Blog Post

Assessing CS in Your High School

Your CS classroom and school are part of a larger movement to provide CS education for all students nationally. More CS in K-12 leads to a bigger pipeline of technology professionals. It also has the potential to increase opportunity for students traditionally underrepresented in tech. But how does your classroom and school fit into the larger movement?


Microsoft’s Guide to Inclusive Computer Science Education (pdf) report provides a lens for this question. Providing CS education for all students requires access, diversity, and inclusion. In this post, I’ll provide an abbreviated version of the framework, with a focus on the teacher’s role.

Equitable participation in computing education: Access, diversity, inclusion
From Guide to Inclusive Computer Science Education
Access 

The first step for a school is to ensure that CS courses and integration are available to all students. Considerations include:

  • Is at least one CS course required for all students? This step is essential in ensuring that all students gain basic computer science skills and, importantly, so students can base decisions on taking additional CS courses on experience rather than assumptions.
  • Are there enough CS courses and sections so each student can take a CS course each year? If low enrollments are preventing this from happening, consider working with counselors, administrators, and parents to recruit for CS courses. 
  • Is there a CS sequence of 3-4 courses for students who are interested in the subject to gain more in-depth knowledge and confidence? This will help students gain confidence and consider continuing CS studies in college.
  • Is there integration of CS skills and concepts in core courses that are required for all students? These experiences can reinforce concepts learned in CS courses and increase CS exposure for all students.

Diversity

An important step in providing CS to all students is to work towards student participation in CS that reflects the school demographics.

  • Are the demographics of students in your CS courses, compared to the demographics of the school, being tracked? If not, you could provide this information to your administration and update it each year.
  • There are many resources for recruiting for CS courses, including the Computer Science Is for Everyone recruitment toolkit. Guidance counselors can provide help with recruiting students as well.
  • You can take Microsoft’s Closing the STEM Gap course to learn more. 

Inclusion

Some schools might stop with access and diversity, but inclusion is a crucial third step. When the students make it to the CS classroom, it is important that their experiences reflect best practices for inclusive learning.

  • Do the leaning space and curriculum include examples of role models from different backgrounds? Do your students see themselves in your computer science class?
  • Are classroom experiences student-centered and activity-based? Research has shown these practices support learning by all students, especially those who don’t learn well with traditional lecture-based approaches. 
  • Do you implement culturally-relevant practices to build relationships with students and prepare them for rigorous content? Zaretta Hammond’s book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, is an essential resource for every CS teacher.


It might feel like a lot to take on, ensuring CS for all nationwide! But, the nation-wide efforts are dependent on classroom teachers. The experiences students have now will plant the seeds for more students who learn more about CS and become part of the CS workforce of the future.

 

 
Carol Ramsey has researched using narrative as pedagogy to increase interest and engagement in STEM for girls and managed programs developing equity-focused curriculum and teacher professional development. She holds a computer science degree and has 20 years of experience as a software developer and program manager. She strives to bring positive tech experiences to under-represented students, to support more student opportunities and a more diverse tech workforce.