Check 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.
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.”