Steinhardt’s Research Alliance for NYC Schools Selected to Evaluate Computer Science for All

Computer Science for All (CS4All) is a 10-year, $81 million public-private partnership between the City of New York and the private sector, designed to bring computer science education to every student in New York City public schools. The CS4All Founders Committee—which includes representatives from the New York City Department of Education, City Hall, the Fund for Public Schools, CSNYC, the Robin Hood Foundation, the Robin Hood Education and Technology Fund, and Math for America (MƒA)—has selected the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York University to evaluate the initiative.

The nine-year evaluation, funded through $5 million in CS4All grants to the Fund for Public Schools, will answer important questions about the implementation and impact of CS4All for students, schools, and teachers in New York City. The Research Alliance is collaborating with the Education Development Center, a nonprofit with deep expertise in computer science education, to carry out the evaluation.

“Large investments are being made in computer science education, both here in NYC and nationally,” said Adriana Villavicencio, the Research Alliance’s deputy director and the study’s principal investigator. “We hope this evaluation will offer critical insights into how districts, schools, and educators can provide computer science education that makes a real and sustained difference for students, especially those typically underrepresented in STEM-related courses, majors, and careers.”

New York City’s CS4All initiative aims to provide high-quality computer science education throughout the city’s schools – a goal echoed earlier this year when President Obama announced a similar nationwide push to expand computer science education and position students for success in our technology-driven world. Currently, 246 elementary, middle and high schools across New York City are participating in CS4All. More than 450 teachers are receiving training to bring computer science instruction to their schools.

The city’s initiative aspires to give students early exposure to computer science and meaningful computer science education in elementary, middle, and high school. A key component of CS4All is the scaling up of computer science-focused professional development to nearly 5,000 teachers throughout the system.

“CS4All is a model for other districts across the country as they look to expand computer science education. A high-quality, independent, research-based evaluation will not only inform our own implementation of Computer Science for All, it will also provide valuable information to other districts,” said Debbie Marcus, executive director of Computer Science Education for the New York City Department of Education.

The Research Alliance’s evaluation will examine the implementation of CS4All, including how the initiative is being rolled out in schools across the city, as well as how professional development is being organized, how it is being accessed by teachers, and how it is shaping their classroom practices.

The researchers will also measure short- and long-term student outcomes, including computer science knowledge and skills, as well as other measures of academic achievement, engagement, and non-cognitive outcomes, such as students’ sense of belonging and their awareness of computing careers and applications. This work will include a focus on understanding the varied experiences and outcomes of different groups of students, particularly those who are typically underrepresented in computer science and other STEM fields (e.g., girls, students of color).

The evaluation will use a variety of methods, including interviews, surveys, document reviews, and analyses of teachers’ participation in professional development, as well as data on students’ characteristics, course taking, and outcomes. Researchers will also conduct in-depth case studies in a subset of schools to understand more about how CS4All is being implemented and how the initiative is affecting school communities, teachers, and students.

The Research Alliance is teaming up with the Education Development Center to conduct the evaluation of CS4All. The Education Development Center has extensive experience evaluating STEM and computer science education programs across the country, and is helping to drive the national conversation on computer science education, in part through its participation in the White House’s K-12 Computer Science Education Workshop.