The Battle Over Screen Time

FEB. 24, 2018 | The New York Times

To the Editor:

We applaud Naomi Schaefer Riley’s Op-Ed essay. As parents, we know all too well the screen-time struggles that families face. Yet, as researchers of computer science education, we believe that Ms. Riley overemphasizes the quantity of screen time while ignoring the quality and content.

We suggest that computer science is the opposite of mindless screen time. Computer science is the problem solving and critical thinking necessary to create and design with technology, not mindless consumption. We are concerned with earlier findings showing how students in underserved schools with high numbers of low-income students of color are often in “technology rich, but curriculum poor” schools — those filled with computers but lacking curriculum that fosters deeper thinking skills.

Fortunately, a national initiative, Computer Science for All, is addressing this digital divide by ensuring that real computer science is offered in all schools with well-prepared teachers. We fully agree that students shouldn’t be mindlessly swiping screens, but they should be learning real computer science and using technology to help solve societal problems.

Ms. Margolis is lead author of “Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race and Computing.” Ms. Flapan is executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools.

Read the Letter to the Editor

Brown appoints 15 to new K-12 computer science panel

Carolyn Jones, EdSource

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed 15 technology and education experts Friday to a newly created panel charged with making recommendations on the implementation of K-12 computer science standards in California.

The panel, called the Computer Science Strategic Implementation Advisory Panel, was created by Assembly Bill 99. Its members will draw up plans to make sure teachers are prepared, schools have enough resources and the state’s new computer science standards are implemented fairly and effectively. The Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Legislature will also appoint members.

The panel’s recommendations will go to the Legislature, California Department of Education and State Board of Education by Jan. 15, 2019. The Department of Education will then turn those recommendations into a specific implementation plan, which the State Board of Education will vote on by July 15, 2019. The Legislature will approve a final plan.

The new panel members are:

  • Gayle Nicholls-Ali, 61, of Altadena. Nicholls-Ali has been a curriculum writer and team lead at CTE Online since 2013, an adjunct professor at Pacific Oaks College since 2012 and a career tech education teacher at La Cañada High School since 2007;
  • Jenny Chien, 32, of Carlsbad. Chien has been a teacher at the Casita Center for Technology, Science and Mathematics in the Vista Unified School District since 2007;
  • Andrea M. Deveau, 42, of Sacramento. Deveau has been vice president for state policy and politics at TechNet since 2016, where she was executive director for California and Southwest Regions from 2014 to 2016;
  • Shirley H. Diaz, 58, of Chico. Diaz has been assistant superintendent of educational services for the Glenn County Office of Education since 2007;
  • Julie Flapan, 49, of Los Angeles. Flapan has been executive director at the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools and director of the Computer Science Project at the UCLA Center X;
  • Jose L. Gonzalez, 44, of Atwater. Gonzalez has been superintendent of the Planada Elementary School District since 2010;
  • Janell M. Miller, 40, of Clovis. Miller has been a teacher at the Washington Academic Middle School in the Sanger Unified School District since 2015, where she was a teacher for Jackson Elementary School from 2003 to 2015;
  • Sathya Narayanan, 46, of San Jose. Narayanan has been a professor of computer science at California State University, Monterey Bay since 2017, where he has held several positions since 2007, including director, associate professor and assistant professor;
  • Agodi E. Onyeador, 17, of Pittsburg. Onyeador has been a student at Oakland Technical High School since 2014, where she has been a consulting representative for Supporting People of Color Now since 2015. She was a summer math and science honors academy scholar for the Level Playing Field Institute from 2015 to 2017 and was a mentee at the Intel Computer Science Academy from 2016 to 2017;
  • Michael J. Pazzani, 59, of Riverside. Pazzani has served as a vice chancellor of research and economic development and professor for computer science and engineering at UC Riverside since 2012;
  • Dean M. Reese, 38, of Tracy. Reese has been an international baccalaureate coordinator for the Tracy Unified School District since 2017, where he has been a science teacher at Tracy High School since 2002, and has been a faculty scholar at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory since 2007;
  • Solomon Russell, 39, of Los Angeles. Russell has been an assistant professor at El Camino College since 2015. He was a lecturer of computer science at UCLA in 2017 and an online moderator at from 2014 to 2015;
  • Mehran Sahami, 47, of Palo Alto. Sahami has been a professor of computer science at Stanford University since 2013, where he has held several positions since 2001, including associate professor, lecturer and visiting lecturer and was a teaching fellow from 1992 to 1998. He was a consulting senior research scientist at Google Inc. from 2002 to 2007;
  • Claire K.L. Shorall, 31, of San Francisco. Shorall has been an investor at Neo and a part-time advance placement computer science principles teacher for the Life Academy High School of Health and Bioscience since 2017. She served in several positions for the Oakland Unified School District from 2010 to 2017, including computer science manager, site-based instructional coach and teacher;
  • Vandana Sikka, 45, of Los Altos Hills. Sikka has been founder and chief executive officer at Learnee Inc. since 2015. She was chairwoman at Infosys Foundation USA from 2014 to 2017 and vice president at Mitrix from 2008 to 2010.


Connecting to the Future

California Schools MagazineCheck out this headline article, “Connecting to the Future” featuring ACCESS, along with many of our partners including, Kapor Center, and SFUSD in the summer 2017 edition of the California School Boards Association “California Schools” Magazine.

Local school boards can be helpful partners as we work to scale-up high quality, equitable and sustainable computer science teaching and learning opportunities across California.  As ACCESS works on parallel strategies to build demand from the ground up, while ensuring equitable opportunities provided by the state, this article may be useful among your networks.

Read the article (text-only)

Connecting to the Future

Corrie Jacobs | California Schools 
The digital divide and computer science instruction in California

Recent projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics specify that there will be as many as 1.4 million computer science job openings by 2020, yet the American educational system will only produce around 400,000 qualified candidates to fill those vacancies. In the rapidly changing 21st century, access to digital technology and computer science coursework is increasingly becoming a vital part of every student’s education. While recent legislation is starting to move California students toward a more connected and creative digital future, from infrastructure to instruction, there are many actions schools still need to take to ensure that students are developing the skills to be college and career ready.


Nearly a quarter of California high schools offer computer science courses — a statistic that sits far below the goals of education advocates. According to reporting from the Sacramento Bee last year, more California high school students enroll in ceramics classes than they do computer science classes.

“[Computer science] is just as foundational to learning in the 21st century as learning how the digestive system works, how photosynthesis works or how gravity works,” said Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of, a nonprofit working to increase computer science instruction through worldwide events, free K-12 curriculum, educator training and more.

Given the rising importance of computer science to college and career success and current gaps in access, the availability of a quality computer science education needs to be considered an equity issue. The demographic breakdown of last year’s Advanced Placement Computer Science A test-takers provides one example of the current equity gaps in computer science instruction. According to the College Board, just 0.5 percent of California’s 1.9 million high school students took the 2016 AP Computer Science A exam, and only 27 percent of the students taking the exam were female. Less than 1,500 were Latino students, less than 150 were African-American students, and only seven Native American/Alaskan Native students, six of whom were boys, took that same exam.

“We often think of education as being this level playing field, but if kids don’t have exposure to the same types of learning opportunities, then we’re only furthering achievement gaps in school and economic gaps that we see later on,” said Julie Flapan, executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools, commonly known as ACCESS.

Students who study computer science can look forward to a variety of career opportunities. A study produced by found that computing jobs are the top source of new wages in the nation. In California, a career in the computing field provides an average salary that is close to double the average salary of the state.

Moreover, advocates stress that a computer science education pays off in all sectors and serves all students regardless of career path. “Computer science is now part of every single industry — whether it’s auto mechanics, agriculture or the entertainment industry, there is now computer science embedded in everything we do,” said Flapan.

As the importance of computational thinking increases in every career field, the absence of computer science instruction in K-12 schools will only deepen equity gaps. “Teaching 21stcentury skills in California’s public schools is the key to a brighter future,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “In order for all of our state’s 6.2 million students to become college and career ready, school board members need to examine how their students access technology and computer science instruction.”

Read the article in the magazine

Stop Scapegoating, Start Educating

Education Week

Stop Scapegoating, Start Educating

Education can’t ignore the real threat to American jobs

By Julie Flapan & Jane Margolis
January 24, 2017  |  Education Week

Contrary to popular belief, people aren’t taking jobs away—technology is. The 2016 election rubbed raw the divisions between those with the skills for the future and those without. As we look ahead to the Trump presidency, instead of scapegoating, we need significant investments in a sustainable education strategy that prepares youths to effectively participate in the world of tomorrow.

Scapegoating, or blaming an individual or group of people for something for which they are not responsible, is a misguided explanation for declining job opportunities. When a manufacturing plant shuts down in the Rust Belt, automation is the likely culprit, thereby requiring workers with different skill sets. In the near future, when a truck driver loses a job to a driverless car, technology will likely be the cause, not someone doing the same job for less pay.

Scapegoating immigrants and foreign workers for taking our jobs is not just wrongheaded, it limits our ability to accurately name the problem and solve it. In fact, as technology replaces some jobs, it also allows new ones to emerge. The problem is that we’re not adequately educating our young people to be prepared for this new tech economy that requires a foundational understanding of computer science.

Computing jobs are the No. 1 source of new wages in the United States and are among the highest-paying. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2024, there will be more than 4.4 million computer-specialist job openings nationwide. But according to the most recent National Center for Education Statistics data, only 50,000 of the 1.8 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2012-13 were in computer science or information science fields. In other words, we are not preparing enough students to be qualified to fill those jobs. And it’s not just about preparing students for careers in technology; students who know computer science have a jump start across all fields, including arts, agriculture, business, health care, and entertainment. Computing has become essential knowledge in nearly every industry.

Schools aren’t doing an adequate job of providing computer-learning opportunities to meet the demand. A majority of schools don’t even teach computer science, despite a Gallup poll that reported more than 90 percent of parents want their students to learn computer science in school.

Perhaps more troubling, schools that serve demographically underrepresented students—African-American, Latino, and low-income students—are the least likely to offer a pathway of courses in computer science. As explained in Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing, which was written by Jane Margolis, computer science education provides a window into how inequality is reproduced in schools. When students in underserved schools are denied access, experience, and role models in computing, they are left further behind.

The College Board reports that student enrollment in Advanced Placement computer science classes is among the lowest of all AP classes, and that the AP computer science exam has the least diverse test-takers of all AP exams. In 2015, 56 percent of all AP test-takers were female, but of the 46,344 test-takers in AP computer science, only 22 percent were girls. Only 13 percent of AP computer science test-takers identified as African-American or Latino, while these students made up more than 24 percent of test-takers across all AP exams in 2015. Ensuring access for all students to this foundational knowledge is important preparation for college, careers, and civic participation.

Computer science isn’t just about operating a computer or a cellphone. It’s about reimagining how computers are a part of what we do every day. Rather than being passive users of technology, students need to learn how to be responsible creators of it. Computer science teaches algorithmic thinking, problem-solving, and creativity as students learn how to build apps, design a web page, and understand how the internet actually works.

Beyond jobs, this past year revealed other reasons why learning computer science is important in a democracy. Whether it be through thinking critically to distinguish fake news from real news, understanding algorithms that are used to target its users, considering cybersecurity and the role it played in email scandals, or amplifying marginalized voices through social media, we can see the power of technology in our everyday lives. Becoming digitally literate, critical, and constructive thinkers about how to use technology responsibly should be required learning for everyone.

With the uncertainty of President Donald Trump’s education agenda and the future policy decisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act, one thing is clear: We need to continue to support public education and the inclusion of computer science as part of the new law’s call for a “well-rounded education.”

We encourage the new administration to continue to support the former administration’s national agenda to promote computer science for all, which prioritizes the needs of students underrepresented in computer science, including girls, low-income students, and students of color. Many education leaders support this national initiative at the local level.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas realized how important computer science opportunities are for his state’s future: In 2015, he signed legislation making Arkansas the first state in the union to require every public high school to teach computer science. States including California, Idaho, and Washington are making strategic, statewide plans to bring computer science into schools. Large school districts in Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco are also prioritizing computer science and making it mandatory learning for all students.

Rather than blaming others, we should provide our youths with the education that will equip them for this new tech landscape. Making America great can be accomplished only by investing in all our students today to help prepare them for the world of tomorrow.

California Eyes Long-Term Strategy to Expand Computer Science Education

By News Staff | September 29, 2016


The computer lab at Cal Poly Pamona. Source:


California is looking to the tech-driven future, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law this week a bill that could be a first step toward having computer sciences classes in every school.

The bill, AB 2329, authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and co-sponsored by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, directs a new advisory panel to develop a long-term strategic implementation plan for computer science education in K-12 and higher ed. A statement from Newsom’s office says the bill “aims to ensure that all students will have access to computer science education.”

According to the release, “only a quarter of California’s high schools offer any computer science courses, a disparity punctuated by striking gender and racial gaps. Of California’s 3,525 computer science graduates in 2014, only 15 percent were female. In 2015, of the approximately 8,700 high school students in California who took the AP Computer Science exam, just 26 percent were female, 973 were Hispanic, and only 148 were black.”

One of the main complaints with computer science education in secondary school is the lack of a designation by CSU and UC colleges to recognize computer science courses as a “core” mathematics or science course. Currently the university systems only accept those as an elective course.

“In December 2015,” the release said, “Lieutenant Governor Newsom spearheaded a letter signed by dozens of key political, business and nonprofit leaders to the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), the UC committee armed with the ability to reclassify the course.” The letter is currently under consideration at the CSU Academic Senate.

AB 2329 is parallel to President Obama’s “Computer Science for All” initiative, and was supported by dozens of businesses and advocacy organizations, such as TechNet (a co-sponsor of the bill) Microsoft, Facebook, the California Chamber of Commerce, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, LA Area Chamber of Commerce, ACCESS,, and the superintendents of the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and San Francisco unified school districts, among many others.

“We applaud the Governor’s leadership in signing AB 2329, which will engage multiple stakeholders to develop a strategic computer science education plan,” said Julie Flapan, executive director of ACCESS, in the release, “Ensuring all students, especially underrepresented students in computer science — girls, low-income students and students of color — have access to meaningful and high-quality computer science education in schools across California.”

Gov. Brown signs law to plan expansion of computer science education

PAT MAIO / EDSOURCE TODAY Pascale Gibbs, a 9-year-old 4th-grader at Bryant School of the Arts & Innovation in Riverside, practices one of her computer science assignments.

By Pat Maio | September 27, 2016  EdSource

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law a bill that begins a three-year planning process to expand computer science education for all grades in California’s public schools, beginning in kindergarten.

Authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, the bill, Assembly Bill 2329, requires State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to create by September 2017 a 23-person advisory panel to be charged with developing a long-term plan to make computer science education a top priority in the state.

Based on findings from the panel, the state’s Instructional Quality Commission would decide by July 2019 whether to develop and recommend to the State Board of Education computer science content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade. The Instructional Quality Commission advises the State Board on curriculum and instruction.

The law recognizes that information technology is one of the fastest-growing job sectors across California, and the state needs to step up efforts to satisfy the growing job demands.

“California currently has tens of thousands of open computing jobs where salaries are significantly higher than the state average, but our education system is not aligned to meet this workforce need and economic opportunity,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who played a key role in bringing the computer science proposal before political, business and nonprofit leaders.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

Bonilla said her bill would ensure that students, “especially those from underrepresented communities,” are prepared going forward. “It is imperative that the education of all our K-12 students not only meets the demand for computing jobs, but more importantly, that students are being engaged at a young age,” she said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 531,000 openings for new computer and mathematics-related jobs in the United States by 2024, with 51 percent of all science, technology, engineering and math jobs projected to be in computer science-related fields by 2018.

Only a quarter of California’s high schools offer any computer science courses, a disparity that also reflects gender and racial gaps, according to Newsom. He cited data showing that only 15 percent of 3,525 high school graduates in 2014 who studied computer science graduates were female. In 2015, of the roughly 8,700 high school students in California who took the AP Computer Science exam, just 26 percent were female, 973 were Hispanic, and 148 were black.

The new law aligns California with President Barack Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative. But funding for the initiative has lagged since Obama used his 2016 State of the Union address to argue for every student to be offered the opportunity to take “the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”

As part of his initiative, Obama sought $4 billion over three years for states with plans to expand computer science courses and an additional $100 million for school districts to expand access to a K-12 computer science curriculum to train teachers and to build regional partnership among schools. However, the Republican-controlled Congress has so far declined to fund the program.

The new California law sets a timeline to expand computer science education. Bonilla did not say how much the initiative would cost. However, a spokesman said that if state or federal funding is not available, the law would allow funding from private or public partnerships and provide grants by the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation to expand computer science curriculum throughout California.

At the same time, several California school districts are moving ahead with introducing a computer science curriculum without waiting for guidance from Sacramento. Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified and Riverside Unified, among other school districts, are creating computer science curriculum pathways from elementary to high school, with several collaborating with national groups on securing funding for courses and teacher training.

As reported earlier by EdSource, these local efforts are being reinforced by several statewide and national efforts. California, for example, is a lead state in a national coalition being supported by the Association for Computing Machining, Computer Science Teachers Association,, the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center and the National Math + Science Initiative.

“I think there is so much momentum with computer science, and that there are so many resources available to move it along,” Julie Flapan, executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools, or ACCESS, told EdSource this summer. “We’d like to see this happen sooner rather than later.”