Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New York City–Computer Science for All

New York is embarking on what may be the most ambitious effort to bring computer science education to all the students in a district in the US today. The program is called Computer Science for All: Fundamentals for Our Future.  The goal is to have CS education in all schools at all levels. What makes this a huge effort is the shear size of the district. 1.1million students. To put that in perspective, New York City has more pre-school students than the Boston, Washington DC or Seattle districts have total students. There are something like 1700 schools including over 475 high schools. That is a lot of education going on.

In 2014 New York City had 738 students take the AP CS exam. An average of fewer than 2 per high school. OF course most of the city's high schools don’t offer AP CS. If all of them did and had an average of 10 students per school you’d be looking at almost 5,000 students taking the exam. For perspective, in  2014 just under 40,000 students took the exam nationally. Talk about impact. BTW some of the city’s high schools have thousands of students 4 or 5 thousand. Getting an average of 10 per school would be easier (at least in theory) than at smaller schools. Well assuming they can find or train enough teachers. Not an easy task.

Now I don’t know if all high schools will offer AP CS and of those that do how many will offer APCS A and how many APCS P but there is a lot of potential there. And that is just high schools. Add in middle and elementary schools and you are talking about building a huge pipeline. A very diverse pipeline.

Where are the teachers coming from? According to the web sites facts page there will be a lot of training of teachers who are already in the system. Teachers will be compensated for their time taking the training. How much training? To be determined I guess. I hope it will be a lot.

There are skeptics as there always are with efforts like this. Mike Zamansky who teaches in New York City is one of them. I should be happy but feel like I've failed So is Laura Blankenship CS for all in NYC There are a lot of very valid concerns.  Me? I really want to believe it will work. I’m not sure if I’d bet on it working though. At least not as well as everyone talks about it working.

I know a couple of people involved. Leigh Ann DeLyser is a program manager in the CSNYC organization that is one of the founding partners of this effort. Smart woman who I have a lot of respect for.  Emmanuel Schanzer and his Bootstrap organization is a partner for using computing to help teach algebra in middle school in this program.  I have a great amount of respect for Emmanuel and his work. So there are some good people involved. I wish they had Mike Zamansky onboard though. The man has built a great program that would be wonderful if taken across the city.

But it is still a big big job. Awesome if it works but no one should be fooled into thinking this a easy let alone a done deal.


Mike Zamansky said...

It's clear that while I have some champions in NY, there are plenty of people who have been given keys to the castle that don't want me involved.

I hope NY works out but I suspect that those that want the best CS ed in the city will have to search me out, probably at a private institution.

On the other hand, I love Emmanuel's work and am very happy that he's getting to more kids.

Garth said...

It would be interesting to know what their idea of "CS" consists of. I cannot see an in-service teaching anything more than pure programming. I do not think it is feasible to generate quality AP teachers with an in-service. It will be interesting to watch. If nothing else there will be lessons learned that the rest of the US can use as a base and maybe improve on. I think finding teachers is going to be a really big problem.