The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has taken long overdue action to expand access to computer science with a vote at its June 26 meeting letting districts count computer science courses for graduation. The courses must include rigorous mathematical or scientific concepts in order to be substituted for a math or science course required in high school. MBAE applauds this step, which we’ve been urging the state to take for some time. Based on recommendations of the Computer Science Working Group outlined in Access to PK-12 Computer Science Courses in Massachusetts, 2016-2017, plans are being made for integrating computational thinking into K-6 classes, expanding access to computer science classes in middle and high schools, and increasing teacher professional development.
What has not been adequately addressed is providing access and equity in the development of a comprehensive computer science K-16 plan. We were glad to hear members of BESE raise this question in its discussion regarding data on the percentage of students by race and gender who attend schools offering computer science courses and the causes for lower rates of access and enrollment for particular demographics. The board acknowledged the data drives more questions and begs for a deeper dive into the reasons for the discrepancies in access. As Chair Paul Sagan commented, the “best of the numbers are not good”.
In Massachusetts, computing jobs are projected to grow 22% by 2024. Almost 1 in 4 jobs in Massachusetts involve computer science skills, yet we are not preparing enough of our residents to compete for these opportunities. We have no time to lose in expanding access to these courses of study, particularly for underrepresented youth, including females and students of color.
Read MBAE’s full statement to the Board here.