Computer science skills will be critical in many of tomorrow’s workplaces, but Ohio has yet to take substantive action to support computer science education in its K-12 schools.

Computing is changing every part of our lives, from how we interact with each other to how we do our jobs. It is the number one source of all new wages in our economy, and there are currently 500,000 open computing jobs across the United States.”

So begins the Advocacy Coalition’s latest report on the state of computer science education in America, which was released at the end of September. As underscored by these opening remarks, computer science has become one of the most important subjects for today’s students to learn. And yet, as the report laments, “The U.S. education system does not provide widespread access to this critical subject.”

That said, while a great deal of work remains to be done — especially around providing computer science education to underrepresented student groups — on the whole, computer science education is increasingly prevalent in America’s K-12 schools.

The State of Computer Science Education in America

The Coalition uses nine state-level policies to gauge the extent to which departments of education around the country are working to foster computer science instruction. From implementing a state plan for K-12 computer science to creating clear certification pathways for computer science teachers to allowing computer science to satisfy a core high school graduation requirement, the nine policies paint a comprehensive picture of what states need to do to adequately educate tomorrow’s workforce.

According to the report, there’s a positive correlation between the number of these policies a state has adopted and the percentage of the state’s high schools that offer computer science coursework. For instance, in states that have only adopted one policy, around 30 percent of high schools offer computer science, whereas in states that have adopted seven policies, around 60 percent of high schools offer computer science.

Encouragingly, broad bipartisan support for computer science education has driven a great deal of change over the course of the last half-decade. When the Coalition began its work in 2013, only 14 states had at least one of the nine policies in place. As of the start of this academic year, only six states — Alaska, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota — did not have a single policy in place.

Perhaps most noticeably, between the Coalition’s last report (published in March 2017) and its current one, the number of states requiring all high schools to offer computer science coursework jumped from 4 to 15. Impressively, a number of states have made an even deeper commitment to computer science. Florida now requires all high schools and middle schools to offer computer science coursework, Nevada requires all high schools and elementary schools to offer computer science coursework, and Indiana, New Hampshire, and Wyoming all require every K-12 school to offer computer science coursework.

Limited Progress in Ohio

But while Indiana has become a leading light in the computer science education movement, its neighbor Ohio remains more or less in the dark. On the bright side, Ohio allows computer science to satisfy a core high school graduation requirement and has both established a clear certification pathway for computer science teachers and set standards for preservice computer science teacher preparation at institutions of higher learning. The Ohio Department of Education is also in the process of setting statewide standards for K-12 computer science education.

That said, 39 states allow computer science to satisfy a core graduation requirement, 33 states have established certification pathways for teachers, and 33 states either already have or are in the process of creating statewide computer science standards. In short, most of Ohio’s progress amounts to little more than keeping pace with the baseline.

Given the lack of state-level action, it falls on individual school districts to push for more robust computer science education in Ohio. While progress is being made — the number of Ohio high schools offering AP Computer Science increased by nearly 60 percent between the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic years — continued success will require a substantial financial commitment.

Fortunately, by implementing a tool like Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform, K-12 stakeholders throughout Ohio can ensure that their district’s student enrollment data is always accurate, organized, and up-to-date, helping them maximize the amount of funding they receive from the state. With CheckPoint, educators in Ohio can gain access to the resources they need to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workplaces.