in diverse populations. Maybe it works in your program. But will it work when it’s not your program anymore? When it’s a national program? When states and districts take it over and make it their own? Will it still work?
And we want schools and districts to make things their own. That’s at the heart of the American educational system — we’re distributed and diverse, with thousands of experiments going on at once. I worry about how little knowledge about computing and computing education is out there, as guidance when schools and districts make it their own.
So, yeah, I’m one of those uncertain researchers, mumbling in the corner of this process, worrying, “This could go so wrong.” Maybe it won’t. Maybe this will be the first step towards providing a computing education for everyone.
The die is cast. Let’s see what happens.