Ed Lazowska: Great, thank you for joining us this morning. I’m Ed Lazowska, I’m from the University of Washington, and I have to say it’s a real honor and pleasure to once again be back at NCWIT. This is one of the best events in the country every year and I really enjoy being here. What we’re here to do today is talk to you about what’s going on in Washington, DC, and the goal is to be interactive. We want you to ask us some questions as we move along. I’ll start with mine, but we’ll transition to yours, and what we wanna do is expose you to things going on in Washington, DC that affect you and that you can affect. There are lots of things going on there that are not directly related to the theme of NCWIT and computing and there are lots of things that are but we are powerless to influence them. On the other hand, there’s this important overlap area of things going on that really make a difference to us and we can all play in an effective way. So that’s what we wanna discuss with you today. We’ve got three great panelists. On the far end is Russlynn Ali, who’s assistant secretary for civil rights at the US Department of Education. She was appointed by President Obama in 2009, and before that was vice president of the Education Trust in Washington, DC and the founding director of Education Trust West. So she will give us the Department of Education and federal view, and has been deeply engaged in these issues for a long time. Next, Rob Atkinson, who’s been a friend of mine for many years. Rob’s the founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which is a think tank and really a leading spokesperson for the technology and innovation-based economy. Before founding that organization, Rob was vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute, which many of you are familiar with. And finally, the person who needs the least introduction, Lucy Sanders, who, as you know, is Ms. NCWIT and before that was at Bell Labs for many years, winding up as Bell Labs technical fellow. So that’s the group, and what I’m gonna do is ask each of these folks just to talk to you for three or four or five minutes about what they think the big issues are, then we’ll explore a few questions of our own, and then I hope you have questions. Otherwise, you’ll listen to mine for the remainder of the hour. But please be thinking about what you ask these folks that will illuminate the things you’re most interested in. So Russlynn, can we begin with you, please, if you’re willing?
Russlynn Ali: Sure. It is really my pleasure to be here today, talking about this hugely important issue. I mostly want to listen to these two because we have so much to learn from their expertise, from what they’re doing so well and what you all are doing so well and how we can help replicate those practices across the country. Clearly the need to focus on STEM is evident, not just in the data, in research, and in projections about emerging economies in what skills our students need to have in order to compete in this new global economy. There are lots of ways that the federal government is using its levers in order to effect some real change. Happy to go into much more detail about that during the question and answer period, but you would see it on everything from funding, wherein things like race to the top, the focus on STEM for underrepresented students, namely, women and girls, was the only competitive absolute priority in that competition, and we’ve some real change as a result of that over the last couple of years in particular there. We’re talking $4.3 billion devoted to states really willing and able to take on these massive challenges and produce some real action plans and results for the better. You would see it in interagency collaboration and certainly in the president and first lady’s focus on STEM careers, students that are excelling in STEM, everything from fellows that come to the administration and highlight their work to interagency mentoring programs and a real focus by all agencies on getting the data out there about where we are relative to women and girls in the STEM fields. For our part in the Department of Education, it is certainly about linking money to getting folks to act on this. We are also about ensuring real transparency on where there continue to be gaps in access to STEM courses and fields, and also where we have made great progress. So again, we can talk about this a little bit more, but you might have recently seen the Civil Rights Data Collection, which is the first of its kind analysis and collection of data on things like gender access to rigorous courses and success in math and other resources that matter when it comes to student achievement. There you will see great progress. In fact, the gender gap is closing in lots of ways at lots of levels. Where we see emerging problems, though, and I wrestle with this, is why progress has been made when it comes to access and success in higher order classes, but when you get to the highest order, when you get to things like AP classes and AP access, you begin to see the gap increase and obviously you all know better than most the gap that we see at the post-secondary level. So while there is great progress, there are still some big problems. We don’t see, for example, a lot of complaints on this issue, though we have in the Office for Civil Rights launched a couple of really aggressive compliance reviews that get at everything from community college graduation rates for girls to access to the rigorous courses students will need to succeed in this economy, especially in the STEM fields for girls. So, happy to get into as much detail as possible. I do, though, hope that during the exchange, I and we can learn from you about the kinds of levers that we should use to showcase the progress, but at the same time, continue to push hard on closing the access gaps and the wage gaps that we see, especially in this field over time. The truth is, we will not get to the president’s goal that by 2020 we will once again lead the world in percentage of college graduates unless we ensure access for all. Lastly, the issue of the gender gap progress is a little bit masked and hidden when we look at race tied to gender. So while we are seeing great progress overall for women and girls, that progress is lagging for African-American and Latino girls in particular, and in lots of instances, the gap is in fact increasing.
Ed Lazowska: I have to say that one of the most impressive news photographs I’ve seen in the past few years was the president at a science fair, perhaps nine months ago. Many of you probably saw this. He was standing beside a kid who had built a marshmallow cannon, and the president had a look of absolute astonishment on his face. His jaw was open. It was like the Scream painting or something like that, and there’s someone in the White House now who really appreciates science and appreciates kids learning, and you see this as evident in many ways. So thank you very much for being here. Rob?
Rob Atkinson: Yeah, so thank you, Ed and Lucy, for having me here. I think you had asked me to talk about a couple things, and I think sort of the general frame of IT policy in Washington, and let me just frame it a couple ways. One is I think there’s a general view in Washington that IT is sort of this thing that isn’t really a big growing part of our economy. Believe it or not, I think a lot of people took the experience of the 2000, there’s really a long memory in Washington. People took the experience of the 2000 dot com collapse, and then the offshoring trend in the mid-2000s, to interpret it, essentially as saying, well, IT jobs are A, they’re programmer jobs, and B, we’re not doing ’em here anymore. And so it kinda doesn’t have the same level of urgency as it might have had. I think when you look at that, that’s actually quite an incorrect analysis. We did a report about three years ago. I think it was called Looking for Jobs, Look to IT, or something. Ed and I were talking about this earlier. If you really look at where most of the IT jobs are, they’re not in the IT industry. They’re not in the IT industries like software and computing, they’re in the users of IT, the banks, the insurance companies, the logistics companies, all these other organizations, government that use IT and if you look at those jobs, if you look at overall IT jobs, they’ve grown four times faster than overall US employment. So it’s this really big dynamic part of our economy, and I don’t think policymakers in Washington really fully understand that. The second big problem is that when we look at STEM education, I don’t know what T stands for. It’s this bizarre thing. I know what science is, I know what engineering is, I know what math is, but T is sort of, no one ever talks about T. ‘Cause I think it’s a meaningless letter. Technology. Maybe we should use SCEM instead of STEM. SCEM is a much better term. [audience laughter] If anybody can come up with a better acronym using those four letters, let me know. ‘Cause the point is, computing is an afterthought. Computer science is an afterthought. It’s not really serious. So my colleague, Merrilea Mayo, and I did a report about a year and a half ago called Refueling the Innovation Economy, something about STEM reform. The point we made was that 80% of the jobs in STEM are not really taught in high school in a serious way. That’s engineering and computer science. We teach biology, we teach physics, we teach chemistry. We don’t really teach computer science in high school in any kind of serious way. So I think there’s a lot of education that needs to go on in Washington. Now, in the second–
Ed Lazowska: Let me interject for a second,
Rob Atkinson: Yeah.
Ed Lazowska: State an extreme view of this, which is that STEM is S and M, alright? The fact is that science policy in this country is firmly in the hands of the physicists, biologists, chemists, and astronomers. There was a recent National Academy report on STEM that included computing only as educational technology. So there’s a real serious perception issue, and as Rob said, if you look at the Bureau of Labor statistics, employment projections for 2010 to 2020 across all STEM fields, that’s computing, engineering, the physical sciences, the life sciences, and the social sciences, more than 70% of all newly created jobs over that decade and more than 60% of all available jobs, both newly created and refilled due to retirements, are in computing. So it’s just really important to drive this point home. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has finally piped up and at least put a graph of this in a report. But that message needs to get out, and it’s not that all of STEM isn’t a necessary foundation, but it is the case that people in science policy circles have to understand that the E and the T are essential parts of STEM. Sorry, continue.
Rob Atkinson: Yeah, no, no, exactly. I mean, they only let engineers into NFS by making ’em into scientists, so if you think about that… [audience laughter] National Science Foundation, it’s not the National Science, Engineering, and Computing Foundation. No offense to any engineer NFS colleagues here. [audience laughter] But we really need to change how we think about science at the federal level, continue to incorporate this, and we don’t. But the other thing is, there’s an awful lot of policy questions being debated, and actually, perhaps, even bizarrely, moved and passed. I know that sounds strange, given the way Washington is, but we actually could pass some legislation in the next year. No, the reason I say that, and I sound a little tongue in cheek, is there a bill introduced this week, actually I think it was yesterday, called the Startup America Act, and it was a very interesting bill. It’s Senator Rubio and Senator Moran, who are Republicans of Florida and Kansas, and Senator Mark Warner from Virginia and Senator Chris Coons from Delaware, Democrats. And they’ve both gotten together to draft this Startup America Act. But anyway, one of the interesting things in the Startup America Act is it carves off the Visa problem and creates a very interesting and accessible Visa. Essentially, if you’re a student here and you get a graduate degree in STEM, including SCEM, you would get a, I coined that now. You would get an automatic green card and you’d have time to go find a job. It’s very flexible. Given the buzz on Washington, it sounds like there’s some possibility that that could actually move. We saw a similar bill called the Jobs Act that the president signed recently, a similar kind of model. So we have things like that. The other, I think, interesting thing, if anybody saw yesterday’s announcement by the White House, the president’s CIO had put out a new plan, a new document on e-government which was very, very bold, very interesting. One of the things that I think is interesting about that is a commitment by the administration now to really push mobile as the platform, or a platform, by which one accesses e-government. So there’s a commitment to put many, many more parts of government into the mobile app space. So there’s certainly people, both in the administration and on the Hill, who are thinking about important ICT IT policy issues. I’ll stop there.
Ed Lazowska: Great. Lucy.
Lucy Sanders: Well, [clears throat] excuse me. I just wanted to spend a few minutes and connect this community to the types of things that happen in Washington and bring it back to NCWIT a little bit and give you a little bit of history about why we’re in DC, what we do when we’re in DC, what I hope some of you will start doing when you’re in DC. So, from the earliest days, from 2004 with NCWIT, we decided we needed a presence in DC, a voice in DC. And I remember sitting down with Bobby Schnabel and he says, “We have to be in DC. “We have to be in DC.” We figured out a way to do that by connecting with Paula Stern, who is just a wonderful advocate for us in Washington, and that’s one of our earliest decisions, was to be in DC. So you might say, well, why? What’s up with that? And it’s to be part of shaping this national dialogue. It’s part of being the conversation, to sort of get in this, and kind of, for me, anyway, waddle around DC and try to figure out what’s going on and what are the right conversations and who do we talk to. And we talk to people like Russlynn, we talk to people like Rob. We’re really trying to be part of that national conversation and really making these points that both Russlynn and Rob made, that STEM, people don’t really equate computing with STEM. They really don’t. So here’s a typical conversation when we go around DC, what we talk about. We say, number one, computer science or computing is the most important STEM discipline. We’re very bold, we’re very bold. Sometimes we’ll cede a little ground and say, oh, well the other ones are important, too. But we generally, and you know how I feel about this, right? We are just right off the mark with the computing, computing, computing is very important, number one. Number two, computing, computing sciences is not educational technology. We struggle with that all the time. They’re not the same thing. We also talk about diversity of thought and the importance of diversity of thought to innovation and competitiveness, because that conversation is also not very active in Washington. That whole thing that we’ve been learning about, collective intelligence, and all of that is so important to our nation, and could very well be one of our most important competitive advantages as a country, is the inclusion of diversity of thought in the products and services that we create. So those are kind of our messages. We have goals like this: let’s get an Aspirations in Computing Award winner to the White House, and I’m happy to say in February we did just that. Yay! [applause] Okay? It’s like our way of getting computer science in the door and really making a point again that computer science is one of the most, the most important SCEM discipline, should we say? You know, so that’s what we do, that’s why we do it. We know, for example, that we’re not going to attract more girls and women to computing if we don’t teach computer science in this country in our public school system and we don’t teach it well. And so we’re part of that larger conversation. We work with lots of wonderful partners in DC. This is not something we do alone. So for example, ACM, CRA, SWE, CSTA, we’re all in this together, we’re all pushing. We’re all pulling the same wagon and taking that message out there. So that’s what we do, that’s why we do it, and I wanna thank all of you. You’re all my role models. When we first started going to DC, like Bobby and Ed, you guys have been so active for so long, and ACM and CRA, Cameron Wilson, John White, Peter Harsha, they’re all here. Paula’s here. So if you have any questions after, please do talk to them and see how you can connect to this community.
Ed Lazowska: Let’s say on that topic a couple words about CS Principles and CS10K. I’m sure 98% of you are familiar with these, but maybe you could say just a word for the two people in the audience who are not. This seems critically important to me, right? And that is making upper school computer science, computing, something more than skills that is Word and PowerPoint, and also, honestly, something more than programming and coupling it to what we do and coupling it to the change-the-world potential of the field and really preparing teachers to do this is terribly important. So tell us a bit about this.
Lucy Sanders: Certainly, and there’s great experts also in the audience around this, Jan Cuny being one from the National Science Foundation. Some years ago, Jan and others in the audience had this dream for a new AP computing course at the high school level called CS Principles, and that course is rigorous, relevant, inclusive. Computing from just a really inspirational point of view. The curriculum has been worked on by a number of people in this room with the committee with college board and others, and it’s been trial piloted in I think 20 locations. We’re continuing to really get that honed and moving along the way so that we can assure that all high school students have access to this type of curriculum before they leave high school. Personally, I’d like to see a requirement for high school graduation. So there’s also that conversation in the mix as well, that every student should have a computer science course before they leave high school. It’s absolutely foundational to, really, a well-rounded 21st century workforce. And so that, CS Principles, we can’t do this job unless we have more teachers, computer science teachers, so that’s what CS10K is, 10,000 teachers teaching CS Principles. And our goal is very aggressive. Jan and others here, Chris Stevenson, others, have a lot to say about this, and I’m very inspired by it. I think we’re really gonna move on it. And so inspirational to see our community, computing professionals, are mobilizing and moving on this very important project. So we need all of you to really work on that as well.
Ed Lazowska: And one thing “work on that” means is have your institutions step up to help prepare teachers. This is gonna be a massive national effort over the next few years, and all of us are gonna have to put teacher preparation programs into play. Schools of education are not gonna do this alone. Computer science departments are not gonna do it alone. Professional training organizations aren’t gonna do it alone. We’re gonna all have to do it together, and each of us in our regions are gonna have to step up and participate in this if it’s gonna happen. It’s just critically important. So let’s go back to Russlynn for a minute and I think data grounding is important, as with where the jobs are, so maybe you could talk a little bit about what you’ve learned from the Civil Rights Data Collection. This has been a tremendous effort to expose people to where the gaps are and where the strengths are. What are some of the most interesting things you’ve discovered?
Russlynn Ali: Thank you. We are actually in the process of really mining that data. We made a decision to make it transparent upon receipt. So we, like lots of other researchers in the field, are really digging into this. A couple of things stand out, as I mentioned earlier. Where we once saw quite big gaps in terms of who was taking what classes between girls and boys, with especially high school male students taking much more rigorous classes at a higher rate and succeeding in them than we did for girls, that gap has actually flipped in many places. So while boys and girls represent about half of the population respectively in our nation’s high schools, they are also now at about equally proportionate to taking classes like algebra early on in the eighth grade and all the way up through physics on the sciences and statistics and algebra II and calculus on the math side. Now, our collection reflects the bias that was talked about here, right? Our collection looks at rigorous math courses and rigorous science courses. Part of that is because we had to make a real choice in deciding what data would be collected this go-round. The Civil Rights Data Collection has been transformed. I’ve heard from many that it had not undergone this kind of transformation since it was conceived of in 1698. So lots of these data are indicators that folks have never reported before. We also, though, see things like when students take algebra early, they succeed greatly. So girls, for example, that are taking algebra in the eighth grade are passing at in fact higher rates, only about two percentage points higher, than our boys. Again, what becomes most troubling, though, is while we see this equal access through the higher order, what we now call college and career-ready courses, that stops when we look at AP courses and AP access. So for example, girls are underrepresented dramatically in those taking AP physics. They are underrepresented in taking AP math. We want to study why that is. Obviously there’s a kind of recruitment that happens on AP. There’s a kind of counseling that happens on AP. And there remains a big access question on whether the same AP courses are provided across school systems. Additionally, where there remains some grave concern is the racial and language gap within the access that we’re getting overall across for girls. So while you will see that great progress for girls writ large, you will still see that girls are not outperforming in access or in success. Black girls and Latino girls in particular are not outperforming boys on any of the indicators where we see girls overall outperforming boys. We also witness within the racial categories continued large gaps between girls and boys, black boys and Latino boys, with girls on top, though. So by that, I mean you’ll see African-American girls succeeding much more greatly in terms of access and success in these courses than you will their male peers. So how we talk about that as a united front without dividing, as we’re entering this 40th anniversary of Title IX, folks that weren’t paying attention to these issues now are. 40th anniversary, as I’m sure you know, is June 23rd. Though Title IX says nothing in those 36 words, those 36 words that personally I feel have been one of, if not the, most important civil rights successes in our nation’s history, nowhere in that language is the word athletics or sports. Yet for so many years now, going on 40, it is often seen as a statute that is about equal access to athletics. Hugely important, but if we don’t begin using that law as we have in this administration to address other issues that are reflective of what could be gender and sex-based discrimination, then we aren’t doing our job very well. So the kinds of compliance reviews that we have launched, 14 across the country, dealing just with access to STEM courses, not just for girls but for underrepresented groups across the board, are hugely important. One comes to mind in Colorado, which is about access for girls. You’ll see in that district lots of concerns we’re still investigating, and we’ll see where we come out on this, but lots of concerns, not the least of which is girls represent about 49% of that district in the enrollment in those high schools, but only 7% of students enrolled in physics. So we really wanna get underneath those numbers, obviously the data alone don’t mean any disparity, and find out the root cause of why and really work to ensure that our resolutions are robust and sustainable and promises made are promises kept so that we ensure there’s access across the board. Additionally, we are using the data recently collected to look at things like community college success rates and other. So enforcement is tied to the transparency behind these numbers, but enforcement’s not enough.
Ed Lazowska: So for those of you who are tweeting, sports is not a word, not one of the 36 words in Title IX, I think is something important I’m taking away here. That’s really interesting. So let’s talk about what the White House is doing and can do. Clearly there is data, first of all, and having things be fact-based is pretty important here. There’s the bully pulpit, right? It’s extremely symbolic to have the president at science fairs actually paying attention and acting like he’s amazed at what’s happening.
Russlynn Ali: He’s amazed at what’s happening.
Ed Lazowska: He is amazed, right. There are specific programs and there are enforcement actions. Those are at least four things that you can do from your position, and I’m sure you’re doing all of those. Are there others? Is there a balance among them? Have there been interesting enforcement actions, for example, or is that the tool of last resort, in some sense?
Russlynn Ali: I mean, the truth is, if the Office for Civil Rights is involved on an enforcement side, it’s too late. Damage has been done. What I do worry about, though, is that we’re not getting the complaints. Over the last four years we have received one complaint dealing with STEM under Title IX. Out of more complaints than received ever before in the office’s history. So we are at about 8,000 a year now. That is 22% higher than before our administration started. Over 2,000 dealing with Title IX, but none dealing with Title IX on STEM. The onus, though, is not persons that have been aggrieved. The onus is on us to suss out and look for where there are problems and launch these systemic investigations. But it’s also about money. I do think tying the resources and the capacity and the support as we’ve been doing, both on things like Title II to ensure that professional development dollars are used and targeted in this way is hugely important. You will also see… I won’t comment on Rob’s comment about Congress’ stagnation. That said, you would have seen in our proposal for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act about two and a half years ago, had it been reauthorized, a $300 million fund really devoted to STEM access. All in all, though, I do think, look, if it weren’t for Lucy, I would not have realized, quite frankly coming in in the very early days, and they’re dogged. So if I was confirmed on May 1st, I was probably meeting you by May 15th. [audience and Lucy laugh] That all STEM is not alike. So really honing in on this computer science access in AP. Now that we have the data, we are digging in and trying to do analyses on that to see who is giving it in the first place outside of the pilot and what those courses look like. It is also about studying to ensure that we don’t have a say in curriculum. Both through the Constitution and past practice, we don’t get involved in what is taught. We can, though, ensure that what is taught is fair and what is taught is not selective to certain groups of students. And we do that, I hope, as vigorously as the law allows. There, though, is a very big problem when we begin in these investigations looking at some of the courses. One comes to mind where as a rebuttal to the idea that girls were not getting equal access to courses, we were presented with a course called Algebra III. I still don’t know what Algebra III is. So how we ensure that, we used to call it orange juice, orange drink, that classes labeled computer science or higher order math and science, actually teach the same thing to the same groups of students. Otherwise, we’ll paper over the problem, and I worry about that with the data.
Ed Lazowska: This is, by the way, a significant issue for our field. Many of you know, back to sports, that the NCAA a number of years ago disallowed computer science as an academic credit course for student athletes for college credit. And that’s because that label is applied for everything from keyboarding at one extreme to skills training in the middle, I can make PowerPoint presentations, to what I’ll call CS Principles and advanced placement computer science at the high end. And the NCAA, as I understand it, roughly said, “Hey, we just don’t wanna deal with this, “so no,” and that’s a really significant negative message about a field that’s more important to students than any other, not because they’re gonna enter the computing industry, but because they need computational thinking and the way they’re gonna get it is from a computer science principles course. So it’s a serious issue we have to tackle. Rob and I were talking over breakfast with a couple of folks from, I guess, banks. Is that right? And they were talking about the need for students to combine technical skills with business and management skills in the line of work they’re in. I spent time last evening with an alum of ours who’s in town here actually working for the Obama reelection campaign, and she was a program manager at Google and then at Zynga, and then took an 80% pay cut to go work on the campaign a couple of months ago, and she was talking about program management as a phenomenal part of the field that we in my academic department tremendously underemphasize. It’s an aspect of computer science that requires deep technical knowledge. She’s arguing with engineers all the time. She’s using her architecture design skills all the time, even though she hasn’t written a line of code in probably five years. So it’s one of those aspects of the field that requires a strong technical grounding, but a strong grounding in lots of other discipline as well and could potentially make our field much more attractive to a broader range of people than it currently is. Somehow getting those messages out is really important, and as Rob points out, the stats from a number of years ago, and I don’t have any reason to believe they’ve changed, is it’s 70% of the jobs in our field are in fact jobs in what are called the IT consumers as opposed to the IT producers. The producers are the Microsofts and Amazons and Googles and Facebooks, and consumers are banks and insurance companies and aerospace and energy labs, lots of people doing very interesting things and very interesting computing. For all of us, recognizing the breadth of the field I think is important. Let’s see. I’m gonna turn this for a second, I’m gonna turn this over to you in just a minute, but let’s talk a little bit about privacy aspects. Rob, if I could call on you for a sec, I’ve noticed in the newspapers in the past six months or so many more actions, for example, by the Federal Trade Commission are relative to privacy protection. What’s going on? What do you think this has to do with our field? Where do you think it’s headed and what’s behind it?
Rob Atkinson: Well, I think what’s behind it is… That you have an administration that’s more oriented to doing that than the last administration. I think that’s really fundamentally what’s behind it.
Ed Lazowska: We are in Chicago.
Rob Atkinson: Depends what side you’re on on this, so let me just say what our view is on it. I actually think that… And the other thing that’s behind it is there have been some notable privacy mistakes. Whether they’re intentional or not is sort of irrelevant, and so those have been kind of in the news. And then the last part, I think, is people just are seeing, there’s been this emergence of what’s called behavioral targeting. There’s been this emergence in mobile apps and things like that where there’s more use of information. Now depending upon what side of the argument you’re on, that use is nefarious and bad, or it’s actually making the use of these applications more effective and more user-friendly. And so I think the huge debate in Washington is really whether we’re gonna go down a path of essentially the European path or something different. Actually, I’m more on the other side. I actually think there’s a huge risk of us going down the path on privacy that could really harm the Internet ecosystem. And the reason I say that is a colleague of ours, Catherine Tucker, who’s at MIT, I think she’s in the business school there or in management school, she’s done a study, a very interesting study with a colleague at University of Toronto where they looked at the impact of the European privacy directive on ad effectiveness. And what they found was that ad effectiveness, in other words when someone’s on a website, the likelihood they’re gonna click on the ad or do something declined by as much as 60% because of the European privacy. The European privacy basically means if you’re serving up ads on a website, you are blind to who that user is. Now in the US, where companies are not blind, they may not know that it’s Ed Lazowska, but they know that somebody on Ed’s computer happens to like football, so they’ll serve up a football ad.
Ed Lazowska: Wrong computer. [audience chuckles]
Rob Atkinson: Tennis, I don’t know. [audience laughter] Outdoor hiking in the Cascades. So I think there’s a risk that we will overreach and really shut down some of this innovation. So I think the real key is to find this sweet spot. The administration just came out with a white paper on privacy that the commerce department led, Cam Kerry in particular there, and I think they pretty much got the balance right. One of the things that they’re proposing is what they’re calling this multi-stakeholder process where they’ll bring stakeholders together to see if they can identify and come up with industry codes of conduct. And I think that’s the best way to go. The FTC, on the other hand, is a little bit more on the regulatory side. If the FTC had their druthers, which they’re not gonna, but if they did, it would be really much more serious, maybe not draconian, but much more serious a regulation. The reason I say they’re not gonna have their druthers is I don’t see any way we’re gonna pass a really serious, heavily regulatory privacy bill given the makeup of Congress and particularly the House. And unless they were to flip and become really Democratic, and again, you can pick which side you like on this, I’m not trying to be partisan, I’m just trying to be realistic about this, I think, given that environment, we’re not gonna see that. Which is actually why the administration has gone down this path of this more self-regulatory, these user groups, stakeholder groups, because they realize that the odds of getting comprehensive privacy legislation are not in the cards, at least for the next 18 months.
Ed Lazowska: Are there questions from some of you folks? Please shout it out and we’ll repeat it for the audience too. Oh, a microphone is coming. Hang on a sec.
Audience Member: Thank you. Thanks, I wanna go back earlier, when Ed was talking about the Bureau of Labor statistics pie chart that came out just recently with the 70% of future jobs in computing, and then the comment about how STEM is really science and math, and it would be great if it was SCEM, but we’re at a critical time we unfortunately missed the boat when the math Common Core standards came out, where computing was pretty much not involved, and the next generation science standards are out now for review, due really soon, and computing is, again, almost nonexistent.
Ed Lazowska: Right, they butchered that very badly.
Audience Member: Is there a way to somehow say, get the right people to acknowledge, here’s the data, we need computing? Is there a way within the next week or so to try to get those standards [audience laughter] quickly changed miraculously? I know it’s a lot, but it’s almost like, if there’s something that could be done, is this is gonna help us at least just a little bit to get computing in the Core?
Ed Lazowska: Yeah, this is very distressing. A number of people commented on the proposals that you’re referring to that are now in final revision again on the first draft, and the modifications that were made were trivial and really didn’t address the issue. So this is one of a number of standards and documents that have come out of the academies and the government in recent years that essentially ignore computing as part of STEM. I don’t have a good answer. Lucy, you’re the person who’s always in there wheedling. What do you suggest?
Lucy Sanders: I don’t have a good answer either, although I’ll ask Cameron, since he’s feet on the street on this. Right here in front. Cameron, can you stand up and answer this question? [Lucy and audience laugh]
Ed Lazowska: Cameron is ACM’s wonderful public policy person.
Cameron Wilson: Thanks, Lucy, I really appreciate it.
Lucy Sanders: You’re very welcome, yeah.
Ed Lazowska: How are we doing, Cameron?
Cameron Wilson: So there’s actually been a bunch of people working on the next generation science standards for a while. ACM and the Computer Science Teachers Association were part of the review team that have been working on it, and there actually is… I haven’t reviewed the standards in depth, I have other people that are doing those things, but there are actually big chunks of computational thinking that are spread throughout the standards. And we’re trying to strengthen those as much as we can. I know CSTA’s been working over the weekend in all of Chris’ spare time to try to get comments pulled together, and there’s another larger advocacy coalition called Computing in the Core that’s a 13-stakeholder group with NCWIT and CSTA and CRA and ACM and a whole bunch of organizations that are part of this, including four corporate members that are pushing on, Achieve, who’s in charge of these standards politically, to try to get it on the standards. And then an interesting idea that just came from the Massachusetts folks I talked to yesterday was getting state pressure put back on them, so they’re gonna try to take some of the discussion that’s been happening at the state level around Massachusetts and seeing if they can get it back to their department of education to say, this is really a big problem. But you know, I think from a community perspective, we need to figure out as many spots in these standards where we think we can instantiate courses like Exploring Computer Science and AP CS Principles and say, look, you can implement parts of these standards by taking these courses and putting them into place, but then again, they also do need to come for core academic subjects. And those are sort of the key things that we see moving forward in this debate.
Ed Lazowska: I just want to emphasize that there are at least two legs to this wobbly stool. One is what I’m gonna call computational thinking, and that is that every discipline is changing. It’s using computational thinking even if it’s not using computing. If you’re a biologist today and you’re not thinking mathematically and computationally, then you’re collecting tadpoles in some swamp. You’re totally out of the field. It’s no longer about phyla classification, things like that. I was an undergraduate, God help me, many decades ago, and as an undergrad, took some graduate linguistics courses. That was the time when linguistics was flipping from people who spoke multiple languages to people who did grammars. And it used to be that the qualifications for being a graduate student in linguistics was you spoke multiple languages, and suddenly you had to deal with abstraction and models. And so every discipline is changing, and it’s important that we infuse ourselves into all those disciplines and make sure they change, and at the same time there is a discipline of computing that needs to be represented. And these documents that we’re referring to still do not reflect computing as a discipline. That is, there are a set of thrusts and those thrusts are the traditional sciences. So that really needs to be addressed as well.
Rob Atkinson: I don’t disagree with any of the, well, maybe I actually do disagree with it. I’m just not a big fan of Core standards because I think they basically are, they disrespect children’s interests. Why does every kid need four years of English? Some kids like English, some kids hate English. So I really think Core standards are the wrong path. But as long as everybody else is doing Core, you might as well try to get in and get your thing as the Core, ’cause otherwise… [audience laughter] Otherwise, you’re just shut out. That is the real problem, I think, with CS, is they’ve crammed so much else in that there’s no space for CS. And that was my son’s problem when he was in high school. You can’t do it. But leaving that aside, I think we also have to go down another path, not an exclusive other path, but another path, and that’s institutional innovation. If you look at what PCAST did, I don’t think you were on this subcommittee, Ed, the PCAST one, but there was a President’s Council of Science and Technology Advisors report on STEM education, and they actually picked up on an idea that we’ve proposed, which is expanding math and science or computing in high schools. So there’s a hundred high schools in the country where they’re specialized in math and science, and I always remember talking to this principal of the Arkansas math and science academy, Janet Hugo, and we were chatting about this as we were writing our report. Janet said that one of the great things about these high schools is the girls do so much better than in them because, first of all, there are more girls, they recruit more girls for them, but the environment in there is just set up so girls don’t have to worry about being smart, essentially. But the point is, that’s an institutional innovation, and the White House proposed creating 200 more of these. But why can’t we go out and create 25 charter high schools where it’s designed around computational thinking? Why wait for this long process of are we ever gonna get there? Let’s create some new models out there, and then have them infuse the rest of the system.
Ed Lazowska: This seems really right to me, and I do think that CS10K and CS Principles is the lever we’re gonna have that teachers and parents and kids will understand that this matters and in the fullness of time policymakers will get it as well, although it may not be in our lifetime. I think to this PCAST report Rob is referring to, two weeks before that report was issued, the word computer appeared in that report 13 times. This is a PCAST report on STEM education, and each of those 13 times it was part of a phrase related to educational technology, okay? So this report was fixed in the last instance by my colleague, David Shaw, who reached in and did a remarkable job. But the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology came very close to issuing a report on STEM education that, again, relegated computing to educational technology. Russlynn, you want to say something?
Russlynn Ali: Yes, think if I could just parse the conversation about standards from course to access, because they’re different. So the idea that the Common Core standards are reflective of a couple of major disciplines, math and science, they are not intended to be exclusively the standards taught, but the basis for at least this. The reasoning for them, as we’ve talked to the National Governors Association, Achieve under Mike Cohen and others, because it really is a state-led effort, these are not national standards, is not about regulating how many students, how many courses a student needs to take. What it is about ensuring, though, is that what you learn is not dependent on your zip code, as we’ve seen over the last decade, where students could be called proficient in Mississippi on state standards and pale in comparison to students that are proficient right here in Chicago. So leveling that playing field is the spirit behind the creation of a kind of Common Core. That you see computation embedded throughout, not called out, but embedded, I think is the lever to ensure that a course follows suit. Because the courses students take, part of the struggle with Common Core is, we can say that 46 states have adopted this Common Core, but if algebra is their only graduation requirement, which we’re also seeing across the lots of these states, chances are the standards become standards on a wall, given the way our high schools are set up with Carnegie units. You’re never in a class called Algebra II. Unless you’re in a class called Algebra II, you’re not learning the standards of Algebra II. So it is very much, I think, a state action to ensure at the state board level or the governor’s level who decides the graduation requirements, thereby the courses students have to take, that this idea of computer and computation as a discipline, really needs to be pushed aggressively. When it comes to things like the creation of charter schools, there are lots of them that we’ve seen in part as a result of states removing their cap around charter schools, but more than 25, in fact, devoted to the idea of careers in this field and discipline. And certainly, the promotion of at least 200 more of them to create very different learning environments at the high school level is something that we’re pushing.
Ed Lazowska: Yes, Cameron and Russlynn have both observed that there’s something here that we can do, which is this begins at home. We’re all in a state and we can work in that state to move this forward. Lucy.
Lucy Sanders: And I just wanna follow up on that, because I wanna give you a specific example of when you join us in Washington and you’re gonna go around and speak to people about computer science and all the great things that we talk about, we visited John Holdren not long ago, President Obama’s science advisor, and we sat down and talked with him and his staff for 45 minutes about the importance of computing, computer science, all the things that we’ve been talking about here, and he was very open to it. He says, “What can I do?” So we said, “Can you please say computer science “every time you say STEM?” And he goes, “I think we can do that.” Okay, so this is like, you know, okay, great, this is progress. And then he said something really phenomenal. He said, “I want you to write me a letter “complaining to me,” which is something I do really well, complaining, okay? [audience laughter] “Complaining to me about all the PCAST reports “that have been issued “that have mentioned computing education “that have gone unfulfilled. “Because the president wants to know “when things that are recommended to him “are not implemented.” So of course we wrote this letter complaining to him, and we sent it to him. Those are the kinds of things that we can all do. People really wanna hear from us, so that’s my appeal. Yes, we can do these things. One visit.
Ed Lazowska: Be a whiner.
Lucy Sanders: Be a whiner, yes.
Ed Lazowska: Okay, there’s a question back here. Can someone get a microphone, a couple of them, back in here? Oh, and there’s one right here. Excuse me, I didn’t mean to preempt you. Go ahead, please.
Audience Member (Paula Stern): Oh, okay, thank you. Well, Lucy preempted me. I’m Paula Stern, and Lucy made exactly the point about Dr. Holdren and in effect, asking Secretary Ali and others what we can do more to get what has been a wonderfully responsive and leading edge administration in this area to think computational thinking, computer science, information technology, computing, how we continue to try to insinuate ourselves, given these problems that we get this pushback all the time. So that question is still out there, if there are things more you think we can do to try to leverage our message. But I really just wanted to encourage anybody to come and talk to me, and I want to point out to everyone that’s part of the NCWIT community that we have this map. It’s called the United States of America, and it’s on the NCWIT website, and it shows the disconnect between the jobs that are going, begging to be filled, and the lack of training, whether it’s at the school level, community college level, or high school and all the way through to the university level, where people are just not being trained in these computing sciences. And that will empower this community to take that information and talk to your school superintendents, talk to your governor and your congressman and your mayor. Because this is, as Secretary Ali said, it’s a state-level thing here. We can’t from DC dictate curriculum. So it’s an effort to just empower all of y’all to do this at the local level, as well.
Ed Lazowska: Great, thanks. There were a couple of questions back here.
Audience Member: Hi, my name is Leigh Ann Sudol, and I’m transitioning to a role in New York City with the Academy for Software Engineering, which is a public high school focused on computer science education. Anybody interested, come find me. But as I was sitting here thinking, I’ve had a number of conversations with people on the education policy council and Cameron, I’m one of the co-authors of the Running on Empty report, about computer science is the calculus of T. And being a learning scientist, I was thinking that maybe our policymakers need a better analogy for this. Throughout the last century we talked about algebra being the new kind of math that was required as our jobs and our industries changed in the United States, and maybe we need to talk about computer science being like the algebra of the T. As the jobs change, as the economy changes, just as we had to reformat our education system to fit algebra into the high school and eventually down to the middle school level, now we also need to think about fitting computer science, a more rigorous version of the computing and technology that our parents grew up with, and that they don’t think is important because they never had to learn it in order to be successful in their lives, as being the new algebra in our generation.
Ed Lazowska: Very interesting, thanks. Another question right back here. [applause]
Audience Member: Hi, I’m Wendy Boling, and no one should ever come to me for any help like the the rest of you people are asking people to do. I’m a mom of a 13-year-old girl, and I’ve been high tech for 26 years, and I want to run and scream to my superintendent and say something about what we should be doing differently about giving our daughters this access. But I don’t know what to say. What would you do as a parent, other than, it’s not as big as what you did, in write the letter complaining, because I’m a good complainer, too, Lucy. You know this. How can I ask for this? I saw that fabulous Seth guy, teacher, that’s getting these computer science, girls into these computer science AP courses, and I want the Tapestry workshop mandatory at our local school district. How do I do that? How do I go and bitch really well? Sorry. [audience laughter]
Russlynn Ali: As a first step, as we’ve been talking about the Civil Rights Data Collection, we have now made this data available at the school level, and with a few clicks of the mouse and keyboard you can print out a school-level snapshot, disaggregated by gender. You would be able to see in every school in your district and your daughter’s school what classes are offered and what aren’t. Using that as ammunition to say that all of our kids need these courses that are offered elsewhere in the district but not here, for example, is hugely important. And then the research that I think Lucy and the team here have done better than most: identifying that all STEM isn’t alike and the kinds of access gaps we have. The truth is, yes, algebra, for the last 40 years we’ve worked hard on ensuring that algebra is a right. Many of you might remember Bob Moses coining the term algebra as the civil rights and algebra as the gatekeeper. The access question here, 30 and 40 years later, is still whopping. So at the same time that we need to talk about this new requirement that all of our kids know more than us in order to succeed in this world, we have to ensure that the access and excellence conversation go hand in hand. If nothing else, if the moral imperative doesn’t drive us, if the fundamental fairness and the demographic imperative doesn’t drive us, the economic imperative has to. We cannot get to excellence, given who we are as a country, unless we deal with the equity piece first. So in my mind… Civil rights, so I’m a little biased, right? But in my mind, we have to, we have to get at that first, the pushing all of us in the federal government really does need to be about access and equity simultaneously. It also needs to be about supporting some of the mentoring programs that we have, everything from NASA and its MOU with Girl Scouts, and external partners to internal as well, and the president bringing the Google Scholars, or the mentor, where we now have recognition for those STEM mentors that are producing the biggest gains. But it is as much, I think, building a community appetite for this work as it is ensuring the federal government drive states and local entities to support it.
Lucy Sanders: Well, and I wanna say one thing, too. We do have a talking points card about why your school should teach computer science that CSTA and ACM and NCWIT, and I hope I’m not forgetting somebody else, put together, and it’s very short and succinct and it’s on our website and you should go use it. Take it and say, here, this is why you should be teaching computer science. We do have a resource to help you, as well as the data, so that’s what we’ve been talking about, and there’s also a report from Computing in the Core and ACM, CSTA, Running on Empty, which is also available. So check them out. There’s plenty of data to go and whine, and yes, Wendy, I do know you’re really an expert at this, and so do it. Tell us what happens.
Ed Lazowska: I really feel that there is momentum now. Between ACM and CSTA and NCWIT and the National Science Foundation, things are moving in the right direction, much more rapidly now than at any time in recent years. Are there one or two more questions, and then we’re gonna have to wrap up. There’s one right here. Thank you all for your participation.
Audience Member: Part of the access question goes to Internet access, and I work in an area where we serve a lot of rural students and urban students who, even though they’re majoring in computer science, they don’t have high-speed Internet access. They don’t even have a computer in their house. And so those students don’t do as well because all the other students can use the Internet and use their computer all day and all night. And so I’m wondering if there’s initiatives at the federal level to get high-speed Internet access into rural areas, and I guess programs set up in urban areas where people who can’t have those things in their homes will be able to get those. Because that goes to, not only computer science education, but also doing research for the other sciences, getting all the online tutoring that many of the other students have access to.
Ed Lazowska: I’d comment that a lot of progress was made under the Recovery Act, but much of that is not visible yet. Very significant awards were made across the nation largely for equitable access, that is, rural access. But those funds were given to telecommunications companies that are in the process of deploying now. So I think you will see progress. It’s important to know, though, that our nation does lag the world in broadband. That’s not just in the breadth of dissemination, but also in the speed available in our core areas. If you look at lists of the 100 best-connected cities, last I knew the highest-ranked American city was number 73 on the worldwide list. So as with healthcare, as with education, in broadband there’s this myth that we’re leading the world, and the reality is very different. Back to the data collection that you hear about, having these facts available is important, because sort of the first step to cure is recognition that there’s a problem. And there is a problem, but I think really through the BTOP program and others a few years ago, we’ve laid the groundwork to make a lot of progress on this.
Rob Atkinson: Just a couple things on that. I sort of agree and maybe slightly disagree with Ed, respectively. There’s a couple things that I don’t think a lot of people know. At least three years ago, maybe the data are a little different now. Three years ago the US led the world in the percentage of classrooms connected to the Internet. We were the best country in the world. And we did that largely because of the E-rate program. We had the E-rate program earlier than any other country. So we at least have a couple things to be proud of. That’s not to say that every classroom is connected, but we’re doing better than others. The reason why we lag behind on broadband, and it’s really the principal reason that very few people understand because they haven’t looked at the data, and that’s not their job, but is not because we don’t have broadband to a lot of places. There actually are no data on this. There are no data that the OECD or other people collect on the number of homes available to broadband home. What we do have data on are the subscribers, and that doesn’t tell you whether you have broadband or you don’t have a computer. In fact, the US is probably one of the worst countries among the major OECD countries in the percentage of households owning a computer. If we had the same level of computer ownership as the top five countries in the world, and then you assume the same rate of broadband to computer, we would be in the number six in broadband connectivity in the world, not number 17 or 16 or whatever. So that really is a big, big problem in the US. We’ve got a big set of people, largely poor, but some old, who don’t have broadband, who don’t have computers. Now, I think, finally, finally we have an FCC who has acknowledged this, and it’s taken a while to get around to that it’s not just a supply question, it’s a demand question. Chairman Genachowski of the FCC has launched a new initiative in the last year. In fact, they just announced something a couple weeks ago with what’s called the E-rate program to have a pilot program for how do we use that program to get computers. E-rate is about phones. What’s a phone, you know? So anyway, so the old notion, and the FCC has switched the E-rate support to a label broadband connectivity, so we’re moving in the right direction on this. So I think we’re gonna see progress. I agree with Ed that the Recovery Act has some stuff out there, but we’ve also modified the E-rate program so we’re gonna be able to allow direct funding of broadband by telecom companies. And there’s also a lot of problems in how they’re, and by the way, the other reason a lot of countries lead, not the only reason, they tend to have higher densities. Even our urban areas are much less dense than other countries. And the other reality is, a lot of other countries subsidize this. The Japanese have massive subsidies for this, which is why they have fiber in all the homes. They just gave NTT a big subsidy–
Ed Lazowska: My version of this would be that they have telecom policies that our telecom industry won’t let us put into place.
Rob Atkinson: We could have a debate on the next panel about that.
Russlynn Ali: I just want to add to that really briefly, is how we can do this investment and preempt technology outpacing the investment. As we’ve seen with E-rates, the monies, for example, in schools in California, those monies that were distributed, and it’s certainly the ARRA, the Recovery dollars under our administration put a whole lot more in, but we can’t take credit alone from this. This has been across administrations, and beginning in the late ’80s throughout, the kind of E-rate monies that went into schools, you started seeing infrastructure as a result. Problem is now I could go to some of those same schools that used E-rate dollars in LA, as we’ve done recently, and hear those teachers say that their education software packages for innovative learning, say, for English language learner students to both learn language and math simultaneously, can’t be used because that software doesn’t fit with the operating system for the computers that they built with the E-rate dollars when finally we invested E-rate dollars in those schools that had nothing. So how we ensure that when we do this building and the investment that technology’s not gonna outpace us, or we make it flexible enough where we don’t have to rip buildings down to rebuild wiring. And y’all can do to help us with that one.
Ed Lazowska: Reached the end of our session and then some, so let me just thank you for your participation and thank all three panelists. [applause]