3 ways to turbocharge K-12 computer science

'Many schools of education do not include computer science in teacher preparation,' advocate says
By: | June 11, 2021
Across the country, more students—some beginning in kindergarten—are studying computer science as a growing number of state implement computer science standards.

Building a pipeline of computer science teachers is one of the biggest steps school leaders can take to accelerate coding, programming and related subjects in their districts, one expert says.

This is particularly important in elementary schools, where teachers are generalists and must navigate between multiple subjects, says Leigh Ann DeLyser, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit CSforAll.

“Many schools of education do not include computer science in teacher preparation,” DeLyser says. “Though more and more of this is happening, (K-12) schools have to identify where to get computer science teachers and select teachers to participate in PD.”

Across the country, more students—some beginning in kindergarten—are studying computer science as a growing number of states implement computer science standards to make it a graduation requirement or allow students to count the subject as a math or science credit.

CSforAll’s “Policy to Practice” report offers an overview of new state computer science policies and how district leaders have implemented them with an eye towards access and inclusion.

States such as Arkansas, Maryland and Virginia have taken the important step of providing transparency that schools are implementing computer science to align with state standards, DeLyser says.

7 keys for computer science success.

Tips from CSforAll’s “Practice to Policy” report:

  • Early teacher advocates are key to building interest and momentum.
  • Equitable policy outcomes require equity to be a core priority from the start.
  • Computer science education policy design should balance rules and incentives (accountability) with clarity on goals and supports for reaching them (alignment).
  • In a strong accountability and high alignment environment, clear targets are more likely to be reached, resulting in equitable institutional implementation.
  • Policies must take into account, and directly support, the broader systems supporting classrooms and students.
  • Policy needs to be adaptable to individual locations.
  • Policy-linked data needs to focus on improvement, not just accountability.

Seeing how other districts have integrated computer science encourages other superintendents and their teams to prioritize the subject.

In Virginia, for instance, educators have merged data science and social studies, as students learn to re-examine historic events through data. And in the wake of Amazon building a second headquarters in Virginia, a nonprofit organization called CodeVa is now working with schools and the state to build a computer science pipeline into the workforce.

In Pennsylvania, PAsmart grants are helping regional education cooperatives bring superintendents, curriculum directors and teachers together to plan for further integration of computer science. In Oregon, STEM Hubs are performing a similar role.

Educators looking to ramp up computer science can experiment with Hour of Code activities for students and professional development. For instance, students can create an animation to imagine the end of a storybook, DeLyser says.

More information on statewide computer science initiatives can be found in Code.org’s “2020 State of Computer Science: Illuminating Disparities” report.


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