Over the past two years, California has laid the foundation for a robust K-12 computer science (CS) education for California students. This includes adopting curriculum standards, approving an implementation plan, and securing funding for a statewide coordinator.
Despite this progress, the adoption of computer science curriculum and courses remains voluntary for schools. This means schools that are better resourced have become early adopters, while those in underserved communities are left behind — largely in underresourced districts and communities of color. This has already led to disparities in access, continuity and sustainability.
In Silicon Valley, we must work together to ensure equity and access.
California — and the nation more broadly — is living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work and live. Emerging technologies bring both opportunities and challenges to every type of job. And these technologies play a central role in how we understand, interact with and relate to one another.
Take a moment to think about what an informed, active citizen and contributor to society looks like in the future. How do we prepare California’s youth to fully participate in the new world technology is shaping?
A robust K-12 CS education available to all students will help them successfully navigate complex problems and contribute meaningfully to society.
In Santa Clara County, some students can access CS education outside of school, through summer camps or after-school fee-based programs. Only a limited number of students can participate in an Advanced Placement CS course during the school day. Some elementary schools utilize complementary resources from nonprofits like Code.org, but these opportunities are limited in time, availability, and access.
As Santa Clara County Office of Education Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan observes: “There is not enough opportunity for students or teachers to learn and explore CS.”
To tackle this issue, a few districts are incorporating CS into their curricula and the Santa Clara County Office of Education is supporting these efforts at expansion. SCCOE provided a two-day teacher training on computer science and computational thinking and established a Computer Science Community of Practice. This learning network for teachers has been created to increase the number of qualified and trained CS educators.
Investments in programs and partnerships are necessary to achieve equity.
Schools can’t do this alone. Business can help find leaders and influencers to champion relationships with nonprofits and schools; offer funding in the form of donations, grants, and scholarships; encourage employees to volunteer time to provide real-world context by speaking to classrooms, hosting field trips; and providing paid summer internships for students.
Closing the gap in education and building a more diverse and skilled workforce is essential not just for inclusivity but also for business, for whom the challenges of finding a skilled workforce are existential.
Every student deserves the opportunity to take part in creating technology that is changing our world. CS instruction, coupled with the efforts of businesses and community members, can make that a reality.
-Paul Escobar, Sr. is the former director of tech and education policy for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Vicki Huff is global new ventures and innovation leader for PwC | December 9, 2019