In early November, the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance teamed up to release the 2021 State of Computer Science Education. It offers a plethora of national and state-level data on policy, access, and participation, which is important information given the growing prominence of computer science in society and the abundance of open jobs in the sector.
One key feature of this report is the nine policies it identifies as critical to expanding computer science education and ensuring that growth is both sustainable and equitable. States that adopt more of these policies tend to have more of their high schools offering computer science. Six states have adopted all nine policies—Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, and Nevada. The policies are:
- Create a state plan for K–12 computer science.
- Define computer science and establish rigorous K–12 computer science standards.
- Allocate funding for computer science teacher professional learning.
- Implement clear certification pathways for computer science teachers.
- Create preservice programs in computer science at higher education institutions.
- Establish a computer science supervisor position in education agencies.
- Require that all high schools offer computer science.
- Allow a computer science credit to satisfy a core graduation requirement.
- Allow computer science to satisfy a higher education admission requirement.
Over the last year, a total of thirty-one states have adopted or revised their policies on computer science education. States allocated over $65 million for K–12 computer science education in FY 2022. All fifty states and the District of Columbia now allow computer science to count toward a graduation requirement, and three states—Arkansas, South Carolina, and Nevada—require it for graduation. A total of twenty-three states mandate that all their high schools must offer computer science courses.
To measure access and participation, the report focuses on schools that offer a foundational computer science course. This means the course is offered during the traditional school day and requires students to apply learned concepts through programming for at least twenty hours. Nationally, 51 percent of high schools offer such classes. That’s up from last year, but there are still some worrisome access disparities. For example, rural and urban schools are less likely to offer computer science than their suburban counterparts. Schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students are less likely to offer courses, and Black, Hispanic, and Native American/Alaskan students are less likely to attend schools that offer it.
Seventy-eight percent of high school students attend schools that offer foundational computer science, but within the thirty-seven states with enrollment data, just under 5 percent of students are actually enrolled in a course. One bright spot is participation in AP computer science, which has increased over the last several years and includes two courses: AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles. Even during the 2019–20 school year, when the number of exams given in most AP subjects decreased due to the pandemic, participation in AP computer science exams increased 13 percent. The number of female students and students from underrepresented racial and ethnic subgroups who are taking AP computer science exams has also increased, yet disparities remain. Black and Hispanic students only account for 6 and 16 percent of AP computer science exams, respectively.
The report also offers detailed summaries of policy, access, and participation within each state. For example, Fordham’s home state of Ohio has implemented six of the nine key policies. During 2019–20, half of the Buckeye State’s public high schools offered foundational computer science courses, up from 42 percent in 2018–19. In total, 65 percent of Ohio high school students attend schools that offer computer science. But there are gaps and disparities here, too: 67 percent of Ohio’s suburban schools offer foundational computer science, compared to 34 percent of urban schools and 48 percent of rural schools. Only 36 percent of schools where more than three quarters of the student body are eligible for subsidized lunches offer computer science, compared to nearly 50 percent of schools where fewer than a fourth of students are eligible. Black students are 1.7 times less likely than their White and Asian peers to attend a school that offers AP computer science. And only 26 percent of the AP computer science exams administered last year were taken by female students. These disparities can and should be addressed quickly, as Ohio has an average of 18,628 open computing jobs each month and these jobs offer an average salary of $86,842.
Finally, the report outlines four recommendations for leaders, educators, and advocates to expand participation in computer sciences. First, it’s important to ensure that opportunities are available to students from underrepresented populations. Second, states and schools should leverage students’ own devices, school broadband access, and educators’ increasing experience in teaching with technology. Third, schools should create K–12 pathways for computer science that will lay a foundation for more diverse enrollment and retention in high school courses. And fourth, school leaders should prioritize foundational computer science courses so that students are prepared for advanced pathways.
SOURCE: “2021 State of Computer Science Education: Accelerating Action through Advocacy,” Code.org, CSTA, and ECEP Alliance (November 2021).