States Turn to Computer Sciences Standards and Certification

By Meredith Rossbach

State boards of education in 2017 increasingly recognized computer science as integral to their policy agendas in line with the national push to step up K-12 instruction in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), draw more women and minorities into computer science fields, and ensure all students have access to computer science courses taught by well-prepared, high-quality educators.

Fifteen states adopted or developed policies for K-12 computer science, as reflected in state boards’ 2017 meeting agendas.  For example, New Hampshire in November adopted a policy for certification of computer science educators. Arizona and Colorado continue to review and develop computer science learning standards. Arizona has highlighted core concepts such as computing systems, data and analysis, and algorithms and programming, and the board is seeking public comment on proposed standards.  Colorado’s state board is developing a computer science definition to encompass computational thinking, computing systems, contexts and uses, and digital citizenship. Additionally, the board is identifying key indicators of success and guiding principles to aid in developing the state’s computer science standards.

West Virginia approved the West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards for Technology and Computer Science in April.  This updated policy adds grade band indicators, elective middle and high school courses, and the option to use computer science courses for one required math and one required science course.

In November, the Virginia state board published Computer Science Standards of Learning to ensure that all students can participate productively in society and make informed decisions. The computer science standards are intended to address factors such as race, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, and English language proficiency, with classes that engage all learners with rigorous coursework and high expectations.  The standards cover kindergarten through grade 8 and also detail standards for middle school computer science electives, with options for implementation of varying durations built from prior grade-level standards.

The South Carolina State Board of Education formed a joint task force with the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, an independent group appointed by the governor and legislature, to study computer science and information technology education. The task force’s 2016 report recognized as areas of concern the dearth of computer science skills to fill available jobs; the underrepresentation of female students, students in poverty, and minority students in computer science courses and careers; and the lack of computer science teacher preparation programs. The report urged a computer science initiative, the development of clear pathways in grades 9-12 toward computer and information technology careers, and the approval of computer science as a recognized field of teacher certification. The state board approved a computer science certification in January 2017 and in May voted to adopt the Praxis subject area assessment for computer science.

Meredith Rossbach is a NASBE policy intern.