The United States leads the world in technology innovation, but this leadership is jeopardized by insufficient support for computer science education in our nation’s K-12 schools. We cannot maintain an innovation-driven economy and prepare students for future success in the digital economy if we do not expand access to high-quality computer science education.
The following facts underscore that more needs to be done to improve K-12 computer science education:
- Only 35 percent of U.S. high schools offer computer science courses. Yet 90 percent of parents want their children to learn computer science.
- There are more than 570,000 computing jobs open in the U.S., but fewer than 50,000 computer science students graduated into the workforce in 2017.
- Only 15 states require all high schools to offer computer science. Just 20 states provide funding for computer science professional development to help prepare educators to teach this subject.
- While the U.S. Department of Education was directed to devote at least $200 million in existing funds to STEM and computer science programs, fewer than 2 percent of grantees in federal Fiscal Year 2018 were focused entirely on computer science education.
Signs of Progress
Even though we need to go much further to expand computer science education and training for students and job seekers, progress has been made on several fronts in recent years:
- In 2018, nearly 136,000 students took the Advanced Placement (AP) computer science exam, an increase of 31 percent from the previous year. Women, under-represented minorities, and rural students all took the exam in significantly increased numbers. Still, only 28 percent of test-takers were women, and only 21 percent were under-represented minorities.
- In 2018, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st-Century Act was signed into law. This bill, which reauthorized the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, includes specific provisions that support computer science education and coding courses.
- In the 115th Congress, several bipartisan bills were introduced to improve and expand computer science education, including the Computer Science Career Education Act, the Computer Science for All Act, and the Computer Science in STEM Act. These and similar bills may be reintroduced in 2019-2020.
The Need for Increased Federal Funding and Leadership
Slowly but surely, progress is being made to advance computer science education. There is growing awareness among educators, policymakers, and the broader public about the need for greater opportunities to learn coding and computer science.
In addition, in 2017, several leading tech companies, including Microsoft, pledged to commit $300 million to computer science education over five years. In addition to providing funds, some companies are also contributing software, services, and other support.
At the same time, to drive a more robust expansion of computer science education all across the country, the federal government must do more. Voices for Innovation supports a federal commitment of $250 million in dedicated funding to computer science education. This funding stream is essential for improving computer science education nationwide and enabling the U.S. to maintain its global technology leadership.