Frequently Asked Questions

Computer science (CS) is the study of computers and algorithmic processes including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, and their impact on society.

Computer Science is a rapidly growing field that develops essential knowledge and skills for today’s world. Between 2008 and 2018 there will be 2.4 million job openings for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) workers and by 2018, 51% of all STEM jobs will be dominated by computer occupations. STEM majors make substantially more over their lifetimes than non-STEM majors, by about $300,000 ($2.1 million versus $2.4 million). Computer Science also cultivates computational thinking, problem solving skills and creative thinking; foundational learning for all occupations.

Women and students of color are underrepresented in Computer Science. In 2010, although there were about 14% Latinas/os in the U.S. only 5.6% were in the Science and Engineering Fields (this includes Computer Science). While African Americans were almost 12% of the population they were 4.6% of the Science and Engineering workforce. Further, in 2010, women constituted only 28% of workers in these occupations, even though they accounted for nearly half of the college-educated workforce. Additionally, only 18% of Computer Science majors in college are women (Sax, 2015). To achieve equity in Computer Science we need greater numbers of women and underrepresented students, such as Latinas/os and African-Americans, in Computer Science. The diversity in the U.S. population should be reflected in Computer Science.

A pathway is a sequence of Computer Science courses for students. One example of a Computer Science Pathway includes three courses: Exploring Computer Science, Computer Science Principles, and Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science A or/and AP Computer Science Principles (available in fall 2016). A short description of each course is below.

Exploring Computer Science
Exploring Computer Science is a yearlong course consisting of six units, approximately six weeks each. Assignments and instruction are contextualized to be socially relevant and meaningful for diverse students. Units utilize a variety of tools/platforms, and culminate with final projects around the following topics:
1. Human Computer Interaction
2. Problem Solving
3. Web Design
4. Programming
5. Computing and Data Analysis
6. Robotics

AP Computer Science A
This course is equivalent to a first-semester, college level course in Computer Science. It introduces students to Computer Science with fundamental topics that include problem solving, design strategies and methodologies, organization of data (data structures), approaches to processing data (algorithms), analysis of potential solutions, and the ethical and social implications of computing.

AP Computer Science Principles (in development)
AP Computer Science Principles offers a multidisciplinary approach to teaching the underlying principles of computation. The course will introduce students to creative aspects of programming, using abstractions and algorithms, working with large data sets, understandings of the Internet and issues of cybersecurity, and impacts of computing that affect different populations.

Exploring Computer Science
The Exploring Computer Science professional development program is based on three major pillars: computer science content/concepts, inquiry, and equity. These pillars are woven throughout all of the support provided to our teacher community. Our professional development model consists of four features: beginning ECS Teachers participate in a week-long summer institute prior to implementation to introduce the instructional philosophy of the curriculum and content from the early units; quarterly Saturday workshops during the academic year that focus on the remaining units and the three pillars; ECS coaches who visit teachers’ classrooms and provide individualized support; and deepening of content and pedagogy in year two and beyond.

AP Computer Science A
For new and experienced AP teachers, this workshop includes College Board resources, released exams, and student samples.

Exploring Computer Science
Exploring Computer Science can be taken for elective “g” credit for in the UC or CSU system. Exploring Computer Science has program status with University of California Office of the President so that any school can add the course to their schedule through the course management portal, however, teachers must participate in the ECS professional development workshop in order to be prepared to teach it.

Computer Science Principles
Computer Science Principles courses vary and each must be reviewed to see if they count for college credit.

AP Computer Science A
Students should check the credit-and-placement policy at the schools they are considering. Policies vary from one institution to another; they may also vary from department to department within an institution.

Other programs provide computer science coursework such as, C-STEM, Project Lead the Way. Please visit these websites directly for more information. In addition, there are various digital media courses, programming and coding courses that are available to students interested in going beyond computer science introductory coursework.

Several of the classes offered have assessments, rubrics, and other tools to measure student success in the Computer Science courses.

Computer Science has been implemented well in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). First, in the 2013-2014 school year, student participation in Exploring Computer Science (ECS) closely matched the demographics of the district even when taking into consideration females, Latinos/as, and African-Americans (Binning, 2014). Female students in ECS showed a significant increase in their belief that you can grow in your Computer Science ability. Students with low parental education in ECS also showed a significant increase in their belief that Computer Science ability can be learned. There were also significant increases in self-perceived expertise across all students in ECS with the largest increases coming in robotics and computer programming (Binning 2014).

There are several funding sources available where there may be an opportunity to target fiscal resources to Computer Science.

Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)

The Local Control Funding Formula allows for base, supplemental, and concentration funds for K-12 education in California. The supplemental and concentration grants are targeted for disadvantaged students including English Learners, students eligible to receive a free and reduced price meal, and foster youth. According to the California Department of Education, the 2013–14 Budget Act provided $2.1 billion for school districts and charter schools and $32 million for County Offices of Education to support the first-year implementation of the LCFF.

CTE: Perkins Grant

The Perkins Grant is a federally funded act approved by Congress to support Career Technical Education (CTE) programs for secondary and post-secondary students. The goal of these programs is to provide career technical training in a variety of career pathways.