National coalition offers framework for K-12 computer science curriculum

Credit: PAT MAIO / EDSOURCE TODAYSarah Peters, an instructional assistant at Bryant School of the Arts & Innovation in Riverside, teaches basic computer science skills to all students at the K-6 school, for 40 minutes, once a week. Credit: PAT MAIO / EDSOURCE TODAYSarah Peters, an instructional assistant at Bryant School of the Arts & Innovation in Riverside, teaches basic computer science skills to all students at the K-6 school, for 40 minutes, once a week. Updated  at 12:45 p.m., Oct. 18, 2016.
The next step in California’s efforts to introduce computer science standards into the school curriculum over the next few years came Monday as a national coalition of educators, academics, industry professionals and nonprofits unveiled a framework for states to adopt.
The framework grew out of a national effort to attract more girls and minorities into the underrepresented field of computer science. The framework is an essential step toward increasing the number of computer science courses offered as part of the K-12 curriculum. 
The national framework is something that individual states – including California – will have the option of approving in some form as they each work to develop their own standards to help guide how computer science is taught. 
“The framework gives the power to the states to figure out what kind of standards they want,” said Pat Yongpradit, chief academic officer at Code.org, a national nonprofit working to expand access to computer science and to increase participation among women and minorities. “The standards that are developed will be up to California. They can go many ways. They will be tasked with creating standards that are given to the districts.”
Code.org was one of several organizations that helped write the framework, along with the Association for Computing Machinery, Computer Science Teachers Association, Cyber Innovation Center and the National Math + Science Initiative.
The framework provides guidance, but does not define the standards themselves. The framework represents overall computer science ideas and concepts, such as what students are expected to have learned by the end of a course, grade level, or grade. To be developed over the next few years, they are not expected to describe any particular teaching practice, curriculum or assessment method.
By July 2018:  A 23-person advisory panel recommends a  “computer science implementation plan” for consideration by the California Dept. of Education, State Board of Education and Legislature, as mandated by AB  2329.
By Jan. 1, 2019:  The State Board adopts a computer science implementation plan based on recommendations from the California Dept. of Education, and submits to the Legislature.  
By July  2019:  The Instructional Quality Commission appoints an expert advisory panel to recommend science standards to State Board of Education, as mandated by AB 1539.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D- Concord said in a written statement that the unveiling of the framework is heartening to see.
“This is a good example of the private and nonprofit sectors bringing vision and expertise to the table,” said Bonilla, who authored Assembly Bill 2329 that was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, creating a computer science education advisory panel.
This law requires State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to form a 23-person advisory panel by next September to be charged with developing recommendations to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education and the Legislature for a computer science strategic implementation plan for kindergarten through 12th grade, on or before July 1, 2018.
“This is a very positive step,” said Bonilla of the framework, as it lays the foundation for much of the advisory panel’s work.
A separate law (AB 1539) approved by the Legislature in 2014 addresses the development of computer science standards in California.
In commenting on Bonilla’s law, Torlakson said at an education conference last week in Anaheim that it is meant to “develop an overall strategy on computer science in California.”
Torlakson said there are behind-the-scenes efforts to expand Bonilla’s bill to allow outside groups to contribute funds to bring computer science into more classrooms across the state.
Other state efforts also are underway.
Beginning next month, the California Department of Education plans to convene three focus groups that will offer input on computer science standards. The sessions will be held at the department’s office in Sacramento, the San Francisco Unified School District Office and the San Diego County Office of Education.
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.“There is a movement in California,” said Yongpradit, referring to computer science instruction already underway in major urban areas like Oakland and Los Angeles. “But there are also pockets where nothing is happening.”
According to the California Department of Education, only a quarter of California’s high schools offer any computer science courses; there are also gender and racial disparities. The department said that only 15 percent of 3,525 high school graduates in 2014 who studied computer science were female. In 2015, of the roughly 8,700 high school students in California who took the AP Computer Science exam, just 26 percent were female, 11.2 percent were Hispanic, and 1.7 percent were black.
This story was updated to provide more details on the timeline for introducing a computer science implementation timeline and standards, as mandated by state law. 
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