Computer Science in K-12 Schools:  New Google/Gallup Survey of Students, Parents, and Educators!

Dear Commons Community,

I have attended several meetings over the past three weeks regarding a new initiative in New York City to integrate computer science throughout the K-12 curriculum.  I believe it is a good idea but has a number of logistical hurdles not the least of which is providing teachers who can teach computer science.  Regardless, earlier this year, Google commissioned a national survey with Gallup to get the perceptions of students, parents, and educators regarding teaching computer science in K-12 schools. The Executive Summary is below.  The Huffington Post ran a brief article summarizing the findings as follows.

“Teachers who work at the poorest schools are more likely to think that computer science is vital to their students’ futures, but are less likely to think their school boards agree, a new survey released Tuesday reveals.

The survey was conducted by Gallup on behalf of Google, and looks at perceptions of computer science for different groups, including students, parents, educators and school district administrators. It follows an earlier survey released in August, which looked at access to computer science courses and found that lower-income students have fewer opportunities to study the subject. However, this latest survey shows that low-income students’ lack of access is not due to apathy on the part of their educators.

Twenty-one percent of teachers who work at schools where more than half of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch said they thought access to computer science is more important to a student’s future success than other elective courses, like music or art. Only 10 percent of teachers who work at schools where 25 percent or fewer students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch said the same thing.

Sixty-three percent of teachers at the schools with the poorest students said they think most students should be required to take a computer science course. Fifty-one percent of teachers at schools with more affluent students said the same.

Still, teachers from schools with more affluent students were 13 percent more likely to say that their “school board believes computer science education is important to offer in our schools” than their counterparts at schools with more low-income students.

Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development at Gallup, called the findings a “huge call to action.”

“There are huge discrepancies between the will and the way,” Busteed told The Huffington Post. “There appears to be more will in these poorer schools but less access.”

He continued, “What seems to be missing here are school boards. There is such little conversation about this at a school board level … If I were to say, ‘What’s the one place I would want this data and research to land,’ it would be with members of school boards. They have to look at this and realize their constituents want this in schools.”

This is an interesting topic and should at least be discussed by policy makers at the local level.  However, school boards have been inundated with federal and state mandates for basic (reading, writing, mathematics) instruction, testing, and assessments that there is little room in many curricula especially at the K-8 level for new subject matter.



Executive Summary

  • About half of all students say they’ve learned some computer science, either in school or somewhere else. However, students who are Hispanic, female or from lower-income households are less likely than their counterparts to have learned any computer science. Male students are generally more confident in their ability to learn computer science and are more likely to think they will learn computer science or have a job involving computer science in the future. Hispanic students are generally less confident than Black and White students in their ability to learn computer science. Students who are more confident in their ability to learn computer science are also more likely to say they will learn it in the future.
  • Computer science careers are viewed favorably by many students, parents, teachers and administrators in the U.S. Most students, parents and teachers perceive computer science work to be fun and exciting, and most students, parents and principals say people who work in computer science make things that help improve people’s lives. All groups also believe computer science can be used in many different types of jobs. Two-thirds of students and 79% of parents further agree that most people who work in computer science have good-paying jobs. Although more than six in 10 in every group think that most computer science jobs pay well, Hispanic students and female students are less likely than their counterparts to believe this.
  • Parents in lower-income households and teachers at schools with a greater percentage of free- or reduced-lunch-eligible students are most likely to value formal computer science education. Parents in lower-income households are most likely to think computer science learning opportunities are more important to a student’s future success than required classes, such as math, science, history and English. Teachers in schools with a larger percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch are more likely than other teachers to think computer science learning opportunities are more important to a student’s future success than other elective courses, but their schools are less likely to have computer science available. Among all teachers, three in four also say they would be interested in learning more about computer science if given the opportunity.

The widespread support for computer science learning from all stakeholder groups is encouraging. However, inequitable access to learning opportunities and ingrained stereotypes may hinder some students from participating, particularly females and underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities. Broadening computer science role models, as well as creating accessible learning opportunities that appeal to diverse youth, could help increase participation. Equally important is ensuring that all groups have a common understanding of what computer science is and how it can help students become better-informed consumers of technology.

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