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Computer Science for All in San Francisco: What the District Has Learned

Over the last few years, state and local policy makers have taken a growing interest in increasing student access to computer science education. (President Obama shined a light on the cause as well while he was in office.)

Four states—Arkansas, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia—now have a requirement that all high schools offer computer science, as a recent report showed. And just last week, the Iowa governor signed a bill aimed at bringing computer science to more students, including adding funding for teacher professional development. The Rhode Island governor did something similar last year. 

Individual districts have adopted computer science expansion plans as well. One of the most ambitious programs is in San Francisco, where students as young as prekindergarten will be required to learn the subject. 

The San Francisco school system is now two years into its computer science-for-all plan: So how are things going so far? 

My colleague Benjamin Herold recently caught up with Bryan Twarek, the district's computer science program administrator. He offered some lessons learned on how to bring computer science to all students. Those included:

  • Don't expand too quickly. The district has tried to "avoid creating bad classes that actually end up turning students off," Herold writes.
  • Be mindful of providing supports for students with special needs and English-learners. The district "has started investing in training for counselors and paraprofessionals, and it has begun experimenting with integrating computer science instruction into some English-language-development classes," according to Herold.
  • Preparing teachers is tough. But professional learning communities can help build buy-in and allow teachers to problem-solve together. 
  • White, male students continue to dominate elective computer science courses in high school. Districts need to consider structural barriers that may be hindering diversity in classes.

Head over to the Digital Education blog to read all seven of the lessons learned that could be useful for other districts considering CS4All initiatives.


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