It Takes a Team

When I think of computer science educators, computer science education, and computer science curricula, I think about all the people needed to make it a successful endeavor in a school district and in a larger community as well.  Who are the they? How do you leverage their roles to help further computer science education? Three years ago, my district, Valhalla UFSD, embarked on a journey to bring computer science to ALL of our students, K-12.

Valhalla is a small middle to upper-middle class suburban district outside of New York City.  We have approximately 1600 students districtwide. Valhalla High School has always offered AP Computer Science A, but we needed more.  Once I began teaching the class, I petitioned for an Intro to CS course and was granted the class.  This was the beginning of the expansion, but I still had no one particularly interested in helping me promote these courses. It was up to me to make it happen.

The courses went well, but then in my very small school, AP numbers dropped and the trend in the district went away from AP courses and moved to dual enrollment courses with the local community college.  I taught C++ and numbers slowly increased over a few years. Students were getting hungry for more.

Here is where people matter.  I was approached by my principal, Mr. Jonathon Thomas, who told me that our superintendent at the time, Dr. Brenda Myers (winner of the 2017 CSTA Administrators Award), was interested in offering a game design course and wondered if I would be interested in teaching it.  Bingo! Here were my advocates for computer science education in Valhalla. A little petrified, but eager, I had a year to prepare. The course, as expected, was a big hit. As time went on, I suggested adding to our offerings a Mobile App Development course, which was also very well received.  

So now, juggling all of these courses, I realized I needed some help, in and out of school.  Outside of school, I turned to CSTA to find a local chapter to network with other teachers. To my dismay, there was no local chapter, so I chartered one.  

Inside school, I turned to Dr. Myers.  She was all for expanding CS education to the four buildings in the district, which include a K-2 primary school, 3-5 elementary school, 6-8 middle school, and the 9-12 high school.  In 2015, she called a meeting for a newly formed “Special Projects Team” of 4 computer teachers, one from each building. I looked around the room at my three colleagues, whose CS backgrounds were non-existent (they taught computer applications).  We were told we are all going to teach CS, we are all going to learn together, and yes this is going to be bumpy. I have amazing colleagues. No one blinked – we just did it.

Fast forward to today – I am back to teaching AP-CS A, and we have a comprehensive K-12 computer science, engineering, and robotics curricula, which we are currently aligning to the new CSTA Standards. Our kids are programming, thinking computationally, and problem solving in all grades.  We have the full support of our district Board of Education as well as our building and district administrators, and guidance teams. We have a community willing to approve budgets and offer grants to increase our offerings and expand our programs and invest in the technology. We owe our progress to the amazing people in Valhalla to believe in the future of computer science education.  Our children are the recipients of rich and diverse CS curricula from Kindergarten on.

So find your advocate, find your support, and find your team of players.  Reach out to your administrators, communities, and students to find out what you can do together to move computer science education forward in your district.  It’s made all the difference in ours.


Amy Fox, 9–12 Representative

What are we Doing?

When I was asked to write this blog, I wondered if I should focus on the Arkansas Computer Science (CS) Initiative, after all who doesn’t like to brag about their program? Instead, I decided to publicly address something that has weighed on my mind over the past three years. Yes, while Obama was in office and more so now that Trump is in office. At almost every national presentation I have given, I have always stated, at some point and in some way, that “Computer Science is not a partisan issue, it will only become one when we the community force it to be one.” This is the focus of this blog.

On January 30, 2016, President Obama asked Congress to allocate $4 billion to expand K-12 CS education. This announcement, while the amount was questioned, was met with over all excitement and enthusiasm; the community had a POTUS that was finally talking about CS education. It is what really made the #CSforALL movement gain national attention and respect. Personally, I was captivated with the renewed excitement; people who had seemed to doubt that their state would ever make any progress forward, were again actively engaging in visionary discourse. We all know that the $4 billion was never approved in a federal budget, nor did many who were connected to D.C. discussions ever think it would be. Notwithstanding, the announcement generated headlines, got other federal agencies thinking about CS (thank you National Science Foundation), and bolstered the movement amongst states that had been thinking about, but not yet wholeheartedly committed to, jumping into the CS Education arena, which Arkansas has led since 2015 (yes, I had to throw that in there). With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to keep the excitement we all felt on January 30, 2016 as a catalyst for change?

Fast forward to September 25, 2017, President Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump announce that POTUS is requesting that the Federal Department of Education (DOE) devote at least $200 million of its grant funds to STEM fields with an emphasis on CS education. This announcement, which spurred the #CSforKids movement, was met with mixed reactions, and unfortunately, individual reactions could almost be predicted based on party affiliation. Personally, I was again excited, not at the mixed reactions, but that President Trump had found a way to continue the discussions about CS education from the platform of our nation’s highest executive office. We all knew that it would not look like President Obama’s plan, but I will admit that, prior to this announcement, I was anxious about it potentially disappearing from the federal focus completely. Before I get emails, I will acknowledge that we are still waiting on the DOE to open the competitive grant program, which I believe to be delayed for various reasons including but not limited to aggregating and considering the feedback and the lack of a long-term federal budget. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to maintain the initiative’s momentum in a positive and cohesive manner?

Now that the history portion is out of the way, I address directly the question my title asks, “What are we doing?” After September 25, 2017, I was appalled at the way our community started fighting through various social media channels. I was troubled by the personal attacks that started flying between people who agree with each other more often than not on other political issues. I was disheartened to witness that the unofficial national leaders in the CS community, people who I admire and highly respect, were reduced to engaging in the political bickering and attempts to silence opposing viewpoints that has stalemated our country’s progress in so many other areas over the past two decades. This attitude shift in the community and its unofficial leadership created a toxic environment, which replaced excitement and enthusiasm with discouragement and pessimism. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to make sure that CS does not become a topic that we are afraid to discuss publicly?

Fret not, all is not lost! We continue to see great bipartisan efforts taking place to continue the positive focus on CS education. The Governors for CS group, which is co-chaired by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) and Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), is a great example of a group of individuals with various political ideologies, state needs, and regional differences coming together and focusing on advancing CS education, not only within their respective states but also across the nation. In addition to state executives, our community has a wonderful support structure through various groups, that for the most part play well together. The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), #CSforALL Consortium, ECEP, Code.org, and many other large scale efforts provide our community with mostly positive and non-political mechanisms that support our community’s continued growth. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to follow and support the leaders and visionaries of our state and national efforts?

What are we doing? We are moving forward together! Sure, there will be some nay-sayers and negativity out there, but that is okay. Critical thinking and challenging the status quo is what makes a community stronger. To be clear, I am not asking for the CS community to become an “echo chamber,” as I firmly believe that open and honest discourse is necessary. Considering different situations and points of view is how successful and long-lasting programs are built. I am asking that we as a community step back occasionally and ask “what are we doing?” Are we engaging in conversations that are bolstering or hurting the initiative? Are we focusing on minutia, that while important, is prohibiting progress? Are we demonstrating to the larger educational community that CS should be taken seriously and is of vital importance to our students, or are we creating a circus side show? Are we building up the other members of the community, or are we putting them down to make ourselves look better? In short, I guess what I am asking everyone reading this to do is what I need to do a better job of myself. Stop asking “what are we doing” but instead ask, “what am I doing, and should I continue doing it?”


Anthony Owen, State Department Representative

How Far We’ve Come – and How Far We Have To Go

Roughly ten years ago, the US computing community first started to really address policy about teaching K-12 computer science. The ACM Education Policy Committee was formed with K-12 education as its focus, and a few people – including Cameron Wilson (then ACM policy director, now COO and President of the Advocacy Coalition of code.org), Chris Stephenson (then executive director of CSTA, now with Google), and I (as chair of the committee) spent quite a bit of time talking to education policy makers in DC about computing education. This included both staff members in Congress and people in science policy organizations in DC. It was shocking – almost to a person they had no idea of the importance of the computer science, e.g. that even then most STEM jobs openings were and were projected to be in computing. It was almost as if Silicon Valley and DC lived in different universes!
On the one hand, things have changed drastically in ten years – awareness of the importance of computing and computing education is universal, in DC, by state governors and legislatures, and to a good extent by the public. When STEM-oriented policy is created these days, computer science almost always is included, something that wasn’t true a short number of years ago. And there has been significant growth in the amount of K-12 computer science education, as exemplified by the over 5-fold increase in the number of students taking AP Computer Science exams over the past ten years.
On the other hand, US K-12 CS education is just getting started. If the entire K-12 curriculum were invented from scratch today, it is not implausible to think that computer science would be as fundamental as math or language arts, with as many specialized teachers or general teachers who are well-versed in computer science, and as many hours devoted to computer science as any other primary subject. We are very far from there – in our curricula, in the number of teachers, in the orientation of schools of education where most teachers are prepared. This is where CSTA and its partner organizations come in – in continuing to advocate for the importance of K-12 computer science education, in helping with curricular standards, and most importantly, in providing community for computer science teachers, particularly when often there are only one or two per school. Ten years from now, things will again look very different than now, and CSTA will have played a major role in the evolution.


Bobby Schnabel, Partner Representative

Why You Should Care About CS Policy

If you’re reading this, it means that you are a dedicated teacher who cares about CS education.  You might not think about policy very much, but it can have a big impact in broadening participation in CS in your state.  Here are a few reasons why policy matters.

Establishing CS as a Core K-12 Subject Area.  

NH and many other states have MS and HS technology program requirements.  These programs are a mixed bag – many are primarily digital literacy, but a lot of schools are incorporating coding, makerspaces, robotics, and other experiences that are very much a part of CS education.

At the HS level, there are Career / Technical Education (CTE) programs in the Engineering and Information Technology clusters that are related to CS.  These are good programs, but they are for 11th and 12th grade students who already plan to go into IT or Engineering.  We know that this is too late for equity.  

Establishing K-12 Computer Science standards that are distinct from CTE program standards signals that CS is a core subject for ALL students, and helps tie the CS-related experiences mentioned above into a cohesive whole.   Core K-12 CS provides a pathway into the CTE programs above and others, for example: Business / Financial Operations; Healthcare Technology; and more.  

Getting Reliable Data and Using it to Make Improvements

In NH, certification, standards, and funding are all linked.  Each certification area has a linked set of academic standards.  This is how courses are identified in our state information systems.  Since our K-12 standards and certification are brand new, we have a big push to recertify current CS teachers and reclassify courses.  This will give us a new lens into CS education across the state.  

When we have opportunities to utilize state and federal funds to advance our objectives, we rely on this data to target our programs and achieve the greatest impact.  We need to define CS and identify CS so that we can be smart about expanding and broadening participation.

Growing the Pool of CS Teachers

Our certification rules are linked with the program approval standards for teacher preparation programs.  This means that with our new K-12 CS certification we now have the opportunity to establish programs that lead to certification as a CS teacher.

The rules are also a guideline for teachers who teach some CS, to take the plunge and become a “full-fledged” CS teacher.  Our certification program is competency-based, so educators can acquire the necessary skills and knowledge through a number of means.

You Can Help

Is there a line of communication between your CSTA chapter and your State Education Agency?  Find out what they’re up to and what you can do to help.  We all need to work together to make CS for All a reality.

Check out the CSTA Advocacy Menu for some ideas for CS Education Week, Dec. 4-10, 2017:

For more information on state-level K-12 CS policy, please check out these documents:

 

David Benedetto
At-Large Representative

CS for All Means All Y’All

Right about now you should be thinking how great it is to be a K-12 CS educator.  If not, let me give you a few reasons.  How terrific it was to hear that President Donald Trump had re-purposed $200 million dollars at the US Department of Education to support STEM Education, including K-12 computer science education programs.  Women, minorities, and students in rural communities will particularly benefit from this presidential memorandum.  That’s exactly what we are talking about when we champion “CSforAll.”  And to sweeten the pot, a coalition of tech businesses including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and many others agreed to give $300 million spread over the next five years to boost K-12 computer science programs.  So, it really is a great time to be a CS educator!

If you need more proof that it is a great time to be a CS educator, on October 16 and 17, over 170 organizations made new commitments to support CSforAll students.  These pledges were celebrated by a stakeholder community of educators and other supporters at the 2017 CSforAll Summit in St. Louis, Missouri.   You can view those commitments in this pdf Fact Sheet to see how many of our long-time friends and supporters are in the list and how many, many more you might not have known about.  CSTA made a commitment to continue to promote the new CSTA K-12 CS Standards broadly so that all states and school systems have rigorous models for their own standards and to work with 3-5 CSTA chapters to help them establish their CS program while developing state standards and supporting CS teachers.  Did you make a new commitment to support CSforAll students?  If not, why not do one now?  After all, it’s a great time to be a K-12 CS educator!

And, speaking of commitments, have you made a pledge for 2017 CS Education WeekCS Ed Week is December 4 – 10, 2017.  What a great time to champion CS education, celebrate Grace Hopper’s birthday (December 9), and introduce students to computer science.  It’s a great week for elementary/middle school educators to partner with high school students and educators to show the younger students how great CS is and to allow the older students to share their enthusiasm.  This year, CSTA is partnering with Family Code Night to encourage parents to join their children in coding at their local school—another great way to interest younger students in CS education.  Plan to participate in Family Code Night (or even better to help organize Family Code Night events in your community).  After all, it’s a great time to be a K-12 CS educator.  And, as we say in the south, All means All Y’all!

We know you are all doing spectacular work in your own schools, school systems, and CSTA chapters.  We look forward to reading about what you are doing to promote and bring CS education to all students.

Deborah Seehorn , CSTA Interim Executive Director

2016: The Year of CS Education

A Prediction Comes True…

When asked for a New Year’s prediction a few weeks ago, I responded that 2016 would be the Year of Computer Science Education.  I did not anticipate just how accurate that prediction would turn out to be just 30 days later.  And it appears that we are just getting started, thanks to the incredible support and commitment of the White House and this Administration on behalf of CS education and CS teachers.

CS education is about students.  On January 12, as he began to speak to national priorities, President Barack Obama led with CS Education.  He said that, “In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by … offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”  As Executive Director for one of the first CS teacher member organizations, it was an exciting moment to hear the President lead off with a statement so aligned to our members’ profession.

CS education is about access.  On January 20, the White House announced the Champions of Change for Computer Science Education. I was thrilled to see recipients like Jane Margolis whose book, Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race and Computing, motivated me to pursue this position several months ago.  The recipients of the honor included a diverse and deserving collection of individuals working to improve access to computer science education.

CS education is about collaboration.  Then today, January 30, I was again both excited and awed, as the White House announced the Computer Science for All initiative (#CSForAll)—the President’s plan to give all students across the country the chance to learn computer science in school.  It is a plan with aggressive goals, bipartisan support, and multifaceted commitments from an amazing array of participants spanning federal and state agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations and academic institutions, school districts, and teachers.

CS education is about teachers.  It is clear that many more exciting announcements are to come.  On behalf of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) and the teachers it represents, I thank the Administration for its “above and beyond support” for CS education and recognizing that providing access to quality CS education to all students requires developing and supporting CS teachers.  I am also appreciative to the Administration for creating mechanisms to enable CSTA to actively participate and engage in the events leading up to today’s announcement.   CSTA is excited to be involved and contributing to this collaborative effort.

…And CS Education is Just Getting Started.

CSTA recently developed a new 10-year vision, supported by the first of three strategic plans.  The themes of students, access, collaboration, and teachers underpin that framework.  For the next three years our primary efforts will focus on teacher professional development, programs related to our big IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access), and maturing our association practices.  These three priorities are supported by a set of five strategic levers and a range of specific measures and activities.

As part of CSTA’s commitment to #CSForALL, we will pursue and implement a new professional development (PD) model for CS Teachers that includes:

  • A developmental assessment with personalized roadmap to help teachers focus PD on skill development needs and programs that could address those needs.
  • Hybrid (online + in person) PD experiences to increase access to PD for teachers.
  • A digital portfolio or digital badging model to enable competency-based micro-credentialing.  This provides a means for teachers to demonstrate CS skills and track their progress toward a master-CS teacher status.

We are on track to pilot some of the above elements as early as this spring.

This year CSTA will establish a Diversity Educational Leadership Program (DELP).  DELP will provide PD to cohorts of teacher-leaders coming from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds in CS.  The goals of DELP are to improve access to leadership and development opportunities for underrepresented teacher segments, support a growing network of effective teacher-leaders and CS advocates in their classrooms and communities, and increase the visible pool of diverse candidates for leadership positions in CSTA and other K-12 CS organizations.

CSTA is also stepping up its own capabilities, such as going live with the “alpha” version of our new member management system this past week.  In addition to a new website that is mobile-friendly, and easier to navigate and update, we will have tools to enable more members to engage and volunteer in activities of the association.  There will be new tools to support chapters.  New tools to support advocacy or outreach among segments of members. There will be new ways for members to communicate with each other and new resources to help make #CSForAll a reality.

Later this spring CSTA will unveil new branding, as we evolve into CSTeachers.org – the member organization for K-12 computer science teachers. With 22,000 members across 130 countries, with 62 local member chapters, and as founding partners of other CS educational organizations, like Code.org, NCWIT, and TeachCS, we will continue to seek out and engage in opportunities to collaborate that include CS teachers and further enable access to quality computer science education for all students.

Getting Engaged in the Future of K-12 CS Education

These and many of our other planned initiatives, such as a series of PSAs and content to promote awareness and understanding of what CS is, link back to the themes and priorities identified by the White House as part of #CSForAll:  Students, Access, Collaboration, and Teachers. Getting there will require innovation, entrepreneurship, collaboration and support from a great variety of organizations and individuals.  CSTA greatly appreciates the work of this Administration which has elevated CS education and the needs of CS teachers to a national priority.  We look forward to the great works that will come out of the current #CSForAll commitments, and for those that will follow.

2016 is going to be a great year for K-12 CS Education.  Please keep following #CSForAll and #CSTA on Twitter for more developments or reach out to CSTA if you are a CS teacher or organization who would like to be involved in our evolution.

About CSTA:  The Computer Science Teacher’s Association (CSTA) is a member-based organization founded in 2004 by ACM, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society.  CSTA’s mission is to empower, engage, and advocate for K-12 CS teachers worldwide.

Advocating for CS Education – Strategies from Connecticut

By: Chinma Uche

The November Voice is full of great advocacy ideas that you can use in your chapter. Be sure to check it out! (csta.acm.org/Communications/sub/CSTAVoice_Files/csta_voice_11_2015.pdf)

Connecticut CSTA (CTCSTA) members work hard year-round to shine a bright light on CS across the state and to provide opportunities for students. Real progress and change requires many strategies and persistence. We hope that this list of our focus areas will inspire you to create a plan to advocate for CS education in your school, district, and state.

  • CSEdWeek Activities: CTCSTA starts planning CSEdweek activities during the first meeting of the school year. Ideas are shared and every CTCSTA member commits to plan and execute at least one activity. At the very least, all members participate in the Hour of Code.
  • Member resources: We have used the opportunities provided to two of our members as K5 Code.org Affliates to introduce CS into elementary schools.
  • Government:
    • We apply to the Governor’s Office in late October for an official statement in support of CSEdWeek. Last year, our members met with members of the Connecticut General Assembly (CGA) and were fortunate to get a bill written to support CS in Connecticut. Our members made presentations to the Education Committee of the CGA and the bill passed and was signed into law on June 23, 2015. Because of the passage of Public Act 15-94 (cga.ct.gov/2015/act/pa/pdf/2015PA-00094-R00SB-00962-PA.pdf), Connecticut schools are required to introduce CS by the next school year.
    • We also garnered support from the Connecticut State Department of Education, where five of our members serve in the newly created Computer Science Advisory Committee. This committee is exploring ways to bring CS to all Connecticut schools (sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2618&Q=335512).
  • Curriculum: The Mobile CSP project, funded by NSF and led by Professor Ralph Morelli of Trinity College, has expanded access to CS in many high schools. The curriculum has been very widely received in Connecticut and Mobile CSP teachers are strong advocates for CS in other schools and districts.
  • Partnerships: CTCSTA has a strong relationship with the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) since many of our members belong to the CEA. CEA supports bringing CS to all Connecticut schools and blogged about Mobile CSP training (org/2014/08/25/students-teachers-and-school-districts-benefit-from-computer-science-professional-development/) to their 43,000 members. In the past, many CTCSTA members have planned activities with community organizations such as the Girl Scouts. During CSEdWeek 2014, we jointly hosted a “Women in STEM-C” event that brought together about 100 young girls to enjoy STEM activities and create apps. The Lieutenant Governor attended the event in support of increased access and diversity in computer science (https://sites.google.com/site/womeninstemc/). We continue to reach out to schools of education such as the NEAG School of Education at the University of Connecticut and hope to form a relationship that will help them include CS in their teacher education program. Other partnerships include:
  • CTCSTA supported the Connecticut Science Center in organizing #BeautyByMe Girls-Only Hackathon (ctsciencecenter.org/visit/events/).
  • CTCSTA supported the YouMedia Group at Hartford Library in the development of their CS program (hplct.org/library-services/teens/youmedia).
  • CTCSTA worked with AAUW (aauw-ct.aauw.net/) to host a CS program for girls.
  • CTCSTA is working to bring the Technovation Challenge to more Connecticut girls. (google.com/site/technovationchallengect/hartford_2015).
  • The number of girls receiving the NCWIT Aspirations Award continues to increase in Connecticut because of the work of CTCSTA members.
  • CTCSTA members support the work of Random Hacks of Kindness Jr. (rhokjr.org/).

Our experience shows that CS advocacy benefits teachers as well as students. CTCSTA members who engage in advocacy in their districts are recognized as leaders. Jackie Corricelli (Conard High School), who led her entire school (1500 students) in the Hour of Code, received $10,000 from Code.org for her class. She also received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Melissa Fearrington (Simsbury High School) trained elementary school teachers in her district to introduce the Code.org curriculum (Courses 1-3) to their students and was recognized as the Teacher of the Year.

 

Spotlight on the 2015 Faces of Computing Video Contest: How Does Computing Better our World?

Once again I find myself writing a blog post in a hospital setting and I can’t help but marvel at the wonders of computing technology; over the past week my dad has undergone exhaustive pre-op screening to determine whether he will withstand the vascular surgery he needs. Many of these tests were performed using computer aided technologies such as CT scanning and ultrasonography, and so far the results are encouraging.   

The timing is also perfect to write about our exciting new video competition: last year our Faces of Computing theme brought in a wide range of multimedia productions from schools all over the world, and it was quite a task to decide on the winning entries. This year we’ve decided to narrow the theme to “Computing for the Common Good,” in an effort to illuminate aspects of computing that are often overlooked by the younger generation. Sure, gaming and social media are a big part of our lives, and they involve a great deal of coding to create and maintain; it’s time however we gave some thought to all of the benefits society and mankind are gaining from the age of computing.

Teachers, help prepare the future generation of socially aware citizens by discussing the challenges of 21st century society and inspiring your students to seek solutions. Be it the advent of computer-aided medicine and biotechnology, volunteers crowdsourcing knowledge on the Wikimedia projects or crowdfunding donations for noble causes, robotics to the aid of disabled persons… there’s a multitude of applications that illustrate how computing is used as a tool to better our world. The entries we are looking for could resonate these tools. There may be youngsters who are involved in school communities who discuss social, gender and/or racial inclusion, or who are active in helping the recent international flow of refugees from war-ridden regions. Perhaps they could brainstorm a solution in their computer science class, and even develop it into an app (like the Neverlost group project: the page is now available in English). We’d love to see your ideas!

Entries should be submitted in the form of a video with a maximum duration of three minutes: see the competition guidelines for more information. Remember that the deadline for submitting your entry is November 7, 2015. So, get your creative juices flowing and show us how computing can play an important role in making the world a better place!

Mina Theofilatou

CSTA International Representative

Athens, Greece

This post is dedicated to the memory of my mother, who was always compassionate to those in need and an ardent supporter of positive change. Special thanks again to Dr. S. Matthaiou of Hippocrateio Hospital for helping me make the right decisions on my dad’s problem, and to Dr. N. Besias of the Hellenic Red Cross Hospital for taking good care of him and expediting the procedures.

Bottom-Up Advocacy

If you look back through American history for examples of successful grassroots movements that led to policy changes you may notice a few common threads. Trade unions emerged due to the industrial revolution, urbanization, and the reduction of family farms. The civil rights movement followed occupational and geographic changes for black families. The anti-war movement rose due to the draft that affected every 18 year old male in the United States to fight in an unpopular war. In each case there was a period of growing expectations that was followed by widespread disappointment.

If there is a grassroots movement for widespread adoption of computer science education, are we in the growing expectations phase or the widespread disappointment phase?  Can we get to substantial policy changes without the disappointment phase?

What has to happen in order for the average parent to demand rigorous computer science education in the K-12 public school system? If parents were to persist in demanding it, it would happen within a short span of years in most school systems. Looking back through history for how the average citizen was moved to act, we see that a few impassioned people at the local level have had an amazing impact, most notably in developing and inspiring local leaders. Trade unions, civil rights, the anti-war movement, all started with local leaders who inspired others to demand change.

Make it a point to attend your local CSTA chapter meetings this year, or if there is no chapter near you, start one.

Study Confirms Critical Need for Computer Science Evaluation Tools

A recent study released by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) highlights the need for valid and reliable source assessment of student learning and calls upon the computer science education community to assist in the development of more and better assessment tools and strategies.

Sowing the Seeds of Assessment Literacy in Secondary Computer Science Education details the results of a landscape study aimed at determining the challenges US high school teachers face when examining student understanding of computing concepts and to identify current models for computer science (CS) assessment. The study, supported by Google, was conducted by the CSTA Assessment Task Force chaired by Aman Yadav, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at Michigan State University. The study took place over a year and involved in-depth interviews with computer science practitioners with a wide range of teaching experience.

The study concluded that while computer science teachers use a variety of formative and summative assessment techniques and rely on an assortment of sources (test banks, colleagues, even their own undergraduate CS courses), they face a number of challenges finding valid and reliable assessments to use in their classrooms.  Many participants also noted that the potential for variability in how students approach and develop algorithms makes assessment especially challenging and time-consuming.

Among the report’s recommendations, the CSTA Assessment Task Force suggests the following next steps for the CS Ed community:

  • Develop valid and reliable assessments aligned to the CSTA K–12 Computer Science Standards.
  • Develop valid and reliable formative and summative assessments for programming languages beyond Java, such as Python, C#, etc.
  • Develop an online repository of assessment items for K–12 computer science teachers.
  • Develop a community of practice surrounding the use of assessment in computer science classrooms.
  • Design and deliver professional development to increase K–12 computer science teachers’ assessment literacy.

The chair of the CSTA Assessment Task Force, Aman Yadav, highlighted the importance of the study, stating: “During our in-depth interviews with the teachers, we found that teachers are very resourceful in using a hodgepodge of resources (test-banks, rubrics, etc.) and lean on their peers to come up with assessments that examine student understanding in their classrooms. But, there is a dearth of formative and summative assessments, especially for non-AP courses, that are easy accessible and categorized by grade level, concept, difficulty, programming language, etc. The Task Force is now working with the CSTA Board to launch a new project to create a repository of assessment resources that teachers can access to meet their needs.”

CSTA hopes that this study will focus the computer science education community’s attention on the importance of valid assessment of student learning and the pressing need for better and more computer science assessment tools and strategies.

Download the official press release here. 

Download the PDF of the study here.