Last week, Code.org announced that they’d trained 15,000 teachers to teach Computer Science using the curriculum they’d developed. Certainly, the lack of trained teachers has been one of the issues holding back Computer Science Education and getting schools to offer CS. In the article I linked, code.org suggests that the percentage of schools offering CS is at 25%, up from 10%. My question is how are they offering it? Are they counting the after-school program? Is it an elective? Are they offering AP? It’s unclear. I know this data is hard to gather. And some schools still count their “technology” class where students learn photoshop and other apps as Computer Science. So it’s hard to tell.
For comparison, the NSF estimates that there are over 400,000 math and science teachers in just middle and high school. Let’s split that in half and say that there are around 200,000 of each. It’s hard to find estimates of the numbers of CS teachers, but one report from 2011 suggested that 42,000 schools teach CS, so let’s assume there’s 1 teacher at those schools. Now let’s add our 15k to those and we’re at 57k. So for every CS teacher, there are about 4 math teachers. That’s slow progress, for sure.
Math and science are required courses for graduation so it makes sense that there are 4 times as many. If students have to take both each year, then those classes have to be staffed. CS is rarely required for a single year, much less 3 or 4. If suddenly, CS were required, would we have enough qualified teachers? I think we’d need to at least double the number we have right now. And then schools would have to hire them. And, if there’s only one course, will that be enough for a full time job? If not, what else are they going to teach? You see the problem here? In order to really get CS into schools, schools may need to get away from the idea of a full-time course load until the program builds or create a dual role of CS/Math, CS/Science, etc. Most schools have difficulty thinking like that. They want people in boxes.
If my school suddenly made CS required, I’m guessing that I’d have 4-5 sections of CS for the required course. That’s a full-time job. I’m at 1.5 FTE in the high school as it is, so I’d have to hire another person. And, I suspect the electives would increase in enrollment, so maybe I’d need 1.5 more people. So now I’m at 3 FTE, doubling my salary costs.
This is expensive for schools to do, and if we want them to do it, there needs to either be a requirement from the states/school districts or the political will on your local school board to pony up the money. We all know the benefits and that it’s a crucial topic to introduce students to in a world filled with and increasingly run by technology. But budgets are budgets. And in many places, budgets are voted on. Having 15,000 more teachers is great, but now they need permanent jobs.