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

California Candidate Questionnaire on Computer Science

The Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS) and the Computer Science for California (CSforCA) project invited the top candidates for Governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction to respond to questions related to their agenda for computer science education in California. The questionnaire is intended to be a resource to learn about the candidates’ positions on expanding equity and access to computer science in K12 public education in California and to increase awareness of CS education. We do NOT endorse nor oppose candidates for office.

The questionnaire was created with feedback provided by CSforCA supporters. All candidates have been offered the opportunity to complete a written response. Emails were sent to the campaigns of gubernatorial candidates Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and John Cox as well as State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck. All candidates were advised that if their responses were received on time, they would be published verbatim (not to exceed 2500 words) on the ACCESS website www.access-ca.org in September 2018. If responses were not received by August 31, 2018, the publication would state “Did Not Respond”.

Letter to all candidates

2018 Gubernatorial Candidate Responses

2018 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Candidate Responses


September is Computer Science Education month in California

This summer, the legislature passed ACR 265, designating September 2018 as California Computer Science Education Month. The measure encourages schools, teachers, researchers, universities, business leaders, and policymakers to support teachers with cutting-edge professional development and to provide sustainable learning experiences in computer science education, encouraging access to opportunities for females and underrepresented students in computer science.

Also this month, the State Board of Education is anticipated to take action on the Instructional Quality Commission’s recommendations for new California K12 Computer Science Standards and CDE staff will provide the Board with an update on the California Computer Science Strategic Implementation Advisory Panel meetings and an overview of the CCSSIP recommendations to broaden the pool of teachers to teach computer science and to ensure that all pupils have access to quality computer science courses.

Please see the latest ACCESS Update for more detailed information.

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 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.


Make AP CS Count Toward Core Requirements for University of California Admission

California is known as a world leader in driving the digital age through our information technology sector. Yet, few students have access to high-quality K-12 computer science education in the state. A key issue is that rigorous computer science courses typically do not satisfy a core mathematics or science graduation requirement for entrance to the UC system. We are seeking program status (statewide recognition) for AP Computer Science (CS) Principles and AP Computer Science A to be allowed to satisfy a mathematics “c” or science “d” credit for University of California admissions.

Although Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District is in the heart of the Silicon Valley – home to many high-tech companies including Google, Intuit, AOL, Adobe, Microsoft, NASA Ames, Silicon Graphics, and Oracle – as recently as 2012 there was no college preparatory computer science course offered at the district’s two comprehensive public high schools. And this lack of access is widespread across California. Just under 4,000 students took the AP Computer Science A exam in 2012, compared to more than 31,000 for AP Biology and almost 60,000 for AP Calculus. Limited access also creates serious gender and equity issues for underserved minorities. In 2012, only 45 African Americans and 306 Latinos took the AP CS A exam.

California CS Counts for AG

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.


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