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More States Mandate High Schools Count Computer Science as Math or Science

Twenty states now require that high school students be allowed to count a computer science course as a math or science credit toward graduation, according to a new report from the Education Commission of the States. 

That's up from 14 states with such requirements when the first "Computer Science in High School Graduation Requirements" report came out last year.

The requirements vary from state to state. In Georgia and Utah, computer science can only count as a science credit. In nine other states, the course can only fulfill a math credit. It can fulfill either math or science in the remaining nine states.

Texas is the only state in which, in addition to fulfilling a math credit, computer science can also fulfill a foreign language requirement. (Other states have considered such policies, but ultimately not passed legislation on them.)

In addition, three states—Arizona, California, and Colorado—leave the decision about whether computer science can fulfill a math or science graduation requirement up to the local districts.

West Virginia is, under a recent law, in the midst of determining its plan for whether and how it will count computer science toward graduation. K-12_Dealmaking.gif

The ECS report focuses on states that have passed statutes or regulations regarding computer science and high school graduation. But the nonprofit Code.org, the report notes, has also identified eight states that have authorized computer science to fulfill a math or science credit through "non-policy means," such as board resolutions or public announcements. Those include Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia. 

Jennifer Dounay Zinth, the author of the reports, said in an interview that state policies regarding credit are really just a first step in getting more students to take the subject.

"It's great if you can use computer science as a credit for math or science, but what if your high school doesn't offer computer science?" she said. "And if they do, do they have a qualified teacher? Even if they have a qualified teacher, does that teacher have some sort of supports, online or otherwise, to ensure high-quality instruction day in and day out? And what if you take that course and your local university doesn't accept it as math or science credit for admissions?"

Those are realistic concerns—as we wrote recently, more than half of high school seniors attend high schools that don't even offer computer science.


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