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Recruiting: Lessons for a CSTA Chapter

As we started the new school year, our small group of five (three college and two high school educators) is entering round two of starting a CSTA chapter. We created it last year and barely got it up and running. Now, we are committed to pushing ourselves into the educational battleground of Long Island.

The question we posed at our first meeting seemed simple enough: who do we recruit to be active members of the chapter? We made several attempts last year to solicit members through email and letter campaigns based on high school and college directories received from New York State Department of Education. Most of our attempts have yielded disappointing results.

We were brainstorming this at our first session this year:

Do we build computer science programs at the high school level by working from the top down by getting superintendents or principals to support CS?

Do we work with teachers even though our efforts to date indicate that very few teachers in our districts consider themselves computer science teachers (computer applications or computer lab administrators or tech teachers seem to be the norm).

What about parents? If parents demanded more CS wouldn't administrators be forced to support the programs?

Are guidance counselors the answer? It would be nice to have a way to work with all these groups but time, money and manpower are limited.

What about the students? Can we go directly to the students and try to find ways to encourage them to push their parents to push their guidance counselors to demand of their administrators to build computer science into their curriculums?

Sounds like a bad nursery rhyme, doesn't it? Hopefully, by the end of this school year, this group of CSTA chapter members will have found an answer, or at least a small hole to climb through.

What suggestions do you have for CSTA chapters that would like to attract more than a small core of teachers?

Ron Martorelli
CSTA Board of Directors

Comments

In Georgia the Institute for Computing Education has tried a several of these things as well as some others. We started out by offering computing workshops for teachers and computing summer camps for high school students in 2004. In 2005 we started also working with the Girl Scouts to offer weekend computing workshops. In 2006 we added summer camps for middle school students. In 2009 we added summer camps for 4th-5th grade students. We have been offering an AP CS competition since 2006. We ran Alice and Scratch competitions last year. At least two of our current computing students at Georgia Tech credit our summer camps with their decisions to choose a computing major.

Last year we held a "Cool Computing" day at Georgia Tech with about 300 students and their teachers. This year we are going to offer two of these days with a limit of 250 students each and the first one is already full with a waiting list.

In Jan 2011 we are going to have a morning meeting of principals, assistant principals, counselors, and CTAERN directions to educate them on the importance of computing and how it differs from computer literacy.

In Decemeber we are planning on sending letters to parents of students who do well (show AP Potential) on the PSAT to encourage them to take Advanced Placment Computer Science. We fought for AP CS A to count as a science or math in Georgia for graduation and it does count as a science for graduation and a sciene or math for entry into Georgia's colleges and universities. NCWIT has some great materials that we will include in the letters for parents of girls.

We helped revise the computing coures in Georgia so that they more closely match the ACM Model Curriculum.

Our CSTA chapter just got started this year. They have held a couple of meetings and it is exciting to see some of the teachers we have worked with over the years take charge and run the meetings.

One way we get teachers to come to our workshops is if they have been teaching Computer Applications and that is being moved to middle school so they need to learn something else to teach. We start them out with Scratch and Alice.

I feel that if you've received a tepid response (to date) from existing teachers, then that trend is likely to continue. The situation will probably require a new hire or two (easier said than done, of course), with the emphasis obviously being placed on CS. You have an uphill struggle, and I applaud your efforts--keep working hard and hopefully these efforts will be rewarded in time...

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