Universities aren’t preparing enough computer science teachers, and we have no path to get there

November 24, 2017 at 7:00 am 7 comments

Not really a surprising claim, but I still think that we’re not talking enough about this. No K-12 subject is taught nationwide without producing teachers from universities. We simply cannot create sustainable K-12 CS education without universities producing CS teachers (called “pre-service teacher professional development”). Currently, we produce new CS teachers by recruiting existing teachers from other subjects (called “in-service teacher professional development”). None of our models for growing CS nationwide currently have a plan to replace in-service with pre-service (as described in this blog post).

Looking for answers, we examined the state-by-state data on the number of graduates prepared to teach various subjects. We found that in 2016, only 75 teachers graduated from universities equipped to teach computer science. Compare that to the number of graduating teachers prepared in mathematics (12,528) and the sciences (11,917 across general science, biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science).

Source: Universities aren’t preparing enough computer science teachers

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mike Zamansky  |  November 24, 2017 at 7:41 am

    At the same time, every time we talk about how wonderfully we’re doing – “look we’ve prepared all these CS teachers with our wonderful summer workshop and we know we’re doing great because all those kids passed that super rigorous college level class APCSP” – we undercut the teaching profession as a whole.

    We’ve already seen Michigan and other states consider or throw out credentials because it’s just too hard to find qualified teachers and in NY, private charter chains like Success Academy (an organization of questionable reputation at best) can now self certify teachers.

    Many heavy hitters in CS Ed are basically providing a model by which we can lower standards to teachers across the board.

  • 2. gflint  |  November 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

    University of Montana just created a CS Ed degree. There are no students in it. And why would there be? The number of full time CS high school teaching positions in Montana (and most rural states) is zero. The number of part-time positions is still small. A teacher has to have another major to get hired. To teach CS the prospective teacher has to basically get a second degree. When there is very little demand for CS teachers getting that CS Ed degree makes no sense. Looking at the UM CS Ed curriculum and the degree makes even less sense. The program was written by college CS educators who are not really familiar with the needs of a K-12 CS educator. Heavy on the CS, light on the “how to teach CS”. And when I say K-12, I mean K-12. As the only CS Ed person in my school and pretty much the only one for about 200 miles I am regularly asked about K-8 programs. A CS Ed program, until CS gains the power of math or science, has to include those K-8 requirements. That CS Ed degree makes you the “expert” on all things CS ed related, even if it is a kindergarten teacher asking what they should do to get the kids started.
    The solution? Offer enough to get a teacher certified. Reduce the number of high level CS courses and include courses on teaching things like Scratch, Alice, micro:bit, Kodu, Small Basic and Python (at the high school level). Is this a watered down CS program? No more than a Math Ed is watered down. (I am still mad about my Math Ed degree. I was totally unprepared to teach math to hyperactive freshmen,) Offer broad K-12 methods courses focusing on pedagogy and fundamentals. Do not train computer scientists to teach, train teachers to do computer science.

  • 3. Bonnie  |  November 24, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    I think K12 is moving away from teachers educated in traditional 4 year education programs, so targetting Schools of Ed may not be the best approach. Enrollment in traditional programs is down across the board. I am seeing a lot of people getting into teaching via alternative certification programs. There are a lot of older software developers who feel passed over in their current work – maybe recruiting them into alternative certification programs would be better? Kind of like coding bootcamps except this would be teaching bootcamp.

    • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  November 24, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Bonnie, do you know of any data on how many teachers are produced via alternative certification programs? I’ve tried to find out. When I last saw data in Georgia (around 2008-2009), it was a pretty small percentage. I’m trying to find the data today and can’t find it for Georgia or nationally. I did find some reporting on the quality of alternative certification programs (e.g., https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/09/12/347375798/for-teachers-many-paths-into-the-classroom-some-say-too-many). I’m wondering if the numbers in alternative certification are tracking those in ed schools (i.e., declining) or rising, and what percentage of teachers are now coming in through alternative certification.

      • 5. Bonnie  |  November 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm

        I took a look and you are right that it is hard to find stats. The best I could find with a quick scan comes from 2011-2012 data. At that time, it looks like about 14% of entering teachers came through alternative programs. In city schools, that rose to 18%. I suspect that more up to date statistics would show a rise though. Anecdotally, everyone I know who has entered teaching in the last few years has gone through alternative programs, and I know enrollment in our school of education is going down. It would be nice to find more recent data.

  • 6. Guy  |  November 25, 2017 at 11:35 am

    My niece selected an introduction to CS class this semester; this is her senior year. She had to drop the class within two weeks. I believe the teacher came from industry with little or no education experience. The language chosen for the class is C++ – how insane is this? I have a PowerPoint presentation the teacher went through the first week. After it goes through some introductory material, it has 18 pages dedicated to the “program development cycle.” This is immediately followed by an introduction to object-oriented programming, including all the jargon, e.g., encapsulation, inheritance, polymorphism, etc… On going through this, I was so disappointed. I backed my niece’s decision to drop the class.

    I googled the teacher. Comments from prior students included “a little self-teaching is necessary” (twice), and “favorites those that already have experience with programming.” Also found that the teacher has done well coaching students entered in programming competitions. So at this school ( I should mention that this is an affluent school district) there is little chance for improving diversity. Students coming in that have learned a bit about programming on their own or with help from parents will do well. Others… not so well.

    I think we need to be a bit concerned about software developers moving to teaching. Just because you know something well does not mean you can teach it. We need “how to teach programming and computer science boot camps” and proper certification.

  • […] the case that most high school students studying CS in the United States are doing it online.  Since we are not producing enough new CS teachers, the push to grow CS education in high schools is probably going to push more CS students online. […]


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