Let the Feds Know Your Thoughts on K-12 Computer Science Education

The federal government asks for advice about education fairly regularly. But it isn’t often that it asks specifically what is needed to advance K-12 computer science education. So I was pleasantly surprised when one federal program asked some key questions about K-12 CS education. Members of our community have the opportunity to speak up about what they think is needed for a stronger K-12 CS education. (Comments are due by January 31.)

Prompted by a report from the President’s top science advisors, The Networking and Information and Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD) asked three sets of big and open-ended questions:

“The Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report calls for fundamental changes in K-12 STEM education in the United States, including the incorporation of computer science (CS) as an essential component.

  • What CS concepts are important to effective elementary, secondary, and post-secondary curricula? Among these concepts, which are commonly found in curricula today? Which are missing?
  • What do teachers need (including preparation and training, tools, and resources) to be able to deliver CS education effectively?
  • What factors are important in promoting student interest in CS?;

PCAST is the President’s high-level body of science and technology advisors, and the report to which these questions refer was issued in mid-December about recommendations for improving the NITRD program. So, what is NITRD? I blogged about it long ago; in short PCAST notes it is, “… the primary mechanism by which the Federal government coordinates its unclassified networking and information technology (NIT) research and development (R&D) investments.” A smallish part of this portfolio deals with investments and workforces issues and their obvious connection to the R&D enterprise.”

ACM’s Education Policy Committee has been pushing NITRD and PCAST on the numerous policy issues that K-12 CS Education faces. In response, PCAST recommended in an earlier K-12 STEM education report that computer science should called out by policy makers as a critical part of the STEM agenda. This new report reaches the same conclusion and prods NITRD to take steps to ensure CS is an “essential component” in K-12. These questions represent the program’s first steps to meet this goal.

This is a great opportunity for educators from the computing community that work on K-12 CS education issues, curriculum, instruction or generally anything in the subject. It isn’t often that the community gets asked for advice on these issues. We should take advantage by filing comments on their questions.

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