The annual State of Computer Science Education Report recently released by the Advocacy Coalition examines state-level policies and implementation supporting equitable K-12 computer science education, and offers key insights into future efforts. The Advocacy Coalition brings together an interdisciplinary group spanning tech, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations with the common goal of making computer science a core part of K-12 curriculum for all, and Code Nation is proudly a part of this effort and member of the coalition.

At Code Nation, we believe anyone can learn to code and that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science: an in-demand skill for the fastest growing industries in the country. If we, as a coalition and community, don’t continue to work toward this common goal, so many talented individuals will continue to be left out of the field. Populations historically under-represented in tech, Black, Latine/X, and women, and the focus of our work at Code Nation, are even less likely to have access to computer science classes. These young people have untapped potential to incite real change in our world by developing new technologies and transforming the landscape of tech.

Here’s what we’re excited to share from the 2022 report:

Where We Are

Computing jobs are the number one source of new wages in America. It’s the fastest growing industry, now planted in major cities beyond the Bay and in all corners of the country. And yet, despite billions of dollars spent on diversity and inclusion efforts in the tech industry, 68% of business leaders still report a lack of diversity in their workforce.

But it’s our belief these disparities begin (and have the potential to end) in the classroom: just 53% of high schools in America offer computer science classes, and that percentage is even higher in lower-income communities. That means nearly half of all high school students miss out on the immense benefits beyond just learning how to write code — computational thinking improves response inhibition, planning skills, and problem-solving abilities.

To push for more coding in high school classrooms, the Advocacy Coalition penned nine state-level policies with recommendations rooted in the principles of equity and diversity, clarity, capacity, leadership, and sustainability.

What We’ve Done

One major step in the right direction is the shared conclusion that CS education can level the playing field for all students. For educators, policymakers, and implementers to enact real change takes time. But, 2022 moved the needle. These measures taken by states show commitment to our movement:

  • 23 states have either adopted or updated 35 policies to make computer science a core element of curriculum in their schools.
  • 18 states have funded computer science education
  • $51 million was allocated to computer science in state budgets
  • Half of all states have adopted at least seven of the nine Advocacy Coalition policy recommendations.
  • In California and Illinois, both states with Code Nation programs, six of the nine recommended policies have been adopted. In New York, where Code Nation is also operating, four out of the nine policies have been adopted. In all three states, more than half of students attend high schools that offer CS as a foundational course, with California at 71%, Illinois at 83%, and New York at 64%.

In addition to developments at the state level, more and more businesses, nonprofits, and community leaders showed support and interest in computer science education changes in the US. In July 2022, more than 800 CEOs, including CEOs of Fortune 500 companies like Nike, Delta Airlines, and Amazon and nonprofit leaders who represent the National Education Association and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, signed a joint letter calling for governors and education leaders to make computer science part of the standard K-12 curriculum. Code Nation’s acting CEO, Fra Balbi, was among the signatories alongside Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Code Nation. Watch Josh talking about the initiative on CNBC:

As a part of the CEOs for CS letter, we committed, alongside other leaders, to continue our work to create pathways to computer science careers.

Where We’re Going

A major tenant of our work at Code Nation is to expose youth historically underrepresented in tech to coding. This exposure is key: without it, a student will never be able to even find out if it’s something they like, they’re good at, or are interested in pursuing. And, there’s even research that shows that when students of any race, socioeconomic status, disability, gender, or ethnicity are exposed to computer science, their attitudes about it become more positive. It’s the first step.

But this exposure is too often dependent on factors outside of a student’s control: maybe a teacher’s encouragement or a peer’s recommendation. Exposure to coding and computer science education opportunities shouldn’t depend on chance. In this year’s report, there is promising data presented to make computer science coursework a graduation requirement for high schools. To date, five states have implemented a computer science graduation requirement and there is momentum suggesting others will soon follow suit. In South Carolina, the first to implement the graduation requirement, 47% of students taking computer science are women – nearly 20% above the national percentage!

While this progress will increase access and exposure in the future, today, students from racial and ethnic groups historically excluded from computer science are less likely to attend a school that currently offers it.

Image via 2022 State of CS Education Report

That’s where our work at Code Nation comes in: by setting up schools for success with the curriculum, working engineers as volunteer teachers with relevant and current knowledge of the tech industry, and support from our program managers, we can fill the gap and implement computer science and coding into high schools without the resources to offer them independently. Our program model is unique and innovative, and positions schools and its students for success.

Computer science education is an investment in the future: the future of our country, the future of technology as a whole, and most importantly, the future of the youth who will build what comes next, and their prosperity and economic mobility. Read more about our mission and why we do what we do, and read the full state of computer science education report here.

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