NCWIT 2012 Summit – Flash Talk, Jan Cuny

JEFFREY FORBES: So next, we have my colleague, Dr. Jan Cuny. So Jan’s a Program Officer at NSF and she’ll be giving a talk that in my admittedly biased opinion is addressing an incredibly important issue on how The Critical Path to Equity in Computing Goes Through High School.

DR. JAN CUNY: Thank you. Well, I’m here to convince you that The Critical Path to Equity Goes Through High School. When I first started in NSF running the Broadening Participation Program in Computing Program, we weren’t thinking about education and we especially were not thinking about K-12 education. We were thinking about the underrepresented groups, women, African Americans, Hispanic, Native Americans, Persons with Disabilities. Together, these groups make up 70% of our population and they don’t participate very much in computing. What I learned in working with them though is that we can engage young kids in computing, any young kids, because we have such incredibly cool stuff. But beyond engagement, we need to teach kids what computing is and computational skills and we need to move them on a path forward to a career and as the path forward to a career that’s broken at the high school level. Currently, our high schools teach keyboarding, they teach how to use PowerPoint and Word, but they teach no rigorous or very little rigorous academic computing. In the last 20 years, the number of courses the kids take in STEM has skyrocketed in almost every discipline. It’s gone up in all disciplines except computing where it’s dropped from 25 to only 19% of our kids take a Computer Science course. This lack of high school computing disproportionately affects underrepresented groups who have no counter to the message that computing is geeky or computing has no societal impact or benefit or there are no computing jobs. The first person who convinced me that the lack of computing in high school was a social justice issue was Jane Margolis and it was in thinking about how to extend her work from LA more broadly that we were led to the CS 10K project. CS 10K aims to get 10,000 teachers teaching rigorous academic computing in 10,000 schools by 2016. This is a huge goal and it’s really hard to do in the United States where education is completely decentralized so we started with the College Board Advanced Placement AP courses. The AP courses are liked by students, parents, school administrators, college board admitters. They’re very popular courses and they have fidelity of replication. So as a community, we created a new course called CS Principles which is not programming-centric but conceptually-based. It is designed from day one to be engaging to all students, to be accessible, rigorous, and inspiring. It’s currently being taught along with the ECS course, which is the course that’s coming out of LA in all of these schools that you can see on the screen up there. Now this isn’t 10,000 but I’m really optimistic that we’ll get to 10,000 because we have such great people working on this project. Tons of people have been involved looking at making policy changes, developing the courses, developing the curriculum, piloting the curriculum at the high school and at the college level. But still, getting to 10,000 will not be easy. We’re gonna have to develop professional development for 10,000 teachers. We’re looking at both in-service teachers, computer science teachers, teachers who aren’t currently teaching computer science, and pre-service teachers, looking at ongoing services for these teachers and support, looking at communities of practice for them. We’re also gonna have to change policies at the state and local level. We’re gonna have to worry about how courses are credited, how teachers are credentialed, and the standards that the states adopt. All of this needs to be changed but we have a plan. So we have a plan that has Resources, Activities, Outputs, Outcomes, and Impacts just like a plan should have. It’s all been worked out and we have great partners. And NSF has worked together with ACM since the beginning. We’re also working with NCWIT, CSTA, and the College Board. But beyond these, we need more resources. We need a public-private partnership and we are working on that as well. So I ask you now to think about what you think of this goal. When I first started, people actually laughed. More recently, someone told me it was, well, daunting but plausibly possible. Someone else also told me it’s not big enough. We shouldn’t go for 10,000, we should go for all students. But finally, it’s a really big opportunity, I think, to inspire all of the current generation of teachers and to get them our messaging around gender and equity issues. To get it to happen though, we’re gonna need all hands on deck. That means we’re gonna need everybody, certainly everybody in this room helping out. We’re gonna need teachers, faculty, school administrators, university departments, undergraduates, graduate students, professionals, professional societies, foundations, and corporations. Everybody has a role and we’re gonna need everyone’s help. So I’d like you to think about how you’ll help and get in touch with me. You can reach me through the NSF website. Thank you. [applause]

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