Monday, September 23, 2013

Computer Science in Schools - too many barriers

As we ponder ways to improve computer science and see disturbing statistics like "in 2012, of the 42,000 high schools in the U.S., only 2,100 - 5 percent - offered the Advanced Placement computer science course" you realize that there must be barriers to getting this great content into the hands of students.  

The first place to look is to the supply of teachers and luckily the Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) published a paper called "Bugs in the System" that highlights the issue - from the report: 
"teacher certification in the 50 states and the District of Columbia makes it clear that the
certification/licensure processes for Computer Science are deeply flawed. In Florida, for example, would-be Computer Science teachers have to take a K–8 Computer Science methods course that is not offered in any teacher preparation program in the state. Prospective Computer Science teachers often meet difficulty in determining what the certification/licensure requirements are in their own states because no one seems to know. Add to that frustration the confusion that persists around what Computer Science is and isn’t and where it fits in K–12 academics, and it’s astounding that professionals with such valued expertise persevere to become Computer Science teachers."

There are solutions to the certification issues, but we need to bring the right people together to make this happen. When I was working with Alternative Teacher Certification, the group that had the most knowledge and ability to get things done was the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC).  

Recommendations from CSTA's report include:
  • Establish a system of certification/licensure that ensures that all Computer Science teachers haveappropriate knowledge of and are prepared to teach the discipline content
  • Establish a system of certification/licensure that accounts for teachers coming to the discipline from multiple pathways with appropriate requirements geared to those pathways.
  • Establish a system of certification/licensure that accounts for previous teaching experience(“grandfathering”) for teachers with at least two years of experience teaching Computer Science courses that are aligned to grade-level CSTA K–12 Computer Science standards.
  • Provide a certification/licensure pathway that includes both content and pedagogical knowledge for those transitioning into teaching from industry.
  • Require teacher preparation institutions and organizations (especially those purporting to support STEM education) to include programs to prepare Computer Science teachers. 
  • Establish a Computer Science Praxis exam that assesses teacher knowledge of Computer Science concepts and pedagogy.
  • Provide comprehensive professional development for teachers to enable them to achieve or maintain certification/license or endorsement in Computer Science.
  • Incentivize school level administrators to offer rigorous Computer Science courses offered by qualified Computer Science teachers
A review if certification requirements working with NASDTEC professional could find some easy solutions to many of these recommendations - it is really a matter of finding the content to give to potential teachers to make them effective.  I will be meeting with various teams over the coming months to see if there is a way to solve this problem.