California takes computer science education seriously

California takes computer science education seriously

• There is a significant disparity between the availability of technology jobs in California and the number of young people completing computer science education.
• Bills are underway to make computer science education mandatory through graduation.
• But how much will htat actually move the number or solve the problem?

Home of Silicon Valley and a tech school with only a 4% acceptance rate, California is a hive of computer science. Nearly 1.5 million people in the state work in tech jobs, and its tech workforce is the largest among all states by a wide margin.

While California’s technology industry provides an economic impact of $536 billion and there are approximately 55,868 technology business establishments in the state, education for the younger generation does not reflect the reputation the state deserves.

Only five percent of California’s 1,930,000 high school students are enrolled in a computer science course. In fact, despite being a step forward in technology eMPLOYMENT California lags behind the national average and behind 40 other states in the percentage of high schools offering computer science education.

Computer science education in California - less than it should be?

One Slashdot user noted that the images used in the announcement were lifted “verbatim” from Code.org.

To remedy this, legislation was introduced in early 2023 by Rep. Marc Berman to guarantee access to all high school students in California. Far from being the state’s Silicon Valley step above the rest of the country, AB 1054 brought California into line with 27 other states that already required public high schools to offer a computer science education.

Furthering the effort on February 6 of this year, Berman was joined by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond at a press conference to unveil a bill that, if passed, would require every public high school to teach computer science.

By the 2030-31 school year, the legislation (AB 2097) proposes, computer science would be created as a CALL for high school graduation.

“It is critical to equip our students with the skills they need to enter the 21st century workforce and succeed in our digitally driven world,” Berman said.

“We owe it to our students to teach them the fundamental skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s economy—and that starts with access to a computer science education.”

As of January 2023, California has 45,245 computer science job openings that have an average salary of $153,544, yet there were only 9,339 computer science graduates in 2020. Indeed, California has the most computer science job openings in place.

“Many students growing up in the shadow of global technology companies are not gaining the skills they need to one day work at those companies,” Berman said. “Not only will AB 2097 help provide the workforce needed for California to remain competitive with other states and other nations, but are also essential in closing existing gender and diversity gaps.”

“If we truly value equity in our schools, we must ensure that all students have access to a computer science education.”

Although female students make up 49% of California’s school population, only 30% of computer science students are female. Does making it a required subject of study open the door to more girls?

Of course, if it is coupled with the right messages – the fact that computer science not only prepares students for careers in Silicon Valley or technology more broadly, but rather a life that will inevitably be more dominated by technology than it has been ever before.

It’s true that only 34% of high schools that serve high percentages of Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Pacific Islander students offer computer science courses, compared to 52% of schools that serve a higher percentage of white and Asian students.

Again, though, simply enforcing that students can’t graduate without passing computer science won’t change much more than metrics. Yes, 100% of those schools will offer computer science education, but who will make sure students have the resources outside of school to successfully engage in the lessons?

How much algebra do you remember from high school?

The bill’s announcement comes less than two weeks after nonprofit Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi was a keynote speaker at the California Superintendents of School Administrators Symposium.

How would mandatory computer science education help?

Co-founder and CEO Hadi Partovi at Code.org’s 10th Anniversary Gala.

Code.org has support from several tech giants and advocates for computer science education. Partov’s goal is to make computer science a high school graduation requirement in all 50 states by 2030 — so California’s proposed bill is a good start.

In a Facebook post in October, Berman noted that he had partnered with Code.org on legislation in the past and hinted that something big was in the works on the K-12 CS education front for California.

“I had the opportunity to participate in Code.org’s 10th anniversary celebration and talk with their founder, Hadi Partovi, as well as CS lawyer Aloe Blacc. They’ve done amazing work expanding access to computer science education… and I’ve been proud to partner with them on legislation to do just that in CA. More to come!”

More to come and no doubt this is just the beginning. What remains to be seen is whether the implementation of computer science education will be enough to change public attitudes—tech companies may feel some hostility in California at the moment.

Waymo is certainly not welcome in San Francisco!

Assemblyman Berman has a strong track record in computer science education in California.

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