New initiatives address California’s shortage of computer science teachers

The state of California is one of the lowest-ranked in the percentage of computer science classes available to students. Assembly Bill 1251 could change that.
The lack of computer science teachers in California high schools has left the state falling far behind in national rankings, coming up 41 out of the 50 states for having effective computer science programs.
The lack of computer science teachers in California high schools has left the state falling far behind in national rankings, coming up 41 out of the 50 states for having effective computer science programs.
THE MIRROR | IVAN ALCALA

With ambitions to open doors to low-income students and students of color, California passed a law in 2018 to make computer science classes available in schools. However, the lack of computer science teachers in the first place has made it difficult to do so. 

According to advocacy.code.org, overall, in the United States, California has been ranked 41 out of the 50 states regarding the percentage of high schools offering computer science classes. 

In comparison to states like Arkansas and Maryland, which offer the course at 99 percent of their schools, the shortage of teachers in California severely limits the availability of classes to students, which currently stands at 45 percent throughout the state. 

Particularly, this school is part of only 57 percent of all public high schools across the U.S. offering computer science as a course. 

While many schools aren’t able to offer the course due to the lack of credited teachers, the school had an AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) teacher, Ms. Amira Saunders, although she retired two years ago. 

This left Mr. Ritche Manzano, the AP Computer Science A (AP CSA) and AP Physics teacher, as well as Ms. Helisse Labinger, another AP CSP teacher, as the only AP Computer Science teachers on campus. 

At first, Ms. Labinger didn’t know much about computer science and decided to take a course on code.org that would grant her the credentials needed to teach it.

“I did not know too much about it, so I took a course and loved it,” she said. “I wanted to share the applications of computer science with as many students as I could.”

In addition, Ms. Labinger believes that even if students have yet to have an immediate interest in computer science, it is important to give them a chance to explore the subject. 

“I think computer science should be a requirement because it is everywhere and very useful,” she said. “You can learn really basic foundations, and it would be great to introduce it so more students could discover their interest in computer science.” 

Computer science’s basic foundations could be learned through a well-structured course encompassing not only coding, but also lessons on artificial intelligence, media literacy and data science. 

While the College Board’s AP Computer Science classes do not teach all of this information, they serve as good introductory courses that could widen a student’s interest in the subject. 

As the world’s technology advances, it is becoming increasingly important for students to be informed and understand the future of a technology-driven society

Computer science classes are a way to introduce students and provide them with a background for this future. But for these classes to be taught, there needs to be teachers.

To combat this shortage of teachers, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1251, which will encourage high-quality teachers to teach the course, especially in underprivileged areas. The bill’s focus is on teaching students media literacy, which can be taught through computer science courses.

Moreover, San Francisco State University has allowed aspiring computer science teachers to use grant money from the National Science Federation to complete twenty extra units in the discipline, which would allow them gain the credentials to teach at the high school level. 

This process has proven to be effective as this program has trained more than 150 computer science teachers and is continuing to receive applications from throughout California. 

Motives have also been taken to encourage more students to take the course. One of those initiating these incentives is the University of California, which has approved computer science as a math or science requirement.

The state of California has acknowledged the scarcity of computer science teachers and is working towards making the process of gathering credentials to teach the class easily accessible to an increasing number of teachers. The steps California is taking should make the course more widely available to students, and its effects will be seen in the coming years.

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Skylie Molina, Staff
From catching a wave alongside a dolphin to studying for the next exam, my days are packed with a little bit of everything. I am a junior in my first year of journalism. Passionate about conservation and climate change, I am the founder and president of the VNHS Environmental Club. Involved in many other activities, I am a 3rd year varsity cheerleader, and found love for surfing. Outside of school, you can find me reading, spending time with friends or family, or doing math homework, and listening to some pop music.
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