The Growing ECEP Alliance

By: Mark Guzdial

The NSF Alliance Expanding Computing Education Pathways has expanded dramatically over the last few months. There are now 11 states in our cohort: Alabama, California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. The participants in the state cohort are leaders in their state to improve CS education and broaden participation. They are teachers, policy-makers from state education departments, higher education faculty, and industry.

The state cohort has monthly calls where we discuss progress in each state, share experiences, and make suggestions in other states. Each call has a guest speaker who addresses an area of concern for the cohort. Jane Kraus from NCWIT talked to us about working with high school counselors to promote computer science degrees and careers. Heather Carey from Constant Contact talked to us about how to engage with industry. We will be having our first annual meeting with our expanded cohort the day after the RESPECT conference (see web page) in Charlotte.

We held a session at the CSTA 2015 Conference in Grapevine on “Changing Computing Education in Your State.” We talked about the kinds of changes happening in Massachusetts (Rick Adrion), Georgia (Mark Guzdial), and California (Debra Richardson) — what’s been most successful for promoting change, and what’s been the most challenging. (Slides are available here.) Then we broke the audience into small groups by region (e.g., Midwest, West, Southeast) to talk about how to make change and find opportunities to collaborate. The session was videotaped and will become available at the conference archive.

Some of the common issues that we heard:

  • Some states are choosing to grow CS at the elementary and middle school levels. Nationally, ExploringCS and CS Principles are growing, but there is less pre-high school CS curriculum available.
  • It’s challenging to develop curriculum/learning standards for CS and teacher education programs and teacher certification. They interact (e.g., you want teachers to get credentials for taking the education programs that prepare them to teach to the standards) and they all take a lot of time to develop. The processes have to be timed right so that they interact and inform each other productively.
  • Each state’s policy works so differently, at all of the elementary, high school, and post-secondary school levels. There aren’t any good guidebooks for “How Education Works In My State.”
  • Higher education faculty should be able to play a role in policy and advocacy, but that’s not how their job is defined and they don’t always know where and how to play a role (see previous point).
  • We heard from some states where there is interest in writing a landscape report (see our page of resources to help in writing a landscape report) and organizing a group, but it’s hard to find a leader, a plan, and to organize the effort.
  • Texas was highlighted as a state with a lot of sticks (e.g., requirements from the state to implement policies to promote computing education) but no carrots (i.e., incentives or funding to build capacity).
  • Several states told us about competition between funding for CTE and for CS programs. For example, there are arguments within states over whether Perkins funding (see here for explanation) can be applied to CS classes, even if they’re not classified as CTE programs. The answer is “Yes,” but not all states agree with that interpretation.

We in ECEP are excited to be working with this larger group of states. We’re learning a lot about different models for change in computing education policy. We are pleased to be working with CSTA members and chapters in our cohort states because of their passion for computing education and their insights into the school systems in their states.