NASBE Report Provides Recommendations for States Adopting Computer Science Standards

The latest policy update from NASBE outlines what states need to consider as they adopt standards for computer science instruction, highlighting several promising efforts.

Only five states have set computer science standards as of June 1, yet 30 states count computer science toward graduation requirements. This increase points to the growing importance of computer science education despite the lack of standards, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). The latest policy report from NASBE, “States Move toward Computer Science Standards,” looks at steps that states have taken to set computer science standards.

There are more than half a million unfilled jobs in the computer science industry and computing jobs are projected to increase twofold within the next decade. “As 45 state boards of education have authority over academic standards, they are well poised to close this gap between industry needs and current instruction. They are also poised to deliver on the call in the Every Student Succeeds Act to provide quality computer science instruction as part of a ‘well-rounded education,’” states the report.

The report examines two leading endeavors aimed at creating framework to help state education agencies develop standards. The first effort from Code.org lays out key concepts for states to consider, such as computing systems, networks and the internet, and impacts of computing. A list of practices from Code.org, also in the report, includes fostering an inclusive and diverse computing culture and recognizing computation problems. Currently, there are 13 states working to develop framework and define baseline literacy for computer science students. The draft’s framework comment period ends June 29 and the complete version will be released in September.

A second effort from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) has 13 states working to increase the number of students interested in careers in computer science. In the coming months, the SREB’s Commission on Computer Science and Information Technology will publish a report recommending several actions for states.

As a member of SREB and one of the five states to already have standards in place, the report highlights Georgia’s efforts in setting standards. Georgia educators began analyzing existing courses and designing new courses as early as December 2014, following the governor’s proclamation that every student in the state needs to study computer science. Three new courses on game design, web development and embedded computing were subsequently introduced and the state’s computer science task force created a committee comprised of business and industry members to write the state’s computer standards.

Lastly, the report examines teacher certification, professional development and increase in school resources for computer science courses. Only 25 states have set up certification pathways for teachers, meaning that half the states have not invested in properly training teachers to teach computer science. One fear is “teacher turnover,” or the possibility of losing teachers to industry jobs after completing certificate programs. According to Katie Hendrickson, advocacy and policy manager at Code.org, teachers may be persuaded to stay in the classroom if they receive compensation from states to become certified. Coalitions are one way to pool resources, like the Governors’ Partnership for K–12 Computer Science which funds professional learning opportunities for teachers.

“There is no single solution for addressing the dearth of students ready to enter the computer science industry,” states the report. Still, state boards of education can work to increase standards adoption and teacher certification.

The full report is available on the NASBE site.

About the Author

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