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Examining and Addressing Barriers that Hinder Schools’ Progress Toward CS for All

The Challenges of Bringing CS Education to All Students

Efforts to broaden participation in CS education have been gaining momentum since President Obama announced the national Computer Science for All initiative in 2015. Yet despite the commitment of countless educators, policymakers and industry leaders, the goal of expanding access to CS to all students—particularly those who historically have been underrepresented in the field—remains elusive. In 2021, only 5 percent of U.S. high school students were enrolled in a foundational CS course. 

New York City’s CS4All initiative is the largest K-12 CS education effort in the country, aiming to provide every NYC student with a meaningful and high-quality CS experience at every grade level. The NYC DOE has devoted substantial resources to help schools develop robust CS programs, including creating a CS4All Blueprint and training more than 3,000 educators to teach CS. However,  more than halfway through the initiative, many schools are struggling to meet CS4All’s goals. While the Research Alliance’s ongoing evaluation points to steady growth in CS participation across the district, the findings also highlight areas of concern: In the 2019-2020 school year, based on analyses of both CS participation (i.e., the percent of students who took a CS course) and equity (which considers disparities in CS participation by race/ethnicity and gender), about half of all schools were only beginning to meet the initiative's goals, and another 9 percent were not offering CS at all. Notably, schools with the lowest CS participation rates served higher proportions of Black, Latinx, and low-income students.

About Our Study

As a complement to our larger CS4All evaluation, the Research Alliance is conducting a study aimed at understanding and addressing the challenges faced by schools that are “lagging behind” in the effort to offer CS to all students. Drawing on educator surveys and interviews, as well as data on student course-taking, and school and students characteristics, our study will examine:

  1. What characteristics differentiate lagging schools from those that are meeting the initiatives’ goals? 
  2. What barriers are hindering CS implementation in lagging schools? How do these barriers vary for schools with different characteristics (e.g., size, grades served, student demographics)?
  3. What supports do administrators and teachers believe they need to be able to offer CS and increase student participation?

Findings from the study will provide valuable guidance for the development of strategies to address the needs of lagging schools, improve CS implementation and sustainability, and enable faster progress toward CS for All.  

This study is supported by a grant from the Google Computer Science Education Research program.