Is Computer Science a foundational course for a Bachelor of Science degree?

It could be said that computer science isn’t just a skill for students who want to pursue careers in tech. It’s foundational. As Steve Jobs once said: “computer science is a liberal art.” We recently wondered: is there any data to support this idea? We believe computer science is a core 21st century skill — like reading, writing, or math — that provides a basis for learning other concepts. But how can we measure this? To answer this, we looked at graduation requirements for all Bachelor of Science degrees across the University of California’s nine campuses with undergraduate programs. These requirements ensure that students gain both breadth, building foundational knowledge and skills, and depth, developing specific familiarity within their field of study. So what did we find? Throughout the UC system, CS can satisfy a core graduation requirement in 95%* of B.S. degrees. For some of these degrees computer science units are required, but for many they are not; computer science is instead one of several options that students can take to fulfill more general graduation requirements. In other words, computer science is part of the UC system’s breadth — foundational knowledge that helps students think critically and learn — for degrees from Physics to Cognitive Science to Business Information Management! In some cases (such as UC Irvine), if there’s a requirement for all students to take a quantitative literacy course for graduation, computer science can satisfy this core requirement. According to the University of California graduation requirements, computer science is truly foundational. Computer science counts as a core requirement in 95% of BS degrees in the University of California system. Read the entire article here.

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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

Do we still need Computer Science teachers?

These days it seems like “how to learn coding yourself” opportunities are everywhere. There are MOOCs from major universities, code.org has great online tutorials, Facebook just opened a website called TechPrep to help parents and students alike find resources and tools, and there seems to be a new edtech company starting up every week with online CS resources. The question for many becomes “do we still need computer science teachers?” The CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) 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

Source: The CSTA Advocate Blog