Computer Science

Report: Five Actions States Can Take to Bridge the Computer Science Ed Gap

The Southern Regional Education Board, a nonprofit organization consisting of state legislators, educators and policymakers, has released a report detailing five actions states can take to bridge the computer science education gap and prepare young people for a future engaged in computers and information technology (IT).

According to the report and the Association for Computing Machinery, as many as 4.6 million out of 9.2 million jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields will be computer-related by 2020. Most of those jobs are expected to pay well. The average median salary of jobs in computer science and IT was $81,430 in 2015, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, the country is not on track to meet labor market demand in computing fields, the SREB report states. projects that, by 2020, the United States may have 1 million more computing jobs than qualified individuals to fill them. States will need to greatly expand and diversify their college-degree holding computing workforce, the SREB report says.

The SREB’s Commission on Computer Science and Information Technology met in 2015 and 2016 to determine how states can help more young people — especially girls, African American and Latino students, as well as students from low-income families — learn computer science, explore computing careers and start journeys toward those careers while still in high school.

Following are five actions the SREB recommends for states and K–12 schools:

Action 1: Develop state computer science standards for K–12.

  • Work in partnership with secondary and postsecondary educators, experts and industry leaders to develop K–12 computer science standards that include the essential concepts and practices students should master in elementary, middle and high school.
  • Develop or adopt standards-based, developmentally appropriate computer science curricula that appeal to diverse learners in elementary and middle grades.
  • Require all high schools to offer students access to rigorous, standards-based computer science courses, such as Exploring Computer Science and Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles.
  • Provide funding at the state, district and school levels to support expanded computer science learning opportunities in schools.
  • Extend early and frequent opportunities for K-12 students and their families — especially girls, African American and Latino students, as well as students from low-income families — to explore computer science and computer science-related careers. 

Action 2: Lay the groundwork for learning computer science.

  • Throughout K–12, integrate and teach the essential literacy skills that students need to master grade-appropriate computer science standards.
  • Integrate and teach essential math concepts and skills that students need to master grade-appropriate computer science standards.
  • Support K–12 academic and computer science teachers in designing interdisciplinary, project-based instruction and assignments that engage students in applying literacy, math and computational thinking skills to solve problems.

Action 3: Create clear pathways to computing careers.

  • Charge a state career pathway advisory council with developing pathways that meet identified workforce needs in computing fields.
  • Build career pathways consisting of four or more courses that connect seamlessly to postsecondary programs in high-demand career fields, such as cybersecurity, informatics and software development.
  • Redesign the high school senior year to allow students who meet college-readiness benchmarks to earn college credits that transfer to associate and bachelor’s degrees and to help struggling students prepare for college.

Action 4: Prepare great computer science teachers.

  • Offer teaching endorsements to new computer science teachers who complete a two- to four-week, full-day summer institute, led by a master teacher, in which they learn their curriculum by completing the same projects and assignments as their students.
  • Leverage federal, state, foundation and private sector funds to support intensive, ongoing professional development on computer science and IT content knowledge and the pedagogical skills needed to manage diverse learners, create assessments and embed literacy and math in student-driven, project-based instruction and assignments.

Action 5: Educate communities about computer science and computing careers.

  • Embed career advisement and exploration across K–12 as a means of educating students, parents and communities about computer science and computing careers.
  • Encourage employer partners to invest in the computing and IT workforce of the future.
  • Enact legislation to recognize communities that improve computer science education and meet workforce needs in computing fields.

The complete report is available on this SREB site, and an executive summary is available here. For more information on SREB, visit the organization’s website.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].