As Computer Science Education Week (“CS Ed Week”) Approaches: Calling all CS Learning Champions!

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Summary: Here is what you can do to advance Computer Science Education.


Technology plays a role in nearly every aspect of our lives today —it’s how we connect with friends and family, discover the weather forecast, find jobs, play, and importantly learn.  Yet too few of us, from our youngest to our eldest Americans, are going beyond being a ‘user’ of technology to becoming a maker, coder, discoverer, tinkerer, designer —and harnessing the power of computing to solve new challenges and make everyones’ lives healthier, safer, more efficient, better informed, and more fun.

Computational literacy” —being able to code, script, design, program, debug, and understand computer science—is rapidly emerging as an essential skill for today’s students. Many jobs in the 21st century will require the type of problem-solving ability that is advanced by training in computer science. In fact, it is projected that by 2020 information technology (IT) skills and computational thinking will be needed in more than half of all jobs and greater than 50 percent of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) job growth over that time period will be in computer science fields, leading to a shortage of more than one million IT-skilled Americans.  In addition to IT professionals, people employed in most STEM jobs in the coming decades will require some level of sophisticated computational skills and many jobs inthe 21st Century will require the type of problem-solving ability that is advanced by computational thinking.

President Obama visits with students and engaging in coding during the "Hour of Code" event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 2014. Official White House Photo.

President Obama visits with students and engaging in coding during the “Hour of Code” event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 2014. Official White House Photo.

For those already in the workforce, the President’s TechHire Initiative and the Administration’s focus on inclusive entrepreneurship (including as part of the first-ever White House Demo Day) are aimed at providing more Americans with the skills today to launch careers in fields like cybersecurity, network administration, coding, project management, UI design and data analytics—positions with average salaries more than one and a half times higher than the average private-sector American job.

It’s time to ramp up our efforts to engage the next generation in these growing opportunities. Other countries have recognized the demand for a computational literate workforce and several, notably England, and are moving to offer computer science to all students, starting in early elementary school. However, in the United States, only 26 states allow students to count computer science toward high school graduation. In most U.S. schools, computer science is offered as an elective or not available at all.

Vice President Biden visits with students and engaging in coding during the "Hour of Code" event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 2014. Official White House Photo.

Vice President Biden visits with students and engaging in coding during the “Hour of Code” event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 2014. Official White House Photo.

Beyond access to computer science education more broadly, we as a country are also missing out on the talent and innovation from a large proportion of women and racial and ethnic minorities who are grossly underrepresented in IT and computer science fields. In 2015, girls represented only 22 percent and underrepresented minorities only 13 percent of the approximately 50,000 students who took the Advanced Placement Computer Science (AP-CS) exam nationally. In 10 states fewer than 10 high school girls took AP-CS—in 23 states, fewer than 10 African American students took the AP-CS, with none taking it in nine of those states. Unconscious and institutional bias keeps the U.S. from fielding all of our talent in these roles.

However, there is emerging good news—momentum is building to provide wider access for students to computational skills, computer science education and next generation ways of learning and teaching.

  • For example, in response to the President’s call to action ahead of CS Ed Week 2014, in December we announced:
    • Commitments in partnership with Code.org by more than 60 school districts, including the seven largest in the country, to offer computer science courses.
    • More than $20 million in philanthropic contributions to train 25,000 teachers to teach computer science in time for the 2016 school year.
    • New partnerships with the National Science Foundation (NSF), including a new AP Computer Science course by the College Board, that emphasize the creative aspects of computing and a focus on real-world applications.
    • New steps to increase the participation of women and people of color in computer science including many innovative outreach efforts.
  • In September, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that within 10 years the city’s public schools will be required to offer computer science to all students. With this announcement, NYC joins Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities and districts with plans in place to offer computer science courses to all students in K-12 public schools.
  • Parents overwhelmingly support these moves.  According to a recent survey, a full nine out of ten parents support the use of class time for computer science education.
  • And last month, Congress passed and the President signed the STEM Education Act of 2015that specifically defines STEM to include computer science at a number of Federal agencies.

To build on this momentum — and in advance of Computer Science Education Week 2015 (December 7-13) — we are reissuing the call to public and private sector partners from districts across the country to commit to doing more to provide students with access to computer science and we want to hear about remarkable computer science educators and students in your community!

As you celebrate Computer Science Education Week, think about new commitments andremarkable CS champions and submit your ideas!

  • Tell us about new commitments you are ready to make (by December 22 for first round consideration and by January 5, 2016 for second round).  Early next year we plan to announce a broad set of new commitments to CS Education.  You and your organization can get involved by making a commitment to expand access for more students to computer science education by investing in teachers, improving tools, and bringing programs to students in diverse communities across the United States.
  • Do you know a remarkable computer science educator, student, or enthusiast? Please tell us more by nominating that individual  to be recognized as a Computer Science Education Champion of Change (by December 18, 2015).  

We are looking for:

  • Educators who:
    • Serve as creative leaders in integrating and promoting active learning of computer science in their classrooms.
    • Are innovating to make their classroom better engage all students in computer science education.
    • Integrate computer science for Digital Humanities, Science, Math, Art, and other coursework.
  • Outstanding students who demonstrate creativity in their applications, or a high proficiency in computer science, and leadership both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Leaders from organizations that are developing high-quality, evidence-based tools, resources, and other computer science learning opportunities for students of all ages.
  • Parents who have figured out new solutions for including computer science in the school day.
  • Individuals who have led the way on national, state, and district efforts to increase access to computer science education.
  • Business leaders taking action to expand access to and inspiration for students in computer science education.

Thank you for joining the White House in celebrating these Champions and building on the momentum to get more students access to high-quality computer science education.

Cecilia Muñoz is Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Megan Smith is U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

“Ready for Success” Begins with Early Learning

Cecilia Muñoz Blog Post 2015 Bus Tour – Woodland Early Learning Community School, Kansas City, MO

Cecilia Muñoz talks with a student at Woodland Early Learning Community School in Kansas City, MO, as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready For Success Back-to-School Bus Tour. (Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood).

Every year, back-to-school time can be a period of great expectation and excitement for students, educators, and families, so when Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked me to join him on his sixth annual “Ready for Success” back-to-school bus tour, I jumped at the opportunity. The first stop on this five-day trek across seven states was the Woodland Early Learning Community School in Kansas City, Missouri. Located within a mile of five public housing developments, Woodland provides more than 300 3- and 4-year-old children, many of whom are from low-income or immigrant families, with high-quality early education. Woodland offers the kind of opportunities we want to see for every child: quality adult-child interaction; engaging environments with intentional playful learning; and a focus on the entire family. At Woodland, they don’t just enroll the child into the preschool program, they enroll the whole family.

Woodland recognizes that the health and wellbeing of the parent directly impacts the development of the child: the healthier the family, the healthier the child. To support children and families, Woodland uses a community school model and has co-located support services at the site. The Parents as Teachers (PAT) program, for example, helps families develop good parenting skills and connects parents and caregivers with critical resources. The more we assist families in addressing their day-to-day challenges, including supporting the child’s special needs, the better the chances of successful child participation in school, leading to improved outcomes.

Duncan with Student at Woodland

Secretary Duncan and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Head Start classroom of Barbara Fulbright, a skilled veteran teacher of 42 years. Mrs. Fulbright’s classroom was magical and full of joyful youngsters busy building block structures, exploring with writing instruments, and developing social skills through play-acting in the housekeeping center. They were so engaged in learning, I don’t think they even noticed us! Later that morning, Secretary Duncan announced the release of a new Policy Statement on the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. The statement underscores the importance of making sure that all young children with disabilities receive access to inclusive, high-quality early childhood programs where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations.

Children with disabilities and their families face significant barriers to accessing inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, like the programs at Woodland. Sadly, in many parts of our country, there is still a huge unmet need for high-quality preschool. And where there are programs, they often are not welcoming for children with disabilities. President Obama continues to call on Congress to renew our federal commitment to our youngest children and to the future of our country by partnering with states to provide high-quality preschool to every child in America regardless of race, ethnicity or national origin, zip code, wealth, first language, or disability.

All parents hope their child will start school ready for success. Unfortunately, not all parents can find the high-quality early learning program that is right for their child. Let’s all work together to make the opportunity of early learning a reality for every child in America.

Cecilia Muñoz is Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council

What You Need to Know About New Rules to Protect Students from Poor-Performing Career College Programs

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Yesterday, the Administration announced new regulations to protect students at career colleges from ending up with student loan debt that they cannot pay. The new rules will ensure that career colleges improve outcomes for students — or risk losing access to federal student aid.

To qualify for federal student aid, the law requires that most for-profit programs and certificate programs at private non-profit and public institutions prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” The new rules are part of President Obama’s commitment to help reduce the burden faced by student loan borrowers and make postsecondary education more affordable and accessible to American families.

HOW ARE CERTAIN PROGRAMS LEAVING BORROWERS WITH THE BURDEN OF STUDENT LOAN DEBT?

Too often, students at career colleges — including thousands of veterans — are charged excessive costs, but don’t get the education they paid for. Instead, students in many of these programs are provided with poor quality training, often for low-wage jobs or in occupations where there are simply no job opportunities. They frequently find themselves with large amounts of debt and, too often, end up in default. In many cases, students are drawn into these programs with confusing or misleading information. The situation for students at for-profit institutions is particularly troubling:

  • Students who attend a two-year for-profit institution costs a student four times as much as attending a community college.
  • Eighty-eight percent of associate degree graduates from for-profit institutions had student debt, while only 40 percent of associate degree recipients from community colleges had any student debt.
  • Students at for-profit institutions represent only about 11 percent of the total higher education population but receive 19 percent of all federal loans and make up 44 percent of all loan defaulters.

HOW WILL THE NEW RULE HELP IMPROVE OUTCOMES FOR STUDENTS?

The Department of Education estimates that about 1,400 programs serving 840,000 students — of whom 99 percent are at for-profit institutions — would not pass the new accountability standards. All programs will have the opportunity to make immediate changes that could help them avoid sanctions, but if these programs do not improve, they will ultimately become ineligible for federal student aid — which often makes up nearly 90 percent of the revenue at for-profit institutions.

HOW WILL THE FINAL RULE IMPROVE ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY?

The rule also provides useful information for all students and consumers by requiring institutions to provide important information about their programs, like what their former students are earning, their success at graduating, and the amount of debt they accumulated.

DOES THE NEW RULE ONLY APPLY TO FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES?

The final rule apply to all sectors of higher education. In order to receive federal student aid, the law requires that most for-profit programs, regardless of credential level, and most non-degree programs at non-profit and public institutions, including community colleges, prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” The new rule sets the standards for “gainful employment” programs to remain eligible to accept federal student aid.

So, to maintain federal student aid eligibility, gainful employment programs will be required to meet minimum standards for debt vs. earnings for their graduates. A program would be considered to lead to gainful employment if the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 20 percent of his or her discretionary income or 8 percent of his or her total earnings. Programs that exceed these levels would be at risk of losing their ability to participate in taxpayer-funded federal student aid programs.

HOW MANY INSTITUTIONS WILL BE AFFECTED BY THE NEW RULES?

The new rule is significantly stronger than the 2011 regulation, and followed an extensive rulemaking process that involved public hearings, negotiations and nearly 95,000 public comments. The new rule is tougher than the Department of Education’s 2011 rules because they set a higher passing requirement and lay out a shorter path to ineligibility for the poorest-performing programs. In 2012, the Department estimated that 193 programs would not have passed the previous regulations; with respect to these new rules, based on available data, the Department estimates that about 1,400 programs would not pass the accountability metric.

WHEN DO THE NEW REGULATIONS GO INTO EFFECT?

The rule announced today will become effective on July 1, 2015. Institutions will have the opportunity to make immediate changes that will improve their programs and avoid ineligibility. The first several years will include a transition period that will take into account any immediate steps by institutions to reduce costs and debt.

Stay informed on the Obama Administration’s commitment to college affordability by signing up for White House education updates here.

Cecilia Muñoz is Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Making Critical Investments in Our Youngest Citizens

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

The Department of Education has unveiled a new grant opportunity to partner with states and local communities to expand the reach of high-quality preschool. The $250 million grant competition will provide thousands of additional 4-year-old children across the country with a high-quality preschool education. The Obama administration’s Preschool Development Grants program is a critical piece of the President’s plan to boost access to high-quality preschool and support early learning for every child in America, beginning at birth and continuing through school entry.

The return on our dollar is highest when we invest in our youngest children, and we have recent research showing that sufficiently scaled Pre-K programs in cities like Boston and Tulsa are having a significant, positive impact on children’s literacy, language development, and math skills. Still, only approximately 28% of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in state preschool programs in the 2012-2013 school year. The high cost of private preschool programs and insufficient funding for public preschool in many communities narrows options for families, especially those in low-income communities.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool education to every child in America. Last January, he challenged more Americans to join this effort — and governors, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, foundations, and policymakers have responded.

More than 30 states and the District of Columbia increased funding for preschool in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and 10 of these states increased funding by more than 20%. This school year, 11,500 more low-income children in California will enjoy high-quality preschool thanks to the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The State of Michigan also increased funding for Pre-K by $65 million for the second year in a row, adding more than 10,000 additional seats for 4-year-olds in state Pre-K for the 2014-2015 school year, and more than doubling overall funding for Pre-K in Michigan. Alabama, Connecticut, and Maine, as well as other states and dozens of cities across the country, like San Antonio, New York, Cleveland, and Seattle, have also established new preschool programs or are pushing forward with major expansions.

As we celebrate the expansion of high-quality preschool in states and cities across the country, President Obama continues to call on leadership in Congress to renew our federal commitment to our youngest children, and to the future of our country by partnering with states to provide high-quality Pre-K to every American child. There truly is no better investment in the economic security of our families and our communities than making sure our youngest citizens are ready to succeed in school and in life.

Cecilia Muñoz is an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.