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A Need To Teach Computer Science In Grades K-12

Last updated on Thursday, September 22, 2011

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing Dean Bobby SchnabelTuesday warned members of a U.S. Congressional subcommittee on science, space and technology that the United States could lose tremendous job opportunities if more isn’t done to teach computer science in grades K-12.

Schnabel, who is also chair of the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) Education Policy Committee, said university computing and information technology graduates were meeting the needs of the workforce, but that there were too few of them.

"Despite the tremendous job opportunities that computer science knowledge offers, participation in advanced placement computer science (courses) has been flat for over a decade," Schnabel said. "Interest in majoring in computer science among incoming freshman is at an all-time low, and there is little ethnic and gender diversity among those who take computer science courses."

Schnabel testified along with George Strawn, director of the National Coordination Office of the U.S. Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program; Edward Lazowksa, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington; and Robert Sproull, retired director of Oracle Labs. He offered points made in a Computing in the Core coalition report (http://www.computinginthecore.org/), released last year, on where computer science education in K-12 had failed, and he also offered recommendation on how NITRD could take steps to address the problem.

"K-12 computer science education is currently focused on basic skills, which teach students how to consume technology, versus acquiring deeper knowledge and skills which teach them to create new technologies," Schnabel told members of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. "Further, only nine states 'count' computer science courses toward a core academic graduation credit, and, finally, few states have robust teacher certification programs for K12 computer science teachers."

Schnabel said ACM wanted to make the following recommendations on how NITRD, at the federal level, could specifically address the systemic issues facing K-12 computer science education:

- NITRD programs should report to the National Coordinating Office what steps they are taking to address K-12 computer science education reform.
- Include the Department of Education in the NITRD program.
- Include and clearly define computer science in federal education programs.
- Create state planning and implementation grants for computer science K-12 curriculum and build national networks of support for K-12 computer science education.
- Create pre-service and professional development opportunities for K-12 computer science teachers.

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