Last week, I was honored to be among over 500 leaders of corporate and non-profit organizations signing a letter to governors and education leaders across the United States. This letter calls for an important shift in our K-12 curriculum across the nation, allowing for every student in every school to have the opportunity to learn computer science. Other notable signatories of the letter included Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Mark Cuban, Jeff Bezos, and the CEOs of companies such as Accenture, American Airlines, American Express, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Nordstrom, and Walmart. You can find the letter here: ceosforcs.org.
I consider this to be nothing less than a national security issue. While the United States has been a global technology leader, other places around the world are catching up. A study in 2019 showed that the U.S. graduated 65,000 students in computer science, compared to 185,000 in China and 215,000 in India. The economic security of our nation is rooted in continuing to maintain our leadership in technology and digital skills. Today, there are 700,000 open computer science positions in the U.S.—in every industry in the nation—and not nearly enough CS graduates to fill those spots. Only 5% of our high school students study computer science. As the letter notes, our nation needs to ensure we are exposing students in K-12 to computer science concepts, even as early as elementary school.
This letter is just the latest example of the increasing recognition in our society of the importance of computer science education—not just for careers in technology, but for every career in today’s increasingly digital world. The rise of remote work has only accelerated these needs, as now anyone can dream of pursuing a high-paying, high-skilled position regardless of geography. Recently, as many as 40 states have adopted some form of K-12 computer science standards, and more state education funds are being allocated to this issue over time. We are making progress, but more work remains to be done.
Many of the state standards that are being implemented are based in part on the K-12 computer science standards developed by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). An examination of the CSTA standards leads to some interesting findings. When most of us think about computer science we think about coding: applications, programming, app development and the like. And indeed, the CSTA standards deal at length with these areas. But what strikes me is that more than half of the CSTA standards are in other areas—such as computer fundamentals like devices and software, online safety and digital citizenship, networking and online communication, and data visualization and analysis.
Especially in the earliest years in school, some of these “other” computer science topics provide important foundational knowledge and digital skills to help students be better prepared for deeper computer science concepts later in school. Increasingly, K-12 educators are recognizing that a comprehensive computer science curriculum begins in the earliest grades with age-appropriate lessons about online safety, computer fundamentals, and other foundational digital skills that must be mastered before more complex skills like coding or game design are introduced. At Learning.com, we are proud to work with schools, districts and states across the country to incorporate essential digital skills at every level: from online safety and computer basics starting in kindergarten, through advanced topics like algorithmic thinking and coding, to ensure students are prepared to succeed in the digital age.
Click here to see recommended computer skills by grade band.