As computer science education expands across the United States, school districts frequently ask us, “Where do we start?” In many cases, what they really mean is, “How do we choose the right curriculum?” At CSforALL, we see one of our roles as empowering districts to make that important decision for themselves. We help them take a step back and reflect on a larger set of questions first, to better equip them to answer the curriculum question in a way that aligns with their unique circumstances and goals.
School districts are a focus for two reasons. First, many of our members already support individual teachers and schools. Second, school districts are the critical unit of change for CS education. They have the authority to put CS on the master schedule and ensure that CS is adequately staffed and supported for long-term sustainability. They are also best positioned to create rigorous K-12 CS pathways that build from year to year so students get more than “this is an if statement” for 13 years in a row.
Although we are often asked, “What is the best curriculum,” we don’t make recommendations. Instead, we help districts develop plans that enable them to choose. We made an early decision not to be the arbiters of what is “best” and instead focused on providing data such as number of students and grade levels served, and allowing the content providers to describe their work.
One concrete way we support school districts is by aggregating the landscape of CS content and partners and filtering the curriculum options based on relevant criteria. Relevance is more than just content; pedagogy should also inform district decision-making. Based on their vision for CS, some districts may prefer a more real-world, workforce-based approach (e.g., Career and Technical Education pathways), whereas others may prefer to engage students with art or creativity. Both can represent rigorous CS, and CSforAll Consortium members offer curriculum that support these approaches and many more.
Schools face overwhelming choices as they take their first steps toward rigorous, inclusive, and sustainable CSforALL.
We recognize that schools and districts have unique visions for why CS education is important, the student needs they hope to address, and the community strengths they can leverage. So we are developing the SCRIPT — the School CSforALL Resource and Implementation Planning Tool — a set of resources and a process that help districts take advantage of what they already know about their students and get on a path to CSforALL.
We designed the SCRIPT to facilitate a conversation among district personnel, school leaders, teachers, and partners. The SCRIPT offers a set of rubrics that help district teams collaborate on a vision of a rigorous, inclusive and sustainable computer science discipline in K-12. The SCRIPT challenges the assumption that CSforALL is achieved through teacher PD alone. It builds from a shared vision for CS education and brings multiple stakeholders to the table. It helps district teams identify rigorous pathways that connect multiple teachers across grades and schools. It encourages districts to support teachers not only in their first efforts to learn CS content, but also in their long-term efforts to develop rich pedagogy and reach for mastery over time. The SCRIPT empowers districts to engage their leadership in meaningful, concrete ways to support the efforts of teachers in the classroom.
Our most recent SCRIPT workshop took place at the CSforALL Summit in St. Louis, where we gathered 30 school districts of all sizes. They sent teams of personnel with diverse roles to participate, including superintendents and principals, teachers and library media specialists, CSTA representatives and local partners. During the workshop, the districts set 3-month, 6-month, and long-term goals for CSforALL. An example goal is shown below.
District-Authored Goal: Members of the CSforAll team will meet with district leadership and use the SCRIPT Rubrics to help district leadership understand what is needed to support computer science. Guiding Questions: What is CS? Why is CS important in our schools? What does CS mean to you? (Leadership, 3 Months)
In St. Louis we welcomed facilitators from a range of CSforALL members to direct breakout rooms of district teams. We selected facilitators based on their experience with schools and districts and their interest in piloting the SCRIPT. Moving forward, we will continue to develop the SCRIPT through more in-person workshops across the country, and later we plan to create an online portal where districts can use (and reuse) the SCRIPT in their ongoing efforts to reach CSforALL. In the marathon of fully realized CSforALL, we are only at the starting line. It will take ongoing, sustained effort and reflection to create rigorous, inclusive, and sustainable pathways that work for all students.
Over the next few weeks, we will share how the SCRIPT was developed, examples of the individual goal-setting activities conducted by the district teams, and information about how you can participate in upcoming SCRIPT workshops or host one yourself.
How to get involved:
- Stay informed: Join the consortium (www.csforall.org) or sign up for our newsletter!
- Want to join a workshop? Stay tuned for upcoming workshops in ATL, Nashville, Austin, and MA.
- Interested in becoming a SCRIPT facilitator? Or finding out more about the process? Check out our workshop at SIGCSE (#311)