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Great Strides for Computer Science Education

Jim Kurose, Assistant Director of NSF for Computer & Information Science & Engineering
Thursday, January 14, 2016

It is an exciting time for Computer Science (CS) education! I know our community was proud and excited to hear President Obama explicitly call out CS education in his State of the Union address this past Tuesday. This high-profile attention reflects the central role that computing has come to play in so many aspects of our daily lives.

Following the State of the Union address, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a message amplifying the President's remarks on the importance of CS education, noting that "the Administration will announce new steps to support these state and local efforts [in CS education] to give students of all ages the tools to not just live in the digital age, but to be the designers and leaders of it." I've included a copy of that OSTP message below.

Our Nation's ability to meet the President's stated goal of "offering every student the hands-on computer science ... classes that make them job-ready on day one" is only possible because of the efforts of many groups across the country - education institutions; local, state, and federal government agencies; industry; non-profit organizations; and teacher groups - all of whom have been working to lay the foundations to realize this goal. But ultimately, these activities are driven by individuals who are passionate about the importance of CS education; we owe each of them a tremendous debt of gratitude for bringing us to where we are today.

The CISE Directorate (particularly under the leadership of Jan Cuny, CISE Program Director for Education and Workforce Development), in collaboration with the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate, and the broad CISE PI community have played critical roles in moving CS education forward in the last decade. We've supported teachers and researchers to prototype and pilot a number of new courses that are designed to engage all students - especially those from groups that have been under-represented in our discipline; this has been accomplished in part through our CS10K and Broadening Participation in Computing efforts (which continue through the STEM + Computing Partnerships program). We've also supported assessments, online support for classroom teachers, and prototypes and pilots of new models of teacher professional development that are being developed specifically with an eye toward scalability and sustainability. Collectively, these efforts are intended to build an evidence-based foundation that can be used by schools together with private partnerships in the widespread implementation of high-quality CS courses.

Even with the progress to date, there is still much work to be done to ensure that CS is available to all students across the Nation. An OSTP blog post during CS Education Week this past December (which I co-authored with U.S. CTO Megan Smith, NSF's head of EHR Joan Ferrini-Mundy, and the U.S. Department of Education's Executive Director of STEM Russell Shilling) noted, "Increasing interest and engagement of all students in CS education requires community efforts, with teachers, administrators, nonprofit organizations, corporations, researchers, parents, and the public playing critical roles."

The continued involvement of the CISE community is key! As noted in the message from OSTP below, please stay tuned as the Administration announces new steps in the coming weeks to support efforts to expand access to computer science education across the Nation. We at NSF look forward to continuing to work with you to help empower our Nation's students with a strong foundation in computer science, which includes the computational concepts, methods, and tools required to excel in an increasingly computational and data-intensive world.

From: [OSTP]
Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 10:43 PM
Subject: Computer Science Education and the President's Remarks on the State of the Union

Friends,

Tonight was an important step forward for students across the country, as the President said in his final State of the Union address:

"We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we've increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids."

Our economy is rapidly shifting, and educators are increasingly recognizing computer science as the new basic. There are over 600,000 high-paying technology jobs open across the U.S., and by 2018, 51 percent of all STEM jobs are projected to be in computer science-related fields. However, computer science (CS), is taught in less than 25 percent of American K-12 schools, even as other advanced economies, such as Britain, are making it available for all students aged 5-16. In addition, students of color, girls, and students in high-need schools are less likely to take computer science than other students, and few middle school or elementary schools offer any computer science experiences.

A year ago, President Obama became the first President to write a line of code, and issued a broad call to action to expand computer science across the nation's classrooms. Thanks to the efforts of parents, state and local officials, educators, philanthropists and CEOs, a movement to give every child the opportunity to learn computer science is building in this country.

In the coming weeks, the Administration will announce new steps to support these state and local efforts to give students of all ages the tools to not just live in the digital age, but to be the designers and leaders of it.

We look forward to working with you on this important effort to better serve our students.