Yesterday President-Elect Obama announced his intention to nominate Arne Duncan for the Secretary of Education. Mr. Duncan is currently CEO of Chicago’s school system. On the heels of this announcement, ACM’s Education Policy Committee released a new policy brief to the incoming President making several recommendations to strengthen the state of the computer science education at the K-12 level. Here are some excerpts from the document:
The outlook for computer science-related jobs remains strong despite the extraordinary economic challenges we face. Computer science underpins the technology sector, which has made tremendous contributions to the domestic economy, as well as numerous other sectors that depend on innovative, highly skilled computer science graduates. The ubiquitous nature of computing has spread its reach into everyone’s daily lives. Securing our cyber-infrastructure, protecting national security, and making our energy infrastructure more efficient are among numerous issues all depending on computing. However, with the percentage of undergraduates majoring in computer science and interest at the K-12 level falling, the pipeline supplying the necessary workforce is shrinking.
The Administration can play an important role in clarifying that computer science should be a central part of any STEM education initiative and recognizing the importance of a rigorous computer science education. We wish to work with the Administration on initiatives to address key issues that computer science education faces and make the following initial recommendations:
- Consider computer science as one of the core courses students need to develop critical 21st Century skills as part of any STEM education initiative.
- Because research indicates that middle school curriculum is very influential in determining childrens’ future interests, any efforts to strengthen middle school education should include provisions to introduce these students to computer science. Several new approaches in computer science education show promise in attracting and holding the attention of middle school children.
- Expand efforts to increase the number of females and underrepresented minorities in this field.
- Clarify and expand the professional development opportunities for high school computer science teachers. This will improve classroom instruction and student achievement, particularly in block grant programs given to states.
- Focus research funding on K-12 computer science education to address many gaps in understanding how students engage this critical field.
- Review how states can better coordinate, clarify and improve existing teacher certification requirements, particularly for computer science teachers.