This is the season of cool weather, falling leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and master schedules. This is the best time of year to think ahead and plan for Computer Science (CS) Principles. What will happen in classrooms across the state during the 2019–2020 academic year is being decided now, even before we know who is coming to Thanksgiving dinner in a few weeks. You might be skeptical, but master schedules are complex and serious. Changes and additions can’t be made without evidence and reason. So here are the top three reasons to add Computer Science Principles to the master schedule this November.
1. CS Principles is the best first step to increasing the number and diversity of students taking CS in your school.
While 91 percent of parents want their kids’ schools to teach CS, 60 percent of U.S. high schools don’t offer even one CS course. Every student will need some CS, no matter what career or college major they pursue. The U.S. economy needs more students to choose STEM and CS college majors and careers. For both social justice and economic reasons, students and the economy would benefit if more of these students came from populations currently underrepresented in CS, including girls and minorities.
The CS Principles course is unique because it can be an entry point to computer science for most students. It is based on the College Board’s CS Principles framework, a survey course designed to appeal to a broad range of students. This course is an essential element of a CS program, providing CS literacy for all students and introducing CS to students who might go on to take additional CS courses.
2. CS Principles is the best first step to building CS teacher capacity.
CS Principles is also a good entry point for teachers new to CS. Many teachers have certifications and experience in other subjects before teaching CS. Taking professional development and teaching a CS survey course are good first steps to learning CS content and teaching practices. Teachers can then take more advanced professional development and prepare for state certification, increasing computer science teaching capacity for the school.
3. In Texas, adding CS Principles, and other CS courses, can pay for itself (and maybe even more).
The 2019–2020 academic year is important for computer science in Texas schools. It is likely that a subset of CS courses taught in this year and beyond will receive weighted funding from the state, on average about $7,000 more funding per section of 25 students than in previous years. This increase in funding is well beyond the cost of professional development, curriculum, and support for new CS courses, and it increases with each additional section taught.
That might seem like holiday magic, but here’s how it happened: Two years ago, the Texas Legislature approved weighted funding for a fixed number of CS courses. Since then, the Computer Science Task Force, led by Dr. Carol Fletcher and Rohan Ramchand, delivered a report recommending the courses to receive the weighted funding: Fundamentals of Computer Science, Computer Science I, AP Computer Science Principles, and AP Computer Science A. (Principles of Cybersecurity, a course yet to be developed, would also receive the weighted funding.) The 2019 Texas Legislature is expected to accept this list of courses and apply the weighted funding beginning in the 2019–2020 school year.
In addition to the expected increase in funding for CS courses, the Texas Education Agency has funding available for online Blended Learning + UTeach CS Principles training that includes teacher stipends. The UTeach Institute also has NSF funding that provides free UTeach CS Principles training and teacher stipends in exchange for participating in research activities. (For more information about these programs, email Carol Ramsey at email@example.com.)
This is the right time to work with your principal, administrators, and counselors to get CS Principles on your school’s master schedule and to begin to promote the powerful learning opportunity to your students. CS Principles can be a key element upon which to build computer science student participation and teacher capacity. It might feel like seeing Thanksgiving decorations in July to start thinking about it now, but ‘tis the season of the master schedule and now is the best time to start. Your students and parents will thank you later!
This is a guest blog by Carol Ramsey (firstname.lastname@example.org). Ramsey is the manager of UTeach Computer Science, which works to improve computer science teaching and learning in secondary schools, with a focus on access, diversity, and equity. The UTeach Computer Science team delivers curriculum, professional development, and support for the UTeach CS Principles course, first developed by an NSF grant and endorsed by the College Board. She has degrees from both Texas A&M University (Secondary Education) and The University of Texas (Computer Science bachelors and STEM Education masters) and spent many years confused about who to root for on Thanksgiving day.