Poll finds parents value computer science

Poll finds parents value computer science

(District of Columbia) More than 90 percent of parents say their children should learn computer science skills in school, yet very few administrators report a high demand for such classes at their schools, according to a new study.

The survey, conducted by Gallop on behalf of Google, found that only 7 percent of principals and 6 percent of superintendents said there was a demand from parents for more computer science classes.

“This perceived lack of demand from parents and students is contrary to the sentiments that students and parents in this study express,” authors of the report wrote, noting that 90 percent of parents also said computer science is a good use of school resources.

“While these are not measures specifically about demand, they do suggest parents are more enthusiastic about computer science education than administrators realize,” they wrote.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 1.3 million jobs will be created by 2022 in fields requiring computer and mathematical expertise, and many parents and educators seem to see the benefits of exposing students to computer science.

Unfortunately, previous studies have shown that what constitutes computer science skills are often misunderstood and are taught as a sub-section of different courses. For this study, researchers defined a computer science course as involving programming or coding to create apps, websites, games, software and more.

Almost half of the principals surveyed said that while their school did offer computer science, the class did not include programming or coding.

Gallup researchers interviewed nearly 1,700 parents of students grades seven through 12; almost 1,700 students in the same grade range; and more than 1,000 teachers via phone. Web surveys were completed by approximately 2,000 superintendents and almost 10,000 principals.

Of those teachers and administrators surveyed, fewer than one in three said computer science was a top priority in their school or district.

Principals said the main reason computer science is not offered is because testing requirements are often tied to other courses. Superintendents also blamed the lack of teachers available within the district with the skills necessary to teach it.

Other reasons given include a lack of funds to train or hire a teacher, insufficient funds to purchase the necessary computer equipment or software, and a lack of demand from parents and students.

Authors noted that while students and parents may not be outwardly rallying for computer science courses, many understand their importance.

“Most students (90 percent) say they are at least somewhat likely to have a job someday where they will need to know computer science, and most parents (85 percent) say the same about their child’s future job,” authors wrote.

Despite what appears to be a breakdown in communication between parents and administrators, authors of the report said there is still evidence that computer science courses are expanding.

The College Board reported a 50 percent increase in AP computer science participants between 2012 and 2014, and according to this latest survey, almost half of principals expect the number of computer science learning opportunities to increase in the next three years.

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