- At an event held Wednesday at the Microsoft Policy Innovation Center, expert panelists discussed the lack of qualified computer science teachers in K-12 education, and determined that more training could boost the numbers –– but they still couldn't pinpoint where funding for such programs would come from, reports Education Week.
- Cameron Wilson, chief operating officer of Code.org Advocacy Coalition, pointed out that while many schools receive funding, it's often not targeted toward science education, which is something that can easily change. And, Rep. Chuck Fleishmann (R-TN) noted that as $2 billion in Title II funding for teaching training is eliminated from the House budget, schools can fill gaps by looking toward philanthropists and corporations.
- Panelists were ultimately unable to determine how to get more computer science teachers, but showed that schools can take steps ahead of legislators to look for resources, as well as be more strategic in course offerings. For instance, schools at the K-12 level can team up with higher education institutions to get teachers the training they need, and begin building a pipeline of high schoolers that are entering college with necessary skillsets.
Panelists at the Microsoft Policy Innovation Center event highlight that while there is generally a lack of qualified K-12 computer science teachers that need training. But, the overwhelming sentiment pointed in the direction of schools and decision-makers in the space to start being more strategic about their course offerings and how they target funding –– not just at the K-12 level, but across the entire spectrum of education. Understanding that courses at the K-12 and even early education level prepare students with the primary knowledge they need to pursue STEM fields in college and the workforce, it's critical that K-12 leaders don't wait around for qualified teachers to show up.
Rather, they can make those steps ahead of time, as was suggested by the panelists, to start making sure funding is going toward teaching training, not just in computer science, but all STEM fields. Moreover, they can start working with partner institutions and non-profits that are more than eager to provide the resources and teaching material necessary for the classroom. For example in California, schools working on Next Generation Science Standards, have been teaming up with groups like Monterey Bay Aquarium, NASA and the Exploratorium, among others. Additionally, groups like Code.org, also work with schools by helping them reach out to legislators; it has helped increase opportunities for computer science by raising awareness about its importance and holding “Hour of Code” events across schools nationwide, while also aggressively lobbying with legislators to make the course a graduation requirement.
Beyond just that, K-12 groups can work with colleges and universities interested in building the STEM pipeline by offering opportunities in teacher training and giving classes to students if those schools can't offer the curriculum themselves. An example of this is the Verizon Minority Male Makers program, which began at four historically black universities and colleges: Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Jackson State University and Kentucky State University, but now consists of 11 partners. The program matches K-12 students with these HBCU schools and offers them intensive summer training in STEM related fields. Such higher ed partnerships are important to pursue, as issues in promotion of science education extend across all levels of instruction, and the pipeline problem can only be truly targeted through strategic collaboration. K-12 schools can not only be proactive through targeted funding and programs, but also in how they address the pipeline overall.