If you slogged through an advanced computer science course in high school a little over a year ago, it likely wouldn’t count as a math or science graduation credit unless you lived in about a dozen US states.
Even as recently as last week, California — the birthplace of some of the most transformative technology in our lives and home to some of the highest paying jobs in tech — only allowed computer science to count as an elective credit. This means it fell into the same bucket as hundreds of other unrelated elective or vocational courses, such as culinary arts, journalism, accounting, or fertilizer-making.
This week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two changes to computer science education policy. The first allows computer science to count as a mathematics credit for high school graduation if that course fulfills a mathematics requirement for admission to the University of California. The second clarifies pathways for counting computer science for college admissions. These mark an important tipping point: now, nearly 70 percent of the US population lives in states where computer science can count toward high school math or science graduation requirements.
We’re happy to celebrate this milestone of policy changes across 14 states in 15 months. It shows widespread support across the political spectrum for expanding access to computer science in K-12 schools and represents important first steps in giving every child access to these foundational skills.
Code.org was just getting off the ground when we began organizing the “Make CS Count” movement with Computing in the Core and a coalition of invaluable partners like Microsoft, the Computer Science Teachers Association, Stand for Children, Google, the National Math and Science Initiative, STEMx, the American Association of University Women, The College Board, TechNet and National Center for Women in Inofmration Technology.
The movement was based on the simple idea that technology plays a fundamental role in our society, and as a result, rigorous computer science courses shouldn’t be electives, but part of the foundational math and science education system that all students have access to.
In May 2013, Code.org’s home state of Washington kicked off this national movement by passing legislation that specified AP Computer Science courses can count toward high school math or science graduation credits. We are proud that our coalition of partners has influenced change in big states, small states, red states and blue states, spanning every region of the country — at an unprecedented pace for education policy.
If this incredible dash means one thing, it’s that we can all agree our children should have access to foundational 21st-century skills in public schools. After all, the number one factor that determines which students pursue degrees in computer science is exposure in high school.
Making computer science count is just a first step. In still 26 US states, high school computer science remains only an elective. And in many states local school districts will need to adopt this new policy as well. Together, we’re working to give students of all backgrounds greater incentive to learn foundational skills that lead to the fastest-growing and highest paying jobs in our economy — across every industry today.
- Cameron Wilson
COO & VP of Government Affairs, Code.org