In a New Survey, Teachers Say There’s a Disconnect in Computer Science Education

Is there a disconnect in current efforts to teach computer science? Some teachers think so. In a new survey, 88 percent of teacher respondents said they believe computer science is critical for students’ success in the workplace—but two in 10 teachers said their students aren’t taught any computer science.Commissioned by Microsoft, in time for Computer Science Education Week, the survey was conducted by public opinion and data company YouGov, who surveyed 540 K-12 teachers.The majority of teachers surveyed believe the gap exists for a few reasons: computer science isn’t part of their school’s curriculum, there is a lack of funding for it and it’s not a subject students are tested on. “Computer science is clearly in high demand,” says Mark Sparvell, senior manager of education marketing at Microsoft. “Teachers see it as a priority, parents see it as a priority from previous research. And yet, it’s in low supply.”Sheena Vaidyanathan, a computer science integration specialist at Los Altos School District in California, says that states, school districts and boards of education have not prioritized computer science education the way they should. Even if not every child will grow up to work as a computer scientist, she thinks everyone should at least get exposure to how computers work.“We have not yet put our foot down and said this is something that should be part of every child’s education,” Vaidyanathan says. Three-fourths of surveyed teachers think similarly. They’re concerned that federal and state governments aren’t doing enough to help schools teach computer science. The majority of respondents (80 percent) also think big tech companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google should step in and help kids learn computer science skills. Yet Vaidyanathan takes a different view. She says that computer science should be part of the core U.S. education curriculum the way math and reading are, rather than being dependent on funding and involvement from tech companies in order for it to be taught in schools.A core part of integrating computer science education into classrooms all around the United States comes down to teacher training, she explains. “We must accept the fact that unless we do this in a systematic way, our teachers are not ready to teach [computer science].” She points to the United Kingdom as an example. The country has made efforts to improve curriculum and train 8,000 teachers in computer science.But for now, big tech companies are happy to play a major role in bringing computer science to students in the US. Sparvell says Microsoft is committed to preparing students for higher education and a rapidly evolving workforce. In addition to the survey, Microsoft is also committing $10 million to help nonprofit Code.org accomplish two main tasks by 2020—to make sure all states will have passed policies to expand access to computer science, and that every school in the U.S. will have access to Code.org professional development by then. “We know that our technologies have got the power to drive real learning and innovation,” Sparvell says.

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