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Important New Report on CS Teacher Certification

Over the years no topic has generated more frustration and concern for CSTA members than teacher certification/licensure and supplementary endorsement. As CSTA has been saying for a long time, teacher certification in this country is a dog's breakfast (not all at all appealing) and it is time that states took a serious look at the ways in which they are actually discouraging good teachers from teaching in the field.

Today CSTA released a new report called Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S. This report (developed with support from Google) is a comprehensive study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia revealing that each state (and in some states each school district) has its own process, its own definition of Computer Science, and its own idea of where Computer Science fits in the academic program and who is qualified to teach it.

Bugs in the System reveals that only two states (Arizona and Wisconsin) require teachers to be certified/licensed in Computer Science and in many states there are no requirements for teaching Computer Science at all, meaning teachers with little or even no Computer Science knowledge can teach it and teacher preparation institutions are unlikely to offer programs for new Computer Science teachers.

What doesn't immediately jump to the forefront of the report is how incredibly difficult it was to collect this information and why that, in itself, is a critical part of the story. It took CSTA 18 months, hundreds of emails, hundreds of phone calls, and huge amounts of persistence to track down the information contained in the state report cards. This is because in many cases, the people responsible for determining and enforcing the regulations have no idea what they are for computer science or, in a surprising number of cases, what computer science actually is. Many administrators are still confusing computer science with basic computer literacy and with educational technology (the use of computers to support learning in other disciplines).

What we are lovingly calling "the Bugs report" does provide very practical suggestions to address the current certification craziness. These include:

  • Establish a system of certification/licensure that ensures that all Computer Science teachers have appropriate knowledge of and are prepared to teach the discipline content.
  • Establish a system of certification/licensure that accounts for teachers coming to the discipline from multiple pathways with appropriate requirements geared to those pathways.
  • Require teacher preparation institutions and organizations (especially those purporting to support STEM education) to include programs to prepare Computer Science teachers.
  • Computer Science offers enormous opportunities to current and future students, so our national level failure to ensure that there are enough teachers who are well prepared to teach Computer Science makes no sense, but we need the support of the entire educational community to make the necessary improvements.

    Projections show that in the year 2020 there will be 9.2 million jobs in the "STEM fields" -- those that rely on science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- and half of those jobs will be in computing and IT and there is not nearly enough talent in the pipeline to fill these vacancies. Addressing the current problems with Computer Science teacher certification/licensure is an important step towards ensuring all students have the opportunity to take the courses that will provide the fundamental knowledge and skills to prepare them for future computing jobs.

    Chris Stephenson
    CSTA Executive Director


    What happened to Teacher Certification in Texas -- don't we still have a CS Certification? I know we can teach with an emergency certification, but that is only for so long.

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