2021-2022 Chairman’s Initiative
Computer Science Education
“Arkansas has become known nationally for our computer science education program and, through this initiative, I want to showcase the efforts in other states and show why this matters and how we can expand computer science education.” – Governor Asa Hutchinson
Why Computer Science Education Matters
Jobs that require computer science skills and knowledge will only continue to grow during the 21st century. There are already over 410,000 open computing jobs nationwide – there is a skills gap and employers are unable to fill enough of these openings with qualified candidates. Especially as more remote working opportunities arise, state leaders want to ensure that graduates have the skills they need to find high-paying jobs without leaving the state. At the same time, global competition is also intensifying. Computer science jobs account for a majority of H1B (or “skilled worker”) Visas, because if companies cannot fill their openings with homegrown talent, they will look elsewhere.
Beyond these economic realities, there are also broad benefits to computer science education. Computational thinking and problem-solving skills learned through computer science classes help students succeed in other classes. Students also rank computer science just below the arts when it comes to subjects that they most enjoy. And engaged students are more likely to persist through school to graduate.
The State of Computer Science Education in the United States
Access to computer science education has been expanding quickly in recent history, but there is still a long way to go before all students will be set up for success in the future economy.
- 47 percent of public high schools in the United States offer computer science.
- 90 percent of students now have devices thanks to states’ efforts to close the digital divide during the past year. This provides the opportunity to teach students how these devices work by expanding access to computer science education.
- 23 states have policies in place to give all high school students access to at least one computer science class.
- 20 states have dedicated funding for teacher professional development in computer science to build the educator pipeline needed to grow these classes.
- 18 states have computer science plans that set definitions, goals, and timelines. Governors’ offices, in collaboration with state education agencies, can lead in the creation of these state plans.
- 3 states require that all students take a computer science class before graduation. (Those states are Arkansas, Nevada, and South Carolina.)
For additional information, please see the 2020 State of Computer Science report.
Governors can lead the way, and many have been for years. The Governors’ Partnership for K–12 Computer Science (Govs for CS) has 15 members, including nine Republicans and six Democrats.
Governors Convening – Denver 2021
On August 25-26, 2021, Governors met in Denver, along with national organizations and businesses, to discuss the fight against COVID-19, economic recovery, and ensuring that all workers and students have the skills they need to succeed.
On Day 2 of the convening, Governor Hutchinson led a discussion of his initiative to expand access to computer science education nationwide. During the conversation, Governors shared efforts they have undertaken in their States.
How Arkansas Has Expanded Computer Science Education
Governor Hutchinson launched the Arkansas Kids Can Code Initiative in 2015 with a few key policies that helped lay the foundation for success. One policy was a requirement that high schools offer computer science classes and supported that policy with a clear path to licensure for educators to become qualified to teach those classes. Another important step taken by the Department of Education was to offer a financial incentive and support to teachers who become certified with a bonus of $10,000 over five years.
Phase 2 of the Arkansas strategic plan for expansion of computer science education focused on collaboration across sectors that typically exist in separate siloes. Leaders communicated across the higher education system to identify career pathways that should be aligned with K-12 computer science standards and course offerings. Another important, and timely, cross-sector connection was the addition of a cybersecurity focus following the recommendations from the Arkansas Computer Science and Cyber Security Task Force report.
While focused on increasing student participation across the board, particular attention was given to increasing female participation and tracking the racial demographics of students enrolled in these classes. Governor Hutchinson is proud that Arkansas high school computer science enrollment has grown almost tenfold in seven years from 1,100 students in the 2014-2015 school year to almost 10,500 last year. In the future, every Arkansas student will have the opportunity to take a computer science class as part of their high school graduation requirements.