CS4NC is a collaborative initiative made up of individuals and organizations from around the state of North Carolina that supports the broadening of participation in computer science. As part of the growing national movement to bring computer science education to K-12 schools, the overall goal of CS4NC is to expand computer science opportunities in all NC K-12 Schools to expose all students to the opportunities that exist within computer science, to help students understand the impact of computer science on our society, and ultimately to create a larger more diversified hi-tech workforce for the future.
Because of CS4NC, for the first time in North Carolina’s history, Computer Science will be part of the Standard Course of Study and comprehensive K-12 CS standards will be adopted this year. The time to provide professional development has begun for our teachers. Unfortunately, under the current plan we will not be able train the nearly 3000 teachers, in 100 counties, necessary to provide CS in each middle and high school until 2030. But working together we can accelerate this effort.
CS is Fundamental
As our society becomes ever more dependent on computing systems, an understanding of computer science (CS) has become critical. At any given moment, there are nearly a half a million open computing jobs in the US, and by 2040 nearly 75% of all jobs will require some knowledge of computer science. Beyond meeting the demands of the hi-tech workforce, the knowledge gained through CS education can accelerate innovation and change the way people create, design and solve problems in nearly any field. It prepares students with tools to not only lead the way in their chosen field, but also lead their field toward social good and positive impact on the world around them. In short, CS education is a fundamental need for schools, as all students deserve the opportunity to engage in rewarding work that is integral to solving our increasingly complex global challenges. However, the K12 education system is just beginning to address the importance of students learning CS and developing computational thinking skills necessary to formulate problems and develop solutions with sufficient specificity that they can be carried out by computers.
By 2040, nearly 75% of all jobs will require a background in computer science.
Today, we have over 28,000 open tech jobs in NC with many being filled with workers migrating to our state.
A recent survey by Google and Gallup shows that groups underrepresented in computer science–women, African-Americans, and Hispanics–do not lack interest, but rather lack both awareness of and access to opportunities. For low-income families, resources of time, finances, and transportation rule out many out-of-school activities. In rural communities, distance to programs is a significant limiter to broad student participation. However, when students have access to AP Computer Science in high school, they are 6 times more likely to major in it in college with underrepresented minorities 7-8 times more likely and women 10 times more likely. Of the 2,600 NC’s students who passed AP CS exams, underrepresented minorities represent less than 17% and females represent less than a third. For many students, the belief that CS is not for “people like me” is the greatest barrier to overcome. To overcome these barriers and ensure broad-scale exposure, opportunities, and encouragement for all students in NC, CS classes must be taught in all schools and made locally relevant and accessible by a well-prepared teacher.
How We Do It
While NC schools offer programming and IT technical skills programs, these courses have not been enough to cover the ever-expanding field of computer science (CS), nor have they attracted a diverse population of students to participate. To address this, North Carolina has adopted a curriculum of middle and high school courses to showcase the breadth of the field of computer science and to broaden participation in computer science related courses among all students.
The Friday Institute has been conducting a 3-year pilot teacher professional learning program in partnership with the NC Department of Public Instruction to prepare teachers of other subjects to teach computer science in middle and high schools across the state. The professional learning programs are aligned with the nationally recognized CS Discoveries and CS Principles curricula which are computer science survey courses, designed to broaden participation and increase diversity in computer science. To date, the pilot program has demonstrated success reaching over 400 teachers in 77 districts, with students scoring above average on national CS exams, and increasing the diversity of students participating.