Without a doubt, STEM education is receiving a substantial amount of attention these days. Given this ubiquitous attention to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, one would think that school districts across the state and nation are giving more and more students opportunities to experience courses and extracurricular activities related to computing, a key component of the “T” in STEM. Unfortunately, that would be an incorrect assumption. In fact, computer science is the only STEM discipline that actually saw a decrease in high school course takers and bachelor’s degree seekers between 2002 and 2012. In Texas, only 2% of high school graduates take a computer science course and only 166 full time teacher equivalents were dedicated across the entire state during the 2014-15 school year to teaching Computer Science I, Computer Science II, or AP Computer Science. Without exposure to computer science (CS) at the K-12 level, hundreds of thousands of Texas students will never even consider the high-demand, high-wage job opportunities that are available in the computing field.
Recognizing this problem, the Center for STEM Education has taken a leadership role in the state to change the landscape of computer science education in K-12. On October 14, 2015, stakeholders from across Texas convened in Houston to discuss the computer science education pipeline at the statewide meeting of the Texas Alliance for Computer Science Education (TACSE). TACSE is pleased to partner with the Center for STEM Education to highlight Texas as a national leader in computer science education. This event was supported through a grant from NSF’s Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) program to the Center for STEM Education.
“This was one of the highlights of the Grace Hopper Celebration. The panelists and the breakout teams came together very well to talk about computer science education across Texas.” — Deborah Kariuki, Computer Science Teacher at Westwood High School in Round Rock.
The centerpiece of the meeting was a panel discussion moderated by Deputy Director of the Center for STEM Education, Dr. Carol Fletcher. The panelists included Dwayne Bohac, Texas State Representative for District 138; Donna Bahorich, Chair of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE); and Paula Harris, School Board Trustee in Houston Independent School District and Director of Community Affairs at Schlumberger.
Panelists shared their specific efforts to support computer science education. For example, because of the work of Donna Bahorich and the SBOE, Texas is one of the few states that now require computer science courses to be offered in every high school. As a state legislator, Representative Bohac authored two bills in the last session to incentivize districts to offer computer science and to fund CS teacher professional development grants. Though these bills did not make it into law in the last session, Representative Bohac plans to submit them again in the next session and start early to build support with other legislators. The legislature also authorized school districts to allow computer science courses to satisfy the Languages Other Than English graduation requirement. Paula Harris discussed the numerous initiatives and partnerships that Houston ISD is working on to build capacity in computer science and also the role that companies like Schlumberger can play in supporting schools through mentorships, coding clubs, and robotics teams.
“The event had everything; a great panel of experts, small group discussions about the different issues that need to be addressed, and a call to action at the end. Thank you TACSE for providing leadership on this very important issue!” — Jennifer Bergland, Director of Governmental Relations at TCEA.
The meeting also included an update on the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing competition and a proclamation from Houston Mayor, Annise Parker, recognizing December 7-11, 2015, as Computer Science Education Week in Houston. NCWIT member Karen North stated, “Once a student can see what they create, right before their eyes, they’re empowered to keep going. Every 21st Century student should have the opportunity to take part in creating technology that’s changing our world. The panelists shared ideas that can be scaled to make this happen, such as a CTO for computer science. The proclamation from the mayor of Houston capped the event by proclaiming December 7-13, 2015, Computer Science Education Week.”
After the panel discussion, the attendees divided up into strategic planning breakout sessions for computer science education exploring key components of the CS Education ecosystem:
- Teacher certification and professional development
- Local and state policy changes necessary to support CS
- Business/industry support for CS
- Building demand for CS at K-8 with new courses in high school.
“It was great to see the level of interest and support from state and local policy makers to ensure that all Texas K-12 students have the opportunity to learn computer science in public schools” — Hal Speed, President of TACSE.
The participants discussed specific actions they can take or resources they can contribute to promote computer science in Texas. Participants ended the meeting by completing a commitment card that included individual pledges to advance computer science education in Texas.
View / Download Presentation
Texas Computer Science Presentation from the TACSE Statewide Meeting.