Posts tagged ‘computing for everyone’

Making Hard Choices in State Computing Education Policy towards #CSforAll #CSEdWeek

At the ECEP Summit, I sat with the team from North Carolina as they were reviewing data that our evaluation team from Sagefox had assembled.  It was fascinating to work with them as they reviewed their state data.  I realized in a new way the difficult choices that a state has to make when deciding how to make progress towards the CS for All goal.  In the discussion that follows, I don’t mean to critique North Carolina in any way — every state has similar strengths and weaknesses, and has to make difficult choices.  I just spent time working with the North Carolina team, so I have their numbers at-hand.

North Carolina has 5,000 students taking CS in the state right now.  That was higher than some of the other states in the room.  I had been sitting with the Georgia state team, and knew that Georgia was unsure if we have even one full-time CS teacher in a public high school in the whole state.  The North Carolina team knew for a fact that they had at least 10 full-time high school CS teachers.

Some of the other statistics that Sagefox had gathered:

  • In 2015, the only 18% of Blacks in North Carolina who took the AP CS exam passed it. (It rose to 28% in 2016, but we didn’t have those results at the summit.) The overall pass rate for AP CS in North Carolina is over 40%.
  • Only 68 teachers in the state took any kind of CS Professional Development (that Sagefox could track).  There are 727 high schools in the state.
  • Knowing that there are 727 high schools in the state, we can put the 5,000 high school students in CS in perspective.  We know that there at 10 full-time CS teachers in North Carolina, each teaching six classes of 20 students each.  That accounts for 1,200 of those 5,000.  3,800 students divided by 717 high schools, with class sizes typically at 20 students, suggests that not all high schools in North Carolina have any CS at all.

Given all of this, if you wanted to achieve CS for All, where would you make a strategic investment?

  • Maybe you’d want to raise that Black student pass rate.  North Carolina is 22% African-American.  If you can improve quality for those students, you can make a huge impact on the state and make big steps towards broadening participation in computing.
  • Maybe you’d want to work towards all high schools having a CS teacher.  Each teacher is only going to reach at most 120 students (that’s full-time), but that would go a long way towards more equitable access to CS education in the state.
  • Maybe you’d want to have more full-time CS teachers — not just one class, but more teachers who just teach CS for the maximum six courses a year.  Then, you reach more students, and you create an incentive for more pre-service education and a pipeline for CS teachers, since then you’d have jobs for them.

The problem is that you can’t do all of these things.  Each of these is expensive.  You can really only go after one goal at a time.  Which one first?  It’s a hard choice, and we don’t have enough evidence to advise which is likely to pay off the most in the long run.  And you can’t achieve all of the goal all at once — as I described in Blog@CACM, you take incremental steps. These are all tough choices.

December 9, 2016 at 7:51 am Leave a comment

NSF Education Research Questions and Warnings for #CSforAll during #CSEdWeek

Joan Ferrini-Mundy spoke at our White House Symposium on State Implementation of CS for All (pictured above). Joan is the Assistant Director at NSF for the Education and Human Resources Directorate. She speaks for Education Research. She phrased her remarks as three research areas for the CS for All initiative, but I think that they could be reasonably interpreted as three sets of warnings. These are the things that could go wrong, that we ought to be paying attention to.

1. Graduation Requirements: Joan noted that many states are making CS “count” towards high school graduation requirements. She mentioned that we ought to consider the comments of organizations such as NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) and NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). She asked us to think about how we resolve these tensions, and to track what are the long term effects of these “counting” choices.

People in the room may not have been aware that NSTA had just (October 17) come out with a statement, “Computer Science Should Supplement, not Supplant Science Education.”

The NCTM’s statement (March 2015) is more friendly towards computer science, it’s still voiced as a concern:

Ensuring that students complete college- and career-readiness requirements in mathematics is essential. Although knowledge of computer science is also fundamental, a computer science course should be considered as a substitute for a mathematics course graduation requirement only if the substitution does not interfere with a student’s ability to complete core readiness requirements in mathematics. For example, in states requiring four years of mathematics courses for high school graduation, such a substitution would be unlikely to adversely affect readiness.

Both the NSTA and NCTM statements are really saying that you ought to have enough science and mathematics. If you only require a couple science or math courses, then you shouldn’t swap out CS for one of those. I think it’s a reasonable position, but Joan is suggesting that we ought to be checking. How much CS, science, and mathematics are high school students getting? Is it enough to be prepared for college and career? Do we need to re-think CS counting as science or mathematics?

2. Teacher Credentialing: Teacher credentials in computer science are a mishmash. Rarely is there a specific CS credential. Most often, teachers have a credential in business or other Career and Technical Education (CTE or CATE, depending on the state), and sometimes mathematics or science. Joan asked us, “How is that working?” Does the background matter? Which works best? It’s not an obvious choice. For example, some CS Ed researchers have pointed out that CTE teachers are often better at teaching diverse audiences than science or mathematics teachers, so CTE teachers might be better for broadening participation in computing. We ought to be checking.

3. The Mix of Curricular Issues: While STEM has a bunch of frameworks and standards to deal with, we know what they are. There’s NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) and the National Research Council Framework. There’s Common Core. There are the NCTM recommendations.

In Computer Science, everything is new and just developing. We just had the K-12 CS Framework released. There are ISTE Standards, and CSTA Standards, and individual state standards like in Massachusetts. Unlike science and mathematics, CS has almost no assessments for these standards. Joan explicitly asked, “What works where?” Are our frameworks and standards good? Who’s going to develop the assessments? What’s working, and under what conditions?

I’d say Joan is being a critical friend. She wants to see CS for All succeed, but she doesn’t want that to cost achievement in other areas of STEM. She wants us to think about the quality of CS education with the same critical eye that we apply to mathematics and science education.

December 7, 2016 at 7:00 am 3 comments

AP CS A Exam Data for 2016: Barb Ericson’s analysis, Hai Hong’s guest blog post #CSedWeek

As usual, Barbara Ericson went heads-down, focused on the AP CS A data when the 2016 results were released.  But now, I’m only one of many writing about it.  Education Week is covering her analysis (see article here), and Hai Hong of Google did a much nicer summary than the one I usually put together. Barb’s work with Project Rise Up 4 CS and Sisters Rise Up have received funding from the Google Rise program, which Hai is part of. I’m including it here with his permission — thanks, Hai!

Every year, I’m super thankful that Barb Ericson at Georgia Tech grabs the AP CS A data from the College Board and puts it all into a couple of spreadsheets to share with the world.  :)
Here’s the 2016 data, downloadable as spreadsheets: Overall and By Race & Gender.  For reference, you can find 2015 data here and here.
Below is a round-up of the most salient findings, along with some comparison to last year’s.  More detailed info is in the links above.  Spoiler: Check out the 46% increase in Hispanic AP exam takers!
  • Overall: Continued increases in test-taking, but a dip in pass rates.
    • 54,379 test-takers in 2016.  This reflects a 17.3% increase from 2015 — which, while impressive, is a slower increase than 24.2% in 2015 and 26.3% in 2014.
    • Overall pass rate was 64% (same as last year; 61% in 2014)
  • Girls
    • Female exam takers: 23% (upward trend from 22% in 2015, 20% in 2014)
    • Female pass rate: 61% (same as last year; 57% in 2014)
    • In 8 states fewer than 10 females took the exam: Alaska (9/60), Nebraska (8/88), North Dakota (6/35 ), Kansas (4/57), Wyoming (2/6 ), South Dakota (1/26 ), Mississippi (0/16), Montana(0/9). Two states had no females take the exam: Mississippi and Montana.
  • Black
    • Black exam takers: 2,027 (Increase of 13% from 1,784 in 2015; last year’s increase was 21% from 1,469 in 2014)
    • Black pass rate: 33% (down from 38% in 2015, but close to 2014 pass rate of 33.4%).
    • Twenty-four states had fewer than 10 African American students take the AP CS A exam. Nine states had no African American students take the AP CS A exam: Maine (0/165), Rhode Island (0/94), New Mexico (0/79), Vermont (0/70), Kansas (0/57), North Dakota (0/35), Mississippi (0/16), Montana (0/9), Wyoming (0/6)
  • Hispanic
    • Hispanic exam takers: 6,256 (46% increase from 4,272 in 2015!)
    • Hispanic pass rate: 41.5% (up from 40.5% in 2015)
    • Fifteen states had fewer than 10 Hispanics take the exam: Delaware, Nebraska, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Kansas, Idaho, West Virginia, Wyoming, Vermont, Mississippi, Alaska, North Dakota, Montana, and South Dakota. Three states had no Hispanics take the exam: North Dakota(0/35), Montana (0/9), South Dakota (0/26).
And as a hat-tip to Barb Ericson (whose programs we’ve partnered with and helped grow through the RISE Awards these last 3 years) and the state of Georgia:
  • 2,033 exam takers in 2016 (this represents something like a 410% increase in 12 years!)
  • New record number of African Americans and females pass the exam in Georgia again this year!
  • 47% increase (464 in 2016 vs. 315 in 2015) in girls taking the exam.
  • Nationally, the African American pass rate dropped from 37% to 33%.  In Georgia it increased from 32% to 34%.
  • The pass rate for female students also increased in Georgia from 48% to 51%.
  • Only one African American female scored a 5 on the AP CS A exam in Georgia in 2016 and she was in Sisters Rise Up 4 CS (RISE supported project).

December 5, 2016 at 7:13 am Leave a comment

Steps Teachers Can Take to Keep Girls and Minorities in Computer Science Education | Cynthia Lee in KQED News

So glad to see Cynthia Lee’s list (described in this blog post) get wider coverage.

Last summer, Cynthia Lee, a lecturer in the computer science department at Stanford University, created a widely-circulated document called, “What can I do today to create a more inclusive community in CS?” The list was developed during a summer workshop funded by the National Science Foundation for newly hired computer science faculty and was designed for busy educators. “I know the research behind these best practices,” said Lee, “but my passion comes from what I’ve experienced in tech spaces, and what students have told me about their experiences in computer science classrooms.”

Too often students from diverse backgrounds “feel that they simply aren’t wanted,” said Lee. “What I hear from students is that when they are working on their assignments, they love [computer science]. But when they look up and look around the classroom, they see that ‘there aren’t many people like me here.’ If anything is said or done to accentuate that, it can raise these doubts in their mind that cause them to questions their positive feelings about the subject matter.”

Source: Steps Teachers Can Take to Keep Girls and Minorities in Computer Science Education | MindShift | KQED News

November 30, 2016 at 7:31 am Leave a comment

Community college pathways to a four-year computer science degree: New Google Reports

My ECEP colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Rick Adrion and Renee Fall, led a successful NSF alliance called CAITE.  One of CAITE’s most successful strategies to improve diversity at university-level CS was to make it easier for students to transfer from community colleges.  Community colleges are much more diverse.

The latest reports from Google tell us more about the obstacles that CS students still face in moving from community colleges to bachelor’s degrees, and how to make it easier.

Our latest research shows that students who attend community colleges on the way to computer science (CS) bachelor’s degrees encounter many challenges and obstacles along the way. But there are many ways for community colleges and four-year colleges to work together and with industry to remove these obstacles and support students seeking to transfer into CS majors. Today, we are releasing two complementary research reports that explore the pathways that community college students follow to a bachelor’s degree in CS. The reports also examine the experiences of these students and the opportunities that exist or that might be created to ensure their successful career advancement. Longitudinal Analysis of Community College Pathways to Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees investigates the national landscape of CS students at community colleges in order to better understand student behaviors and institutional characteristics that support or hinder community college students’ efforts to attain a CS bachelor’s degree. The companion report, Student Perspectives of Community College Pathways to Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees, takes a complimentary in-depth and qualitative look at the experiences of students from underrepresented groups at community colleges in California, a state that enrolls one quarter of all community college students in the U.S.

Source: Community college pathways to a four-year computer science degree

November 28, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

African-Americans gain more in CS MS but not CS Bachelors: Minorities Gain Some Ground in CS&E Degrees

We’re seeing this in the AP CS data, too — more minority students are entering CS, but at different levels.

For African Americans, the picture in computer science is mixed. The share of bachelor’s degrees they receive has fallen off since the high point of 2007, but new data suggest that their share of master’s degrees surged for almost a decade before retreating somewhat after 2013. African Americans are actually overrepresented among Americans who receive master’s degrees.[i] Why? A report in Science Magazine cited this trend in Master’s degrees as early as 2011 and speculated that efforts to attract more African Americans into computer science graduate degrees were bearing fruit. That may well be true, but disappointing trends in bachelor’s degrees will surely thwart further progress in advanced degrees.

Source: New Data: Minorities Gain Some Ground in Computer Science and Engineering Degrees | Change the Equation

November 21, 2016 at 7:34 am 2 comments

We will all code, but few will be professional software engineers: Disagree with Quartz

I disagree with the claim below “In the future, everyone is going to be a software engineer, but only a few will learn how to code,” but we need a better definition of what it means to “code” and to “program” (as discussed with respect to recent ITICSE 2016 papers).  If you’re using tools like Hypercard (“low-code” platforms), isn’t that still programming?  It’s certainly more than the no loops, conditionals, or variables that’s often seen in elementary school students’ use of Scratch. Those tools are not software engineering tools. Just because you’re developing software doesn’t mean that you’re doing software engineering.

We need a range of tools from no-code to low-code to software engineering support. It’s an insult to those who carefully engineer software to say that anyone who assembles software is an engineer.

A new industry is emerging to serve the Morts of the world by designing and selling what are called no-code or low-code platforms. Companies like Caspio, QuickBase, Appian, and Mendix are creating visual interfaces that enable people to essentially snap together blocks of software, and bypass the actual lines of code underlying those blocks (skilled developers can also dive into the code). With basic training, a non-technical employee can rapidly assemble software tools that solve business problems ranging from simple database queries to applications lashing together multiple legacy enterprise applications.

Forrester reports the sector earned $1.7 billion in 2015 and is on track to bring in $15 billion by 2020 as the majority of large companies adopt “Citizen Development” policies similar to the bring-your-own-device rules. Employees will be empowered to choose tools, and even partially assemble software, to solve their own business problems without IT approval.

Source: In the future, everyone is going to be a software engineer, but only a few will learn how to code. — Quartz

November 14, 2016 at 7:35 am 4 comments

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