Stepping into year nine of the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, the leadership team developed a new Theory of Change, and recently added a fifth stage to the ECEP How to Change at State model, originally developed by Mark Guzdial, Rick Adrion, Barbara Ericson and Renee Fall. Both of these models reflect past ECEP efforts and position ECEP to adapt to the evolving needs of state teams working to broaden participation in computing (BPC) through advocacy and policy reform efforts.
A new framework known as CAPE (Capacity, Access, Participation and Equity), developed by Carol Fletcher and Jayce Warner of The University of Texas at Austin, provides a guide for working in that 5th stage by operationalizing how equity can be assessed at multiple levels. Combined, these three models form the core of ECEP’s work serving 22 states and the territory of Puerto Rico. Below, we breakdown each model, describing how each one informs our work, and can support your state or local BPC efforts.
The theory of change provides the ECEP leadership team, our evaluation team at SageFox Consulting, our state leadership teams, and other stakeholders with a road map for our broadening participation in computing project. ECEP operates as the backbone organization within a collective impact framework. The backbone efforts catalyze, support, and coordinate state-level activities centered on BPC, while much of the measurable outcomes of the ECEP Alliance occur at the state level. Inputs are both top down and bottom up. The ECEP leadership team provides our state teams and the alliance overall with mutually reinforcing activities, resources, and services. This support from ECEP builds state capacity to define computer science (CS) clearly in state coursework and policy, implement equity-centered teacher preparation, coursework, curriculum, and state policies, and develop robust disaggregated data systems that allow states to track their BPC impact. At the same time, state leadership teams are engaging with ECEP’s 5-stage model of state change to build advocacy efforts, develop sustainable state strategies and impact specific state-level education policy. In the end, ECEP leadership, in collaboration with state teams, impacts BPC on both the state and national level through data and research, K-12 teacher and student interventions, and the adoption of BPC-informed policies.
The CAPE Framework
In order to be effective agents of change in broadening participation in computing, it is important to understand the myriad of ways in which inequities manifest across multiple levels of educational systems, whether that be the state, district, school, or classroom. Understanding equity implications across the CS education ecosystem requires a robust data collection system including disaggregated data (i.e. Stage 5 of the ECEP model for state change). The 5th stage of the ECEP model is further defined through the CAPE framework.
The CAPE framework addresses four key components of CS education: Capacity for, Access to, Participation in, and Experience of CS education. The four components of the framework work progressively, building and relying on the previous component. For example, if diverse students are to have good experiences learning CS, they must first participate in CS courses and programs. For students to participate in CS, they must first have access to CS courses and programs. If schools are to provide students access to CS, they must first have the capacity to offer CS courses and programs.
The core idea of the CAPE framework is that there are issues of equity that must be addressed and measured at every level to build a comprehensive, 360-degree understanding of the systemic barriers and facilitators to equitable CS education. By blending the ECEP 5-Stage Model and CAPE, researchers, policy makers and a broad range of stakeholders, are one step closer to building a sustainable national model for broadening participation in computing.