December 4 marked the beginning of Computer Science Education Week, and I'd like to take a moment to consider how the business community might support K-12 schools as they respond to this rapidly changing field.
Many years ago when computer science courses first appeared in schools, they were considered “extra” and categorized as electives. The content of many of these courses focused on learning computer applications like word processing, spread sheets or programming skills. Today those same computing skills and computer applications are no longer extra; they are essential to almost any career in our global economy. In order to remain relevant, schools must move beyond the teaching of computer skills to higher levels of computer science so students can apply those skills to think critically and solve real problems. In other words, we need to be teaching students to use technology to innovate.
This is not only a challenge for schools, it is an economic challenge for our country. We need graduates who are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. According to data provided by the National Center for Women in Information Technology, 61 percent of US job openings could be filled by graduates with some form of computer science degree. Take a look at the national map to see if there is a skills gap in your state.
So how are the schools...in particular, how are the schools in your state...meeting this challenge? Last year the Computer Science Teachers' Association published Computer Science Education Standards. These standards provide a thoughtful approach to integrating computational thinking in K-12. The standards begin with elementary concepts in the lower grades and lead to advanced concepts in high school. Sadly, only 14 states have adopted these standards to a significant degree, and only 9 states classify computer science as a core subject area.
You can see how your state ranks by clicking on the map located in Running on Empty. This report provides data about how every state teaches computer science, as well as whether they categorize it as an elective or a core subject. I would encourage you to take a look and support schools as they move in the direction of these standards. The standards have been developed by computer science educators and reviewed and endorsed by organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
...and speaking of mathematics, have you checked to see how your state is implementing the Common Cores State Standards in Mathematics? I'll be writing about that challenge in a future blog post, but it is very clear that the business community has a crucial role in this process. More later...