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