Survey: Large gap between demand for computer science, schools actually teaching it
- There is a disconnect between the belief that computer science is important and the actual application of the skills in schools, according to a new survey, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by public opinion and data company YouGov.
- According to the survey, which was reported on by EdSurge, 88% of the 540 K-12 teachers polled said they believed computer science was critical for student success in the workplace. Only 20%, however, said their students were actually taught any computer science.
- The gap, according to teachers surveyed, existed for several reasons, such as a lack of a computer science curriculum, a lack of funding, and a lack of incentive since computer science is not tested and therefore tied to funding.
The survey comes as the Trump administration releases a five-year plan to strengthen STEM education in the U.S., but who is responsible for ensuring computer science skills are taught in schools? Eighty percent of the teachers surveyed believed tech companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google should step in to help teach and/or fund the lessons. EdSurge, however, interviewed a computer science integration specialist at the Los Altos School District in California who felt differently. Sheena Vaidyanathan believes U.S. education curricula should integrate computer science requirements — the same way math and reading are par standard in schools.
Regardless of which position one takes, there is still the issue of a teacher shortage, specifically in the STEM fields. Over half public school districts in the nation report struggling to recruit and retain certified and effective STEM teachers, according to a commentary in The 74. This figure rises to 90% in districts serving large proportions of African-American and Latino students, the piece says.
This hiring struggle was also documented by the Center for Public Education. But solutions are also being identified. In January, The Hechinger Report profiled the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning, which works to transform experienced classroom teachers for other subject areas into chemistry teachers and physics teachers. In addition to preparation for the state test, the program gives crash courses on teaching these subjects. Since 2010, the program has converted 50 teachers into chemistry teachers and 217 educators into physics teachers.
Other solutions include the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning, a new program associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that offers a master’s level program in education and helps traditional scientists and other STEM workers become certified teachers. School and district leaders can form connections with higher education institutions and local businesses to see what sort of recruitment and training programs are available in their communities.