Posts tagged ‘public policy’

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

Research+Practice Partnerships and Finding the Sweet Spots: Notes from the ECEP and White House Summit

nichole

I wrote back in October about the summit on state implementation of the CS for All initiative which we at Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) alliance organized with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). You can see the agenda here and a press release on the two days of meetings here.

I have been meaning to write about some of the lessons I learned in those two days, but have been simply slammed this month. I did finally write about some of the incremental steps that states are taking towards CS for All in my Blog@CACM post for November. That post is about the models of teacher certification that are developing, the CSNYC school-based mandate, and New Hampshire’s micro-certifications.

In this post, I want to tell you about a couple of the RPC ideas that I found most compelling. The first part of the day at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) on the White House grounds was organized by the Research+Practice Collaboratory (RPC). I was the moderator for the first panel of the day, where Phil Bell, Nichole Pinkard, and Dan Gallagher talked about the benefits of combining research plus practice.

I was excited to hear about the amazing work that Nichole Pinkard (pictured above) is doing in Chicago, working with Brenda Wilkerson in Chicago Public Schools. Nichole is a learning scientist who has been developing innovative approaches to engaging urban youth (see her Digital Youth Network website). She has all these cool things she’s doing to make the CS for All efforts in Chicago work. She’s partnering with Chicago parks and libraries — other than schools, they’re the ones who cover the city and connect with all kids. She’s partnering with Comcast to create vans that can go to parks to create hotspots for connectivity. Because she’s a researcher working directly with schools, they can do things that researchers alone would find hard to do — like when a student shows up to a CS activity, she can email the student’s parents to tell them the next steps to make sure that they continue the activity at home.

There was a second panel on “Finding the Sweet Spot: What Problems of Practice are Ripe for Knowledge Generation?” I didn’t know Shelley Pasnik from the Center for Children and Technology, and she had an idea I really liked that connected to one of Nichole’s points. Shelley emphasizes “2Gen learning,” having students bring with them parents or even grandparents so that there are two generations of learners involved. The older generation can learn alongside the student, and keep the student focused on the activity.

I know that the RPC folks are producing a report on their activity at the summit, so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about their work.

December 2, 2016 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

The role of higher education in reducing inequity: Using tuition, drop-out rates, and opportunity hoarding

This blog post isn’t about computing education.  You might want to simply delete this email, or skip over this post.  I’m using blog author’s prerogative to talk about things that fascinate me, even if they’re not in the title of the blog.

As frequent readers know, I increasingly read and think about economics, particularly with respect to higher education.  I’m going to collect in one blog post here (so that I don’t stray too far from the focus of the blog) some of the ideas and articles that have more interested me recently.

From Gladwell’s Revisionist History, we know that diverting tuition from the rich kids to the poor kids is common in schools that aim to bring in more lower-SES students and address issues of social inequity.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Here in Georgia, we’re forbidden by law to use tuition revenue to offer scholarships to less-advantaged children.  Puts us in a rough place when competing with schools that can.

Simply put, scholarship aid is not keeping pace with the rising price of college. While half of all families use a scholarship of some type to pay for college, much of that money is coming in the form of “discounts” off the tuition bill. Tuition discounts grew from $30 billion in 2007 to more than $50 billion in 2015, according to the College Board.While tuition discounts are marketed as scholarships in a student’s financial-aid package, they are not really scholarships. It’s not like a donor gave money to support a needy student with academic or musical talent. Rather, the scholarship money was diverted from another student’s tuition check. Last year, the average tuition discount for first-year students reached a staggering 47 percent — that’s nearly half off the published sticker price of tuition, up from about 40 percent just seven years ago.

Source: As College Tuitions Rise, Scholarships Fail to Keep Pace | Jeff Selingo | Pulse | LinkedIn

Without a doubt, one of saddest features of US higher education economics today: many of the kids saddled with higher education debt don’t even graduate! This is the awful perfect storm of increasing student debt and declining completion rates. Now, these students have massive debt, but don’t have the degree to get them a better paying job.

The author of the article linked below, Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University and author of Designing the New American University, visited at Georgia Tech this week, the day after Donald Trump became President-Elect of the US.  ASU has programs explicitly targeting those students, to help them get a degree that gives them entree to a better paying job that can help them to pay down their debt.  Crow said that the anger in this population is enormous — when they get saddled with debt, and higher ed fails them, they want to just blow up the system.  They’re through with how the existing system works.  Crow suggests that voices like that were what swept Trump to his surprising triumph.

Think about it: Tens of millions of people in the US are saddled with student debt and have no degree to help pay it off. They won’t get the substantial return on their investment—graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn about $1 million more in additional income over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma—and they typically have not developed the adaptive learning skills that will help them prosper in a rapidly changing economy.In too many cases, they may never recover, leaving them feeling frustrated and bitter, disenfranchised and unable to find a way to better jobs and greater opportunity. Too many, saddled with debt and lacking a degree, feel trapped.

According to US Department of Education data, the ability to repay college loans depends more on whether a student graduated than on how much debt they are carrying. The research also found that students who don’t graduate are three times more likely to default on their loans than those who do.

Source: The Biggest Crisis in Higher Ed Isn’t Student Debt, It’s Students Who Don’t Graduate | Michael Crow | Pulse | LinkedIn

This last one is one that I saw linked to Emmanuel Schanzer’s wall in Facebook, and is deeply distressing. Rich kids who drop out of high school do as well as poor kids who complete college? Opportunity hoarding makes it difficult to really move the needle in terms of addressing economic inequity.  Crow talked about these kinds of inequalities in his talk, too.  If you’re in the bottom quartile in the US, you have an 8% chance of getting an undergraduate degree.  If you’re in the top quartile, you have an 80% chance — even if you do much worse in academics than the poor kids.

Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference, which is underway.

Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.

What’s going on? Well, it’s all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don’t need a high school diploma to get ahead. It’s an extreme example of what economists call “opportunity hoarding.” That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children’s favor.

Source: Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong – The Washington Post

November 11, 2016 at 7:22 am 2 comments

Google-Gallup Reports on Race and Gender Gaps in CS: Guest Blog Post from Miranda Parker

Google’s latest reports from their collaboration with Gallup lines up with Miranda Parker’s research interests in privilege in CS education (see preview of her RESPECT 2015 paper here). I invited her to write a guest blog post introducing the new reports. I’m grateful that she agreed.

Google, in collaboration with Gallup, has recently released new research about racial and gender gaps in computer science K-12 classrooms. A lot of the report confirms what we already knew: there are structural and social barriers that limit access to CS for black, Hispanic, and female students. I don’t mind the repeated results though–it helps form an even stronger argument that there is a dearth of diversity in computing classrooms across the country.

The report does highlight interesting tidbits that may not have been as obvious before. For example, black and Hispanic students are 1.5 and 1.7 times more likely than white students to be “very interested” in learning computer science. This knowledge, combined with the data that black and Hispanic students are less likely to have access to learning CS, creates a compelling argument for growing programs focused at these groups.

Research like this continues to push the envelope of what is known about racial and gender gaps in computer science. However, it may be time to dig deeper than visible identities and explore if there are other variables that, independently or together with the other traits, create a stronger argument for why the diversity gap exists. Does socioeconomic status better explain racial gaps? What about spatial ability? These are variables that we at Georgia Tech are looking at, as we hypothesize about what can be done to level the playing field in computing.

goedu_racial_gender_info_1018_r1_01_2-width-1000

 

Today, we’re releasing new research from our partnership with Gallup that investigates the demographic inequities in K-12 computer science (CS) education in two reports, Diversity Gaps in Computer Science: Exploring the Underrepresentation of Girls, Blacks and Hispanics and Trends in the State of Computer Science in U.S. K-12 Schools. We surveyed 16,000 nationally representative groups of students, parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents in the U.S.  Our findings explore the CS learning gap between white students and their Black and Hispanic peers as well as between boys and girls and confirm just how much demographic differences matter.  We’re excited to share this data to bring awareness to issues on the ground in order to help expand CS education in meaningful ways.

Source: Racial and gender gaps in computer science learning: New Google-Gallup research

October 26, 2016 at 7:22 am Leave a comment

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmxyZ1DFBwk 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 16 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 2 comments

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