This fall, school districts across the country are juggling COVID-19 contingency planning with competing opinions about how to catch up on missed learning in core subjects. With subjects like math and ELL flagged as a high priority, other subjects like computer science (CS) and STEM are at risk of being deprioritized.
In a pre-pandemic survey by Gallup and Google, over 60% of parents, teachers, and principals alike said computer science education is at least as important to a student's future success as required courses such as math, science, history, and English.
To understand where STEM and CS fit into priorities for the current school year, we surveyed 600 school principals as well as district technology and curriculum leaders. Our findings indicate that most schools are not where they want to be, with 85% of respondents saying they do not consider their school or district to be a leader in STEM and computer science education.
When asked what challenges schools face in teaching computer science, 78% of principals cited the need for teacher professional development and 42% cited a lack of time.
“The majority of principals, teachers, and parents agree that computer science should be a priority, but integrating it into the classroom is challenging at a moment when schools, understandably, are focused on core subjects, student engagement, and SEL,” said Bryanne Leeming, CEO and Founder of Unruly Studios, creator of the STEM learning program Unruly Splats. “We see a window of opportunity to reimagine computer science as a cross-curricular skill that can support all of these learning objectives cohesively."
In our survey, the majority of principals noted that computer science is generally taught at designated times during the day, like in a tech or STEM class. Only 18% of principals said that computer science is integrated into most subjects. Many students are only exposed to computer science once a week or even once a year.
Cross-curricular coding is a way to ensure kids are exposed to coding concepts through a variety of entry points in any classroom. Schools that are leaders in STEM and computer science are increasingly incorporating them across different subjects like language arts and music, breaking down stereotypes about coding in the process. For example, at Concourse Village Elementary School in New York City, learning to code is integrated into PE class.
“If we can teach students from a young age how to build and create things with technology, we are setting them up for future success,” said Alexa Sorden, Founding Principal of Concourse Village Elementary School. “At our school, most students won’t have exposure to computer science learning at home or through extracurricular activities. That’s why it’s critical that we integrate coding concepts throughout the school day, offering students different access points and inspiration for exploring computer science later on in their education or careers.”
This survey supports other studies that show interdisciplinary computer science education is a feasible way to integrate more CS learning opportunities in a way that supports positive student academic achievement in core subjects.
Survey Details: This survey was conducted May - August 2021 by Unruly Studios and had 600 respondents made up of principals as well as district technology and curriculum leaders in the U.S. No respondents were known users of Unruly Splats.