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The Case for Improving U.S. Computer Science Education

Abstract

"Despite the growing use of computers and software in every facet of our economy, not until recently has computer science education begun to gain traction in American school systems. The current focus on improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the U.S. school system has disregarded differences within STEM fields. Indeed, the most important STEM field for a modern economy is not only one that is not represented by its own initial in 'STEM' but also the field with the fewest number of high school students taking its classes and by far has the most room for improvement--computer science.

Among the key findings in this report:
  • Only around a quarter of high schools offer computer science, and often these course lack rigor or focus on computer use or just coding instead of delving into computer science principles.
  • Only 18 percent of schools accredited to offer Advanced Placement exams offer the computer science AP exam.
  • Access to computer science is concentrated in affluent schools.
  • Only 22 percent of students who take the AP exam in computer science are female, the largest gender disparity of any AP exam.
  • Less than 10 percent of students who take the AP computer science exam are Hispanic, and less than 4 percent are black.
  • Access to computer science is also limited at universities, where institutions limit enrollment through restrictions, higher admission standards, or introductory weed-out courses designed to keep students out of the major.
  • In many cases, universities have few incentives to incur the cost of expanding computer science programs in response to student demand. These artificial constraints disproportionally impact women and minorities, diminishing attempts to promote inclusivity."

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