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#AskExcelinEd: How has access to computer science education increased in the past year?

• Lowell Matthews


Can you imagine a world without smart phones, smart TVs or the multitude of other automated systems that make products we use daily safer, cheaper and more enjoyable? I know a few who would gladly trade it all in. But for the rest of us, it is hard to fathom a world without the constant innovations in technology that fuel better experiences with goods and services. People with the computer science skills that make this a reality clearly are talented at what they do. Unfortunately, they are also in short supply.

In order to keep this technology wave going, we need more people with these skills—not just in Silicon Valley firms or technology corridors—but in diverse businesses like banks, manufacturing plants, power companies and farms. Computer science skills cross all sectors of our economy and are needed in an increasing number of jobs. However, employers are finding these jobs hard to fill, forcing companies to miss out on growth, employees to miss out on good jobs and states to miss out on revenues for education and healthcare.

As a result, we could be facing slower growth and innovation. Luckily, folks smarter than me are working on addressing these issues.

That’s why’s latest report, 2019 State of Computer Science Education, is very encouraging. and members of the Advocacy Coalition – of which ExcelinEd is a member – have been working on improving access to high-quality computer science opportunities for all students.

And the results have been mind-blowing:

  • In just the last year, the percentage of high schools teaching computer science has grown from 35% of high schools in 24 states to 45% of high schools across 39 states.
  • Twenty-six states are funding professional development for computer science teachers (up from 19 states last year).
  • Thirty-four states are upgrading or developing computer science standards (up from 22 states last year).
  • Roughly 28% of female and almost 22% of underrepresented students now take one of the College Board’s Advanced Placement computer science exams.

That is significant growth.

However, we aren’t ready to run up the victory flag and do laps around the school – although I for one, would benefit from any exercise. More work needs to be done. Although access to computer science is growing, many students remain on the sidelines, without the skills needed to power the jobs of the future and grow our country’s technology and financial might.

If we want to continue to see the significant technological gains of the past decades, we need to continue to invest in the brains of the future. These skills will lead not only to increased battery life on our smart phones, they can make the world a better place. Let’s give these students a chance to make a better world. Let’s invest in more computer science education.

About the author

Lowell Matthews

Lowell is the Director of College and Career Pathways for ExcelinEd. He previously served as Staff Director for the Florida Legislature’s Senate Committees on Education Pre-K-12 and Higher Education, where he helped create Florida’s industry certification incentive to create a nexus between education and the workforce. Lowell is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University Law School. He also served in the U.S. Army. He lives in Rochester, MN with his wife and two kids.