Improving High-Quality Computer Science Course Access

image of students on computers

By James Paul

Preparing each and every student with the right educational resources and rigor at the right moment in their education means ensuring that students have access to coursework that enables them to pursue college and career pathways. States have begun to engage more deeply under Equity Commitment 7 in Leading for Equity to further improve course access for all students. For students to have access to high-demand careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), computer science plays an important role. States recognize that computer science must be available and accessible to all students in the state.

One important way states are taking the lead on this is by investing in computer science education: from hiring state education agency staff focused on this work to adopting standards to providing licensure pathways for computer science educators. In addition, states are taking steps to ensure students have equitable access to these courses and supporting them to be successful. States like Arkansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming have been among the leaders in this work.

Arkansas has long prioritized computer science education and was the first state education agency to hire a dedicated computer science staff member. The Arkansas Department of Education co-developed and adopted with the Arkansas Department of Career Education a grid of high school computer science courses and was the first state to write and mandate for all students grade-specific computer science standards for K-8. Furthermore, Arkansas has developed a statewide strategic plan focused on computer science education, and became the first state to meet all nine of Policy Ideas and all 10 priorities listed in the BNY State of the States Report. For more information on the state’s efforts to expand computer science opportunities, visit

Oklahoma is working to approve new academic standards for computer science. The state believes integration into mathematics is one of the best ways to ensure computer science learning experiences are provided equitably across the state. To support this view, a National Science Foundation grant is funding the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s work with a Bootstrap grant to equip mathematics teachers with curriculum, knowledge and skills to provide one Computer Science 1 credit to students who complete a Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1 sequence that integrates the Bootstrap materials. For additional information about computer science education in Oklahoma, click here:

Earlier this year, the Wyoming Department of Education launched Boot Up Wyoming 2022, an initiative to implement computer science in all Wyoming schools. Superintendent Jillian Balow said, “Computer science is a critical skill set that all students need to build, starting from an early age.” Under this program, the state now recognizes a computer science course as a science course in high school graduation requirements. In addition, this initiative will focus on analyzing the costs and district needs to offer computer science, ensuring teachers are trained to teach the subject, and facilitating the development of statewide standards for computer science.

In North Dakota, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler has forged a partnership with Microsoft to expand its Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program in the state. Under the TEALS program, a volunteer computer science professional from Microsoft or another industry partner teams up with a classroom instructor to team-teach computer science courses. The classroom teacher gradually takes over instruction as she or he gains knowledge of the subject. In addition, the state legislature has approved a new law that allows high school students to substitute a rigorous computer science course for a mathematics class under North Dakota graduation requirements.

Through these examples and more, states are continuing to lead to expand computer science opportunities to more students and further educational equity.

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