Computer Science Standards in Texas
Just under half of the schools in the United States teach computer science despite its fundamental and increasing relevance. Currently, approximately 51% of secondary schools in the US offer CS classes, but that number continues to grow every year. In addition, 11% of undergraduate degrees are in some field of computer science.
In the US alone, the number of people who have earned a degree in CS has increased dramatically over the last decade. In fact, enrollment at Texas State University's Computer Science (CS) department increased by 136%.
There were 634 computer science majors in 2010 and according to the Texas State Office of Institutional Research, 1,495 CS students enrolled in the fall of 2020. All other Texas colleges have shown a similar upward trend in enrollment for CS majors.
Computing-related jobs are expected to rise at a pace of 11% between 2019 and 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), exceeding all other jobs in the country. However, many schools fall short when it comes to this field of knowledge.
With such a small number of secondary schools preparing students for this particular field, the question is, how and why do we improve these numbers?
Our modern world would not function without the contributions of CS, which is a dynamic and continually expanding field. With more than half a million new STEM jobs in the US alone, schools are beginning to understand and react to the importance of this subject.
Since preparation begins in the primary and secondary schools, let’s first take a look at the CS standards for Texas. TEKS, or Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, sets the foundation for all course standards according to each grade level. These are the CS standards created by the State Board of Education (SBOE) of Texas:
CS Standards for Kindergarten:
Beginning in Kindergarten, students are expected to use devices to identify words as part of language comprehension. Though they cannot use calculators to solve Math problems, they are encouraged to use technology and software to learn Math processes and answer homework questions. They may use ‘computing devices’ and other tools to gather research for science or other classes.
To take this a step further, teachers are expected to help students make the connection between technology and its use in the real world. Students must be able to recognize and describe the many types of technology they come in contact with both in and out of the classroom.
CS Standards for Elementary (Grades 1-5):
By the time students reach 3rd grade, they should be beginning to learn basic CS concepts. The goal by the end of 5th grade is for students to be able to gather, interpret, and express data using a variety of tools, including databases, documents, spreadsheets, visual organizers, charts and graphs, videos, and simulators. Some of these skills require students to understand code. They should also be able to use readily accessible resources, such as tutorials and databases online, to fix basic technical issues.
CS Standards for Middles School (Grades 6-8):
According to TEKS, middle school students will learn to design and produce graphics and video with code.
By the end of 8th grade, students should be able to set up and maintain their own individual learning systems. They can use these systems to partner up and publish with their classmates or other people on online networks like blogs, discussion forums, or other interesting forms of communication. They are encouraged to figure out the cause of any technical issues and work together to solve them.
CS Standards for High School (Grades 9-12):
According to provisions made to TEKS in 2011, high school students should be able to form engaging games and animations, as well as web pages and other interfaces using code. They should also be able to integrate applets, or small apps, into their interfaces to make the experience more interactive. Students are expected to create algorithms to solve various problems.
Schools that offer CS III encourage students to work together to produce their own software. However, not all high schools offer this course. Only 544 of the 3,240 high schools in Texas offered AP CS classes in 2020.
In fact, only 43 percent of the public high schools in Texas offered at least one CS class in 2018. By the end of the 2017-2018 school year, a mere 4 percent of high school students completed a CS course. There were less than 5,000 CS graduates by the end of 2019.
How Do We Solve This Issue?
Judging by the statistics, having access to CS courses and technology isn’t enough to ensure students take the course, much less that they go on to earn a degree in the CS field.
A great way to encourage students in this field is to keep them informed of the endless job opportunities and wages they could earn with one of these careers. According to Code.org, there are over 60,000 CS jobs available in Texas alone with an average yearly salary of nearly $95,000.
Another way to encourage students is to involve them in STEM activities and programs that include the use of technology and CS knowledge. Code.org offers STEM projects and lesson plans designed to integrate CS into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math subjects.
Finally, be sure your school has adopted a local policy plan to ensure that all students have access to CS courses and technology. This document provides a list of best practices to follow when implementing such a plan.
These steps are essential to engage students in CS at a young age, but more importantly, to keep them engaged through high school and beyond.