Lack of funding leads to lack of teachers leads to lack of CS classes: We may need to change our strategy

April 27, 2018 at 7:00 am 4 comments

Pat Yongpradit of linked to this article on Facebook. Cambridge MA schools are turning away CS students because of a lack of teachers.

Eight folks gave urgent pitches for at least one more computer teacher at Cambridge Ridge and Latin School. Teacher Liz Atwood, who said she was “disappointed to hear that our request for another hire was denied,” declared that demand was so high for computer science classes that, based on registration requests for next year from current ninth- through-11th graders, without a new teacher, “we will be turning away six classes of students.”

Atwood, two parents and two current students stressed the importance of access to the classes, and several others appearing for other reasons echoed support after hearing their pleas. “Over 50 percent of students signing up for Level 2 [computer science] courses next year identify as African Americans,” Atwood said, speaking before eighth-graders had registered. “These are high-paying jobs. [State curriculum standards] are moving toward making computer science a graduation requirement. This seems like a step in the wrong direction” to reject a new hire, she said.

From “Shortages in computer education stand out in a swift process for $191.1M school budget” in Cambridge Day

I see this as evidence in support of my previous post that states are making a mistake by requiring CS without funding it.  I don’t think Cambridge schools are requiring CS, but they’re allowing students to sign up for it without the funding and teachers to support those classes.

There are multiple ways to fix this problem.

  • Obviously, we could fund CS classes, but that might mean stealing funding from other important areas that are underfunded.
  • We could increase supply of CS teachers.  If all teachers were taught CS (as part of all undergraduates being taught CS), we would dramatically increase the supply of teachers who could teach CS. Schools wouldn’t have to hire an extra, specialty teacher.  We would also have more teachers who would have the background to integrate computing into their classes.
  • We could (as Emmanuel Schanzer of Bootstrap pointed out in response to Pat) integrate CS into an existing, funded class.

We may not be able to achieve CS for All with CS-specific classes. They’re just too expensive.


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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Josh Sheldon  |  April 27, 2018 at 9:53 am

    FWIW, it’s not a question (so much) of funding in Cambridge, as a question of will. After Pat’s comments, and many parents’ came to the attention of the powers that be, it was interesting to see how quickly a job opening was posted for a CS teacher

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  April 27, 2018 at 10:06 am

      Aren’t will and funding related? There has to be will to get funding. The question is always a matter of priorities for funding — where do we want to put our treasure? It’s rarely the case that there’s *no* funding to put into education. It’s whether people are willing to prioritize education over something else.

  • 3. Alfred Thompson  |  April 27, 2018 at 10:15 am

    Education is underfunded across the board in the US. One of the problem with the way we fund public education is that it depends on the sort of people who do not have children in school. Public schools are accountable to taxpayers not just to parents. Private schools are more dependent on parent support and that has a direct influence on priorities. This may explain why private schools often have more support and funding for computer science than public schools.

  • 4. gflint  |  April 27, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    The local public schools changed the math requirement for graduation from 2 to 3 years. This required an expansion of the math departments. They did this with out hiring more teachers. Several programs disappeared, CS among them. There is no money to hire teachers but every room has an interactive board if the teacher is going to use it or not. Funding is limited which means you do not spend money on things that are not needed. I teach at a very poor small (165 in the high school) private school. We have required 3 years of math for ages. We offer 4 years of CS. Our kids also have a required theology class the public schools do not have. Public schools squawk about a crammed schedule and that they cannot afford teachers. Looking at what public schools offer in the way of useless electives and the way they spend their money I can understand their problems.


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