Posts tagged ‘public policy’
Julie Flapan and Jane Margolis had a piece last month in Education Week saying that the Trump administration should support CS education. Their piece starts with an argument that we should not scapegoat immigrants, and given the recent immigrant ban, seems amazingly prescient.
Julie and Jane point out that CS education is important to the values of the new administration. It’s good to see that the House is re-affirming the importance of STEM education in their new priority statement. We need to make the argument that computing education is not a previous adminstration issue, but is instead about bipartisan issues and values.
Computer science isn’t just about operating a computer or a cellphone. It’s about reimagining how computers are a part of what we do every day. Rather than being passive users of technology, students need to learn how to be responsible creators of it. Computer science teaches algorithmic thinking, problem-solving, and creativity as students learn how to build apps, design a web page, and understand how the internet actually works.
Beyond jobs, this past year revealed other reasons why learning computer science is important in a democracy. Whether it be through thinking critically to distinguish fake news from real news, understanding algorithms that are used to target its users, considering cybersecurity and the role it played in email scandals, or amplifying marginalized voices through social media, we can see the power of technology in our everyday lives. Becoming digitally literate, critical, and constructive thinkers about how to use technology responsibly should be required learning for everyone.
With the uncertainty of President Donald Trump’s education agenda and the future policy decisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act, one thing is clear: We need to continue to support public education and the inclusion of computer science as part of the new law’s call for a “well-rounded education.”
We encourage the new administration to continue to support the former administration’s national agenda to promote computer science for all, which prioritizes the needs of students underrepresented in computer science, including girls, low-income students, and students of color. Many education leaders support this national initiative at the local level.
Scott Aaronson is right — all academics need to speak out against this action. President Trump’s new refugee ban will have a dramatic and deleterious effect on academic work in the United States. Since there is a plan for a religious test (i.e., Christians will be treated differently than Muslims), it’s likely un-constitutional. On many counts, it’s illegal and wrong. As educators and researchers, we have a responsibility to explain the impact that the ban will have in higher-education.
The rhetoric about the ban is frightening, like theories about the ban being a “head fake” while a fascist government forms in the United States. I don’t know enough about politics and game theory to evaluate these theories, so I’ll stick to what I do know. America relies on University research and teaching, and Universities rely on immigration. Banning immigration will set back American interests.
Today, we learned that Trump is suspending the issuance of US visas to people from seven majority-Islamic countries, including Iran (but strangely not Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Wahhabist terrorism—not that that would be morally justified either). This suspension might last just 30 days, but might also continue indefinitely—particularly if, as seems likely, the Iranian government thumbs its nose at whatever Trump demands that it do to get the suspension rescinded.
So the upshot is that, until further notice, science departments at American universities can no longer recruit PhD students from Iran—a country that, along with China, India, and a few others, has long been the source of some of our best talent.
Insightful new report from ACCESS-CA on who is taking AP CS in California and on the challenges (quoted below):
Despite the strong outlook for the technology economy in California, there are major challenges in meeting the growing demand for skilled technology workers and preparing Californians to participate in the workforce of the future:
The lack of computer science standards, courses, and teachers and the lack of alignment between computing pathways and workforce needs. Roughly 65% of high schools in California offer no computing classes and the state has yet to develop a statewide plan for computing education.
The lack of diversity in the computing education pipeline and within the technology sector, particularly given the rapidly-increasing diversity of California’s population. 60% of California’s student population is Latinx or African American, yet these students comprise just 16% of students taking AP CS A and 15% of the technology workforce
California is now starting a process of developing computer science standards for K-12, explicitly using the new K-12 CS Framework. California is huge and has a huge influence on the rest of the country’s education policy and practice. This will likely be one of the most important outcomes of the K-12 CS Framework process.
Computer Science Content Standards Development
The CDE, Instructional Quality Commission, and State Board of Education (SBE) are commencing the process for developing new California computer science content standards. Per California Education Code. Section 60605.4, “on or before July 31, 2019, the Instructional Quality Commission shall consider developing and recommending to the SBE computer science content standards for kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, pursuant to recommendations developed by a group of computer science experts.” Information and updates concerning the development of computer science content standards for California public schools will be posted here.
From Ruthe Farmer in White House OSTP. It’s great that we’re going to get more data about CS Education in the United States. Should it be at the federal level, when decisions about K-12 in the US are at the state level? I’d like to get data collected at a level that impacts decision-making. How do we get states to track CS education? Will the federal government’s effort be a prompt to get the states to track who takes CS classes, where they’re offered, and where they’re not?
Computer science has been added to the proposed 2017-18 Dept of Ed Civil Rights Data Collection. The proposed new collection instruments are open for public comment through 2/28/17.
You can view the documents here:
(you will find the proposed data collection instruments on pages 29-31 of the doc titled A-2_CRDC_Data_Groups_12_23_16)
You can add comments here:
Comments from the public are critical to inclusion of this new data request, as the overall push is to lessen the reporting load for schools. However, we felt it was necessary to add computer science as a separately tracked subject to obtain a better picture of total enrollment nationally.
Please share this opportunity to comment with your networks.
Ruthe A. Farmer | Senior Policy Advisor for Tech Inclusion
Office of Science & Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
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.
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.