Diversifying tech starts with ensuring equitable computer science education

THE HILL
By Allison Scott and Julie Flapan, Opinion Contributors — 11/01/19

We see the impact of technology in every aspect of our lives. The tech sector plays a major role in our nation’s economy, producing nearly one-quarter of the nation’s economic output and projects to add over 1 million job openings in the next decade. Tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook create products which have impacts across the globe, while creating jobs and wealth. And beyond these companies, sectors as diverse as defense, transportation, entertainment and agriculture are increasingly driven by technology and reliant on a tech-savvy workforce.

But, if you look inside these companies, on their engineering teams, in their boardrooms, and in the neighborhoods and communities in which their employees work and live, you will see an increasingly segregated picture. Black, Latinx, and Native American professionals are vastly underrepresented in tech fields, representing only 8 percent of the Silicon Valley tech workforce and 15 percent of the national computing workforce. Less than 30 percent are women, and less than 2 percent are women of color. There is little to no racial or gender diversity in the creation of new technologies, business ventures, or in investment, limiting our innovation potential.

UCLA Researchers Awarded $2M NSF Grant to Improve Equity in Computer Science Education

SCALE-CA will provide teacher professional development, build leadership capacity, contribute to research.

Julie Flapan, Jane Margolis, and Jean Ryoo, education researchers at UCLA’s Center X, were recently awarded a four-year $2 million dollar National Science Foundation grant to create a Networked Improvement Community to scale teacher professional development, build the capacity of education leaders for local implementation, and contribute to the research base on expanding equity-minded computer science (CS) teaching and learning opportunities across the state. The project which is called SCALE-CA (Supporting Computer Science Access, Leadership and Equity in California) will use a three-pronged strategy that includes interlocking interventions at the classroom, district and state levels. The focus of SCALE-CA is to build leadership capacity to ensure that equity is kept at the core of CS education expansion efforts and to ensure those efforts involve interventions that are scalable and sustainable.

Flapan, who is the director of the Computer Science Project at UCLA and the executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS), says that SCALE-CA presents an unparalleled opportunity for California schools to meet the challenges of providing quality CS education to propel students of color to academic and career success.

“SCALE-CA challenges practitioners, policymakers and researchers to examine our biased beliefs about who is cut out for computer science and as a result, who has access to it,” she says. “As computer science education builds momentum and California scales CS statewide, we are committed to centering equity to increase access, inclusion, andengagement in high quality computer science for all students. Rather than being the next ‘flavor of the day’ in our schools, SCALE-CA hopes to build the necessary infrastructure to ensure computer science education is equitable, scalable, and sustainable.”

Julie Flapan, PhD, is the executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS) and director of the Computer Science Project at UCLA’s Center X. Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA

The Networked Improvement Community, which is made up of five local education agencies (LEAs) in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Compton, represent the demographics, geography, and size of California’s diverse school system. This partnership includes ACCESS, which serves as the backbone organization for the statewide campaign CSforCA, UCLA researchers, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

In the future, the Networked Improvement Community will expand to include five additional districts and/or county offices of education relatively new to CS education, who will be mentored by the founding five districts, potentially reaching a total of 650,000 high school students. The LEAs will engage with SCALE-CA over a four-year period learning and sharing data-driven practices while collaboratively addressing challenges of broadening participation in computing such as teacher preparation and support, credentialing, developing college and career pathways, and funding.

Among the goals of SCALE-CA are developing a Computer Science Professional Development Week for teachers, counselors, and administrators to focus on equity-minded curricula that can be replicated and customized at a regional level; designing a state-wide district implementation toolkit and workshop for administrators to the implications of equity-driven CS; and informing California policy makers with data to advance statewide expansion that responds to the needs of scalability, equity, and long-term sustainability of socially just CS in the state’s school districts.

California is the sixth largest economy in the world and a “majority minority” state with more than 60% of its six-million public school students identifying as students of color. The state’s size and diversity require a systemic approach to increasing CS opportunities for low-income students, Latinx, African American and Native American students, English language learners, and students with special needs.

For more information about the Computer Science Project at UCLA’s Center X, click here.

 

Original Article in Ampersand

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.

JANE MARGOLIS
JULIE FLAPAN, LOS ANGELES
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 Code.org 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 Code.org, 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.

COMPUTER SCIENCE AND EQUITY IN THE CLASSROOM

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 Code.org, 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 Code.org 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.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/01/25/stop-scapegoating-start-educating.html