A lot has changed since we took our first deep dive into the state of equitable computer science education in New York. On one hand, NY schools and students had to adapt to learning during COVID-19. On the other, NYC has made huge strides toward its CS4All plan, while the state has adopted new standards for CS and digital literacy and allocated funding to expand computer science education for underrepresented groups.
Even with these new developments, the goals remain the same: to give all children the opportunity to create with technology and pursue careers in CS and STEM. And that opportunity is huge in the Empire State. According to code.org, there are currently 20,942 open computing jobs in New York with an average salary of over $100,000, yet there were only 6,043 CS graduates in 2018.
New CS Standards & Funding
The NY State Education Department (NYSED)’s Board of Regents adopted the New York State K12 Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards in December 2020. These new standards are grouped by key concept areas:
- Impacts of Computing
- Computational Thinking
- Networks & System Design
- Digital Literacy
The standards are grouped into grade-bands (K-1, 2-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12) and were developed in partnership with teachers, administrators, school district and Department of Education representatives, business and industry experts, parents, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), and more.
On the funding front, the Department also introduced The New York State Learning Technology Grant (LTG) program. LTG is a three-year program, spanning 2018 to 2021, that awards $3.2 million annually to a variety of educational technology professional development programs statewide. It promotes collaboration among public school districts, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, and religious and independent schools to develop, implement, and share programs, activities, and resources to facilitate the delivery of quality instruction, increase equitable access to high-quality learning experiences, and promote culturally- and linguistically-responsive learning environments for all students through the effective use of educational technology.
In addition, the NYSE’s Smart Start Program allocated $6 million annually (for an eventual total of $30M) to develop, implement, and share innovative programs that provide professional development and support to increase expertise in computer science, engineering, and/or educational technology among teachers in grades K-8. Projects funded through this program will run from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2025.
A History of New York’s Computer Science 4 All Plan
The standard for CS in the state has been set by the New York City Department of Education’s Computer Science 4 All (CS4All) initiative. Launched in September 2015 by Mayor de Blasio, CS4All is meant to ensure that all K-12 students in the city learn computer science — with a special focus on female, black, and Latino students. This program, along with other education improvements, are meant to drive NYC schools toward a lofty goal: by 2026, 80 percent of students will graduate high school on time and 66 percent of students will be college ready.
So far, these efforts have been successful. Chancellor of the NYC DOE, Richard A. Carranza, reported improvements on State English and math exams in 2019. 47.4 percent of students met English proficiency standards, an increase of 0.7 over 2018. He credited programs like Pre-K for All for this success, and emphasized the importance of increasing equity within the region’s schools as part of a greater Equity & Excellence for All drive — which includes Computer Science for All.
“We are more determined than ever to advance equity now and ensure all New York City public school students have access to the high-quality education they deserve,” Carranza said in a press release. These initiatives highlight how computer science courses alone won’t help NYC students. Investment in education starts in Pre-K, and students need strong foundations in math, English and other classes in order to succeed in CS subjects. If NYC schools continue to focus on education equity as a whole, they will see greater success with their CS4All program.
The Problem: Schools Still Struggle with Computer Science PD and Staffing
Staffing is a major barrier to offering comprehensive and equitable computer science education throughout New York schools — and in schools across the country. “There is a need to get at least one [computer science] teacher in every school in this country, [but] right now there’s usually only one in a district,” explains Cameron Wilson, chief operating officer and vice president of government affairs for Code.org.
One source of this deficit is the lucrative nature of tech jobs. College graduates with computer science degrees want to work for high-paying companies and are less likely to go into the lower-paid teaching profession.
Wilson believes instead of asking computer science professionals to leave the lucrative private sector for the field of education, we should better prepare existing educators to step into the role of computer science teacher. Many existing educators are also being asked to integrate computer science into their existing curriculum and other content areas. None of these are easy tasks. Educators need to develop curricula, troubleshoot problems and constantly grow their skills to better meet the needs of students.
How Ozobot Can Help
For NY teachers and education leaders looking for resources, Ozobot’s new Pacing Guides help teachers guide students through up to 30 lessons throughout the school year. Each grade-level-differentiated Pacing Guide includes Introduction to Color Code and Blockly activities. These introductory activities give students a strong foundation in computer science both with and without screens, are aligned with CSTA standards, and can be mapped to state standards like NY’s Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards. From there, teachers and students can move on to content-integrated lessons in math, ELA, and STEAM.
Each lesson includes:
- Synchronous Lesson Plan (with Direct Instruction Steps)
- Instructional Video
- Student Activity Guide
- Student Activity Sheets
- Teacher Answer Key/Potential Solution
Almost all lessons in the Pacing Guides, including all the Introduction to Color Codes and Introduction to Blockly lessons, feature student-facing instructional videos. These are a great solution for remote and hybrid models, and even in the classroom some educators find that using the instructional videos gives them time to check in on students and provide individualized support and instruction as needed. These videos make it easy for any educator to teach computer science, even with zero experience.
Pacing Guides and all included lessons can be found in Ozobot Classroom, where educators can sign up for free. Educators and administrators anywhere can sign up for a demo at ozobot.com to learn more about how an Ozobot program can help you meet your state’s objectives for computer science and STEAM education.