Interest in bringing computer science into the K–12 curriculum for all students has been exploding. In my role as the State Board of Education’s liaison on computer science, I’ve been engaged for the last two years with a remarkable group of national and state leaders who collectively are helping to move California forward in a strategic and thoughtful way to bring computer science to all K–12 students. I am excited with the progress we’re making.
In the fall of 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1539, authored by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, which gave the state board’s advisory body, the Instructional Quality Commission, the authority to “consider developing and recommending to the state board computer science content standards for kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, pursuant to recommendations developed by a group of computer science experts.”
As a first step in this process, the California Department of Education has recently announced three computer science focus groups, to be convened in November in Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego, to solicit input from educators and the public on the creation of computer science standards for the state.
This timing is auspicious, since a new, first-ever national consensus document called the K–12 Computer Science Framework is being released Oct 17. Initiated originally by Code.org, the steering committee for the framework includes the national Computer Science Teachers Association, the National Math and Science Initiative and the Cyber Innovation Center, as well as Mehran Sahami, a computer sciences professor at Stanford who represents the Association of Computing Machinery.
Hundreds of K–12 computer science teachers, higher education faculty, advocacy and policy groups, high-tech industry officials and state policy leaders across the country have participated in the K–12 computer science framework development as experts, reviewers, writers and stakeholders. That list includes several dozen Californians, more than any other state.
As the state board’s liaison on computer science, I’ve been actively engaged with the process to develop this framework since the beginning.
The K–12 computer science framework presents a national consensus on computer science concepts (what all students should know) and practices (what all students should be able to do) by grade span (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12) in the three areas of computer science, digital citizenship and computer literacy.
The framework is accompanied by a number of chapters intended to support computer science implementation by states and by districts. This new K–12 computer science framework, as well as computer science standards recently developed by select other states and by the national Computer Science Teachers Association, will help inform California’s thinking and decisions going forward on computer science standards development.
In a state as diverse and large as California, it will be important to ask what state guidance will be most helpful to encourage and support local school districts to expand, and especially to diversify, student access to computer science in K–12.
How best can new state computer science standards encourage local innovation in district implementation choices and provide flexibility for districts that have already begun to implement computer science curricula? What new processes might be needed to qualify interested educators to teach computer science? In what ways could new K–12 computer science standards align with UC, CSU and community college expectations and support greater college- and career-readiness among all students?
In addition to computer science standards, many other state policy dots will need to be connected and addressed. On September 27, the governor signed Assembly Bill 2329, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, which requires State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to convene, on or before September 1, 2017, a computer science strategic implementation advisory panel composed of 23 members to develop and submit recommendations for a computer science strategic implementation plan to the State Department of Education, the state board and the Legislature on or before July 1, 2018.
This advisory panel will address issues related to 1) broadening the pool of teachers for computer science, 2) defining computer science education principles that meet the needs of students in K–12 and 3) ensuring that all pupils have access to quality computer science courses or instruction, with the objective that all high schools in California teach at least one computer science course, provide access to computer sciences in both college and career pathways, and increase the participation of students traditionally underrepresented in computer science education.
The next two years will see great momentum in California, across multiple fronts, as we thoughtfully consider how best to bring computer science into our broad-based 21st century curriculum, and to ensure it is accessible to all our K–12 students.
Trish Williams is a member of the California State Board of Education and computer science liaison for the board.
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