Research shows that computer science helps drive job growth, and computing occupations are some of the highest-paid and fastest-growing careers in the United States. This week, schools across the nation are observing Computer Science Education Week, a time designed to recognize the positive impact of computing for students. This year’s observation takes place December 9-15 in recognition of the birth of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906).
As the number 1 source of all new wages, computer science can support and lead to economic opportunities for all students. In Tennessee, 5,375 current job openings require computing skills (3.0 times the average demand rate in Tennessee), and the average salary for a computing occupation in Tennessee is $79,239.
While many students enjoy learning computer science and 90 percent of parents want their child to study the subject, access to computer science courses is not universal. There is a significant participation gap; computer science courses still lack girls and underrepresented minority students. Students from lower socioeconomic families are also less likely to attend a school that provides opportunities to learn computing skills.
For instance, in Tennessee, 1,536 exams were taken in AP Computer Science by high school students in 2019. Only 30 percent of the students were female. Furthermore, Hispanic or Latino students only took 124 exams, black students only took 206 exams, American Indian or Alaska Native students only took two exams, and Native Hawaiian or Paciﬁc Islander students took zero exams.
To address ways to improve access to computer science education, the Tennessee General Assembly this year passed Public Chapter 454. This state law requires Tennessee to establish a working committee to develop a state plan for computer science to ensure that all students are fully prepared for the technology jobs of today and the future.
On November 12, the computer science working committee met for the first time to discuss an initial outline for the plan and map out strategic goals. Many different stakeholders provided input for the plan, including perspectives from state agencies, national groups, industry partners, computer science experts, local school districts, and education nonprofits. For the next few months, the committee will work to build a strong path forward to support computer science education in Tennessee for every student. The computer science plan will be finalized by May 1, 2020.
To learn more about Computer Science Education Week and access resources — such as how to bring an hour of code to your classroom — visit their website. To provide input and ask questions about Tennessee’s computer science state plan, reach out to the Tennessee Department of Education at CTE.Questions@tn.gov.
Annie Freeland recently served as SCORE’s senior K-12 policy analyst and is now the director of policy and engagement for the University of Tennessee’s government relations team.