Computer Science Equity in 2022
Almost 10 years ago, former US president Barack Obama wrote his first line of code with help from a middle school student. In 2016, the administration launched CS for All, a bold new initiative to empower all American students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science. These days, kids and adolescents are among the biggest consumers of modern technology, from tablets to TikTok.
What would it mean if we equipped students with the computation thinking skills to not just consume, but create in a digital economy? What might they build? How might this affect their learning?
Learning computer science can be transformational to a student’s education. In fact, a research study by Outlier Research & Evaluation found that extra use of Code.org in classrooms directly correlated with better test scores in math, reading, and science. How is this possible?
Computer science is not just about coding. Yes, coding is a TOOL for computer science in the same way that arithmetic is a TOOL for mathematics and punctuation is a tool for English.
But computer science as a subject is foundational knowledge necessary in every school because it teaches students how to approach problems creatively and analytically. If you are facing a big, ambiguous project at home or at work, computational thinking and problem solving processes can help you break this problem into smaller chunks. Recognizing what’s important and what needs to be solved first are critical thinking skills that are valuable in ANY context.
As a computer science student, students learn how to program. They also learned how to problem solve, how to be resilient, how to collaborate with others, and how to communicate complex ideas. Above all else, computer science teaches students, essentially, how to think.
Talking about computer science means talking about opportunities – opportunities for you, opportunities for your community, and most importantly, an opportunity to create something. The beauty of computer science is that imagination and creation lie at the heart of the field. It’s clear that computers and software are changing everything, but many schools still don’t offer CS.
A recently released comprehensive Gallup survey of parents and school administrators shows the stark gap between what parents want and what is happening in our schools. 9 out of 10 parents surveyed want their child to learn computer science. But according to the Code.org Access Report, just 51% of high schools teach computer science courses. The reality is schools prepare far fewer CS teachers than we need. For a subject as foundational as math and science, our schools must equip teachers with the skills and resources to teach CS.
There’s growing evidence that students who are exposed to CS early are more likely to study computer science in college. In fact, women who try AP CS in high school are 10 times more likely to major in it, and Black and Latinx students are seven times more likely. This presents a unique opportunity to address the equity issues we have in technology as early as kindergarten up through 12th grade.
Cheyenne Gaima, a recent CS graduate from USC and upcoming PM at Meta attributes much of her success to the GWC program she completed in 11th grade. She says:
“Getting exposed to computer science early on quite literally changed my life. It changed my perspective on what was possible for me, and it opened up an entirely new world that I wasn’t even aware of.
I became a version of myself that I really liked and wanted to get to know more — one that was bold, creative, thought wild ideas and was eager to execute them. Someone who saw her potential as infinite.”
65000 Black, Latino, and American Indian students in 10th grade perform in the top 25% of all students in math, yet fewer than 4900 took the AP CS exam in 2014. The issue isn’t lack of talent or interest, it’s lack of access. Teaching kids computer science gives schools the opportunity to close the gender, race, and culture gaps in technology.
It’s also tremendous for the economy. Computing jobs are the number one source of new wages in the US. There are over half a million current job openings in every industry and in every state, and they’re projected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs. In California alone, there are almost 70,000 open CS and tech jobs across industries like healthcare, transportation, finance, and hospitality with average salaries up $115,000. However, we aren’t producing enough CS graduates to fill these jobs.
With code.org, we have an opportunity to equip our students with the computational thinking skills they need to be problem solvers, critical thinkers, and creators in our ever growing digital economy. Who knows – maybe one day, a middle schooler could help you write your first line.
Published on April 28th, 2022
Last updated on July 20th, 2022