If you are an educator who teaches CS or is preparing to take on this subject, this article will be of great help to you. We have collected the main trends in teaching CS in US schools (based on the State of Computer Science Education survey), which you should keep in mind.
Only Half Of The Secondary Schools Offer Basic ComputingLearning CS fosters curiosity and imagination, as well as improves logical and critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Simply put, computer science can help to grow a “smarter” nation. And the government knows that as well. That’s why over the past year, schools have increased their techno capacity and started teaching computer science in the early grades. And at some schools, at the upper end of the K–12 pathway, high schoolers even learn such advanced topics as cybersecurity, data science, and artificial intelligence. Still, only a slight majority of all U.S. high schools now offer foundational computer science – 53%. It should be amiss not to mention that compared to the 2018’s survey, the percentage of “CS schools” has made a huge jump from 35%. This significant progress is largely achieved owing to the commitment and efforts of teachers, school leaders, principals, policymakers, and other advocates. Moreover, the number of students taking AP computer science exams has skyrocketed over the previous years. In fact, AP computer science exams increased by 13% (179,188 exams in 7,139 schools). Launched in 2016, the AP Computer Science A exam focuses on problem-solving, and object-oriented programming using Java as the core. The exam covers the big ideas of computer science and gets the students accustomed to computational thinking, including algorithms. Though some schools aren’t able to provide good preparation for the exam, that’s why many teachers refer to online Java courses that cover the areas of knowledge and train skills which their students need to pass the CS exams.
Imbalance in Teaching CS At SchoolsAll that being said, given the significance of IT in today’s society, it’s inadequate that almost half of the schools lack CS courses. With that, the survey reveals that there are some disparities for those who has an access to computer science education – rural schools, urban schools, and schools with a higher percentage of economically-disadvantaged students are less likely to offer CS. So, more work should be done to improve access and participation for all segments of students. That’s why Code.org Advocacy Coalition has come up with a set of nine policies that are intended to make CS a fundamental part of the USA education system as a whole. This comprehensive policy framework broadens the teaching and learning of computer science by supporting the following principles: Equity and Diversity, Clarity, Capacity, Leadership, and Sustainability. And, if we check the statistics, we will see that US states that adopt more of the nine policies are seeing amazing results (i.e. have a greater percentage of schools offering computer science). During the previous year, 31 states adopted 50 computer science education policies with Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, and South Carolina implementing all nine policies recommended by the Code.org Advocacy Coalition. What’s notable, two of these states (Arkansas and South Carolina) have the highest percentages of high schools offering computer science 92% each, followed by Maryland at 90%.
Many Teachers of CS Courses Don't Even Have a Certification in CSUntil recently, most states didn’t require teachers of CS courses even to hold a certification in CS. With that many CS teachers were new to CS but not to teaching: 53% of respondents had 10+ years of classroom experience with only 16% of them having 10+ years of experience in CS classrooms. Moreover, only 30% held a degree in CS, IT, or a related field, and 6% held a minor in computer science. Ultimately, many CS courses are taught by a person who doesn’t hold a CS teaching credential. Why does this happen? Because some states lack certification programs or have inconsistent pathways to appropriate credentials. From this, it’s easy to conclude that teachers need a more straightforward pathway to get prepared for teaching CS. Certifications or additional courses will definitely ensure that teachers have sufficient knowledge to teach other people computer science. Therefore, CodeGym lends a helping hand to students and teachers by offering online professional development and preparing them for exams, certifications, and lessons (by offering additional info on specific topics).
How Secondary Education Can Benefit from the CodeGym CourseLessons are designed in a “gamified” format, which will be an obvious bonus if teachers would like to add something interactive to their CS course and make their lessons more engaging for elementary or advanced classes. Plus, the theory is explained through real-life examples. The course offers two learning pathways. The first is extended and consists of four modules (Java Syntax, Java Core, Java Multithreading, Java Collections) that include 10 or more levels each one. While completing each module a student will master your programming skills through both theoretical lectures and practical tasks. You will be offered to solve 1200 coding assignments on different topics and levels of complexity.
The curriculum of extended CodeGym course:The second learning pathways is AP Java exam training program which includes 18 levels. This package consist of topics student needs to pass this exam.
The curriculum of AP Java exam CodeGym course:From the middle levels, the course gives students an amazing opportunity to begin writing mini-projects like games, chatbots, ATM emulators, apps for a restaurant, etc. What’s great, the course is backed with a smart automatic task verification system (virtual mentor) that instantly verifies your ”homework”, gives feedback on it, and helps fix mistakes. To simplify the process of task implementation, CodeGym is integrated with IntelliJ IDEA, one of the most popular modern Java IDEs. So, the students will be able to complete tasks directly in IDEA. And as a cherry on top, the course is also available on the Android app for extra comfort and flexibility. The course is available for groups per school or college. All accounts of the students are connected in your special section. In a private group, everyone also has access to the Leaderboard that shows students’ achievements and ratings, based on their level and the joined tasks. The option of creating comments/articles is also available. Once a new article is posted, all group members will be immediately notified (articles can include learning materials, task discussions, etc).
SummaryAlthough there is obvious progress in access to computer science comparing to previous years, educators in many schools still have plenty of challenges in teaching Computer Science. The major challenges are:
- the lack of practical expertise in teaching CS
- the absence of unified training program
- the insufficient access to CS training