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Code.org Gets Facebook Boost for Diversity Efforts

Code.org will get a $15 million boost from social media giant Facebook for its efforts to expand access to computer science education for K-12 students across the country. Facebook said that the gift would go to develop teacher training and curriculum for public schools, particularly those serving groups of students who are underrepresented in the technology fields.

It's part of the "Computer Science For All" movement (#csforall, for those of you following along on Twitter), which has gained traction as districts and states are expanding offerings or, in some cases, starting to require the subject. Even the White House has described computer science as "a new basic skill."

Hadi Partovi, the founder of Code.org, said in a press release that the gift will help "change the face of diversity in K-12 computer science." 

A recent report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission noted that high-tech companies are less diverse than the rest of the private sector and attributed that to challenges in K-12, higher education, and within companies, which often struggle to recruit female, Native American, black, and Latino employees. Facebook announced the gift on the same day it released a diversity report showing that just 2 percent of its employees in the U.S. identify as Black and 4 percent as Latino.

Students in Code.org classrooms are 45 percent female, 49 percent underrepresented minorities, and 47 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, according to the organization. Code.org argues that having access to K-12 education in computer science inspires more students to pursue careers and higher education in the field at a time when the industry is rapidly growing. 

While computer science is increasingly popular among policymakers, access to and participation in courses hasn't caught up to the rhetoric. In 2013, the Computer Science Teachers Association released a report describing states' systems for training and certifying computer science teachers as "absurd."

Many students, especially in rural areas, simply don't have access to a K-12 computer science course: Just 1 in 4 schools teaches computer coding, according to Code.org.

And disproportionately few female, black, or Hispanic students have taken AP Computer Science courses and exams in recent years, despite efforts to expand the program's reach. In nine states, no black students took the exam in 2015. There are hopes that participation will expand with the introduction of a new AP Computer Science Course this fall.

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