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Putting Computing in the Core

In early August, the U.S. Department of Education released the proposed structure of the $4.5 billion Race to the Top Fund. In short, this fund will distribute billions to states for improving education in the K-12 space:

http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html

The ACM Education Policy Committee, along with CSTA, the Computing Research Association, and the National Center for Women & Information Technology filed a detail set of comments on the proposed structure of the fund including a number of recommendations geared at ensuring that the final grant structure specifically includes computer science education and recognizes the critical role computer science must play in STEM education reform.

Specifically, our comments argue that the Race to the Top legislation should go further in addressing the challenges currently facing computer science at the K-12 level. It should ensure that resources can be dedicated to computer science education and not erect unintentional barriers to improving this subject area. Further, the final notice should place STEM education on equal footing with the required reform areas. We have offered the following specific recommendations to address these issues.

1.A. Add "computer science" after "study in...mathematics, sciences," to the Proposed Priority #2 (for STEM education) clarifying that a state application can support reform of existing computer science courses, introduce new rigorous computer science standards and courses, and support computer science teachers.

1.B. Make Proposed Priority #2 (for STEM education) an absolute priority where a state application would have to describe how the state intends to improve STEM education (with appropriate selection criteria, minimum proposed evidence and proposed performance measures).

2. Coupled with our recommendation (1.B.) add a new section (A)(4) containing selection criteria for subjects in STEM areas, including computer science, that may not be part of the "common set of K-12 standards" but are critical to ensuring student competitiveness in the 21st Century.

3.A. Add an evaluation measure to the minimum proposed evidence (C )(1) "Providing alternative pathways for aspiring teachers and principals" that a state demonstrate to what extent its alternative certiļ¬cation program for STEM teachers, including computer science, draws upon nationally recognized models.

3.B. Independent of the final notice, the Department should use federal funds to create a clearing-house of best practices for teacher certification in STEM fields that should facilitate the information sharing between states on effective certification and endorsement models.

4. Add "computer science" after "...including mathematics, science" in section (C )(3) "Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals."

5. Provide flexibility in the reporting requirements in section (C )(4) "Reporting the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs" for new credentialing programs developed in areas where assessment data is limited, such as computer science.

You can view the complete response document at:

http://www.acm.org/public-policy/race_to_the_top_comments_final.pdf

Chris Stephenson
CSTA Executive Director

Comments

I still wonder how to deal with money as barrier to success. For example, in California, public school teacher salaries are a function of collective bargaining agreements. So even if someone decided to throw all $4.5B at California teacher salaries, it wouldn't address the fact that people with strong technical skills will simply make more money in industry than as teachers. Combine that with all of the hoops one must jump through to become a teacher--credentials classes, for example--and a lot of people will be turned off very quickly, even if they love teaching.

These sorts of things must be ironed out or all of the high-level planning, wonderful as it seems, won't stand a chance.

Josh Paley, Teacher
Henry M. Gunn HS (Palo Alto, CA)

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