Computer technology is one United States’ economy driving forces. Approximately 76% of new and 58% of total STEM job openings will be in computing, with a predicted 18-31% growth in salaries. However, despite the pressing demand for workers with computing skills and the high financial rewards associated with tech jobs, the vast majority of K-12 students, especially certain minorities, do not have an opportunity to participate in any rigorous Computer Science (CS) preparation. In fact, rigorous CS education is offered in only 25% of all K-12 schools in the US, with only 5% of high schools offering AP CS. This lack of access to CS education at the K-12 level is a primary factor that explains not only why a large number of tech jobs are unfilled but also the lack of diversity in this sector. These challenges with CS Education have become the focus of concern among numerous stakeholders such as businesses, industries and the government.
The focus of this presentation is to provide a description of a ground-breaking effort by a Tuskegee University-led partnership, funded by the NSF, to contribute to the national movement to address lack of access to CS in K-12 schools. This initiative establishes an authentic CS Course called “Exploring Computer Science (ECS)” in all 19 school districts of the underserved, but historic Alabama Black Belt. The ECS program provides 60 teachers over three years from the Black Belt high schools with preparation and resources to teach ECS. These teachers will in turn prepare a diverse cadre of approximately 1,500 students in ECS.
The ECS initiative will improve access to CS and success therein so that students from the underserved areas of the Alabama Black Belt region gain equal opportunities to enter the pipeline that will carry them to lucrative skilled jobs that are projected to be available in very large numbers in CS related fields and other STEM subfields.
The ECS partnership includes Tuskegee University, the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the 19 Alabama Black Belt school districts The Exploring Computer Science (ECS) Team, A+ College Ready and the Alabama State Department of Education.