Computer science education in utah

Working to ensure every student in Utah has the opportunity to learn computer science

Photo Credit: Malin Fezehai for Malala Fund

SOlving the problem 

Ensuring every student has the opportunity to learn CS

Pluralsight One is committed to a future where every K-12 student in the state of Utah has the opportunity to learn computer science. In pursuit of this goal, we are working closely with state leaders, industry partners, educators, the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), State Superintendent and other stakeholders to create progress against this statewide goal. Together, we have created the following resources for your use.

 

What is Computer Science?

As the foundation for all computing, computer science is defined as “the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their [implementation], and their impact on society” (Tucker et. al, 2003, p. 6).

**Definition adopted by the Utah State Board of Education in 2018. Source: https://k12cs.org/defining-computer-science/

 

Utah Computer Science Education Master Plan

Utah is the 12th state in the nation to adopt a state master plan. The research and development of the Utah Computer Science Education Master Plan was funded through a grant from Pluralsight One Fund and represents contributions from community stakeholders and subject matter experts from across the state. It maps key issues, goals, recommendations and strategies while also presenting a selection of resources for teachers, administrators, parents, industry partners and nonprofits. The plan is designed to mobilize the community around this critical issue in response to identified needs and opportunities.

 

Dedicated CS Fund

Pluralsight One, and leaders of the Silicon Slopes community have partnered with the Community Foundation of Utah to launch the first-ever Field of Interest Fund dedicated to advancing K-12 computer science education in Utah. The Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund enables donors of any type and size to contribute to the state CS strategy. Learn more and support CS outcomes for years to come. View the Silicon Slopes CS Field of Interest Fund page here.

 

Utah Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Landscape Report

Private industry, government and public institutions are all trying to figure out how best to prepare Utah’s growing student population for a computational world. The ECEP Landscape Report provides a comprehensive look at computer science (CS) education across Utah elementary, middle, and high schools. This report was funded by the National Science Foundation (award #1822011). The purpose of Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) is to better understand current pathways for computing education in public education at the state level, so that state education agencies, lawmakers, and administrators can make more informed decisions regarding computer science education based on local practices and needs. The Tableau dashboard, created by Pluralsight volunteers in partnership with subject matter experts Helen Hu and Peter Rich, provides a visual report on the state of CS in Utah.

Overview

What we’re up against

Technology is changing everything, and relevant skills are critically needed to keep pace with the future of work and build a career—regardless of the industry or sector. But the majority of schools in Utah are not teaching computer science (CS). In fact, 90% of parents want their child to study computer science, while only 35% of schools teach it.

Data & Outcomes

The problem we are trying to solve

Computer science is marginalized throughout education despite it increasingly becoming a foundational element of preparing students to succeed in the workforce.

The statistics are startling:

  • Only 35% of U.S. schools offer any computer science courses and only 10% of STEM graduates study it.
  • In Utah, only 54% of public high schools teach computer science and in 2017 Utah had only 1,080 computer science graduates of which only 13% were female.
  • Only 376 exams were taken in AP computer science by high school students in 2018, fewer than in any area.
  • Only 32 high schools in Utah offered an AP computer science course in 2017-2018.

Why Utah? 

Utah is our home state

We have complexities here such as a unique breakdown of urban and rural schools, diversity challenges and CS not counting as a core admission requirement for higher education.

However, we also have a very collaborative community and a thriving tech ecosystem.

We are working on solutions that address our local goals and can also with other states with similar goals and that are tackling similar challenges.

What we are doing in Utah and as a company is a progressive collaboration between private companies and the public sector.

  • An aligned community: Silicon Slopes is a tight-knit technology community, and that closeness and commitment to collaborating with every sector and educators directly is what fuels our progress to advance computer science education
  • A collaborative government: Efforts to advance computer science in Utah haven’t been siloed to one branch or agency; the State Board of Education, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the legislature, —all bodies have been collaborating together.

Strategy 

Pluralsight One has been collaborating

Pluralsight One has been collaborating with local leaders, educators, Utah State Board of Education, Talent Ready Utah, the state legislature and others to tackle the following:

  • Build a statewide CS framework. The framework has been adopted and is in the process of being implemented by USBE. 
  • Secured $3.15M in funding through HB 227, which is designated for teacher professional development statewide.
  • The need for a statewide strategy was identified as a core priority by the Governor and his Talent Ready Utah Board. As a result, a CS Committee was formed and Pluralsight One Fund issued a grant to fund the creation of Utah’s CS Master Plan. The Master Plan reflects contributions and insights from all Talent Ready Committee members and was gifted to the State as an in-kind grant by Pluralsight One. The state and Talent Ready Utah board are accountable for adoption and implementation of the Utah CS Master Plan.

Key Milestones 

When it comes to CS in Utah, we’ve made solid progress to date

  • Pluralsight One was selected as a member of the State’s Computer Science Tech Task Force. The task force created recommendations that were formally adopted by USBE in June 2018
  • Pluralsight One was been invited to the Board of the Lieutenant Governor’s Tech Pathways program. The purpose of the Tech Pathways Board is to connect the Utah business community, public education and government agencies to ensure workforce readiness that will support and sustain economic growth
  • All stakeholders aligned around the need for a robust four-year CS state master plan. Pluralsight One Fund issued a grant to fund the research and development of the Master Plan
  • Pluralsight One partnered with the USBE and other key stakeholders to build a state computer science framework 
  • The Pluralsight One’s CSTA offering for educators was approved for educator endorsements, which creates an online option for teachers that reduces time/transit/cost and opens up new options for rural and under resourced teachers/districts. 

This issue impacts generations to come and will remain a focus for Pluralsight One. Utah is making incredible strides toward more inclusive computer science education. We are committed to sharing our learnings, progress and insights and to learn from others who are addressing these challenges in their regions. Contact us at [email protected] to learn more and collaborate.