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Debunking myths about equitable CS education

Myth: “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:

“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.
The CS Equity Guide supports K-12 educational leaders in designing, scaling, and sustaining equitable CS education in their local education agency (LEA).
The advocacy workbook supports individual educators in engaging others in their efforts to expand CS education. The workbook may also be a supplement to an LEA’s strategic plan for CS.
The recruitment workbook supports individual educators in increasing and diversifying enrollment in their CS courses. The workbook may also be a supplement to an LEA’s strategic plan for CS.

Myth: “CS for All Students = All Students in CS.” 

Equity isn't a direct result of enrolling all students in CS. 
Considerations for how CS is taught and how students are supported in CS are critical to ensure equitable CS education. 


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 Curriculum and Instruction.

Classroom Culture 

How are diverse learners supported in CS education?

Efforts to ensure a positive classroom culture include:
  • 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 evidence-based instructional strategies and resources to support the needs of English language learners students with disabilities

Equity, inclusion, and belonging in CS education


Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance
Collective impact alliance dedicated to increasing equitable capacity for, access to, participation in, and experiences of CS education; Pennsylvania is a an alliance member

Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Education (AiiCE)
National cross-sector partnership focused on creating equitable and inclusive CS education environments for students and educators from historically underrepresented groups; Pennsylvania AiiCE program participants: Avni Dyer, Sara Frey, Philip Grim, Jennifer Heidlebaugh 

Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Equity Fellowship
Selective, year-long program designs to grow participants’ leadership capacity and provide opportunities for peer-to-peer professional learning focused on addressing equity issues in CS education; Pennsylvania CSTA Equity Fellows: Jigar Patel (2022-23) and Sandy Hartman (2021-22)

NCWIT Counselors for Computing (C4C)
Program providing school counselors with information and resources to support all students as they explore CS education and careers; Pennsylvania has a statewide C4C program that hosts an annual summit as part of the CSforAllPA Summit

Kapor Center
Family of interrelated justice-seeking organizations working to reimagine and reconstruct a more inclusive and equitable technology sector


Equity in CS education (K-12 CS Framework, 2016,  pp. 23-38)
Chapter containing research and best practices pertaining to equity in CS education

Moving towards a vision of equitable computer science: Results of a landscape survey of PreK-12 CS teachers in the United States (Koshy et al., 2022)
Landscape report containing results from 2022 survey of U.S. CS teachers, recommendations, and resources

Capacity, access, participation, and experience (CAPE) (ECEP Alliance, 2022)
Framework for examining equity in CS education

CSTA standards for CS teachers (CSTA, 2023)
Standard 2: Equity and inclusion includes five indicators for working towards an intentional, equity-focused vision to improve access, engagement, and achievement for all students in CS.
Other indicators that explicitly address equity, access, and belonging include: 3c., 3d., 4c., 4e., 5b.

Culturally responsive-sustaining computer science education: A framework [PDF] (Kapor Center, 2021)
Empirically and theoretically-driven framework for designing and implementing equitable and culturally responsive pedagogical practices in CS education  

Exploring the state of computer science education amid rapid policy expansion (Hansen & Zerbino, 2022)
Brookings report on recent policy changes and participation trends in CS education

Guide to inclusive computer science education (Microsoft & NCWIT, 2019)
Strategies for increasing equitable participation in CS education by addressing access, diversity, and inclusion

Computer science is for everyone (Microsoft, 2018)
Toolkit for middle and high school teachers to increase and diversify enrollment in CS courses

CS Heroes (CSEdWeek, 2022) 
Printable posters featuring advancements towards making CS education equitable for all students

Inspire students to try CS (Code.org, 2023)
Videos, posters, and other resources featuring diverse voices in CS and CS education