New Report on Computer Science Teacher Certification in the United States

By Renee Dopplick, ACM Director of Public Policy
August 29, 2013

Computer science teacher certification throughout the United States is “deeply flawed” and requires coordinated action by federal and state policymakers, education administrators, and teachers to establish statewide systems and more effective approaches to prepare, support, and credential computer science teachers, according to a new report by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA).

As pointed out in the report, Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S., America’s economic future depends on young people discovering computer science. “To make that happen, it must be taught. To teach it, there must be a qualified, valued Computer Science teaching workforce,” the report says.

The U.S. labor data referenced in the report show the increased importance of computer science to students’ prospects for future employment. According to the federal government, computing skills are in demand, and computing jobs will continue to be among the top 10 highest-performing growth areas in the country’s long-term outlook.

Further, we are experiencing a fundamental and long-term shift within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs toward computing careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, when today’s high school students graduate from colleges and universities, at least half of all STEM job openings will be in computing and computing-related fields.

With such a fundamental, long-term shift occurring, states nationwide need to enhance the capacity of educational institutions to provide students with fundamental computer science knowledge and skills.

Yet, the report’s in-depth research into computer science teacher certification in the 50 states and the District of Columbia reveals “confused, disparate and sometimes absurd teacher certification processes” and “confounding processes and illogical procedures—bugs in the system that keep it from functioning as intended.”

To address the critical issues uncovered by the research, the report provides a number of policy recommendations related to the credentialing of computer science teachers, including providing pathways for teachers with prior industry experience, ongoing professional development for teachers, and incentives for school administrators to offer rigorous computer science courses taught by qualified computer science teachers.

Read the full-text of the report and the related CSTA blog post online.