25 ECEP State Leaders Gather, Focus on Equity in CS Education

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    On the heels of President Obama’s announcement of CS For All, an initiative to insure that all students have the opportunity to learn computer science in school,  state leaders convened in Washington DC on January 31st, 2016 for the Expanding Computing Science Education (ECEP) Alliance Annual Meeting.  The meeting brought together 25 state leaders, project evaluators, and principal investigators all dedicated to broadening participation in computing.

    Now in year 4 of a 5-year National Science Foundation grant, the ECEP Alliance members are realizing state-level gains in their mission to increase the number of CS programs offered in their states. States are accomplishing these gains through partnerships with industry, leading education policy change, organizing leadership teams, increasing teacher readiness programs, and defining the current landscape of CS in their states. The ECEP Annual Meeting focused on highlights and data from the work conducted over the past year, while setting the stage for goal setting and visioning.

    The meeting began with each state sharing three minute overviews and action plans. This set the tone for the day’s focus on the sharing of successes, opportunities and the collaborative deep dives into topics that hold the key to realizing a shift in increasing CS education for all. Jane Margolis, researcher at the University of California, LA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies followed the state presentations with a talk entitled “CS Education Policy and Why Equity Must be at the Center”. Due to her research on CS education and access, Margolis was named a White House Champion for Change for CS Education just prior to the ECEP Annual Meeting. Her talk focused on the importance of not just access to high quality CS, but equity within all CS education and policy.

    Reflecting on the announcement of CS For All, Margolis encouraged the ECEP Alliance members to dig deeper into the “For All” and put equity at the center of all of their work in CS education, a cornerstone of her research and her work in successfully broadening participation in computing.  The core topics from her work, blending educational equity research and computer science, led to sessions in which states were asked to consider two questions:

    1. How can equity in CS education be addressed through state system-wide reforms and efforts?
    2. How do your state-specific action plans change, stretch, or innovate to make real progress around equity & broadening participation in computing? 

    During breakout sessions, ECEP state leaders discussed project goals and new pathways to expanding CS and CS For All within their states. Although individual ECEP cohort states are in varying stages of work on expanding CS education, the annual meeting gave state leaders the opportunity to network and share resources with one another; successes were shared, obstacles were discussed and collaborative missions were defined.

    Building on the expertise in the room and utilizing the voices from each state, the afternoon found the group in deep dive sessions and roundtable discussions on four topics: K -12 standards and frameworks, K -12 teacher certification and credentialing process, K -12 teacher professional development, and community college – 4 year transfer pathways. In these sessions state leaders had the opportunity to hear brief presentations by the PIs and co-PIs. ECEP Alliance members walked away with information and ideas that they could modify to work on within their state plans.

    It was obvious to the meeting facilitators that the ECEP Alliance Members were inspired and energized. Initially they were boosted by the announcement of CS For All. As the day went on, they were inspired through reflection on their own work and that of their peers in other states. From work in Puerto Rico that will result in a CS curriculum fully translated into Spanish, to the intentional collaboration between education and industry in Texas, ECEP Alliance member states are clearly making a collective impact on broadening CS education. This alliance of 12 states and territories, with state-centered accomplishments and collaborative goals, is well positioned to lead the next stages of expansion of CS education at the local, state and national level.