CDE aims to smooth computer science implementation

CDE aims to smooth computer science implementation

(Calif.) The California State Board of Education is poised to finally adopt a plan to help local school districts implement the state’s recently adopted computer science standards.

The plan–which was amended to address feedback given by board members at their last regular meeting in March–includes ideas that could be implemented at both the state and local levels to broaden the pool of teachers to teach computer science and increase equity in computer science access, among other things.

Staff at the California Department of Education have noted that California’s digital natives are growing up using technology in nearly every aspect of their lives, but that understanding how it all works would be beneficial for students, as well as society as a whole.

“Many advocates of computer science education caution that unless students are taught how computing works, they will remain merely passive consumers of these technologies,” CDE staff wrote in an analysis to be presented to the state board Wednesday. “Students need to understand how their digital world works in the same way they study science to learn how the natural world works or study history to understand cultures and politics. The integration of computer technology into every aspect of daily life necessitates a foundation in computer science for a well-rounded general education.”

The computer science standards adopted in September, while not mandatory, are aimed at increasing the number of computer science classes taught in schools throughout the state.

The standards begin in kindergarten, and by the time they graduate high school, students will be expected to understand not only how to use common computer hardware and software, but also how to create simple computer programs and debug errors in an algorithm–as well as some more complicated coding and data analysis.

Much of the push for strengthening computer science education stems from a severe need for a technology-literate workforce.

According to Code.org, there are nearly 571,000 open computing jobs nationwide, yet only slightly more than 49,000 students graduated with computer science degrees last year.

Although many of those jobs exist in California, many students are unable to build a foundation to help them pursue those fields. Currently, CDE data shows that close to 65 percent of the state’s high schools offer no computing classes.

In an effort to help schools smoothly implement the standards so that all students have access, CDE staff has recommended a number of ways the state and local education leaders can boost equity and access, support professional development in computer science, and expand course offerings in the subject.

Recommendations at the state-level include:

  • Ensuring adequate staff at the CDE are available to support computer science implementation activities and to provide technical assistance to local education agencies, provided there is funding to do so; and
  • Increasing the number of educators qualified to teach computer science by taking on a number of steps to improve teacher recruitment, tailoring professional development and removing teacher credentialing barriers.

Local-level recommendations put forth include:

  • Introducing students to foundational computer science coursework in elementary and middle school by integrating it into multiple subject classrooms;
  • Providing teachers the time to participate in professional development and collaborate with one another to better understand ways of integrating computer science in their classrooms; and
  • Implementing practices focused on equity, cultural responsiveness, and the elimination of bias by teachers and counselors in the school environment, which CDE staff says may attract and retain more students underrepresented in computer science courses.

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