Contextual Questions for Computer Science Education Interventions

If you are thinking of applying for funding to expand computing or to provide computer science professional learning to teachers.  The following questions reveal state-level context that could help you strategize.

1. Who can teach CS?

The following applies to high school teachers.  Can those with a business certification teach CS?  Many states put computer science into Career Technical Education (CTE) which means that only business teachers can teach it and still be considered in field.  Some states also allow those with math and science credentials also teach CS, and often math teachers have an easier time making the transition to teaching CS.  For K-8 teaches, is there a special endorsement, add-on certification or other credential?  Are those without the credential prevented from teaching CS?

2. What CS courses are currently recognized and how are they recognized?

In many states, CS counts toward graduation as a math, science, or business education credit.  Does it satisfy a core credit?  If it counts as a math credit, will state universities recognize it or penalize students for not having the full amount of credits.  For example, one state allows CS to count toward graduation as a math credit, but the state university only grants admission to those students who have satisfied all four math credits with math courses.  So, CS may count toward graduation but not toward admission to college.  This may affect the priority that schools give to CS courses.

3. How do school leaders (superintendents, principals, and assistant principals) define CS?

A recent report from Google and Gallup (2015) showed that 63% of principals perceive “Creating documents or presentations on the computer” to be part of computer science.  Fifty-four percent of principals also perceive that “searching the internet” is part of computer science. Gallup poll found that principals perceive that applications courses like Excel and Access count as CS courses.  Computer science faculty largely do not consider these to be aspects of computer science, and this indicates that school-level projects may have to help principals develop a stronger definition of computing.

4. What policy strategies are most likely to succeed with state legislators?

Some states take an equity view and perceive that the state has an obligation to ensure that all students are offered computer science regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, ability, and SES.  They also see CS as a mechanism for advancement out of low-SES and into middle class jobs.  Other states use job-fulfillment as a strategy for passing legislation to expand computing and argue that the state has thousands of jobs that need to be filled by those with computer science experience.

5. How are CS teachers currently prepared?

Many states rely on pockets of professional development to support teachers, and some states offer statewide resources and professional development for teachers.

6. Has the state adopted computer science standards and to what grade levels do those apply?

Some states have written high school computer science standards and have moved on to writing and adopting K-8 standards.  Many states are in the midst of writing CS (sometimes computational thinking) standards.  Some have adopted existing standards (like CSTA’s Computer Science Standards), and this shifts the burden from standards writing to standards implementation.

7. To what extent are parents asking for computer science?

Another report from Google and Gallup (2016) finds that 84% of parents perceive computer science to be more important or just as important as required courses (math, science, history, and English). However, only 28% of parents have expressed support for CS in the classroom to school officials.

References:

Google. (2015). Images of Computer Science: Perceptions Among Students, Parents and Educators in the U.S. Retrieved from https://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/images-of-computer-science-report.pdf

Google. (2016). Trends in the State of Computer Science in U.S. K-12 Schools. Retrieved from http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/trends-in-the-state-of-computer-science-report.pdf

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