I recently attended the 2018 ECEP Alliance (Expanding Computing Education Pathways) Annual Meeting representing business as a member of the Massachusetts team along with representatives from K-12 and higher education. This year’s meeting took place in Atlanta, Georgia where teams from 17 states and Puerto Rico discussed strategies that will broaden access to computer science education for all students. ECEP seeks to increase the number and diversity of students in the pipeline for computing and computing-intensive degrees by supporting state-level computing education reforms.
While this year’s conference focused on identifying metrics that matter, participants also highlighted the need for equity of access and opportunity in computer science, integrating computer science into K-12 learning, and collaborating with stakeholders to broaden access and participation in computer science. As state’s discussed their progress and challenges, I was intrigued by efforts in Maryland and Georgia.
Maryland is taking a three-prong approach by looking at computer science exposure and access in PK-12 and postsecondary, and also following the metrics to the workforce pipeline to see if students continue in a computer science or IT related field. Georgia is utilizing a collective impact approach, taking the data to the community and using it to pull together stakeholders from K-12, higher education, business and philanthropy to drive demand for action.
In addition to hearing about the great work happening in other states the following are a few takeaways from the ECEP Annual Meeting.
Data Tells a Story
The ECEP conference delved into how data can tell a story and discussed how to use data to leverage resources and change policy. In Massachusetts, the data indicates that there is growing demand for computer science skills:
- There is a projected 22% growth in computing jobs by 2024
- There are over 100,000 openings in computer science/information technology and IT-adjacent jobs
- Almost 1 in 4 jobs involve computer science skills.
Yet, we are not filling the pipeline to meet this workforce demand. In 2014, Massachusetts public and private colleges conferred only 3,848 computer science/ information technology degrees, and in 2016, only 1,151 high school students took the computer science AP exam. It is clear, we have more work to do to increase the number of students pursuing computer science.
Equity and Opportunity
Much of the discussion throughout the ECEP conference centered on the need for equity in opportunity in order to broaden participation in computer science. Of the 1,151 AP Computer Science test-takers in Massachusetts, 321 were female, 65 were Black, 80 were Hispanic, and 150 were low-income. While AP Computer Science is just one indicator of whether we are preparing all students for computer science and IT opportunities, these statistics reflect the urgent need to ensure equal access to coursework for underrepresented student populations and to inspire interest among those populations in this promising field.
Integration into K-8
Computer science is a foundational 21st century skill every student needs to acquire. As one ECEP panelist explained, “Just as you took math and science in every grade, we need to have computer science classes in every grade.” Students need an understanding of computational thinking and the basics of computer science throughout K-8. The foundational skills they learn in K-8 will prepare them for careers from healthcare to design and marketing to advanced manufacturing, regardless of whether students go on to study computer science after high school.
Every student must learn the foundations of computer science in order to prepare for the opportunities that await them. MBAE is pleased to be a member of the ECEP Massachusetts team and is committed to expanding access and opportunity to computing.