Cantwell Secures Provision to Address Significant Gap in Computer Science Education

Provision would improve models for teaching and learning computer science in K-12 classrooms

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) secured a provision in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act to support advances in computer science education, particularly for students in low-income, rural, tribal, and other communities that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

Computing jobs are growing in every industry and two thirds of such jobs exist outside of the tech field. There are more than 20,000 open computing jobs in Washington state, and that figure is growing dramatically. Nationally, the number of openings will nearly double to 960,000 by 2020. Yet despite this clear need, students in 75% of our schools are graduating high school with no computer science skills.

“The workforce in Washington state and across the nation is increasingly dependent on technology skills.  We need to significantly increase the number of teachers who can provide students with the computing skills necessary to compete in the 21st century,” said Cantwell. “The economy’s future success depends on delivering educational opportunities in computer science based on proven strategies. Research funded through this program will enable educators to teach this critical subject more effectively and bring new skills to underserved communities.”

The legislation creates a grant program at the National Science Foundation to promote research on computer science teaching models, tools, and materials, with a focus on instruction for low-income, rural, and tribal students. The program also emphasizes preparing incoming teachers to integrate computer science and computational thinking into their classrooms in innovative ways.

The provision will support research to develop, pilot, fully implement, or test:

  • Instructional materials and high-quality learning opportunities for teaching computer science, with an emphasis on improving inclusion of groups underrepresented in STEM disciplines;
    • Models for the preparation of new teachers who will teach computer science;
    • Scalable models of professional development and ongoing support for teachers, and;
    • Tools and models for teaching and learning aimed at supporting student success and inclusion in computing across diverse populations, particularly poor, rural, and tribal populations.

Cantwell’s advocacy for computer science and other STEM-related education is rooted in her belief that STEM skills are essential for the competitiveness of the American workforce. She was an original cosponsor of the original authorization of this bill, the America COMPETES Act, when it was first introduced in 2007. She also guided its reauthorization through the Senate in 2010.