Landscape report of K-12 Computer Science Education in Illinois

Raya Hegeman-Davis, Madison Sewell

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther report

Abstract

The modern, digital workforce requires the development of a different set of skills than what has been needed in previous generations. Computing represents the number one source of new wages in the U.S. Economy with over 14,000 unfilled computing jobs in Illinois alone. However, all students, regardless of career or education goals will need to have at least a basic understanding of computational thinking and computer science principles to be successful in the workforce. Currently, nearly eight in 10 middle-skill jobs (more than a high school diploma, less than a bachelor’s) now require digital skills. Access to computer science and computational thinking courses is not only a matter of workforce development, but also of equity. Rural and low resources schools are less likely to offer computer science courses and are less likely to have teachers with CS certifications. A poll by Google / Gallup found that this, in large part, was because there was a lack of CS-skilled teachers and a lack of budget to train or hire teachers. Women, African-American, and Hispanic professionals remain underrepresented in STEM jobs, both in Illinois and nationally. Nearly 10% of the overall Illinois workforce is African-American, yet only represent about 5% of the STEM workforce. Research has shown that early access to computer science courses increases the likelihood of women and underrepresented students choosing CS related careers. In fact, Code.Org found that women who try AP Computer Science in high school are ten times more likely to major in it and Black and Latinx students are seven times more likely. Thus, increasing access to computer science courses at the high school level, and even earlier, greatly impacts pipelines to high wage jobs for students of color and women. Many other states have begun to recognize the crucial need for access to computational thinking and computer science across the K-12 spectrum and taken important steps for CS education, such as developing state plans for CS Ed, adopting K-12 Student CS Standards, and creating an office of Computer Science Education. 34 states have approved K-12 computer science standards with another 5 states in the process of approving student standards, including all of Illinois’ direct neighbors. 26 states have state-level funding for CS Ed professional learning and 21 states have a state-level computer science supervisor. There is some urgency to the need for a state effort towards K-12 computer science education. In the near future, states such as Arkansas will begin graduating students who have had computational thinking or computer science for a large part of their educational experience. Those students will be better prepared to work and innovate in the new digital workforce than Illinois students. It will become increasing difficult for Illinois to “catch-up” with other states without taking action.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Number of pages39
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

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