Our research in LAUSD schools has revealed how little understanding there has been in high schools about what computer science is (as distinct from computer literacy), how computer science is commonly classified as vocational rather than academic, and how teacher CS certification pathways and professional development opportunities do not exist for California teachers (Margolis et. al, 2008; CSTA 2005, 2008).
Addressing these issues will require action from federal, state and local policy makers as well as from educational institutions, high-tech industry, and scientific and educational societies. Until Computer Science is on level with the academic core, its existence will always be shaky, especially in these budget-cutting times. Further, certification requirements for high school CS teachers vary from state to state. To bring about changes in policies related to CS education the ECS team is engaged in the following efforts:
California State Policy
The Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS)
Jane Margolis, Joanna Goode, and Gail Chapman were instrumental in forming a steering committee of computer science education experts to develop a statewide policy strategy that would both inform state policy and be informed by local district implementation of courses like ECS and CS Principles. Now known as ACCESS (originally CCEAN), the initial steering committee has been working together to guide these efforts including: Dan Lewis (Santa Clara University), Debra Richardson(UCI) Jane Margolis and Gail Chapman (UCLA), Chris Stephenson (CSTA), and Joanna Goode (ACM Education Policy Committee). Cameron Wilson of ACM and Code.org had also been a partner in these efforts.
The Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS) is dedicated to advocating for high-quality K-12 computer science education in California and ensuring its accessibility to all students, specifically under-represented students, including girls, students of color and low socioeconomic students. ACCESS is a statewide network of computer science stakeholders including, district leaders, K-12 teachers, professors from community colleges through universities, educational policy advocates, and related industry professionals.
ACCESS participates in a national collaboration, Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP), a Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), whose primary goal is to increase the number and diversity of students in the pipeline to computing and computing-intensive degrees. ACCESS joins the Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE) in Massachusetts, Georgia Computes! and South Carolina to share strategies and best practices to expand quality computing education pathways in California.
The goals of ACCESS are to:
- Elevate and secure the status of K-12 computer science education so that industry, parents, students, and our state’s policymakers prioritize, engage, and provide resources for quality computer science education in California;
- Ensure equitable access to computer science for all K-12 students in California, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in the field such as girls and African-American and Latino students;
- Establish a computer science certification pathway for K-12 teachers in California, and ensure that quality professional development is available to these teachers;
- Update state standards for computer science education and advocate for computer science to count for core credit (math or science) in high school graduation and UC/CSU eligibility and admissions;
- Scale up successful K-12 computer science education models and curricula, such as Exploring Computer Science and CS: Principles, to be emulated throughout California and in other states;
Drawing from our experiences implementing ECS in LAUSD has taught us that the challenges we face on the ground—-in the schools and at the district level— are likely to be similar to challenges that would reverberate across the state. These grounded experiences in practice at the school and district level provides a unique and highly contextualized opportunity to inform and ground state policy. Conversely, ACCESS works to ensure that state policy proposals consider unintended consequences and analyses in order to best support local implementation of equity-focused computer science education more broadly.
This graphic demonstrates the dynamic interaction between local and statewide efforts. The four quadrants highlights the main questions that drive our work, centered in our goals for equitable access to CS education:
For more information, please visit www.access-ca.org and become a subscriber to get the latest news and updates about computer science education in California.