Most of us involved in teaching computer science know that the issue of teacher certification is a bit of a mess. How much of a mess no one really knew. Until now. The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) has released a detailed report on computer science teacher certification in the United States. It’s called Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S.
What does it say?
“[it] is a comprehensive study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia revealing that each state (and in some states each school district) has its own process, its own definition of Computer Science, and its own idea of where Computer Science fits in the academic program and who is qualified to teach it. “
It’s actually somewhat worse than that. In many states finding out what is required to be certified to teach computer science is very difficult to find out. New Hampshire, where I live, is a case in point. (From an article at Education Week (Computer Science Teacher Certification 'Deeply Flawed,' Report Says) on the report)
“the report points to the responses to its online survey in New Hampshire. Two computer science teachers and a state official provided contradictory answers to the following, basic questions: Is there a required middle school computing course? Does your state require a computing course for graduation? Does your state offer any additional or optional certificates, endorsements, or licenses related to computing? In each case, the study says, "one respondent answered 'yes,' one respondent answered 'no,' and one answered 'I don't know'." And again, when asked what specific teaching certificate is required for an educator to teach high school computing courses, the answers were all different.”
Other states have requirements that are more clear but hard to obtain or even completely unobtainable.
For example, in Florida becoming a certified Computer Science teacher requires taking a course called K-6 Computer Science Methods, however the course is not offered in any teacher preparation program in the state.
The report makes some recommendations including:
- Establish a system of certification/licensure that ensures that all Computer Science teachers have appropriate knowledge of and are prepared to teach the discipline content.
- Establish a system of certification/licensure that accounts for teachers coming to the discipline from multiple pathways with appropriate requirements geared to those pathways.
- Require teacher preparation institutions and organizations (especially those purporting to support STEM education) to include programs to prepare Computer Science teachers.
The full report is highly recommended for anyone concerned about the state of teacher certification for computer science education. You can download Bugs in the System from the CSTA web site.