The sole purpose of state educational systems is to adequately prepare students for the future. Employers require a skilled workforce, and being well-prepared for in-demand jobs facilitates success in life for everyone. With this in mind, the impact of economics on education reforms is often substantial. And this is clearly the case today, as many states are mandating computer science courses and coding in educational systems.
In the last several years, an increasing number of state legislatures have embraced education reforms that require computer science curricula. Driven by businesses and non-profits, these legislative changes and mandates highlight the influence of economics on educational systems. But in many cases, educational settings provide a few resources to facilitate advances in computer science and coding. And many schools are having to rely on philanthropy and federal resources to make these education reforms a reality.
Filling the Gap Between Economics and Education
When it comes to the chasms between economics and education in the nation, those involving computer science are substantial. Overall, only 35 percent of high school students have access to a computer science course nationwide. More importantly, only 10 percent of STEM graduates study computer science as part of their course of study. However, 70 percent of STEM careers require computer science literacy. These gaps between marketplace economics and educational preparation are what is encouraging modern-day education reforms.
As a result, several states have taken action to advance computer science reforms and to promote coding in education curricula. Wyoming recently passed a legislative mandate that requires all K-12 grades to have access to computer science courses. This not only includes basic security and keyboarding but also algorithms, loops, and coding in educational instruction. Virginia has similarly done the same, being the first state to pass education reform mandating access to computer science. Virginia also requires that every student have instructions in coding in education to promote computer science literacy.
Other states have not gone quite as far as issuing education reform mandates in computer science areas. For example, California allows local schools to determine the requirements for coding in education and other computer science instruction. However, California did change state standards for computer science literacy, which means students must achieve these proficiencies. And states like Florida now require computer science and coding in education for middle and high school students. Despite these variations, it is evident that state educational systems are responding to evolving economic patterns.
Teacher Training – The Rate-Limiting Step in Education Reform
Students are often eager to learn computer science and coding in educational settings. However, the number of teachers available who are well-trained in these areas are remarkably few. For this reason, several states are seeking ways to educate teachers to support education reforms in computer science. For example, Florida created a $10 million fund to support teacher development in computer science. Likewise, California created a $10 million grant to train teachers in this area as well.
The current limitations involving economics and educational changes have required some state systems to look beyond their own financial resources. In Wyoming, the creation of the program Project Lead the Way will facilitate teacher training in computer science. Chevron, Toyota, and Lockheed Martin support this program. Some school systems in Florida have partnered with Code.org for this purpose. Code.org is a non-profit group funded by several tech giants. Presumably, getting teachers “up to speed” will enable faster education reform needed.
Finding Funding for Computer Science and Coding in Education
In the majority of cases, many states passing these education reform mandates for computer science have not provided funding. Instead, state legislatures have encouraged finding alternative sources for support. Because of this, many local school districts seek federal or philanthropic resources to support needed economics and educational change. And some non-profits, like Kapor Center in California and CodeVA in Virginia, have also offered some financial help.
Federal funding opportunities for computer science and coding in educational reforms involve two specific areas. Title II, Part A offers funding resources for teacher training to support these education reforms. Title IV, the request for Part A funding, may also support technology use and acquisitions in these areas. These combined with local charities, non-profits, and corporate supports like Microsoft Philanthropy sometimes bridge the gap. But in many instances, educational reforms are poorly funded in computer science because of inherent economic restraints.
Where Do We Go from Here? The Role of Bold Businesses
The interaction between economics and education is clearly evident as it relates to computer science fields. The changing economic landscape means businesses, as well as states, need workers with new skills and knowledge. That means that changes in access to computer science literacy and coding in educational settings need to take place. But given resource limitations among state educational systems, progress has been slow to date.
Indeed, federal supports and non-profits are helping provide some of the financial and resource supports needed. But in order to realize real education reform, additional help is needed. Employers who will reap the benefits of an advanced workforce could consider partnering with local and state educational systems. This may involve direct financial supports or alternative innovations that encourage computer science and coding in education. Many tech businesses are already taking the lead in this regard. And hopefully, they will set a trend that allows positive change for economics and education reforms moving forward.