Posts tagged ‘public policy’

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 frameworkfirst 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 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.


October 18, 2016 at 7:01 am 11 comments

Maryland school district showcases computer science education at all levels: ECEP’s role in Infrastructure

The Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, funded by NSF to support broadening participation in computing through state-level efforts, is one of the more odd projects I’ve been part of.  I don’t know how to frame the research aspect of what we’re doing.  We’re not learning about learning or teaching, nor about computer science.  We’re learning a lot about how policy makers think about CS, how education is structured in different states (and how CS is placed within that structure), and how decision-making happens around STEM education.

It’s not the kind of story that the press loves.  We’re not building curriculum. We don’t work directly with students or teachers. We fund others to do summer camps and provide professional development. We help states figure out how to measure what’s going on in their state with computing education. We help organize (and sometimes fund) meetings, and we get states sharing with each other how to talk to policy makers and industry leaders.

So it’s nice when we get a blurb like the below, in a story about the terrific efforts to grow CS for All in Charles County, MD.  It’s amazing how much Charles County has accomplished in providing computing education in every school.  I’m pleased that ECEP’s role got recognized in what’s going on there.

Expanding Computer Education Pathways (ECEP) provided grant funding for summer camp computer programs. CCPS’s facilitators participate in their Train-the-Trainer webinars to design and plan an effective workshop, build an educator community, increase diversity in Computer Science and teach Computer Science content knowledge. ECEP also funded the Maryland Computer Science Summit in a joint effort with Maryland State Department of Education to bring over 200 attendees from every county in Maryland to share and set priorities for Computer Science education.

Source: Maryland school district showcases computer science education at all levels | NSF – National Science Foundation

October 10, 2016 at 7:16 am 1 comment

New Progress and Momentum in Support of President Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative

Ruthe Farmer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has been working furiously towards today’s announcements.  The Obama Administration is aiming to achieve the goal of CSforAll, and with only a few months left before the new Administration takes off, they’re showing what they’ve put in place today.  The full details on all the announcements are here. There’s a webcast at 1 pm EDT today here.  The biggest deal to me is the establishment of the CSforAll Consortium (see website here) which is meant to carry on the initiative, no matter who wins in November.

To mark this progress, and celebrate new commitments in support of the President’s initiative, the White House is hosting a summit on Computer Science for All. Key announcements being made today include:

  • More than $25 million in new grants awarded from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand CS education;

  • A new CSforAll Consortium of more than 180 organizations, which will connect stakeholders with curriculum and resources, as well as track progress towards the goal of Computer Science for All; and

  • New commitments from more than 200 organizations, ranging from expanded CS offerings within the Girl Scouts of the USA that could reach 1.4 million girls per year, to supporting professional development for 40,000 additional teachers, to new collaborations to bring CS to students in a variety of settings from African-American churches to family coding nights to tribal Head Start programs to students as Chief Science Officers.

Source: Fact Sheet: New Progress and Momentum in Support of President Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative |

September 14, 2016 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

New ISTE Standards emphasize computational thinking with a better definition

ISTE has just released their ed-tech-influenced standards for students for 2016, and they include computational thinking — with a better definition than the more traditional ones.  It’s not about changing how students think.  It’s about giving students the tools to solve problems with technology.  I liked the frequent use of the term “algorithmic thinking” to emphasize the connections to the history of the ideas.  This definition doesn’t get to systems and processes (for example), but it’s more realistic than the broad transferable thinking skills claim.


Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.

Source: For Students 2016

August 12, 2016 at 7:53 am 4 comments

US States Move toward CS Ed: MA, CA, and the challenge of local control

I review for the WIPSCE conference (an international conference on K-12 computing), and found a phrase in one of the papers I was reviewing about computing education now being mandatory in the United States.  Well, not really — kinda, sorta, in someplaces.  It may be hard for educators outside the US to understand the decentralized nature of computing education in the US.  The individual 50 states control primary and secondary school education by law, and some of those states (notably, California, Massachusetts, and Nebraska) are “local-control” — the state itself decides to shift almost all of the education decision-making to the individual school districts (easily a hundred in a small state, multiple hundreds in large ones).

Recently the National Association of State Boards of Education has come out with a policy update about CS education in the states.  Useful — except for the local control states, where the state boards of education don’t really have that much power.

While educators and parents recognize computer science as a key skill for career readiness, only five states have adopted learning standards in this area. Tides are changing, however, as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes with its call on states to provide a “well-rounded education” for students, to include computer science standards. This NASBE Policy Update outlines what states need to consider as they develop computer science standards and improve instruction, highlighting several promising state efforts already under way.

Source: NASBE – States Move toward Computer Science Standards

How do local control states implement reforms like computing education? In California, they’re trying to pass legislation to create an advisory board about integrating CS into education. It’s all about advice and recommendation — the state can’t make the districts do much.

California legislators are reviewing a bill that would create an advisory board to integrate computer science into education.The Assembly legislation would create a 23-person panel overseen by the state Superintendent that would deliver recommendations by September 2017 on how to improve computer science education, and establish curriculum standards for grades K-12.The panel would comprise teachers, administrators and professors across K-12 and higher education, as well as representatives from government, parent associations and student advocacy organizations. The bill is backed by Microsoft and

Source: California legislators push computer science education bill

Massachusetts has just come out with their new state standards. I haven’t gone through them all, but from what I’ve seen (and knowing people who helped build it), I believe that they’re really high-quality. But they’re just voluntary. The districts have to be coaxed into adopting them.

Massachusetts public schools may start using new digital literacy and computer science standards as soon as this fall. The state board of elementary and secondary education unanimously approved the standards, which are voluntary, at its monthly meeting Tuesday.”Today’s vote recognizes the importance of digital literacy and computer science to modern life, work and learning,” board chairman Paul Sagan said in a statement. “These standards will help our students think about problem solving in new ways and introduce them to valuable skills they will need in today’s economy.”

Source: Mass. Has New K-12 Standards For Digital Literacy, Computer Science | WBUR News

August 1, 2016 at 7:57 am Leave a comment

Japan plans to make programming mandatory at schools as a step to foster creativity: What if it doesn’t work?

Japan is planning to make programming mandatory in all their schools because it will help their children to think logically and creatively.  Except, we don’t have evidence that it does.  We know a little about how to use programming as a medium for developing thinking skills, but I know of no efforts to make it replicable and scalable. I don’t know of anyone using programming in order to improve creativity. I know of no evidence that learning to program improves creativity.

This is a nation-size gamble.  I’m interested in how Japan goes about this — they face the same challenges as NYC does in their initiative, at an even larger scale.

It is essential that computer programming to be taught in schools will lead to improving children’s ability to think logically and creatively.

Source: Plan to make programming mandatory at schools a step to foster creativity – The Japan News

July 8, 2016 at 7:26 am 7 comments

Hillary Clinton proposes to continue Obama’s CS for All Initiative #CS4All

It’s just plans and campaign promises, but it’s nice to see.

Invest in Computer Science and STEM Education by:

  • Providing Every Student in America an Opportunity to Learn Computer Science:  To build on the President Obama’s “Computer Science Education for All” initiative, Hillary will launch the next generation of Investing in Innovation (“i3”) grants, double investment in the program, and establish a 50% set-aside for CS Education.

  • Engaging the Private Sector to Train up to 50,000 Computer Science Teachers:  Hillary will launch an initiative to expand the pool of computer science teachers—both through recruiting new teachers into the field, and through helping current teachers in other subjects gain additional training.

  • Encouraging Local STEM Education Investments:  Hillary’s Department of Education will support states and districts in developing innovative schools that prioritize STEM, implementing “makerspaces,” and build public-private partnerships.

Source: Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology & Innovation

July 4, 2016 at 7:57 am Leave a comment

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