Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 6
SCHOOLS & THE FUTURE WORKFORCE
Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
By Benjamin Herold
Alante Klyce wants to be a dancer.
Yet here she is, throwing around
tech-industry terms like "ideation"
and working with friends to design
her first mobile app.
It's all part of the introductory
computer science course that every
student in Chicago must now take in
order to graduate.
"I'm still not really that into technology," said Alante, a sophomore at
Lindblom Math & Science Academy
on the city's South Side. "But this is
actually my favorite class now."
This is the promise of the nascent
"Computer Science for All" movement: that the nation's K-12 schools
can prepare every student, regardless
of background or career interests, to
thrive in a technology-driven future.
From the White House, Presidents
Barack Obama and Donald Trump
have both pledged support for that
vision. Companies such as Apple,
Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Oracle,
and Salesforce have pushed the idea
with hundreds of millions of dollars
and an extensive lobbying campaign.
Dozens of states have gotten on
board, adopting new standards and
allowing computer science courses to
count toward graduation.
Now comes the hard part.
The movement sits on a clear fault
line: Should computer science education focus on preparing students for
jobs or for teaching them new ways
to think and solve problems?
There are also practical challenges.
How, exactly, are the nation's public
schools-already stretched thin, riddled with inequities, and struggling
to attract teachers with even a basic
knowledge of computer science-supposed to keep up with the dizzying
changes in Silicon Valley?
As a result, it's a fraught moment
for K-12 educators and policymakers,
said Brenda Wilkerson, the president of AnitaB.org, a nonprofit that
promotes the role of women in technology.
Alyssa Schukar for Education Week
Lay a strong foundation, Wilkerson
said, and Computer Science for All
has the potential to be life-changing
for entire generations of students.
"But if we screw this up," she said,
"we'll be locking in the status quo,
especially for those who have been
systematically shut out from opportunity."
How many K-12 schools currently
offer computer science?
Precise numbers are hard to come
Big picture, though, the trend lines
are clear. Since 2010, for example, the
number of students taking an Advanced Placement computer science
exam is up 415 percent.
Janice Cuny is as responsible for
that remarkable growth as anyone.
Cuny is a program officer at the
National Science Foundation. Since
2004, she's been working to make the
computer science field more accessible
to girls and minorities.
Early on, she decided that one big
key was to make computer science
education less about how to program
loops and conditionals, and more
about why you'd want to do such a
thing in the first place.
That approach helped guide
the development of two new K-12
courses, both of which have helped
schools provide an introductorylevel course for students who may
not have prior programming experience: AP Computer Science Principles, which debuted with huge numbers of participants last spring, and
Exploring Computer Science, now
offered in more than 2,000 schools
Along with new research and
teacher-training efforts, those additions helped lay the groundwork for a
handful of big-city school systems like
Chicago to embrace the Computer Science for All mantra.
In 2013, the 400,000-student district
went all in, announcing it would bring
Exploring Computer Science to every
high school in the city, as well as begin
integrating computer science into
math and science courses in at least
one-fourth its elementary schools.
Five years later, those targets
have mostly been met. The number of Chicago high school students
taking computer science has almost
tripled. And Lindblom Math & Science stands as a shining example of
The school offers no fewer than
seven different computer-science
courses, plus a wide range of related
clubs, programs, and other opportunities.
Senior Mario Morales has taken advantage of all of them.
"Before, I was mostly into sports,"
said Morales,. "Now, I want to get a de-
6 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 28, 2018 | www.edweek.org
Alyssa Schukar for Education Week
White House, big tech companies push idea
Sophomores Lauryn Ivy, left, and Alante Klyce are new to programming. But during an introductory computer science
course at Chicago's Lindblom Math & Science Academy, they designed an app to help keep school bathrooms cleaner.
gree in computer science or cybersecurity, then become a malware analyst."
Training for Jobs, or Life?
Morales' ambitions embody the
sales pitch that helped take Computer
Science for All mainstream-and has
contributed to tension in the field.
By 2016, largely on the strength of
a viral web video and hugely popular
Hour of Code introductory programming events, the nonprofit group
Code.org had sparked a tremendous
surge of enthusiasm for computer science education.
The driving force was founder Hadi
Partovi, an Iranian-born software
engineer who made a fortune selling
startups to Microsoft and MySpace.
At Code.org, Partovi leveraged the
success of Hour of Code to line up
tens of millions of dollars in techsector support. Then he won the ear
of Obama, who donned a Code.org cap
as he became the first commander in
chief to write a line of code.
A coalition of advocates fanned out
across the country, lobbying state
lawmakers to change policies and
dedicate funds to support computer
Jobs became the central selling
point for the movement.
But the growing emphasis on workforce development, combined with the
rising influence of the tech sector, have
made some in the field uncomfortable.
There are fears about quality:
Schools are being flooded with sales
pitches for platforms, devices, and
games claiming to make coding instruction easy.
There are fears about the future:
Advances in both hardware and artificial intelligence could render today's
in-demand skills irrelevant by the
time today's 6th graders hit the job
And there are fears that some Computer Science for All proponents don't
understand the context of public education.
"Developing a workforce that
knows how to use a particular software or [programming] language
is not what high school is for," said
Cuny of the NSF.
Partovi said he shares those concerns.
"We don't want to prepare students
for just one type of job," he said. "We
want to prepare them for life."
Challenges on the Ground
Across the K-12 sector, a consensus is emerging around the value of
teaching students to solve problems
"computationally," by breaking them
down into smaller pieces and looking
for patterns; to analyze data; and to
design and test their own technologies
in the real world.
What's happening inside schools,
however, remains all over the map.
In South Carolina, for example, the
state education department has mandated computer science since 1997.
But many students still fulfill the
high school graduation requirement
by taking a half-credit course in keyboarding.
"It's no fault of the districts," said
Anne Pressley, the director of the department's office of standards and
learning, which has been leading an
effort to develop new computer science
standards for South Carolina schools.
"It's a lack of capacity."
Indeed, the single biggest barrier
to making Computer Science for All
work, by far, is staffing-even at a
school like Chicago's Lindblom Math
& Science Academy.
The heart of Lindblom's small computer science team is a former Motorola engineer named Jesus Duran. He
has a degree in computer science and
still runs two small tech firms.
Bringing computer science to his
native South Side is "orders of magnitude more difficult than any engineering project I've ever worked on,"
The work is paying off, in the form of
students full of confidence that they'll
be able to shape the future.
But Duran isn't sure how long he'll
last before heading back to the private
"I made a commitment for next
year," he said. "Beyond that, everything stays fluid."
FACES OF THE FUTURE
THE ROLE OF SILICON VALLEY
Thirteen-year-old Ian Michael Brock wants Chicago kids like
him to build the next Silicon Valley-so he and his family have
taken the challenge of Computer Science for All into their own
hands. That's why Ian is the latest student to be profiled for
Education Week's Faces of the Future series, part of our ongoing
special coverage of Schools & the Future Workforce.
With hundreds of millions of dollars and aggressive lobbying, the
technology industry is helping fuel the Computer Science for All
movement. But where some see generous philanthropic support,
others see signs of a corporate takeover of the K-12 curriculum.
Read the full profile at
Read Education Week's exploration of the debate at
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018
News in Brief
Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
A Florida City Forever Changed
Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
On Social Media, Teens Witness, Grieve, Organize
Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
One State’s Dive Into K-12 Aid Figures
States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
The Editors: What Should Betsy DeVos Prioritize?
Margaret Spellings: Higher Education
Marilyn Anderson Rhames: Teacher Quality
Karla Phillips: Personalization
Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Shaun M. Dougherty: Career and Tech Ed
Mike Tenbusch : The ‘Have Nots’
Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II: Racial-Equity Agenda
Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Report Roundup
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 5
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Florida City Forever Changed
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 13
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 17
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 21
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 25
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 27
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW4