This is the Way

“Don’t tell me what things look like. Tell me what things are.”

Yes, I know I just mixed quotes, but let’s get to the point, and it is not to discuss The Child (AKA Baby Yoda). This blog was supposed to come out around the first of December, but I requested that I be able to delay it until after Computer Science Education Week, because I knew that I would want to highlight our announcements during that week and also speak to the state’s 5-year report on the #ARKidsCanCode / #CSforAR Initiative that was just released in early January.

CS Education Week 2019 (CSedWeek) was again a great success in Arkansas. In the past years, we had made it a point to make one announcement each day of the week. This year we started early, with a Gubernatorial kickoff on Friday, December 6th, and had multiple announcements each day of the following week. While I will not discuss them all in this blog, I invite you to go view the full listing and details at However, I do want to highlight a few of the announcements. 

One of the reasons for Gov. Asa Hutchinson wanting to personally acknowledge CSedWeek by means of a press conference, was that he, by executive order, reestablished our advisory CS taskforce. The newly titled Computer Science and Cybersecurity Task Force, is the natural progression of the Arkansas Computer Science and Public Technology Task Force, that was established in 2015 by legislation and sunset in 2016. The original task force provided our state and my office with the guidance and suggestions that have shaped our computer science (CS) initiative over the past five years. The reestablished CS task force will be chaired by Gov. Hutchinson’s Deputy Chief of Staff Mr. Bill Gossage, who also carried and championed the 2015 computer science legislation that established the mandate that all Arkansas high schools offer CS, is held up as a model by, and put Arkansas on the right pathway to lead this crucial educational initiative. This new task force, which had its first meeting on January 8, 2020, will “provide guidance on improving and establishing updated large-scale goals and strategies; industry pathways and relevant certifications for major areas of computer science and computing; post-secondary alignment strategies and goals; work-based learning opportunities for students; teacher credentialing; correct placement and focus on data sciences and cybersecurity in curricula; potential funding usage and future needs; and outreach and development of educational materials.”

In addition, our office made two large scale announcements with three of our post-secondary institutions and other partners. The first was that we would be partnering with the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative’s Virtual Arkansas division, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and the University of Central Arkansas at Conway to develop a three-year cyber security curriculum and course pathway that will be available to Arkansas public school students at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. The second was that the Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas State University, and the Arkansas Public School Resource Center would partner to provide a statewide online coding curriculum starting with the fall 2020 semester. The first offering of its type to the high school students of Arkansas, the UpSkill program is designed to support the Governor’s initiative on computer science skills.  The course structure leads students through a nine-month curriculum that prepares them to receive a certificate in Swift coding.

Our state and my office again demonstrates our commitment to CSTA. Not only are we continuing to fund CSTA+ membership for Arkansas educators that are CS Certified, but we again increased our commitment to the CSTA Annual Conference. This year we are increasing the number of available sponsorships to 35 and doubling the reimbursement amount to $2000. Arkansas, and I personally, place a high value on the benefits CSTA and its annual conference provides to its members; this announcement renews and puts funding behind our commitment and support.

The last announcement I want to highlight before I get to the recently released report is the creation of the Arkansas Students of Distinction in Computer Science Recognition Program. Through this program, up to 50 public, private, and homeschool, students currently in grades 11 or 12 will be recognized for their efforts in computer science education.

“Cracking the Code: How Arkansas Became a National Leader in Computer Science & Computing” ( is Arkansas’s 5-year report on the history, efforts, successes, and future of our state initiative. When we started internally discussing the need for such a report, I wondered and asked aloud, why wouldn’t we just wait on the new task force report? I am now happy that my leadership pushed back on my question and helped me see that the audience for these two reports is not the same. Once I was onboard, as many of you know about me, I couldn’t just do it in a straightforward fashion… we all have enough “governmental looking” reports to drown in. So, when I started working with Eric Rob & Issac ( of Little Rock to help us create the report, I told Rob in an early meeting, I want something “different,” and let me tell you they produced something that met that request. 

I was sitting in my office one day about a week after that first meeting, and Rob asked if he could stop by and show me something. I knew we were going to talk layout, but what he brought me, I couldn’t have imagined. He first showed me a more straightforward layout proposal, which was wonderful, but looked like any of 100 other governmental reports. Then he said, “I have something else to show you, but I want to know first how crazy you want to go on this.” I responded, “let’s see it.” What he pulled out of his bag looked like a paper computer complete with logo stickers, scuff marks, and other telltale signs that this “computer” belongs to our community. I immediately fell in love with it. As we talked about how the sections could be designed, I got more excited. Toward the end of the meeting, Rob looked at me and said, “So which one are we going with? Or do you need to get back with me?” Rob knows I have leadership that I have to answer to; however, this is one of those times I took a gamble and decided instantly to go with the “out there” option. I am happy to report, I still have a job, and my leadership also loves the design. While our office provided all of the information, Rob’s team did a great job in turning that extremely long text dense document into something that is informative but also fun to digest. 

So, what does all this mean and why am I sharing it? Well first, as I said in one of my previous blogs, I do enjoy bragging on my state and our initiative, but it is more than that. It is meant as an example and challenge to the greater CS education community leaders and decision makers. We can not stop! We can not be content! We must continue to engage our community partners, look to expanding our efforts beyond K-12, and press on with the “new”, the “out there”, the “crazy”, and the “different.” Otherwise, this will just become another fad that fades into the ever increasing list of educational initiatives that like a sparkler in the night, flares up, burns brightly for a time, but then as quickly dies and, to the viewer, leaves the scene darker than it was before. “I have spoken.”

Anthony Owen
Board Representative

On Our Way with CS Education Today

For various reasons I shall not discuss, this Advocate Blog post has been a very long time coming. And, of course, I have changed the topic of the post since my first thoughts of it. It is all good, however.

It would be pretty much impossible for one to miss all the press (mostly good and positive) surrounding computer science, specifically computer science education. Perhaps the interest in that press was sparked during CS Education week, the Hour of Code, the CS Day at the White House, or President Obama urging students, “Don’t just play games on your phone; program it!” Or perhaps it was the relentless diligence and hard work of many of our CSTA members advocating to “Make CS Count” in their own states. In any case, the press is bringing a great deal of attention to CS education and then naturally to CSTA. And this is a good thing.

In my role as CSTA Board Chair, I have been contacted by several reporters recently for a phone interview for an article they are writing about CS education. It is pure delight to talk with the reporters and help enlighten them about CS education. One of my favorite reporter questions was about the one thing that would really help to promote K-12 CS education in the United States. Really? Just ONE thing? Would that it were so simple! With the help of CSTA and our wonderful sponsors, supporters, and partners, we would have the K-12 CS education dilemma all resolved immediately! We need teachers, who need CS licensure/certification, oh and CS pedagogy courses to help them learn how to teach CS. We need standards-based rigorous curriculum for our K-12 students. We need for CS to Count—preferably as a math or science credit towards high school graduation. We need administrators, school boards, legislators, and parents who understand the critical need to teach computer science in the K-12 space. We need time in the school day/schedule for another course offering (that rigorous CS course). We need computer equipment and other technology resources for the classrooms. And I have probably omitted some critical need, but you get the gist of the needs we have for K-12 computer science education.

The very good news is that we are making progress. We are not there yet, but we know where we are going, and we are on our way. We know that the CS community has to work together to solve this seemingly insurmountable task. And we are doing just that. Our good friends and supporters (far too many to mention—but you know who they are) are working to provide standards-based curriculum for teachers. Several states are working with CSTA members and other CS advocates to create a path to licensure/certification if one does not already exist. Some of those same CSTA members and CS advocates are working state by state to make CS count in each state. CSTA members advocate on an almost daily basis to enlighten administrators, school boards, legislators, and parents about the crucial need for computer science education in the K-12 classroom. And administrators are collaborating with teachers to find room in the school day/schedule to offer CS courses or integrate CS into existing courses. We are not there yet, but we are on our way.

I am so heartened to read news stories about how students are using computer science in the K-12 classroom—and what awesome projects they have developed, or what pressing problems they have solved. I am thrilled to read about all the support that business and industry friends are affording our K-12 CS educators. And, I was particularly encouraged by the caliber of applicants we had for the three open CSTA board positions. We had an incredibly talented and highly qualified pool of applicants—so many that selecting the top two candidates was a definite challenge for the CSTA Elections Committee. What a good challenge to have!

We are not there yet, but we are well on our way, and we are keeping up our momentum! It is all good.

Deborah Seehorn, CSTA Board of Directors Chair

PRESS RELEASE: Access to and Understanding of Computer Science Education are Issues in US High Schools

Access to and Understanding of Computer Science Education are Issues in US High Schools

Administrators Say Opportunities for Learning Computer Science Vary Widely

New York, NY – January 6, 2015 – A new survey released today by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), in collaboration with Oracle Academy, finds that while interest in computer science is on the rise, there are still issues with access to and understanding of computer science (CS) education in high schools.

CSTA-Oracle Academy 2014 U.S. High School CS Survey: The State of Computer Science in U.S. High Schools: an Administrator’s Perspective surveyed more than 500 high school principals and vice principals from May-September 2014.* The survey sought to identify CS education opportunities being provided in high schools, determine how broadly CS is being offered in the US, and determine the different ways CS is being defined. Schools in 47 states participated with the most administrators’ responses coming from California, Pennsylvania and New York.The online survey, conducted by the Computer Science Teachers Association and Oracle Academy, asked administrators about computer science opportunities being offered at their schools.

The survey results showed that administrators are not completely aware of the content covered in computer science classes versus other courses. CSTA and Oracle Academy perceive the results as problematic for many reasons, including that CS often gets grouped with unrelated courses and classes. Participants applied the term “computer science” to a vast array of topics and courses. This broad use of “computer science” to encompass curriculum and courses that would not be considered “computer science” at a college/university or professional level indicates a need for educational community consensus on a common definition of computer science in K-12 education.

Additionally, the survey found that the academic departments chiefly responsible for teaching computer science are Career & Technology and Business. As for how the course fits into a student’s transcript, schools count a CS class as a requirement in math, science, or technology.

The survey found that of the 73% of respondents whose school offers computer science, an overwhelming majority count these credits toward those required for graduation. However, only 39% reported that they count a CS class towards a requirement in math, science, or technology. More often, schools are counting CS courses as electives. This becomes problematic because electives are often culturally and academically regarded as filler classes in a student’s schedule. A CS course that “counts” drives demand from students and builds the case for these courses to be required.

The top content areas covered in computer science courses were listed as:

  • Problem solving 65%
  • Ethical 57%
  • Social issues 57%
  • Graphics 57%
  • Web development 51%
  • Algorithms 35%
  • Testing 35%
  • Debugging 35%

Each of these content areas are core to computer science and, in particular, programming.

One of the most important findings from the study suggests that better-funded schools are offering CS to their students at a far higher rate than low-income schools. Of the 27% of schools where the majority of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, 63% offer computer science courses. Of the 44% of schools where the majority of students do not qualify for free lunch, 84% offer computer science courses. This means that in lower income schools, 37% percent offer no computer science whatsoever, versus only 16% percent in higher income schools.

“Access to good computer science education is a defining 21st century issue,” said Oracle Academy Vice President Alison Derbenwick Miller. “We must come together as a community to bring better understanding and access to all students to help them develop the knowledge and expertise required for in-demand careers today and into the future. We are pleased to have worked with CSTA on this very important survey.”

“We are grateful to Oracle Academy for supporting this survey as the findings create a much clearer picture of CS education in US high schools than we’ve had to date,” said Lissa Clayborn, Acting Executive Director, CSTA. “At the local community, state, and national levels, this data can help inform continued and more thoughtful discussions about curriculum pathways, course design, funding for CS courses, come to a shared definition and help to solve the puzzle of teacher certification and other education policy issues.”

*[UPDATE: More than 20,000 people received the survey, for a response rate of 2.5 percent. Respondents came from 47 states.]

To review the complete results from this survey, as well as previous CSTA High School surveys, please visit

Media Contact: Stacey Finkel