A high-level report on the state of computing education policy in US states: Access vs Participation

October 12, 2018 at 7:00 am 11 comments

states-policyInteresting analysis from Code.org on the development of policies in US states that promote computing education — see report here, and linked below.  The map above is fascinating in that it shows how much computing education has become an issue in all but five states.

The graph below is the one I found confusing.


I’ve been corrected: the first bar says that where the school’s population is 0-25% from under-represented minority groups, 41% of those schools teach CS.  Only 27% of mostly-minority schools (75%-100% URM, in the rightmost column) offer CS.  This is a measure of which schools offer computer science.

The graph above doesn’t mean that there are any under-represented minority students in any CS classes in any of those high schools.  My children’s public high school in Georgia was over 50% URM, but the AP CS class was 90% white and Asian kids.  From the data we’ve seen in Georgia (for example, see this blog post), few high schools offer more than one CS class. Even in a 75% URM high school, it’s pretty easy to find 30 white and Asian guys.  Of course, we know that there are increasing numbers of women and under-represented minority students in computer science classes, but that’s a completely different statistic from what schools offer CS.

I suspect that the actual participation of URM students in CS is markedly lower than the proportion in the school.  In other words, in a high school with 25% URM, I’ll bet that the students in the CS classes are less than 25% URM.  Even in a 75% URM high school, I’ll bet that CS participation is less than 75% URM.

Access ≠ participation.

Source: The United States for Computer Science – Code.org – Medium

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 12, 2018 at 10:31 am

    You say “… the first bar says that in 41% of schools that teach CS, the school’s population is 0-25% from under-represented minority groups. ” That’s not quite right—the first bar means that among the schools with 25% or fewer URMs, 41% offer a CS course. Is reading graphs not part of CS education (I know that statistics isn’t, though it should be, especially with the dominance of machine learning in many CS jobs these days).

    You are probably right that the CS courses are still dominated by white and Asian males. But access is a prerequisite to participation, and the chart shows that students at majority URM schools have a lower probability of even getting access.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  October 12, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      Thank you for the correction. My first sentence was wrong, but the second sentence was right. Yes, I agree about less access in the URM-majority schools.

      • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  October 12, 2018 at 2:52 pm

        I know that Pat Yongpradit saw this blog post. Maybe he’s reading the comments.

        Your point is really good, and it came out often in the ECEP meeting this week. Each state classifies and defines curriculum differently.

  • 4. Briana Morrison  |  October 12, 2018 at 10:34 am

    And I consistently complain about that first picture that you posted (5 states in US without policies). In NE, we have actually implemented 6 of the 9 policies. We just happen to call it Information Technology instead of Computer Science (ping me if you want references). Yet we get no credit. If someone at Code.org has some pull, we’d love to be included in the picture.

    • 5. Peter Kemp  |  November 6, 2018 at 7:45 am

      Hi Briana, In England the computing vs CS terminology causes some debate. Why did you choose IT and is there any difference in implementation compared to CS? For us CS is a rather narrow take on computing, where computing encompasses CS, IT and Digital Literacy. And the shift to CS at the expense of ICT looks likely to disenfranchise several student groups in the short term.

      • 6. Briana Morrison  |  November 6, 2018 at 8:40 am

        I am relatively new to the Nebraska area (3 years) but as I understand it, the term IT (Information Technology) was the preferred term from the universities and industry as it is broader than CS. The high schools already had a BMIT (Business, Management and Information Technology) designation and rather than change it they stuck with it.

        • 7. Peter Kemp  |  November 6, 2018 at 8:43 am

          That makes a lot of sense. The focus on CS appears to be missing out a lot of what is important in IT / computing (for us in England). Would a state offering CS also be covering digital literacy and application usage under the CS umbrella? If not, where would students get these skills from?

      • 8. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  November 6, 2018 at 12:33 pm

        In the US, “IT” seems to refer primarily to maintaining computer systems (and mostly software maintenance, but some hardware). It usually does not include any application programming, software development, or novel uses of computers.

        “Computing” seems to vary its meaning from place to place—in some places it means scientific computation, in some places digital literacy, in a few places it also includes software engineering and computer science.

        “Computer science” also varies its meaning a bit—in some places it just refers to theoretical computer science, in other places to software engineering, but very rarely does it include the full gamut of end-user programming and almost never includes IT.

        There is no terminology that I’ve seen used universally to cover all the fields that some people want group together.

  • 9. gflint  |  October 12, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    It is always a bit of a chuckle to see CS info about Montana, the state I teach in. Supposedly 2 or 3 of the 9 ideas are implemented in Montana. I wonder which ones? I look through the 9 and do not recognize any of them being implemented. Of course they may be implemented in the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) and OPI did not tell anybody, at least anybody that actually teaches CS. OPI is pretty much their own separate entity that has little or no connection to the schools other than writing policies that no one knows about. Of course it does not help that every school district in Montana is an independent entity and there is no over all policy entity. (No one ring to rule them all.)

  • […] is one of those deals where reading a blog led to reading a document on CS adoption in the US which lead to another document on the Code.org […]

  • […] goal of CS10K (as I talked about in 2014). By 2018, I realized that there was a difference between access and participation. But now we have Miranda Parker’s dissertation and we know that the problem is much deeper than […]


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