NCWIT Progress Report from Washington, D.C. — Fall 2010

Since its inception, NCWIT has recognized that increasing women’s participation in computing requires a strong platform on the larger issues of IT education, diversity, and innovation, therefore necessitating a strong presence among legislators and policy-makers in Washington, D.C. NCWIT works with distinguished partner organizations (including the ACM, CSTA, SWE and CRA) on many fronts in D.C. Following is a progress report on recent D.C. events, legislation, and publications that are related to NCWIT’s mission.


U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival
Can you picture it? Thousands of people and thousands of booths packed along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and in the middle of it, NCWIT and Tim Bell: wearing “acid green” NCWIT baseball caps while running hundreds of kids through a CS Unplugged sorting exercise.


On October 23 and 24, NCWIT joined several of its partners and more than 1,500 organizations from across the country for the U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival expo on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The goal of the inaugural festival was to re-invigorate the interest of our nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and all along the Mall there were booths, performances, and hands-on activities offering kids of all ages a chance to experience the sciences, from archaeology to zoology (and plenty of computer science in between). At the NCWIT booth, CS Unplugged’s Tim Bell helped us run groups of kids through realtime sorting network exercises. The festival was a massive undertaking — in the size of its crowds, the breadth of its content, and the scope of its mission — but it proved to be a great example of how like-minded organizations can maximize their efforts to get kids interested by working together to build excitement and raise awareness.

Earlier in the week, President Obama hosted a White House Science Fair to celebrate winners of various STEM competitions. The White House Science Fair was one of the President’s goals from his Educate to Innovate campaign, launched in 2009, when he stated, “If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.”

Computing in the Core Computing in the Core
In a perfect world computer science courses would count towards high school graduation; computer science teachers would all have the knowledge and professional development they need; and computer science would be offered as part of the “core” curriculum in every high school. A new cooperative effort, Computing in the Core, has just launched to help create that perfect world.

On October 6, 2010, NCWIT CEO Lucy Sanders was on-hand at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to emcee the launch of Computing in the Core, a “non-partisan advocacy coalition” designed to raise the profile of computer science education and elevate it to a core academic subject in K-12 education. The goal of Computing in the Core, or CinC, is to strengthen computing education and ensure that it is a core subject for students in the 21st century. CinC focuses on four main tenets: implementing rigorous and consistent standards for K-12 computer science curriculum; advocating for computer science to count as a “core” course towards high school graduation; certifying mastery of knowledge among K-12 computer science teachers; and increasing the diversity of K-12 computer science students. Speakers at the event included Bobby Schnabel (Indiana University) and Jim Shelton (U.S. Department of Education); panelists included Norm Augustine (former Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin), John White (ACM), Alfred Spector (Google), Dan Reed (Microsoft) and Tammy Pirmann (Springfield Township High School, Pennsylvania). In addition to NCWIT, the CinC coalition includes ACM, CRA, CSTA, ABI, Google, Microsoft, and SAS.


CS Education and Workforce Data by State
Improving and expanding computer science education in K-12 schools offers tremendous potential for building a workforce that is innovative, competitive, and well-employed. The growing IT job market requires young people with computational thinking abilities and strong technical skills. However, our schools are not providing students with the necessary computer science education. What can you do? A new resource from NCWIT can help you make the case where you live with current data about IT jobs and computer science education, disaggregated by state and congressional district.

On April 22, 2010, NCWIT hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill for members of Congress, entitled, “Computer Science Education: Bringing IT Jobs to Your District.” NCWIT organized the briefing in conjunction with Rep. Jared Polis (CO-2), Rep. Silvestre Reyes (TX-16), and the House Diversity and Innovation Caucus, to provide members of Congress with information about the importance of computer science education to their districts, and to show them examples of data reflecting the disconnect between the growth of IT jobs and the lack of students with computing education. The Honorable Russlynn H. Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, also discussed the need to focus on computer science as a foundation for all other STEM disciplines.

U.S. As a result of this briefing, NCWIT has put together data sets for every state and congressional district in the U.S., to be used in making the case for increasing computer science education. The data sets include statistics such as the number of students who study computing at various levels, as well as the number and growth of computing-related jobs. We encourage you to use these data sets to influence educators, legislators, administrators, parents, and other decision-makers where you live. Download yours now at


CS Ed Week Computer Science Education Week
Mark your calendars: Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is December 5-11, 2010. Everyone can pledge their support for this week-long celebration, and we encourage you to start thinking now about how you’re going to get involved in this community movement to raise awareness about the importance of computer science education.

Just recently Congress re-authorized the recognition of December 5-11, 2010, as Computer Science Education Week. CSEdWeek seeks to raise awareness of the critical role computer science education must play during a week of events, sponsored activities, messaging, and public pledges to participate. CSEdWeek occurs in December to honor the birthday of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a noted computer scientist and pioneer for women in the field. NCWIT is helping to promote CSEdWeek along with partners ACM, CSTA, CRA, ABI, NSF, Google, Intel, and Microsoft. CSEdWeek Chair Debra Richardson (assistant professor of Informatics at the University of California at Irvine) is spending her sabbatical here at the University of Colorado’s Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society (ATLAS) Institute, and NCWIT will be working with her to prepare the CSEdWeek website and recommend resources for educators, policymakers, parents, and others who want to get involved.


Computer Science Education Act
The Computer Science Education Act is a recent effort by Colorado Representative Jared Polis (CO-2) and the new Computing in the Core Coalition to encourage states and school districts to undertake computer science education reform at the local level and expand K-12 computer science education.

The Computer Science Education Act would put in motion some key reforms, such as providing grants to help states assess and improve their computer science curriculum; developing state computer science standards; improving access to underserved populations; creating professional development and teacher certification programs; and ensuring computer science offerings are an integral part of the curriculum. This resolution represents the first time that a member of Congress has advocated specifically for computer science education and we’re hopeful that it represents a tipping point for bringing attention to this issue.


Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited
U.S. The recommendations in the original America COMPETES Act were inspired by the 2005 National Academies’ report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which brought attention to a crisis in U.S. funding for scientific research and lack of STEM education. Five years later, members of the “Storm” committee have released a revised version of the report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5,” which predicts an even bleaker outlook for U.S. innovation and competitiveness unless drastic changes are implemented.

Among the changes recommended in the revised “Storm” report are various methods and incentives for improving the quality and quantity of K-12 STEM teachers, including those teaching Advanced Placement (AP) courses. This is a cause near and dear to our hearts, and recently, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, NCWIT produced a resource explaining how K-12 computer science teachers and university computer science department faculty can help implement a more rigorous AP course in more schools around the country. You can find out more about the initiative, CS Principles, at our website.


America Competes Act
Known in its long form as the “America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act”, the America COMPETES Act was approved by the House in May 2010 but is still awaiting a reauthorization vote in the Senate. Why should a bill with yet another fancy acronym concern you, you may ask? In short, because it commits much-needed resources to STEM education (and, hopefully, specifically to computer science education); and it invests much-needed attention and funding into computing-driven research and innovation.

The COMPETES Act, which was initially passed in 2007, sought to promote scientific progress by “increasing the nation’s commitment to basic research, strengthening STEM education, and fostering a business environment to drive innovation”. Much of the contention about the COMPETES Reauthorization Act concerns its expense (it allocates $85.6 billion over five years) and its focus (some feel that only funding for research and development is necessary; others believe that support for science and technology education is not only imperative, but still underfunded in this resolution.) In addition to doubling the budgets of several government scientific agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the COMPETES Reauthorization Act includes provisions for higher education research, establishing a committee for coordinating STEM education programs across federal agencies, and improving STEM teaching at the elementary school and middle school levels.


Advocacy by Our Partners
Common Core State Standards Initiative
Have you ever wondered why there aren’t national standards for teaching computer science at the K-12 level? A recent effort to create national standards for “core” curricula may also stand to benefit computer science education. The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) represents the efforts of 48 states to agree on consistent standards for subjects such as Language Arts and Math, by producing both a model for what is taught and consistent metrics for how it is measured.

CCSSI is exciting because it proposes to include computer science as a core subject that counts towards graduation. ACM and the Computer Science Teachers Association are advocating with the initiative’s leaders for the inclusion of computer science and it seems a promising sign of the increasing momentum in favor of CS education.

U.S. ACM/CSTA’S Running on Empty
Did you know that only 14 states have significant state-level standards for the instruction of computer science in secondary schools, that only 10 states allow computer science courses to count as a non-elective course towards graduation, and that NO states require computer science courses as part of their core curriculum? A new report and accompanying website from CSTA and ACM, “Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age,” provide a state-by-state look at how we are systematically failing to teach computer science in a consistent, rigorous, or standardized way.

The report’s findings are staggering: for example, two-thirds of states in the U.S. have few or no standards for teaching computer science; only 10 states allow computer science courses to count towards graduation credit; and NO states require a computer science course for graduation from high school. The report calls upon parents, educators, and policy-makers to recognize the importance of computer science education and provides specific recommendations at the state and national level.



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