Race, Gender Gaps Persist in Computer Science Education

With increasing support from public and private investors, including well-known companies like Google and Facebook, more K–12 schools are offering computer science (CS) classes across the country (up 25 percent since last year). Many students have the opportunity to learn CS now, but research shows that structural and social barriers still persist that keep minority students from learning CS skills. Google for Education, in partnership with Gallup, released several reports today on the status of CS education in the United States.

The latest Google-Gallup study titled “Diversity Gaps in Computer Science” points to a race and gender gap in K–12 CS education. According to the report, Black and Hispanic students “face discrepancies in access and exposure to CS classes and to computer use at home and at school,” despite their parents being more likely to want them to learn CS compared to White parents (92 percent versus 84 percent respectively). Black students are also less likely than White students to have CS class at their school (47 percent and 58 percent respectively).

Other key information includes:

  • Girls are less likely than boys to be aware of CS learning outside of school, and less likely to be encouraged by teachers or parents to learn CS skills; and
  • It is rare for students to see computer scientists that resemble them in the media, especially for female and Hispanic students.

The report looks at various social barrier that can hinder participation for underrepresented groups in CS, including CS stereotypes in the media; lack of encouragement to learn CS; and misconceptions from parents and teachers that students may not be interested in CS education.

For another report, “Trends in the State of Computer Science in U.S. K–12 Schools,” Google and Gallup surveyed more than 1,600 students, 1,600 parents, 1,000 teachers, 9,800 principals and 2,300 superintendents. Among the highlights are:

  • More schools have CS classes this year, with 40 percent of principals reporting they offer CS classes at their schools;
  • More than nine in 10 parents believe that opportunities to learn CS are a good use of school resources;
  • Relatively few (three out of 10) parents and teachers have expressed their support for CS education to school administrators; and
  • Positive perceptions of CS education and careers persist among all groups.

The set of reports also includes older reports like “K–12 Computer Science Education: U.S. State Reports,” which summarizes the status of CS education for the 11 states surveyed in 2015.

Images of Computer Science: Perceptions Among Students, Parents and Educators in the U.S.” examines perceptions about CS as well as opportunities for students to become more involved.

Another report titled “Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K–12 Education” argues that exposure to technology is vital to building student confidence for CS.

Lastly, “Women Who Choose Computer Science – What Really Matters,” published in 2014, looks at four factors that influence young women to pursue CS careers (which includes social encouragement, self perception, academic exposure and career perception).

To access any of the reports for free, visit the Google for Education site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].