Computer science has become a new basic skill, essential in order to excel in an increasingly computational and data-intensive world.
However, access to computer science (CS) at the K-12 levels remains limited. CS is taught in less than 25 percent of U.S. high schools. Rural and high-need schools are even less likely to offer it. Moreover, in schools that do offer CS, students of color and girls often participate in very low numbers.
But this is changing through a groundswell of interest in CS education at the state, city and local levels.
President Obama in his 2016 State of the Union address laid out a goal of expanding computer science in schools across the country, saying, "In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by … offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one."
Today, the White House announced a new initiative, CS for All, that aims to give all students in the U.S. the opportunity to learn CS, with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Education serving as the lead federal agencies.
"CS for All builds on NSF's investments in developing, piloting and assessing materials and resources for computer science education, and on the growing momentum for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education more broadly, that is taking hold across the country," said NSF Director France Córdova. "We are proud to play a leading role in this new initiative."
As part of the CS for All initiative:
NSF is committing $120 million over five years to accelerate its efforts to enable rigorous and engaging CS education in schools across the nation. These funds will support the development of prototypes of instructional materials, assessments, scalable and sustainable professional development models, and teacher resources, along with research to study their effectiveness. The acceleration of these efforts could enable as many as 9,000 additional high-school teachers to be well prepared to teach CS over the next five years.
NSF and the Department of Education will co-fund an effort to prototype professional development for Career and Technical Education (CTE) educators who teach computer science. Using and testing a cascade model, this effort will create a first cohort of educators who will provide additional CTE computer science professional development across the country.
NSF and the Department of Defense (DoD) will collaborate with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) to support implementation of the new Advanced Placement® CS Principles framework, through new teacher and student support interventions, at 200 DoD-related NMSI sites across the country.
NSF will collaborate with the private sector to support professional development for high-school CS teachers. As part of its $120 million investment in CS for All, NSF will provide $5 million to pilot new approaches for scalable and sustainable professional development in schools across the U.S. At the same time, funding from industry partners will enable teachers to attend these pilot programs. This partnership will eventually provide opportunities for as many as 2,000 teachers to deepen their understanding of CS.
For nearly a decade, NSF has led the effort to build the research foundations required to implement rigorous and engaging academic computer science instruction in U.S. schools, much of it focused at the high-school level.
With NSF support, leading researchers and educators have prototyped a new high-school introductory CS course, Exploring Computer Science, the new Advanced Placement® Computer Science Principles framework, and other innovative instructional materials for integrating CS into STEM education.
These materials engage students with rigorous computer science learning and inspire their interest. They were designed with a focus on equity that engages all students in computing, including those from groups that have traditionally participated in the discipline at very low levels: women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and persons with disabilities. And, research is showing that they work.
In addition, NSF has funded the development of prototypes and pilots of instructional materials, assessments, approaches to teacher professional development, and online support and other resources for classroom teachers, with a focus on exploring how these approaches may be both scalable and sustainable, and studying their impact. These efforts build an evidence-based foundation that can be used by schools together with private partnerships in the widespread implementation of high-quality academic CS courses and instruction.
Already, the efforts of several private organizations, including Code.org, Teach for America, Project Lead the Way, the New York City Foundation for Computer Science, and the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network, have leveraged NSF's investments in computer science education to reach over 2,000 teachers and high schools in every state in the continental U.S.
For more information about NSF's computer science education efforts and the CS for All initiative, visit: nsf.gov/news/special_reports/csed/ and http://www.nsf.gov/csforall.