New Education Law Recognizes Importance of Computer Science

By Renee Dopplick, ACM Director of Public Policy
December 23, 2015

ACM praised the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law as an important and historic step forward for K-12 education in the United States. The law recognizes computer science as one of the central subjects, along with reading and math, that students need for a well-rounded education.

The law contains several education policy priorities that ACM and its partners seek to make a sustainable reality: expanding access to computer science inside and outside the classroom, providing quality training and professional development for computer science teachers, and fostering opportunities and inclusive participation by diverse student populations. The new law also explicitly includes computer science within its STEM provisions and as part of the definition of STEM specialty schools.

“Having computer science explicitly written into the new Every Student Succeeds Act represents an important milestone,” explains ACM CEO Bobby Schnabel. “In the 2010 report Running on Empty, ACM and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) proposed that computer science should be included as a core subject across US primary and secondary schools. ESSA demonstrates that this goal, which appeared audacious not many years ago, has now entered the mainstream.”

Jeffrey Forbes, the Chair of the ACM Education Policy Committee (EPC), added that the new law takes steps in the direction of fostering greater access to computer science education. “As with the No Child Left Behind law that it replaces, a major goal of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is to close achievement gaps for students,” says Forbes. “ESSA makes a number of significant improvements to expand access to computer science education by diverse populations in urban, suburban, and rural areas.”

A 2014 report by the ACM Education Policy Committee, “Rebooting the Pathway to Success: Preparing Students for Computing Workforce Needs in the United States,” found that few U.S. states are positioned to provide the computer science education required for ensuring future workforce needs are met. The report called for each state to develop an education and computing workforce development plan that includes K-12 computer science education and to align policy, programs, and resources to support the plan.