When Debbie Marcus first joined the Department of Education in 2006, computer science simply wasn’t a point of conversation. Today, she’s a leader in the CS space as Executive Director for Computer Science for All (CS4ALL). Since its launch in 2015, in partnership with CSNYC and funded by venture capitalist Fred Wilson, CS4All has become a trusted resource for educators in New York City with offerings such as professional learning opportunities and the Blueprint, an extensive resource catalog and implementation guide.
By working with over 1,600 teachers across 712 schools, more than 5,200 students have gone on to take an AP Computer Science exam. While Marcus acknowledges they’re not yet where they want to be, New York City still sees some of the highest results in the nation with 20% of their test takers being Hispanic, 16% Black, and an amazing 42% female (compared to 28% nationwide)!
As you can imagine, making an impact in an area as large as New York City is no small feat. With over 1 million students and a goal of 5,000 more teachers in professional development by 2025, this movement has come a long way with amazing strides made by CS4All. Part of this success comes from CS4All’s focus on providing resources for every step of the education pipeline.
An integral part of this work, CS4All encourages teachers to not only go through professional development, on a range of DOE and partner created curriculum including workshops to teach Code.org courses, but also lean into leadership opportunities and share their knowledge. Elementary teacher Jacqueline Anderson of P.S. 270 Johann DeKalb School, explains that “CS4All is great with professional development, and enables teachers to be comfortable to teach it to others,” which is exactly what Ms. Anderson did. While some of her peers were anxious about the feasibility of implementing CS into their classrooms, she helped them find that they could incorporate it into a vast number of subjects, including gym!
Additional opportunities for educators to lead are vast, with CS4All creating several pathways: Professional Development Leads, Teacher Trainer Fellows, Blueprint Fellows, and Community Builder Fellows. From helping facilitate professional learning, to revising materials seen on Blueprint, to fostering collaboration between CS4All, schools, and teachers, educators are able to truly make an impact on the initiative.
Administrator and principal support
Recognizing that part of what empowers teachers to commit to opportunities such as professional development is school administration, CS4All works to provide principals with the tools they need to understand computer science as well through three-day workshops where they’ll examine the demographics of their schools, plan equity events, and discuss how to build a positive and equitable CS culture.
Engaging families and the community
CS4All also devotes time to students, their families, and the community at large. Through internships, a Hackathon involving all five New York City boroughs, and events planned in partnership with local educators, CS4All’s efforts extend past simply getting CS into schools, but also fostering a positive CS culture in the community.
Making computer science equitable
CS4All is an organization that also aims to get more female and underrepresented minority students introduced to computer science, in part due to the economic opportunities it can provide. For New York, that’s especially important considering 70% of NYC students are Black or Latino. As the Executive Director, Debbie Marcus says, “You can’t just say ‘for all’ and hope it’s for all.” This understanding leads to efforts that are thought-out and intentional, such as the Why CS Matters in Communities of Color event series. It’s also the reasoning behind focusing first on schools with an average or above average population of Black, Latino, or high-needs students.
This deliberateness extends into the classroom as well. When speaking with Patricia Wong of P.S. 21 Margaret Emery-Elm Park School, it’s clear that she’s intentional in how she brings CS into her K-5 classrooms. When participating in the Hour of Code this year, she used Code.org’s Dance Party activity as an opportunity for students to learn more about the value of dance and music as a cultural expression. “When kids have a background in how important culture is, it means more to them when they actually start coding their dance party…because it’s an expression of themselves.”
Ms. Wong wants to make sure the role models and examples she’s showing her students reflect the diversity in her classroom, and uses Code.org’s posters and videos to help with this.
“The children see themselves in the posters and they’re encouraging the students and even their parents to go out with your dream and don’t be afraid…That’s why Code.org and CS4All with their resources combined together make computer science so powerful and equitable for our community.” -Patricia Wong, K-5 teacher, P.S. 21
Most importantly, CS4All empowers educators to utilize the resources that best work for their school as well as create their own programs and events. At P.S. 21, this may appear as one of their triannual Family STEM nights, or in multilingual engagement nights that help families feel more comfortable with their children taking a subject they’re not familiar in.
“Can I do this at home?”
With the understanding that in an area that is as large and diverse as theirs, there will never be a one size fits all solution, CS4All has empowered administrators, teachers, and schools to utilize the resources that work best for their communities. And the results cannot be better summarized than by P.S. 270’s Ms. Anderson…
“When students say to me, ‘Can I do this at home?’ it’s particularly powerful. In their own free time, they want to do programming and coding.”
To learn more about CS4All visit http://cs4all.nyc/.
Mariah Acuff, Code.org
Applications are currently open for Code.org’s nationwide Professional Learning Program. Visit our website to find a workshop near you.