Report Says Computer Science Should Be Treated Like Core Science Subjects in K-12 Classrooms

A recently released report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation found that computer science is only offered in a fraction of U.S. schools, and most lack the ability to teach students the core principles of the subject. Why Students Need Quality Computer Science Instruction – The report recommends significant changes to how computer science is taught in K-12 in order to optimize student success, notable because President Obama has made computer science a national priority this past year. “To maintain the field’s current momentum, the perception of computer science needs to shift from its being considered a fringe, elective offering or a skills-based course designed to teach basic computer literacy or coding alone,” the report says.

“Instead, it is time for computer science to be seen as a core science on par with more traditional high school offerings such as biology, chemistry and physics, which have been the focus since the 1890s.”

The report points out how in-demand computer science majors are and will be in the future:

“In 2011, Code.org projected that the economy would add 1.4 million computing jobs by 2020, but educate just 400,000 computer science students by then.”

Computer Science Classes Lack Instruction of Core Principles – Current computer science classes that focus on teaching coding, the report says, teach students only one coding language and neglect to teach them core principles behind the subject. “Unfortunately, curriculum and standards still focus on using, rather than understanding, technology. In fact, only 37 percent of states’ CS standards include a focus on computing concepts, while 73 percent of state CS standards include a focus on computer skills.” Most Educators Lack Necessary Training, Resources – Further, the report makes mention of an educator workforce that is largely untrained in the subject and without needed resources. “Because many schools offer only a single CS course, teachers for these courses commonly have their main focus in another field. These teachers may not have the deep expertise or time to focus on creating an enriching curriculum and stimulating class environment,” the report says. “The class can only go as deep as the teacher’s bank of knowledge. As a result, only a very narrow group of high school students ever take computer science classes that provide a solid ground in computer science principles and practices.” How Computer Science Can Improve Moving Forward: First and foremost, the report recommends that the U.S. develop and train 10,000 additional teachers to teach computer science. “…the United States needs to train and certify 10,000 additional CS teachers. The CS10K non-profit initiative, seeks to do just that—train instructors to teach in-depth computer science courses using rigorous curricula.” It also suggests a focus on creating innovative education policy that favors teaching computer science principles in both K-12 and university classrooms. The report highlights the work of Israel in improving computer science access in its classrooms, and recognizes it for developing a curriculum that goes beyond teaching just coding. “On a per-capita basis, Israel has 16.2 times as many students as the United States taking rigorous computer science in high school.120 Its groundbreaking curriculum emphasized making CS a science instead of teaching only coding. Students should be taught programming, proponents argue, as a means to reinforce deeper and more important knowledge in creating and understanding algorithms, and to create a subject that would be as respected by tertiary institutions as traditional biology, chemistry, and physics courses.” The report recommends this same kind of respect for the subject in U.S. classrooms, as well. Read the full report here

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