Equity & Inclusion

CS Education in PA: What and Why 

“CS in PA” and “CS For All PA” are often used interchangeably in the discussion of K-12 CS education in Pennsylvania. While short enough to use as social media tags, these two phrases encompass the what and the why for K-12 CS education in the Commonwealth.

“CS For All PA” sums up what we’re striving for in K-12 CS education:
Equitable CS education for all students including students of color, historically underrepresented populations, English language learners (ELLs) and students with disabilities.

This language is embedded throughout CS in PA resources, including this Toolkit. 

“CS in PA” depicts a vision for why equitable K-12 CS education matters:
Equitable CS education ensures all students have the foundational knowledge and skills to pursue a wide variety of pathways beyond their K-12 experience. 

Pathways are not limited to 4-year degrees specializing in programming and engineering. Education pathways range from on-the-job training programs to advanced degrees, with jobs available in nearly every field imaginable.1 This understanding that CS empowers students and workers is the focus of the PAsmart Initiative. 

The CS Equity Guide was created for K-12 education leader's to design, scaling, and sustaining equitable computer science in PA. 
CS Equity Guide  

These workbooks support K-12 educators in engaging others in their efforts to improve and expand CS education: 

CS Teacher Workbook | Advocacy 
This workbook is designed to support an individual educator wishing to grow as an advocate or used by a team as a supplement to a local education agency’s (LEA) strategic plan for CS.

CS Teacher Workbook | Recruitment 
This workbook is designed to support an individual wishing to increase enrollment in their own CS courses, or used by a team as a supplement to a local education agency’s (LEA) strategic plan for CS.

Considerations for ensuring equitable CS education

Not all students have the opportunity to learn CS

2019-20 Pennsylvania K-12 Computer Science Engagement 

While Pennsylvania K-12 engagement in CS has increased over the past three years, large gaps remain; less than 24% of students across the commonwealth participated in CS learning in the 2019-20 school year. Of the approximately 339,000 Pennsylvania students engaging in computer science courses K-12, less than 23% are students of color and less than 4% are English language learners.

This sortable database contains all computer science courses reported in PIMS for the 2020-21 academic year. LEAs are highly encouraged but not required to report CS coursetaking data.

Data Resources

Representation & Participation

Debunking “If you build it, they will come.” 

There may be a lot more to it when a student says “CS isn’t for me.” Students’ perceptions and beliefs about CS may include: 3

“I don’t know anyone like me in CS.”
The lack of diversity in CS is indisputable. Many studies show that very few female, Hispanic, and Black students pursue CS college and career pathways. Students’ access to CS role models with whom they relate may be limited. 

“I don’t see people like me doing CS.”
Perceptions about CS are reinforced by stereotypes portrayed in TV and movies. Students report that TV and movies feature CS done mostly by white men wearing glasses. 

“I can’t be good at CS.”
Nearly 50% of all students believe that people need to be very smart to learn CS, but less than 50% say that they are very skilled in math and science. This lack of self-confidence is even more prominent among female and Hispanic students.

Acknowledging and working to eliminate negative ideas around CS is critical to increasing student participation.

Representation & Participation Resources

Instruction & Classroom Climate

Equity isn’t a direct result of enrolling all students in CS. 
Debunking “CS for All Students = All Students in CS.”

Considerations for how CS is taught and how students are supported in CS are critical to ensure equitable CS education. 

Pedagogy (How is CS taught?)
CS pedagogy involves evidence-based practices and strategies consistent with or adapted from those used across subjects. 

As in other content areas, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Understanding By Design (UbD) are frameworks that support effective CS instruction. Likewise, specific strategies that are effective in math, literacy, or other instruction, can and should be used in CS, too. Explore more about CS instructional design in the PA CS Teacher Toolkit.  

Classroom Culture (How are diverse learners supported in CS education?)

Efforts to ensure a positive classroom culture include:4

  • Recognizing and addressing stereotypes, implicit biases, and fixed mindsets among students and teachers

  • Demonstrating cultural competency with the use of culturally relevant practices and resources that brings CS together with students’ culture, backgrounds, and interests

  • Using instructional strategies and resources to support the needs of English language learners students with disabilities

Instruction & Classroom Climate Resources

1“PAsmart Career Paths.” PAsmart, PA.GOV, www.pasmart.gov/what-is-pasmart/pasmart-career-paths/.
2“What is PAsmart?” PAsmart, PA.GOV, https://www.pasmart.gov/what-is-pasmart/
3“Images of Computer Science: Perceptions Among Students, Parents, and Educators in the U.S.” Google (2015) https://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/images-of-computer-science-report.pdf
4 “Equity in Computer Science Education” K–12 Computer Science Framework. (2016). http://www.k12cs.org