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Interest in K-12 Policy Growing

I just returned from the Snowbird Conference in Utah and I was astounded at the level of attendee interest in education policy issues relating to computer science education in K-12. I Perhaps our time has finally come to work together as a community to make sure that all students have access to rigorous computer science courses.

The Snowbird conference is sponsored by the Computing Research Association (CRA) and here is how they describe the event:

The biennial CRA Conference at Snowbird is the flagship invitation-only conference for the leadership of the North American computing research community. Invitees include computer science, computer engineering, and information technology department chairs; assistant, associate, and prospective chairs; directors of graduate or undergraduate education; directors of industry or government research labs/centers; and professional society or government leaders in computing.

Clearly this is a group of people with a lot on their minds right now.

I was at Snowbird thanks to ACM CEO John White, who invited me to participate in a panel focusing on policy and advocacy for K-12 computer science. My fellow panelist Jan Cuny from NSF noted that it is always good when you have more people in the audience than on the panel. :-) And this time we had five people on the panel and more than 60 in the audience!

My job was to set the advocacy policy by describing the current situation with K-12 computing. I told the audience that I felt a bit like Chicken Little. I was there to tell them that the sky is falling (it is really is!) but I also wanted them to know that I have never felt so hopeful about our potential to make real, systemic, and sustained improvements to CS education. From new resources that are making CS concepts easier to teach (Alice, Bootstrap, Scratch, Scaleable Design, to name just a few), to curricula such as Exploring Computer Science and Media Computation that are teaching us how teach in ways that better engage all student, to the exploding number of professional development events for teachers this summer, there is much to feel hopeful about.

But as the Snowbird attendees pointed out, there are also many things that still makes us feel frustrated and discouraged. Computer science is not part of the academic core in schools and so we continually fight for a place in the school schedule and the state standards. In most states, CS courses do not count as a graduation credit. CS is still being largely ignored by national and state-level organizations that purport to support STEM. And the hot mess that is teacher certification is almost beyond belief. These are all things, however, that we can change through policy.

While many of the attendees rose to talk about these issues during our discussion, I was a bit disappointed that no one followed up those comments with: "And this is what I am going to do to fix this problem...!".

So I would just like to offer three of my favorite quotes in hopes that they will inspire you to take that first step toward making change happen:

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." Desmond Tutu

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."Arthur Ashe

"You can't build a reputation on what you intend to do."Liz Smith

Chris Stephenson
CSTAExecutive Director

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