« What To Do About CS Teacher Certification | Main | Sometimes Even Bad Things Are Good To Know »

New Research on the Impact of NCLB

A recent study by Robert Tai, assistant professor of science education at the University of Virginia, gives some important support to warning voices being raised about the impact of NCLB testing on high school computer science education.

As two recent articles in the CSTA Voice noted, the current emphasis on student performance in math and literacy is having a profound effect on high school computer science. Teachers and resources are being pulled from non-core courses to provide remedial learning to raise test scores, leading to the cancellation of computer science classes, especially in urban schools that are more reliant upon federal funding.

Tai surveyed 3,359 students who were in the eighth grade in 1988. He found that among students who expressed interest in science and yet made only average math scores, 34% graduated college with a science or engineering degree while
those with above-average math scores and no preference for science, had only a 19% likelihood of earning a science or engineering degree.

Tai's findings suggest that mandatory testing policies, such as the No Child Left Behind Law might actually worsen the nation's output of scientists by focusing to narrowly on math and literacy achievement.

"We've been so focused on achievement, on getting students to do better, we've pretty much ignored their interest," Tai said in an interview. "And it's their interest that's going to pull them through."

Tai's findings are particularly important in light of the President's concerns about national competitiveness in areas such as supercomputing and nanotechnology for which computer science education provides the conceptual building blocks. Decreasing opportunities for students to study computer science in high school deprives students of the opportunity to explore their interests and abilities in this field, and therefore only exacerbates the current pipeline crisis.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)