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Governors commit to computer science, but accountability questions persist

Dive Brief:

  • In an effort led by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, all 50 US governors just signed an agreement to expand K-12 computer science education in their states. The action follows a letter sent of governors from more than 500 business, education and nonprofit leaders – including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates – are urging an update to the computer science education curriculum across the country.
  • The governor’s commitment aims to increase the number of computer science courses offered in high schools and suggests strategies such as providing state funding, supporting pathways to the field and creating equal access to the subject. for all students.
  • “In the 21st century, it is more important than ever that all students have the opportunity to learn computer science to inform them as global citizens, to prepare them for the future of work and to protect they are from cybersecurity threats,” the governors’ compact. said.

Dive Insights:

Only 51% of high schools will offer computer science courses in 2021, according to the fifth annual report. State of Computer Science Education report from The Advocacy Coalition, Computer Science Teachers Association and Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance.

It’s important that the National Governors Association, which organizes this effort, is held accountable for its commitments, said Leigh Ann DeLyser, executive director of CSforALL, an organization focused on integrating computer science in K- 12 for all students. Keeping up with the latest annual data from the State of Computer Science Education report is one way to do that, he said, adding that state funding for computer science education also needs to come with accountability. which measures the intentions of the governors to expand these courses.

The 2021 report found that disparities persist among English language learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students, who are still underrepresented in high school computer science enrollment. Hispanic/Latino students are 1.4 times less likely than their White and Asian classmates to enroll in computer science courses, the report said.

But an even more persistent gap is the low enrollment of girls and young women in computer science courses, said Sean Roberts, vice president of government affairs at

“States that have done even better on racial and ethnic gaps still see a stark and persistent gap in enrollment between young men and young women taking computer science,” he said. Roberts.

The one exception to this significant gender difference can be found in South Carolina, Mississippi and Maryland, he said. All three states have a graduation requirement of some kind that has led to at least 40% of young women enrolling in computer science courses, Roberts said.

The governor’s new commitment to expanding computer science outlines several potential ways to create equitable access. This includes improving the state’s data collection, reporting and analysis of student enrollment in these courses, as well as offering more computer science courses to elementary and middle school students “to build interest.” and student confidence before traditionally underserved populations begin to self-select out of the subject.”

A recent study by researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also found that while more California high school students are enrolling for computer science classes, enrollment numbers in humanities courses are declining. But DeLyser said computer science shouldn’t be taken away from focusing on subjects. In fact, he said, computer science can be integrated into a modern approach to learning in the humanities.

For example, Virginia history classrooms have used data science to understand the migration of Black farmers across the state during the 1800s, DeLyser said. He cited another example of a drama teacher in New York City using an interactive coding app to help visualize what a stage show would look like for plays students had written.

“Just as we see in modern museums how technology infuses art, we also see it in our schools,” DeLyser said.

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