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Press Release 14-167

Partnerships for computer science education: Improving access at the K-12 levels

NSF and OSTP kick off Computer Science Education Week by announcing new partnerships to expand student access to computer science and coding

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NSF supports the creation and piloting of professional development for computer science teachers.
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December 8, 2014

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) kicked off Computer Science Education Week today with an event in Washington, D.C., celebrating new commitments and partnerships among the Federal government, school districts, nonprofits, foundations, private industry, and others that will expand access to, and student learning in, computer science and coding at the K-12 levels.

NSF Director France A. Córdova joined other federal officials including John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, at the event, along with school superintendents, leaders from industry and the computer science (CS) education movement, and CS teachers from across the nation.

"NSF has played an essential role in fostering the advances in information technology that have transformed our world," Córdova said.

"We must discover and deploy new methods of recruitment and retention to ensure that all students in schools across the country have access to the most advanced learning environments."

Congress inaugurated Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week) in 2009 to honor the life and achievements of Grace Hopper--computer pioneer, Navy rear admiral and inventor of one of the first computer programming languages. The celebration encourages individuals of all ages to learn more about computer science and its important role in our increasingly digital society.

Computer science has transformed the way we live, work, learn and communicate, but paradoxically, a smaller percentage of U.S. high school students take CS courses today than did two decades ago.

A national movement--catalyzed by NSF efforts and advanced through strategic partnerships--has been working to change that by supporting the development of rigorous, engaging computer science high school curricula and by helping to create scalable models of professional development for computer science teachers.

Since 2008, NSF has led the "CS 10K" effort and has funded researchers to develop new curricula with the goal of training 10,000 teachers to teach computer science in 10,000 schools across the nation. More recently, NSF's partners have agreed to expand this goal to include all U.S. schools.

NSF is also dedicated to broadening the participation of individuals in all fields of STEM, including CS. Women, girls and minorities participate in computing in very low numbers, and NSF has supported the research needed to establish best practices for engaging and retaining diverse student populations so that all students have the opportunity to see computer science as engaging, personally relevant and empowering.

Through these efforts, NSF has built an evidence-based foundation for K-12 computer science education and an ecosystem of curricula, course materials, assessments, scalable models of professional development and online support networks and resources for teachers.

In recent years, NSF has invested more than $110 million to expand access to, and broaden the diversity of students participating in computer science courses.

The impact of these efforts is being amplified by a number of new public-private partnerships announced at the White House today:

  • First, the College Board, with support from NSF, is launching a new Advanced Placement® (AP®) computer science course called Computer Science Principles (AP CS Principles) that is intended to explore the creative aspects of computing and increase the number and diversity of students entering the field. The first exam is scheduled for spring 2017, and hundreds of schools and colleges across the U.S. are already piloting the course. Advances in AP will provide up-to-date information about the course and exam, and a dedicated online Teacher Community is now available for teachers to connect with each other, discuss teaching strategies, and share resources.

  • Second, in collaboration with major Latino community influencers and organizations, the National Center for Women & Information Technology​ (NCWIT)--which champions the inclusion of women in all aspects of computing and began with NSF funding-- is launching a nationwide initiative to engage Latinas in computing and technology careers. NCWIT will leverage its research capabilities and national network of partners to design and launch a national media campaign and supporting program to give Latinas the inspiration to explore technology careers, the resources to engage in computer science, and connections to computer science support networks. Central to this initiative will be strategies to engage Latino parents, families, and influencers in supporting Latinas' pursuit of technology education and careers. The project will launch on January 20, 2015 with a working roundtable of Latino leaders who will inform messaging and support the implementation of the campaign.

  • Third, NSF and Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science, particularly among women and underrepresented students, announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding that provides a structure to coordinate and co-develop efforts to advance computer science education throughout the U.S. Code.org has already had an amazing impact: Tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries have been introduced to computer science through its "Hour of Code".

  • Fourth, NSF is partnering with several well-established national organizations that already provide great educational opportunities for students--specifically to add computer science to their educational offerings:
    • The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI)--which is committed to improving student performance in the critical subjects of science, technology, engineering and math--is expanding its portfolio to support teachers and schools in offering the AP CS Principles course. This effort aims to prepare teachers in 25 states to teach AP CS Principles by 2016.
    • Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and Verizon will enable students in 12 underserved middle schools to explore the power of computational thinking and the connection of digital literacy to their lives. Verizon will supply PLTW with up to 35 Samsung Android tablets equipped with 4G LTE data plans for each school, allowing for a 1:1 student-to-tablet ratio in each of the 12 schools participating in PLTW's Introduction to Computer Science course. Students will use MIT App Inventor to learn fundamental computer science concepts that apply to a range of disciplines, future studies, and careers. Student teams will work collaboratively and learn the impact of computing in society, and how to use the internet safely and responsibly.
    • Teach for America (TFA)--which aims to ensure that all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, or personal identity, have access to high-quality educational experiences at the Pre-K through 12 levels--will begin a nationwide push to include CS in the offerings at the schools they serve. They commenced this effort with a small, NSF-funded project in New York City, which they expect to expand and develop as a national model. By 2018-2019, TFA will recruit, place and support at least 75 new diverse teachers in low-income schools.

  • And fifth, NSF is expanding its ties to regional and local organizations to make computer science education more accessible in specific parts of the country:
    • NSF announced an award of $5.4M to a partnership spanning the Education Development Center, University of California, Berkeley, New York City Foundation for Computer Science (CSNYC), and New York City Department of Education to develop curricular materials to teach AP CS Principles at the high school level. CSNYC is a private foundation established in New York City to get computer science into every NYC school.
    • The Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN) is bringing the NSF-funded Exploring Computer Science course, which is rooted in research on equity in computer science, to all Massachusetts high schools. MassCAN announced their commitment to offer professional development to 3,000 teachers over the next 3 years.

Together, these new partnerships will ensure that students across the U.S. are empowered with a strong foundation in computer science and acquire the computational concepts, methods, and tools required to excel in a computational- and data-intensive world.

The CS Ed Week kickoff today marks the first in a series of events NSF is organizing throughout 2015 to showcase the value of the agency's partnerships. NSF plans to highlight the impact of its existing public, private and industry partnerships, of which there are many, and to spark conversations that mobilize others to partner with the agency.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Aaron Dubrow, NSF, (703) 292-4489, adubrow@nsf.gov

Program Contacts
Jan Cuny, NSF, (703) 292-8900, jcuny@nsf.gov

Related Websites
CS 10K Community: http://cs10kcommunity.org/
The College Board: AP CS Principles: https://lp.collegeboard.org/ap-computer-science-principles
Computing Education for the 21st Century: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503582
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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NSF invests in research to develop best practices for computer science education and engagement.
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NSF has funded the development and implementation of two new computer science courses.
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