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Computer Science Courses Show Steep Decline

Fewer schools are offering CS classes, which means fewer students are taking them. One expert calls the trend 'a serious warning sign.'

In BriefAccording to new research from the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the number of advanced placement computer science courses offered in high schools has dropped significantly in the last four years and so have the number of students enrolled in them.

The 2009 CSTA National Secondary Computer Science Survey, conducted this past spring, collected responses from some 1,100 high school computer science teachers. Of those respondents, only 65 percent reported that their schools offer introductory or pre-AP computer science classes, compared to 73 percent in 2007 and 78 percent in 2005. Only 27 percent reported that their schools offer AP computer science, compared to 32 percent in 2007 and 40 percent in 2005. And among schools that do provide computer science courses, a full 70 percent of respondents said there are qualified students who are not enrolling in those course offerings.

The survey also asked participants whether their schools offered CS content in courses other than introductory or AP computer science classes. Seventy-four percent answered yes, down from 85 percent in 2007.

"The continuing drop in students taking AP CS is a serious warning sign about the state of computing in this country, as a student taking AP typically indicates his or her interest in majoring in that field in college or pursuing a career in that area," said Chris Stephenson, CSTA executive director, in a statement. "Our innovation economy requires that students take an interest in computing, but a host of factors point in the other direction."

So what challenges have led to the decline of computer science in K-12? Survey takers cited lack of teacher subject knowledge, lack of student subject knowledge, difficult subject matter, lack of student interest, and lack of hardware and software resources. But the top three reasons cited for the decline were, in order, rapidly changing technology, lack of staff support or interest, and lack of curriculum resources.

Complete results from the 2009 CSTA National Secondary Computer Science Survey, as well as comparative results from previous surveys, can be found here. To read this article in its entirety, visit here

Green Spot

STUDENTS TO TAKE ON CHALLENGE TO CHANGE THE WORLD

For the second straight year, the Siemens Foundation, Discovery Education, and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA are asking students to help save the planet through the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge. Elementary school students are now welcome to compete in the sustainability challenge, which last year was open only to middle school students.

For the 2009-2010 challenge, teams of students must use webbased tools to create replicable solutions to environmental issues in their classroom (grades K to 2), school (3 to 5), and community (6 to 8). A panel of environmental experts and science teachers will select state finalists and grandprize winners to receive prizes that vary according to grade level, and include savings bonds, school grants, trips, TV appearances, and more.

The contest kicked off in August during the United Nations International Youth Day in New York City, where last year's grandprize winner, Team Dead Weight from West Branch Middle School (IA), presented its project to peers and UN representatives. The entry deadline for elementary school students is Jan. 31, 2010; middle school entries will be accepted until March 15. To learn more about this year's contest, visit here.

:: Industry News

AVERMEDIA ANNOUNCES STIMULUS PROMOTION. Through Sept. 30, presentation and surveillance technology provider Avermedia will be offering a "buy eight, get one free" stimulus promotion for the Avervision CP300 interactive document camera. The company is presenting the offer as a way to help schools and districts maximize stimulus funding by equipping more classrooms with interactive visual products. For more information on how to take advantage of this promotion, visit here.

In BriefIQ ACADEMY LAUNCHES ONLINE CA SCHOOL. A new online middle and high school run by IQ Academy has opened in California. The school is open to all students in grades 6 through 12 who live in Los Angeles County and surrounding coun- ties, including Kern, Orange, San Bernadino, and Ventura. IQ Academy California-Los Angeles will provide tuition-free education through online courses conducted on laptops provided by the school, allowing students to work at their own pace and receive individualized instruction. The school's curriculum offerings include core subject areas such as English and math, plus science labs, foreign language, and advanced placement courses. Students will have anytime, anywhere access to courses and assignments, plus one-on-one feedback from certified teachers. For more information, visit here.

VERNIER HOLDS FREE FALL WORKSHOPS. Starting this month, science teachers in 41 cities can build their teaching and tech integration skills at Vernier Software & Technology's free fall workshops. The four-hour, hands-on workshops will concentrate on giving teachers the skills necessary for integrating data collection and analysis into teaching key science topics. Current or former science and math teachers with extensive classroom experience will lead the sessions. For more information about the workshops, including dates and locations, visit here.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2009 issue of THE Journal.

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