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Computer Science Certification-Why We Need to Care

First, I would like to encourage all of you to read the CSTA publication: Ensuring Exemplary Teaching in an Essential Discipline: Addressing the Crisis in Computer Science Teacher Certification

As we know, there is a crisis in computer science teacher certification. This crisis can be attributed to two key factors:
* a lack of clarity, understanding, and consistency with regard to current certification requirements
* where certification or endorsement requirements do exist, they often have no connection to computer science content.

What follows is, in my opinion, a ridiculous situation being experienced by a person who is currently in search of a high school computer science teaching position in New Jersey. Unfortunately, this situation and similar situations are not uncommon.

Background and Experience:
Mathematics and Computer Science, Explorer Scouts, Summers 1976 and 1977.
Independent Computer Programmer and Consultant, 1984-1997.
B.S. Computer Science, Marquette University, 1991.
High School Certification in Computer Science, Mathematics, and History,
Cardinal Stritch University, 1997.
Wisconsin Licenses 1997-2002, 2002-2007, 2007-2012.
M.S. Computer Science Education, Cardinal Stritch University, 2004.
AP Computer Science Reader, 2006-2009.

Notes on certification
Wisconsin created certification in Computer Science in 1983. While relatively few Schools of Education offer CS certification, it is a recognized field.

This person's other certifications are as "add-on minors"; that is, he took enough courses to have had an undergraduate minor in mathematics and in history, but did not take them at the right time to add them to my undergraduate degree.

For personal reasons, this person is moving to New Jersey.

Attempts to certify in New Jersey
Wisconsin offers reciprocity with very few other states. New Jersey is not on that short list.

New Jersey does not offer High School certification in Computer Science. The closest thing is Vocation School certification in Computer Technology.

Based on numerous discussions with people at the New Jersey Department of Education, those who teach computer science in New Jersey usually have certifications in either Mathematics or Business. They have suggested that he return to school to earn a second Bachelor’s degree in a certifiable subject area.

More attempts
Not getting any answers by telephone this summer (the number for the New Jersey Department of Education is only open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is almost always busy), he has spoken with two people at the Morris County New Jersey Office of the Department of Education. They have suggested that the Department of Education is extremely busy with renewals and initial certifications right now. No one in Trenton will see people. If you want to find out how to certify, you need to fill out the online application, pay the $190 fee, and then they will consider answering your questions. (If you cannot be certified, then they will refund $120 of the fee.)

Temporary solution
For now, it appears that his best options are to either teach at a private high school or teach as an adjunct at a college or university.

He has accepted a position in a private high school in New York to teach one section of AP CS and also an adjunct position at a 4-year university in New Jersey teaching a CS 0 course. He will be spending more time commuting than teaching!

Because they cannot be certified as computer science teachers, new teachers and those teachers like the person described above, find that they must first meet the certification requirements in some other discipline, requiring them to develop and prove teaching proficiency in a field in which they may not actually wish to teach.

It is absolutely essential that all computer science teachers, new and veteran, have adequate
preparation to teach computer science successfully. The background information described above clearly indicates adequate preparation to teach computer science. But because there is a significant lack of consistency in computer science teacher certification standards in the United States, he is unable to hold a NJ teaching certificate.

Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the standards for computer science teachers are clear, consistent, and are uniformly implemented in the United States as well as in other countries. It is critical that the standards described in the CSTA publication mentioned above be universally accepted and applied to the licensing of high school computer science teachers.

I thank Lon Levy for sharing his story.

Fran Trees
CSTA Chapter Liaison


While my story isn't nearly as frustrating as Lon's, I believe it is worth sharing. I am a certified math teacher who began teaching APCS in 2003 when the course was part of the math department. The Career and Technology Education department took it over a few years later and although I wasn't a business teacher, I was permitted to keep teaching it. A couple of years ago in late spring, we were told by the state that anyone teaching APCS in the fall had to be business ed certified. This meant that all current teachers who held non-business ed certifications had to take and pass the Praxis. My principal told me this two weeks prior to the next test administration. I had two weeks to prepare for an exam in which I had no experience, either pedagogical or real-world. Thankfully, I passed. This was a miracle since I knew nothing about accounting and very little about marketing. A few months later, the state reversed its position and said that any certified teacher could now teach APCS. While this was good news, I now have business ed certification listed on my license which means that I could be asked to teach a business course in a field other than computing for which I'm not qualified. All of this could have been avoided if there was a computer science endorsement in Georgia at the time. The state has since approved such an endorsement, but at this time, it's not mandatory. I do not know what plans the state has for the endorsement in the future.


What were their reasons for requiring a bussiness ed. cert.? I could see the connection with an IT program, but not CS.


Thank you for the insightful article.

Certification should be very clear and there should not be any compromise on this. Clear certification will improve the job potential. Those with certification from top class institutions are sought after in the highly growing online teaching niche.

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