Schools across the nation are facing a shortage of computer science teachers. Carol Fletcher is the director of Expanding Pathways in Computing (EPIC), a research and service unit of TACC, which is focused on increasing K-20 computer science pathways. In the past, she was the Deputy Director of the STEM Center in University of Texas Austin’s College of Education where she worked with teacher professional development and later computer science computer science. Recently on the Rex Academy Podcast, Dr. Carol Fletcher discussed the routes that may be taken for individuals to become certified science teachers and the future trends in computer science course offerings.
Dr. Fletcher realized that there were limited resources when her children were in high school. She discovered that there were few schools in the area that provided computer science courses due to the very limited number of computer science teachers. While she was working at the University of Texas-Austin, she incorporated computer science professional development into the math and science programs to encourage the development of computer science teachers. The program developed into an online course that allowed for teachers to become certified computer science teachers in their own states.
Currently, there are three ways to obtain certification as a computer science teacher. The first route is a traditional undergraduate teacher education program with student teaching experience. The second route is completing an add-on certification. In some states, teachers who are certified in one subject area, teachers may take a subject exam in an additional area to become certified. Additionally, some states will authorize math certified teachers to also teach computer science.
Dr. Fletcher expressed that some states are starting to adopt standards for computer science courses. The new trend helps promote the growth of computer science by creating equal access and standardized curriculum across all schools. As schools continue to develop computer science programs, Dr. Fletcher emphasizes the importance of engaging high school counselors to assist students in exploring computer science and to remove barriers so that diverse students can access the courses. One suggested approach is to use computer science as a way for students to become engaged in math and science. By introducing math and science concepts to students in computer science courses, students can become engaged in learning multiple skills and concepts.
Similarly, Rex Academy started when founder, Sandy Padala, was looking for computer science courses for her son. She realized that there was a shortage of programs and teachers. Rex Academy formed to create content, courses and a learning management system to provide schools, individual students and camps with the resources needed to provide computer science instruction. As programs continue to develop and standards for computer science courses emerge, a new generation of students will have the opportunity to become engaged in computer science.