California is known as a world leader in driving the digital age through computing and the information technology sector. Yet, few K-12 students have access to high-quality computer science education in the state. A key obstacle is that rigorous, college-preparatory computer science courses do not satisfy a core admission requirement, but only count as an elective, for either the University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) system. We are seeking that computer science satisfy a core mathematics requirement for college admissions.
Computer science is driving job growth and innovation throughout California’s economy and society. By 2018, California will need to fill 517,890 computing-related jobs – about half of a total of 1.1 million STEM jobs. These occupations dominate “help wanted” ads, and computer science is one of the most lucrative and hottest degrees for new college graduates. Rigorous computer science courses develop students’ computational and critical thinking skills and teach them how to create—not just use—new technologies. This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st century, regardless of their ultimate ﬁeld of study or occupation.
The limited access to K-12 computer science education in California creates serious gender and equity issues for underserved minorities. Of all California AP Computer Science test takers in 2010-11, only 21% were female, less than 1% were African-American and only 8% were Latino (despite the fact that Latinos make up the majority of California’s public school students). A study by the Computer Science Teachers Association found that the most important factor in whether young women and students of color choose to take computer science is if it counts towards a high school graduation requirement.
Computer science courses do not currently count towards core high school graduation requirements in California. Moreover, neither the University of California (UC) nor the California State University (CSU) campuses count computer science as satisfying a mathematics or science requirement towards admission; at best computer science is treated as a college-prep elective. Given other academic demands, most college-bound students don’t afford themselves the time to take computer science, nor do students on a vocational pathway.
We are seeking to count computer science as a core subject requirement for admission to UC and CSU – in particular AP Computer Science as a mathematics “C” credit rather than merely as an elective “G” credit. This change would not require schools to offer computer science or require all students to study it – that is, high school graduation requirements would not change at this time – but would simply allow computer science courses to satisfy existing core college admissions requirements. This change would, on the other hand, encourage school districts to offer and students to take computer science and thereby become prepared with 21st century skills for our knowledge-based economy.
To learn more about making computer science count nationally, visit code.org.
For specific information about why it’s important to make computer science count in California, visit access-ca.org – the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools.