The State of CS Education – Insights for Engaging Underrepresented Students


Recently, the Advocacy Coalition and CSTA released the 2018 State of Computer Science (CS) Education report. It details the status of computer science education policy across the nation and the availability of computer science in schools.

We have a mission to boost underrepresented students’ access to and engagement in CS education. So, I was eager to read the report to understand the current state of CS education and to look for data-backed insights on how to best reach underrepresented students.

The report did a great job summarizing why equitable access to CS education is so critical...

“Computing is changing every part of our lives, from how we interact with each other to how we do our jobs. It is the number one source of all new wages in our economy and there are currently 500,000 open computing jobs across the United States. Yet the US education system does not provide widespread access to this critical subject…. Data clearly show female students and underrepresented groups (including rural students) are less likely to have access to high-quality computer science content. If unaddressed, entire populations will be excluded from this fast-growing field.”

With that in mind, the report showed good and bad news related to CS education access for underrepresented students. On one hand, the data is discouraging in that high schools with higher percentages of underrepresented students are less likely to teach computer science. Just over a third of schools that have underrepresented student populations of 50 to 75% offer CS courses and only 27% of schools with underrepresented student populations of 75 to 100% offer such courses.

On the other hand, it is encouraging that in the year following a policy change to allow computer science to satisfy a core graduation requirement, states see boosts in underrepresented students’ engagement with CS. In such states, CS participation was 45% higher among females and 64% higher among underrepresented students. Similarly, the number of Advanced Placement CS exams taken increased by 24% for females and by 26% for underrepresented students.

So that brings me to the data-backed insights that the report offers for engaging underrepresented students in CS education. As the above data suggests, allowing CS to satisfy a core graduation requirement is critical. In addition, the report suggests that it is important to embed CS in K-5 curriculum in order to engage younger underrepresented and female students in CS before they are influenced by negative cultural stereotypes and to inspire them to take CS courses in middle and high school. Finally, the report suggests that professional learning funding should be prioritized for districts or schools with high percentages of underrepresented students.

We appreciate the Advocacy Coalition’s efforts to understand what policies and practices are yielding the best results in increasing the quality and access of CS education. You may check out the full report here. If you have had success with increasing the participation of females and underrepresented students in CS education, we would welcome hearing about ways you have accomplished this (

Source: 2018 State of Computer Science Education. (2018). Retrieved from

Laura FarrellyComment