A State-Wide Effort to Provide Access to Authentic Computer Science Education to Underrepresented Populations
4:10 PM - 4:35 PM
Fri Mar 13, 2020
The Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum provides foundational knowledge of Computer Science (CS) to high school students as a stand-alone course. ECS began in the Los Angeles Unified School District in the late 2000s where it gained eminence for broadening participation in computing (BPC), with Latinx students representing over 70% of enrollment. This experience report describes a partnership that consists of three Universities, dozens of school districts, the ECS team, and other stakeholders to bring the ECS curriculum in mainly rural school districts in Alabama that have a majority African-American student population. Sixty in-service teachers (one teacher per school) have received professional learning opportunities to gain knowledge and skills to teach ECS. Signs of early broader impacts are emerging: 78% of our ECS enrollment are underrepresented minority (URM) students with nearly half of the cohort consisting of female students. Students reported they were engaged in working collaboratively and sharing responsibilities with others. Furthermore, students who reported being more involved in the ECS course had deeper confidence in their ability to succeed in CS, reported greater overall outcomes, had more confidence in development of 21st century skills, found the course more relevant, were more motivated to persist in CS, and exhibited increased interest in CS careers. We provide a comprehensive description of the partnership's accomplishments and the evaluation findings on student CS experiences and on teacher self-efficacy in ECS preparation and instruction. Our findings contribute to the BPC literature, specifically for schools with predominantly African-American enrollment in rural communities.