Our partnership with the Cognizant U.S. Foundation is preparing students for life and careers in the 21st century.
December 8, 2020
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that 67% of new jobs in STEM are in computing, jobs that also happen to be some of the highest-paying and fastest-growing in the country. Yet only 11% of STEM bachelor’s degrees are in computer science, leading to a massive workforce shortage. The answer to the problem seems clear: increase the number of students majoring in computer science.
But here’s the thing: research shows that increasing the number of computer science majors is dependent on expanding access to computer science education before students reach institutions of higher education. Problem solved? Not just yet.
In the United States, 47% of high schools offer computer science education, the majority of which are not in low-income communities. Even where computer science (CS) courses are available, the number of Black, Latinx, and Native students and of female students enrolled in those courses remains disproportionately low. Here’s an example: in 2019, 165,790 students took AP computer science courses. Only 5.5% of those students were Black. The numbers are increasing over time--this stat is up 343% from 2016--but there’s more to be done.
This persistent gap in equitable CS education affects millions of students. In a world where we become increasingly dependent on technology by the day (this year serving as a stark example), this is not just unfortunate; it’s unjust. Providing more access to computer science education in K-12 is critical to preparing students for life in the 21st century, whether that means increased access to high-paying careers and remote opportunities or by providing the relevant tools and mindsets to design the world they want to see. And those opportunities must be available to all students, regardless of zip code.
“K-12 education should be a key focus area for anyone investing in workforce development, because we have a responsibility to ensure today’s students are equipped to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.”
It is this inequity that has spurred a partnership between Teach For America and the Cognizant U.S. Foundation focused on expanding computer science pathways in low-income schools nationwide. Together, we have built a three-pronged strategy that aims to increase CS pathways through working at every level within the field of education.
Increase access to high-quality CS education.
Through two new fellowships, the Cognizant AP CSP Fellowship and the Cognizant CS School Leader Cohort, we train educators to teach AP Computer Science Principles and help school leaders establish CS education programs in their schools. Together, this will increase the number of students in Title I schools receiving high-quality CS education from elementary school onward, as well as expand the pipeline of future computer science leaders. Our first cohort of 11 AP CSP fellows is already bringing their training into the classroom, and 10 school leaders from across the country are convening this Computer Science Education Week to prepare their ’21 -’22 CS curriculum.
Advance the CS conversation.
Through relevant and engaging CS event programming, our goal is to shape the broader CS ecosystem and advocate for equity in CS education. One such event held earlier this year was the Cognizant U.S. Foundation-sponsored panel at Teach For America’s School Leaders of Color Conference, “The future of work in Black America: claiming space for our children in the innovation economy,” with the founders of Marcy Lab school.
Foster learning and drive innovation.
Coming in 2021, the new Cognizant CS Teaching Awards will help us recognize innovative and excellent CS teachers, as well as identify, analyze, and share best practices in CS teaching with our network and beyond.
These three pillars align with Code.org Advocacy Coalition’s framework for state policy and will help us bring CS education to more low-income schools than ever before. We are excited to have a partner in the Cognizant U.S. Foundation that recognizes the importance of investing to expand equitable impact through CS.
“We know the high-paying jobs that drive economic mobility require computational thinking and digital skills—that’s why it’s critical to provide all students with computer science education starting at an early age. K-12 education should be a key focus area for anyone investing in workforce development, because we have a responsibility to ensure today’s students are equipped to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow,” said Kristen Titus, executive director, Cognizant U.S. Foundation.
“The most rewarding aspect so far is teaching CS to students who potentially would not be exposed to this type of material until college. It is incredible to see how excited students become as they learn a new concept and are able to produce the code and make it run for the first time.”
This Computer Science Education Week, we invite others to join us in this work. Together, we can ensure all students have access to a cutting-edge education that prepares them for a life of their dreams and supports the next generation of innovators.
“The most rewarding aspect so far is teaching CS to students who potentially would not be exposed to this type of material until college. It is incredible to see how excited students become as they learn a new concept and are able to produce the code and make it run for the first time.” William Russell (Indianapolis ‘19), Cognizant AP CSP Fellow
Through December 31, the Cognizant US Foundation is generously matching up to $500,000 in individual gifts made to Teach For America. Donate today to have your gift doubled.