CS for all in NYC

So . . . NYC has decided to mandate CS in all public schools.  The articles (and there are many) about this are sketchy on the details of how this will work, but here are some key points: it’s not required for graduation, and they haven’t said what grade level they’re incorporating it into.

Look, I’m all for CS being in schools, but I’m not so sure this is the right way to do it, for all kinds of reasons. Maybe as the program gets rolled out, it will seem like a better deal.  But right now, call me skeptical.  First, I don’t like the idea of “training” teachers.  I’d prefer a real certification process.  Throwing them into some workshops is not going to cut it, especially at the high school level.  And, let’s say they go another route and hire programmers to teach.  You’d have to “train” them to teach.  Same problem, different angle.

In essence, it means CS is still getting treated like the red-headed stepchild that doesn’t deserve the same thoughtful teacher preparation and curriculum development that say, biology gets.  Calling it “coding” reduces it to single thing.  It’s like saying math is all multiplication.  Or science is just biology.  While I like the message of “anyone can do CS,” I don’t want it to seem like a six-week crash course would teach anyone everything they need to know, and that that’s all schools should offer.

All these issues and more were addressed in one of my favorite responses to the announcements, which ends with this quote:

My dream would be computer science classes that are workshops: learn, do, make, test, redo. Share examples, receive guidance and try again. Few lectures. No worksheets. Failure as a reward for trying, not an excuse for a low grade. Just making and learning. On iteration.

Don’t build computer science classes. Build and celebrate a maker culture.

That’s what I’ve done since day one.  It’s mostly working.

5 Replies to “CS for all in NYC”

  1. To evaluate how realistic the NYC plan is, let’s look at a couple of BdB’s other proposals from the same speech:

    1. AP classes for all students.

    Ok – well, the reason why many school’s don’t offer AP classes is that for a variety of reasons, the kids don’t get to them. So we’ll announce that AP classes will be available but no talk about how NY is going to close the gap and get those kids ready for college level rigor.

    2. Algebra available in all 8th grades and done by 9th.

    Algebra is BY FAR the easiest of NY’s high school math classes. Passing rates even with struggling populations seem pretty good. Then eveyone fails geometry. Again, no talk about how we’re going to get these kids ready and through geometry.

    Lot’s of talk – I doubt there’s a sensible plan.

  2. I have a feeling “CS for all” actually means “programming for all”. Two different things. A two week workshop probably can do a decent job of teaching the basics of programming to those that are interested in learning programming. I have been teaching what I think is “CS” for 30 years and I am still not sure if I am on target and I still rewrite my curriculum and syllabus almost every year. A two week workshop is not going to teach the basic concepts of “CS”.

  3. I’m have been software engineer for over 20 years. I’m finishing my MEd in secondary math at Hunter colleges. I would love to teach computer science. I am looking for a school prefarbly on UWS where I can student teach computer science next cemeter and can volunteer to help this cemeter.

    Which schools are offering good computer science programs? Can I volunteer there and maybe student teach next cemester?

    Sorry if this is a dumb question, but how do you become a computer science teacher? It seems the only path is to become math teacher first.

    Thank you for any help you can give me on the subject.

    Galina K.

  4. Galina,

    I highly recommend checking out CSTA (Computer Science Teachers’ Association) at csta.acm.org. On their site, there is a ton of information about where CS is being taught and what’s required in some places to teach. It’s free to join the organization, which then gets you on the mailing list. The mailing list is filled with CS teachers who are happy to help you find your way into CS teaching. I hope that helps!

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