CSTA High School Survey Results Are In

The Research Committee has been analyzing the High School survey results from May and below are some of the highlights. A detailed Summary of Results is available on our website.

  • 51% of the survey respondents have computer science teaching experience of 15 years or more
  • 45% of the teachers reported that computer science courses make up 50-75% of their teaching load.
  • 66% of the teachers reported that they are offering a CS principals course
  • 79% of the teachers reported that they offer the APCS A course.
  • 68% of those who offer APCS A course reported that half of their course enrollment are female, and between 20-40% are underrepresented minorities.
  • Majority of the teachers (68%) also reported that CS enrollment has increased in the past 3 years

These statistics are encouraging for the outlook of CS education and what is going on in the High Schools at this time. However, this data is self-reported and we need to examine ways to triangulate the numbers, especially the APCS-A enrollment numbers. We encourage you to view the full summary.

The Research Committee,

Stephanie Hoeppner & Aman Yadav

Less than a week to go before I can start looking at the submissions for CSTA 2016

Less than a week to go before I can start looking at the submissions for CSTA 2016.  The submission deadline is October 1!

If you are reading this you probably teach computing. You probably also have (at least) one special practice or bit of curriculum, or general teaching approach that you think works really well for you. That it works well for you means it is worth sharing with other computing teachers at CSTA 2016. We’ll be meeting next July 10-12 in sunny San Diego!

Submitting a proposal is easy. Just go to the conference portal (https://www.softconf.com/h/csta2016/), click the “HERE” link in the “For authors:” section, read the legal stuff about expectations, and start entering your proposal. You can check the system out without having to sign up or anything. (I always look at the information they want and write it up in a text editor, then copy and paste it into the web page.) I can’t guarantee your proposal will be accepted but it certainly will get serious consideration.

You might also consider volunteering to review submissions. That goes double for folks who have attended CSTA some time in the past. To volunteer to become a reviewer, please complete the following form: http://goo.gl/forms/xc5UAbFMd7 by September 27. If you have questions, please contact: submissions@csta-hq.org.

I’ve had the privilege of being involved in the planning of all the CSTA conferences. Back in the old days a bunch of knowledgeable people and I would get together and identify topics and speakers, which is impossible with the size of the conference today. It would also make for a less diverse, energetic, and useful to participants conference than we get with proposal submissions and peer review.

So, please consider submitting a proposal or volunteering to review. You can propose a 20-minute session, a 60-minute session, a 3-hour workshop, or a birds-of-a-feather.

I look forward to seeing your proposal!

Thank you,
Philip East
CSTA 2016 Program Chair

CSTA K-12 CS Standards: We want your input!

On December 1, 2011, the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards were released. These standards have been instrumental in assisting many schools, school systems, and states in implementing and promoting computer science education in the K-12 classroom. Nearly four years have passed since the 2011 CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards were released. CSTA is ready to take a thorough look at the standards to see how they can be updated and/or improved.

We realize that many CS educators are quite eager to work on revising the CSTA K-12 CS Standards. Unfortunately, the CSTA K-12 Standards Revision Task Force must be limited to a small representative working group of CS educators. However, we are seeking input from all educators who have used the standards and/or who have worked with them. This will provide us with informed input to guide our revision process. The more useful the input we receive, the higher quality standards will emerge from the 2015-2016 revision process. Effective K-12 CS standards will greatly benefit the expansion of K-12 computer science education.

Please take a moment to provide the CSTA Standards Revision Task Force with descriptive input that will assist us in making educated decisions about the standards. You will have the opportunity to comment about the five strands (Computational Thinking; Collaboration; Computing Practice and Programming; Computers and Communications Devices; and Community, Global, and Ethical Impacts). Are these the five essential strands or have we neglected to include a strand? You will also have the opportunity to give us detailed input on individual standards in each of the grade levels (Level 1, Grades K-6; Level 2, Grades 6-9, and Level 3, Grades 9-12).

The CSTA K-12 Standards Revision Task Force will include CS educator representatives from each of the grade levels, community college CS faculty, university CS faculty, and state representatives who have worked with K-12 CS education. The task force will analyze the input that received from the computer science practitioners prior to beginning the revision of the standards.  Our goal is to release the revised standards at the 2016 CSTA Annual Conference.

We want your input. We need your assistance.  Please complete the CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision input form at http://bit.ly/1ND9xaM.  The input on the standards will be accepted until October 15, 2015.

Thank you for your time, expertise, and enthusiasm in supporting K-12 CS education!

Deborah Seehorn
CSTA Board of Directors Past Chair
CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force Co-Chair

Tammy Pirmann
CSTA Board of Directors District Representative
CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force Co-Chair

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.

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. 

A quick clarification on the proposed bylaws change

2015 CSTA Board of Directors Election and Vote on Proposed By Laws Change

Clarifying a confusing proposed change in an essential area

Today is April 2, the start of the CSTA Board of Directors Election. I hope you have received your information about participating in the election. There are three vacant board positions, K–8 Representative, 9–12 Representative, and At-Large Representative. You may find further information about the candidates here. You may also read blog posts by the candidates in the CSTA Advocate Blog.

We have had some questions and comments about the proposed By Laws change to Article V, Section 4. There is some concern that CSTA is no longer going to work with standards, and that is absolutely not true. Below is the proposed change to the by Law and the existing language in the by law.


Article V: Election of Officers

Section 4: Committees

Proposed language (with proposed changes highlighted in italicized bold text):

There are several committees that are essential to the operations of the organization. These committees address the following categories—Teacher Certification, Curriculum, Executive, Equity, Funding Development, Governance, International, Membership, Nominations and Elections, Professional Development and Research—and are permanent standing committees of CSTA.

Existing language:

There are several committees that are essential to the operations of the organization. These committees—Certification & Standards, Curriculum, Executive, Equity, Funding Development, Governance, International, Membership, Nominations and Elections, Professional Development and Research—are permanent standing committees of CSTA.

One can easily see that the proposed name for the committee that is currently named “Certification & Standards” is “Teacher Certification.” The justification for making this change is given below.

Language is fluid, and specialized language in a particular field even more so. Ten years ago it made sense to call a committee concerned with the academic preparation of computer science teachers “Teacher Certification & Standards ,” in the intervening decade CSTA has worked on and published standards for K-12 students, thereby making the name of two committees confusing. By changing the wording of this section to indicate that there will be standing committees addressing each category, without dictating the name of the actual committee, we are granting flexibility to future boards with regards to communication.

CSTA will most assuredly continue to address both standards for teacher certification and educational standards for student learning. The CSTA Teacher Certification Committee will address the teaching standards for teacher certification. The CSTA Curriculum Committee will address the educational learning standards for students. Standards for teacher certification and educational standards for students are both critical to the growth and vitality of the computer science education community. CSTA will continue to address both.

Happy voting!

Deborah Seehorn
Chair, CSTA Board of Directors
On behalf of the Elections and Nominations Committee

Hello from the CSTA Communications Committee!

The primary goal of the CSTA Communications Committee is to ensure that members learn about the many, many opportunities, resources, news, and initiatives from CSTA.

We’ve been up to quite a bit lately:

  • Listserv moderators have been selected and are busy making sure you get the news promptly. If you are not familiar with the listserv, it is a place to ask questions about teaching CS, make connections, and support each other in our community. On the flip side, it is not for selling or pushing products or something that monetarily benefits you. Recommendations are fine if someone is asking “what book do you use,” “do you get this error using this….,” etc.  The listserv is about building a professional group of educators that can be resources for each other.  Each message to the listserv is checked and approved by a moderator before being distributed. So please join us and lend your expertise or ask your questions!  Sign up for the Listserv.
  • Various CSTA committees will be reporting on the Advocate blog to keep you in touch with plans and projects. Periodically, each committee will submit a blog article about committee activities, how the committee works for CSTA’s goals, and hopefully, answer any questions you may have. Check out all of the blog articles for great CS educator content.  So, is it recursion if we link to the blog here while you are already reading the Advocate blog?….hmmm…. :)
  • The CSTA Voice newsletter is another communication tool for keeping up with CSTA and CS education content selected especially for our members. We’re always on the look-out to identify interesting content and authors for the Voice. Let us know what you would like to learn about. Or better yet, offer to share your knowledge and skills by writing an article for the Voice. We’d love to hear about what you’re doing in your classroom, the news from your CSTA Chapter, or other content of interest to CS educators. Download past CSTA Voice newsletters
  • Our efforts to keep you in the know about CSTA are continuous. You are an important part of this process. To recommend an article for The Voice, contribute an Advocate blog post, or to provide general feedback, please contact us!

If you are reading this blog but still haven’t joined CSTA, what are you waiting for? Sign up today for an Individual membership or Institutional membership.

All of the links provided above can be found on the main page of CSTA.  Please visit http://csta.acm.org/ to view all the other resources and information available to you.

The Communications Committee

Stephanie Hoeppner, Pat Phillips, Myra Deister, Sheena Vaidyanathan

Q&A: Running for the CSTA Board

The deadline for applying to run for the CSTA Board of Directors is rapidly approaching (Feb. 1).  In case you were on the fence about applying for the board, here are answers to five of the most common questions that potential candidates ask:

Q: How much work is involved in being a Board member? 
A: You have probably seen the phrase “the CSTA Board is a working board” in several places.  What this means is that members of the Board are expected to help carry out the business of the organization – not just advise or supervise.  This includes two face-to-face board meetings, one held in conjunction with the CSTA Annual Conference and another held in the late fall.  While these meetings are packed and productive, most of the Board’s business is conducted throughout the year by committees, with individuals working from home and coordinating via phone conferences. The time commitment can vary by task, e.g., the work conducted by the Elections & Nominations Committee is concentrated around setting up and running the annual elections, and is light during other times of the year. On average, I would guess that the workload averages out to 2-4 hours per week.

Q: Are Board members expected to cover their own travel expenses to meetings?
A: No, expenses for travel are reimbursed (within reason) following CSTA’s travel policy guidelines.  This includes travel, hotel, and meals at Board meetings.  It also includes expenses related to attending the CSTA Annual Conference, since Board members are expected to attend this event and help out by proctoring sessions and assisting with registration.  A copy of the travel policy is provided to all newly elected Board members.

Q: Why are there different positions on the Board, such as 9-12 Representative and At-Large Representative? 
A: The mission of CSTA is a broad one, promoting K-12 CS education and supporting the interests and professional development of our 18,000+ members.  It is essential that the Board have a diversity of perspectives and experiences to address the issues and challenges that arise in the organization’s business.  Each position has requirements to ensure that key perspectives are represented on the Board.  For example, the 9-12 Representative is required to be a “9–12 classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the high school level.”  Once on the Board, all members are equal in status and welcome to contribute to all initiatives.

Q: If I apply for a position, does that automatically mean I will be on the ballot?
A: Unfortunately, no.  According to the CSTA bylaws, the election ballot will list at most two candidates for each open Board position.  If more than two qualified candidates submit applications, the Elections & Nominations Committee is charged with selecting the two most outstanding candidates to be placed on the ballot.  Committee members independently rank the candidates using a rubric that considers factors such as leadership skills and experience, understanding of core issues in CS education, and alignment of goals to CSTA’s mission.  While this model does sometimes mean that highly qualified candidates do not make the ballot, it does allow for us to keep the ballot size manageable while still providing detailed statements from each candidate.

Q: Why should I consider running for the CSTA Board?
A: Serving on the CSTA Board of Directors is an extremely rewarding opportunity to give back to the teaching community.  Board members help to set the vision for the organization and work to promote CS education on a global scale.  Their work supports and provides professional development for CSTA’s more than 18,000 members.  In addition, working closely with other amazing educators is rewarding in itself.

Download the 2015 CSTA Nominations Form at http://csta.acm.org/About/sub/AboutFiles/2015Election.html.

Dave Reed
Chair-elect, CSTA Board of Directors

Inspired Students

Don’t you just love it when passionate people find a project and just make it happen? Isn’t it even better when the people are students passionate about CS?

I recently learned about a CS competition being organized by a group of students from around the U.S. and spearheaded by Arun Dunna, a HS junior from Atlanta, Georgia. The competition, sCTF, will be an online, week-long “capture the flag competition” for middle and high school students. The project is inspired by competitions such as PicoCTF, HSCTF, and EasyCTF.

Problems will involve a variety of programming skills and concepts including cryptography, reverse engineering, and general algorithmic problems. The team competition will take place quarterly beginning March 1, 2015.

There isn’t a lot on the website just yet, but more is promised—including prizes for the winners.

I wish them the best of luck in their venture…perhaps some of your students will participate and report back about the experience. Or better yet, maybe some of your students will see this as an inspiration to follow their passions.

Winners of Faces of Computing Contest

The Faces of Computing Video Contest was a big success.  We had over 100 entries from 20 states and 6 countries.  The idea behind the Faces of Computing Contest, both the previous poster contest and the video contest, is to represent a greaer variety of people doing computing and to dispel myths about what computing is and who can do it.  Too often in industry and in people’s minds, the “faces of computing” are white and male. The posters and videos submitted by these students show that all kinds of people enjoy computing.

The videos showcase students not only with different ethnic backgrounds represented, but also students with a wide variety of other interests in addition to Computer Science, It’s clear that CS appeals to many kinds of kids.  In the videos, there are artists and athletes, writers and math geeks, and budding computer scientists.  The students show that Computer Science really is for everyone and can be useful in a variety of fields.

The winners were hard to choose, as there were so many great entries!  I loved getting to see what other schools do in Computer Science class and hearing students talk about their CS work and their other interests.  Below are the winners’ videos.  They are really great promotions for CS.  I highly recommend showing them to your classes, to your administrators, whomever you think needs a little nudge to see CS in a different light.

Winner, High School Division

Massachusetts Academy of Math & Science
Teacher: Angela Taricco
Students: Josephine Bowen, Sarah Duquette, Jackie Forson, Ana Khovanskaya, Eva Moynihan, Amol Punjabi, Sashrika Saini, Christopher Thorne, Ryan Vereque

Winner, Middle School Division

Teacher: Idrus Tamam
Students: Uluwiyah Jatim

Winner, Elementary School Division

Hale Kula Elementary School
Teacher: Megan Cummings
Students: Kaylee Smith, Markus Langhammer-Kenan, Kaleah Shabazz, Haylee Barlow, Natalie Chastain