- The percentage of high schools offering computer science courses jumped from 35% in 2018 to 51% in 2021, according to the fifth annual State of Computer Science Education report from The Code.org Advocacy Coalition, Computer Science Teachers Association and Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance.
- Disparities persist, however. English language learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students are still underrepresented in high school computer science enrollment, according to the report. Hispanic/Latino students are 1.4 times less likely than their White and Asian classmates to enroll in computer science, while Black students are enrolling in computer science classes at rates proportional to their state population, the report added.
- The report notes several strategies being used to combat disparities in computer science, including amplifying policy advocacy, providing professional development for teachers in high-need areas and introducing a curriculum to make computer science more accessible and culturally relevant.
States have allocated an unprecedented $65 million in funding for computer science education in fiscal year 2022, according to the report.
Despite the increased funding and additional policy measures for computer science, gaps in access and class enrollment continue. This comes at a time when the demand for computer and information research scientists is projected to grow by 22% from 2020 to 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Computer science education is valuable because it not only leads to high-paying jobs, but is a foundational skill for students who will interact with technology on a daily basis, said Katie Hendrickson, president of the Code.org Advocacy Coalition.
Policy efforts and advocates working with teachers in schools have begun to address the disparities in access and enrollment over the years, albeit not at an ideal pace, Hendrickson said.
“We are seeing those gaps shrink a little bit each year, which is really great. But that said, we really need to accelerate the closing of those gaps,” she said. “A percentage or two each year isn’t enough. We can’t wait 50 years for those gaps to be closed and for every student to have the same access and the same quality of education.”
States that prioritize computer science in their policies — putting the course on par with other subject areas — see a greater percentage of high schools offering computer science, and then those gaps start to close, Hendrickson said.
The report found that in 37 states with enrollment data, only 4.7% of high school students are enrolled in a computer science course. However, 21% of students in South Carolina have enrolled in computer science, a stat credited to the state’s specific graduation course requirement implemented in 2018.
Only two other states, Arkansas and Nevada, have adopted high school graduation requirements in computer science, the report said.
High schools also see more gender disparities in computer science enrollment compared to middle and elementary schools. There is 31% female student enrollment in computer science at the high school level, compared to 44% for middle school and 49% for elementary school, according to the report.
This trend is likely occurring because elementary students cannot choose their classes, Hendrickson said.
“Now that we’re giving every student those opportunities in early elementary school, I’m hopeful over the next few years we’ll see that girls and students of color are starting to see this is something they can excel at,” Hendrickson said.