Equity in high school computer science: Beyond access

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is known about the extent to which expansions of K-12 computer science (CS) have been equitable for students of different racial backgrounds and gender identities. Using longitudinal course-level data from all high schools in California between the 2003–2004 and 2018–2019 school years we find that 79% of high school students in California, including majorities of all racial groups, are enrolled in schools that offer CS, up from 45% in 2003. However, while male and female students are equally likely to attend schools that offer CS courses, CS courses represent a much smaller share of course enrollments for female students than for male students. Non-Asian students enroll in relatively few CS courses, and this is particularly true for Black, Hispanic, and Native American students. Race gaps in CS participation are to a substantial degree explicable in terms of access gaps, but gender gaps in CS participation are not. Different groups of students have access to CS teachers with similar observable qualifications, but CS teachers remain predominantly white and male. Consequently, white and male CS students are much more likely than other students to have same-race or same-gender instructors. Our findings and the implications we draw for practice will be of interest to administrators and policymakers who, over and above needing to ensure equitable access to CS courses for students, need to attend carefully to equity-related course participation and staffing considerations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
StateAccepted/In press - Dec 29 2021


  • computer science education
  • high schools
  • California
  • equity
  • teacher quality
  • computer science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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