Computer science teacher shortage puts California near the bottom of U.S. instruction rankings

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California has planned for years to bring computer science to all K-12 students. But a lack of qualified teachers has stalled these efforts and left California — a global hub for the technological industry — ranked near the bottom of states nationally in the percentage of high schools offering computer science classes. Computer science should be a prioritized subject in K-12 schools because it can advance students’ experience in the field of technology early on and benefit them in their future careers.

Students benefit from learning about technology in school by gaining computational reasoning and analytical thinking skills. Julie Flapan, director of the Computer Science Equity Project at UCLA, has said, “A good class now includes lessons on artificial intelligence, media literacy, data science, ethics and biased algorithms.”

The impact of the lack of computer science classes in low-income communities is a major disadvantage for college-aspiring students and their career opportunities. They should be able to learn skills that can help them advance economically and place them in higher-paying jobs. Many students who are not familiar with this subject early on may not be interested in it later, thus preventing them from gaining skills learned by their peers and breaking the cycle of poverty. Introducing it at an early age can help them with technological literacy and adaptability, an opportunity that is currently only afforded to a minority of students. 

This lack of curricula exists despite California being known for its tech companies and Silicon Valley. According to a 2022 report, only 40% of California high schools offer computer science classes, well below the national average of 53%. Growing up in a state that is advanced in technology but not in its curriculum is an unbelievable disparity. “They grow up in the shadow of tech companies, yet go to schools that don’t even offer them the opportunity to learn the skills they need to one day work there,” says Assemblymember Marc Berman, a Silicon Valley lawmaker advocating for better computer science education. 

Some ideas that are currently being implemented are grants for teachers to have the opportunity to take twenty required units to gain computer science teaching credentials. The program allows teachers to make computer science more accessible to students of color, students with disabilities and low-income students. Minecraft in the classroom is teaching students programming skills such as Python, block coding and how to solve problems with AI. This program can be used by educators, parents, Information Technology (IT) administrators and on-campus clubs. Microsoft also provides a computer science curriculum through its online toolkit. They recognize the importance of teaching computer science and the demand for tech workers in the future. An additional 149 million digital jobs will be created by 2025 in areas such as privacy, data analytics, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, according to an analysis by LinkedIn and Microsoft. These are advancement opportunities students deserve to be prepared and equipped for by California educational institutions. 

The lack of computer science teachers comes from educators having trouble meeting the qualifications to teach computer science. Additionally, undergraduate students who pursue a career in computer science may not be aware of the fact that they have the option of becoming an educator in their field of study. These two things combined can cause a gap in teaching in universities that desperately warrants attention and action.

Adding this subject to the curriculum can help boost California’s instruction ranking and will provide students with a modernized education that will give them real-world knowledge and further their success post-graduation. In contemporary times, this knowledge is not only valuable, it’s essential.

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