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A Computer Science Honor Society?

Does your high school have chapters of any subject-specific honor societies, such as Mu Alpha Theta (math), Science National Honor Society, Tri-M (music), or one or more honor societies for specific foreign languages?

From time to time, CSTA has received inquiries about an honor society for CS students. We've done some research into how other subjects' honor societies operate, and we've discussed it at a couple of meetings of the Board of Directors. Our conversations have included discussions about what services that the sponsoring organization might provide (from defining membership standards to producing "official" certificates of membership), as well as any perceived value of such membership (to students, administrators, and colleges). We've also looked at the way some of the other subject-specific honor societies are managed, whether by a national organization of teachers of a subject, a university-level organization for a subject, or an organization of professionals in that field.

But we kept coming back to one question: would people (students, administrators, colleges) perceive value in selection for such an honor society? And we realized that the most important information needed to come from you, the teachers in secondary schools. You would be the most likely force for starting chapters of a CS honor society at your schools, as well as the most logical advisors for such chapters. So here are some questions that we would love for you to answer.

1. Would your school administration be likely to find value in hosting a chapter of a CS honor society at your school? Would students perceive value in being selected?

2. Would you be willing to serve as the advisor for a chapter of a CS honor society?

3. How many students would you expect to induct in an average year?

4. In what kinds of activities (in addition to an induction ceremony) would you expect such a chapter to engage?

5. What services would you need the sponsoring organization (CSTA or another group) to provide (as a minimum)? What else would be on your wish list?

Please also tell us at what level (middle or high school) you teach.

We eagerly await your responses. Thanks!

Debbie Carter
CS Teacher, Roxbury High School, NJ
CSTA Board of Directors

Comments

I see that your posting has been up for while and you've had no responders. I'm wondering if everyone else is having the same reaction, so I'll post my thoughts ... perhaps that will stimulate others to agree, disagree, amplify or correct my misconceptions.

I teach in Montgomery County Public Schools, in Maryland. MCPS serves a wealthy community of fairly well-to-do parents. This fact in itself provides pros and cons. A "pro" is that many parents work within the IT industry, the "con" is that many parents lost their jobs during the last dot-com bust or are now under the same threat of unemployment that we all feel.

MCPS also recruits good teachers. Now, this is a second career for me: I spent 20 years in various roles in the "industry" (from academics to commercial software) and I teach because I truly believe that this content is valuable in many ways. My peers have no idea what Computer Science is or why it's relevant to anything that they consider "science," or "mathematics."

The only reason that I still have a job is that I generate (or generated) high AP numbers ... pure and simple. As you can surmise, the recent moves by ETS to eliminate the AB exam has only exacerbated an already bad situation.

I could not envision going to the Instructional Council, or even my Principal in private and suggesting a CS Honors Society because
1) We lack credibility among the established disciplines;
2) We cannot ensure adequate student participation;
3) We cannot find adequate faculty across the system; and, as a result of all of these factors,
4) The Administration sees no value in doing this.

Now, MCPS is parent-driven. I can translate some of these comments into similar reactions within the parent community as well. Their children are already over-committed; their extra-curricular activities are so cluttered at this time that to suggest another Society or activity would not be in my best interest (especially as many within this community are inclined to retrenchment as opposed to progressive thinking, again given the economy, etc.)

I am sure that others on this list have different viewpoints, and perhaps they work within systems where such a thing would be possible and desirable.

TomR

we are interested in creating a CS HS next year. Has your project developed a program or guidelines?

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