Disparities in representation in CS classes, majors, and the profession have persisted in the United States over the past 30 years, despite focused investments by the federal government and many industry leaders. Though some progress has been made to broaden participation in CS, computer science remains one of the least diverse STEM fields in the country.
One potential reason for the remarkable persistence of these inequities may be that many interventions have focused exclusively on bootstrapping individuals rather than addressing the broken systems through which individuals matriculate. Recognizing the complexity of the CS education ecosystem, Fletcher and Warner developed a framework for examining the multi-tiered components of CS education that perpetuate and amplify inequities for historically excluded students such as students who identify as female, Black, Hispanic, LatinX, students with disabilities, or students who are from low-income families. The CAPE Framework (2021), provides researchers, practitioners, and policymakers with a lens through which they can examine multiple, interdependent components of CS education, asking questions about how inequities at each level might impact outcomes at subsequent levels.
The framework addresses four key components of CS education: Capacity for, Access to, Participation in, and Experiences of CS education (CAPE). The pyramid depicted here illustrates how the four components of the framework work progressively, building and relying on the previous component. If students are to have good experiences learning CS, they must first participate in CS courses and programs. If students are 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. By interrogating where inequities manifest themselves across multiple levels of the CS education ecosystem, we can move beyond a focus on the lagging indicators of inequity such as participation and experiences and explore the root causes of leading indicators such as inequitable access to or capacity for CS education.
Fletcher, C.L., Warner, J.R. (2021, February). CAPE: A Framework for Assessing Equity throughout the Computer Science Education Ecosystem. Communications of the ACM, 64(2), 23-25. doi:10.1145/3442373
Fletcher, C. (2021). Equity in Computing, Texascale Magazine.
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