New Report Finds Significant Problem in the Computer Science Teacher Certification System

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A new report released today by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) finds that Computer Science teacher certification/licensure in the United States is deeply flawed.

A new report released today by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) finds that Computer Science teacher certification/licensure in the United States is deeply flawed. While companies look to fill lucrative positions in the computing field, there is a critical shortage of qualified teachers to teach the next generation of computer scientists.

Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S., developed with support from Google, is a comprehensive study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia revealing that each state (and in some states each school district) has its own process, its own definition of Computer Science, and its own idea of where Computer Science fits in the academic program and who is qualified to teach it.

Bugs in the System reveals that only two states (Arizona and Wisconsin) require teachers to be certified/licensed in Computer Science and in many states there are no requirements for teaching Computer Science at all, meaning teachers with little or even no Computer Science knowledge can teach it and teacher preparation institutions are unlikely to offer programs for new Computer Science teachers.

The report also reveals confusion at all levels about what Computer Science is and the knowledge required to teach it. As a result, teachers who want to teach Computer Science can be faced with, sometimes insurmountable challenges. For example, in Florida becoming a certified Computer Science teacher requires taking a course called K-6 Computer Science Methods, however the course is not offered in any teacher preparation program in the state.

Projections show that in the year 2020 there will be 9.2 million jobs in the "STEM fields"—those that rely on science, technology, engineering and mathematics—and half of those jobs will be in computing and IT and there is not nearly enough talent in the pipeline to fill these vacancies. Addressing the current problems with Computer Science teacher certification/licensure is an important step towards ensuring all students have the opportunity to take the courses that will provide the fundamental knowledge and skills to prepare them for future computing jobs.

Bugs in the System presents a number of recommendations to address this problem, including:

  •     Establish a system of certification/licensure that ensures that all Computer Science teachers have appropriate knowledge of and are prepared to teach the discipline content.
  •     Establish a system of certification/licensure that accounts for teachers coming to the discipline from multiple pathways with appropriate requirements geared to those pathways.
  •     Require teacher preparation institutions and organizations (especially those purporting to support STEM education) to include programs to prepare Computer Science teachers.

To view the full list of recommendations, download Bugs in the System.

The research for this report was conducted during 2012. Data was gathered from online and telephone survey responses from educators and state education authorities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Respondents were asked to respond to four questions. In all cases, data was collected from at least two sources. In a significant number of states several communications were required to locate the individual who would know the details needed for the report. In some states, no such persons could be located but some or all of the required information was located through extensive searches of state education websites. Responses were submitted by 46 states. For more information about the report’s methodology and for a report card for each state, download the report.

"Computer Science teacher certification is a complex issue and as we learned from this report, there is much work to be done in order to support these educators," said Chris Stephenson, one of the authors of Bugs in the System and CSTA Executive Director. "Computer Science offers enormous opportunities to current and future students, so our national level failure to ensure that there are enough teachers who are well prepared to teach Computer Science makes no sense, but we need the support of the entire educational community to make the necessary improvements."

As a teacher (in Worcester, MA) and chair of the CSTA Certification Committee, Karen Lang also notes that the improvements called for in this report are critical for teachers, students, and schools. "Everyone wins when students are able to learn from exemplary teachers," says Lang. "We need a system of certification that encourages rather than discourages good teachers from teaching Computer Science."

To view report cards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia and download Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S., visit http://csta.acm.org/ComputerScienceTeacherCertification/sub/CertificationResources.html.

About The Computer Science Teachers Association

The Computer Science Teachers Association is a membership organization that supports and promotes the teaching of computer science and other computing disciplines. CSTA provides opportunities for K–12 teachers and students to better understand the computing disciplines and to more successfully prepare themselves to teach and learn.

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Stacey Finkel

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