Computer Science Education Is Gaining Momentum. But Some Say Not Fast Enough

Big American companiesLawmakers on both sides of the aisle, union leaders and some big-name city councilors agree: expanding computer science education is critical to preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s careers.

Despite this sentiment — and billions of dollars in one-off federal funds for new laptops, tablets, and Internet connections — the number of students taking computer science training courses continues to grow at a modest pace, and stubborn gaps in course access remain. concludes a report published September 21 by, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding access to the topic.

Just over half — 53 percent — of US high schools were offering basic computer science courses in 2022. That’s a small increase from 51 percent last year, but a significant increase from 35 percent a few years ago. And in all states, 6 percent of high school students are enrolled in computer science courses, up from 4.7 percent last year.

Black, Native American, and Alaskan students account for about the same percentage of computer science enrollments as in grades 9-12 of the student population. For example, black students make up about 15 percent of all public high school students and about 16 percent of computer science foundation enrollments.

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But Hispanic and Latino students aren’t as heavily represented. While these students make up about 27 percent of teens in grades 9 through 12, they make up just 20 percent of students taking computer science courses.

The gap is even wider for students living in poverty, who make up 52 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 but only 36 percent of those enrolled in undergraduate computer science courses nationwide.

Girls also tend to lag behind boys in taking classes, and make up 32 percent of high school students enrolled in elementary classes nationwide. In fact, only three states have this average above 40 percent: Maryland, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Each of these states has made computer science education a new degree requirement or the primary route to completing a degree requirement already on the books.

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Only seven states have adopted’s nine recommended guidelines for expanding computer science education: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, and Washington. The organization’s recommendations include creating a state plan to expand computer science education that requires all high schools to provide computer science education, establishing computer science inspectors in state education departments, and establishing computer science standards.

Those moves have paid off for Nevada, where 95 percent of students attend a school that offers basic computer science, although only 4 percent are enrolled in the courses. Notably, economically disadvantaged children make up almost two-thirds of Nevada’s 9th-12th grade population, but are overrepresented at 82 percent in basic computer science courses.

Making expanding computer science education a policy priority “isn’t going to happen just like that,” said Jhone Ebert, superintendent of public education in Nevada, in an interview. States need the support of the governor, the legislature, local superintendents, and communities.

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Finding qualified IT teachers is a challenge

Finding teachers who are qualified to teach computer science is one of the biggest challenges schools face. Nevada has made it easier for people who have expertise in the subject — but may not have a bachelor’s or college degree in it — to become certified to teach courses, in part by giving teachers recognition for successful work in computer science, said Ebert .

Even with all of the guidelines in place, states must continue to persevere, Ebert said.

Her advice to states looking to make it big in computer science education? “Make sure you’re constantly collaborating with your teachers in your classrooms,” she said. “It’s one thing to follow policies, but it’s another thing to make sure they’re being implemented appropriately and constantly looking at your data” to make sure all groups of children are benefiting.

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