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Project Overview

Access to technology careers is an urgent equity issue. Technology jobs are more remunerative and recession-proof than other occupations, but many minoritized populations (including women, Latinx, and Black workers) are starkly underrepresented in these professions. This project includes a pair of studies aimed at understanding how to promote success in computer science (CS) education for minoritized learners in Illinois. These studies examine the current K-12 infrastructure for starting minoritized learners on CS pathways, as well as individual-level factors that encourage or discourage minoritized learners from persisting in CS in post-secondary education or alternative pathways.

The State of Computer Science in Illinois High Schools Series

This Series analyzes the landscape, structures, and pathways to and through computer science (CS) education in Illinois and create a baseline by which to measure the expansion of CS education in the coming years.

Iwerc Coursework

Part 1

What is the landscape of CS coursework?


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Supplemental Materials


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Iwerc Student Body

Part 2

What are the characteristics of the CS student body?




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Iwerc Teacher Workforce

Part 3

What are the characteristics of the CS teacher workforce?




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Iwerc Factors Outcomes

Part 4

What factors affect CS student outcomes?





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Iwerc District Offerings

Part 5

How do CS offerings vary by district across Illinois?




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Iwerc Pathways 09

The Role of Accountability Benchmarks to Increase Equity and Diversity in K-12 Computer Science Education



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Measuring Equity Gaps in Enrollment and Graduation Trends in Illinois Computer Science Programs

This Series analyzes enrollment and completion outcomes for female, Black, and Latinx students in Illinois college CS programs.

Iwerc 4 Year

Part 1

4-year Institutions


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Iwerc 2 Year

Part 2

2-year Institutions


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The Pathways and Experiences of Illinois Computer Science Undergraduate Students Series

This Series aims to understand the pathways and experiences of computer science (CS) students in post-secondary programs paying particular attention to students from historically marginalized groups.

Iwerc Pathways 03

Part 1

Becoming a Computer Scientist: Exploring the Pathways of Black, Latinx, and Female Students into and through CS


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Iwerc Identity 10

Part 2

Identity and Belonging of CS Students





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Iwerc Support

Part 3

Supports & Barriers Impacting Success





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Iwerc Identity 12

Evaluating Identity and Belonging in Computer Science Students: Instrument Adaptation and Analysis



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A brief history of computer science education in Illinois…

In 2013, CSforAll initiatives started throughout the U.S., including Chicago. This initiative pushed school districts to offer CS instruction from kindergarten through 12th grade.

In 2020, Chicago Public Schools (who were at the forefront of CSforAll) graduated its first class that had a computer science graduation requirement. However, that same year, College Board and Common Core of Data put out a report that shows Black, LatinX, and female students nationwide were all disproportionately underrepresented in AP Computer Science relative to overall high school participation in other AP courses.

According to the Landscape report of K-12 Computer Science Education in Illinois from Hegeman-Davis and Sewell (2021), the state faces significant barriers to equitable CS education as well. Namely, the urban-rural digital divide, CS teacher shortages, and differences in course offerings were all cited as critical concerns of the state’s current computer science education system.

In March 2021, Illinois House Bill 2170, or the Education and Workforce Equity Act, was signed into law. HB 2170 was a measure brought forth by the Illinois legislative Black Caucus with the aim to improve access and racial equity in the state’s education system. Among many things, HB 2170 mandated an expansion of the Illinois computer science education system:

  • The most notable requirement was for high school districts to offer the opportunity for every student take at least one computer science course aligned to rigorous CS learning standards to go into effect beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.
  • The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) was tasked to develop CS student learning stands by the end of 2021, a goal which they met.
  • An AP CS course may count toward the three years of mathematics graduation requirement.
  • Districts are required to include curriculum information for CS courses in their school’s report card as maintained by ISBE.

Project Research Questions

The two-part study will seek to answer the following research questions:

  1. How are districts across the state—particularly in remote rural areas and urban centers—preparing to meet the new requirement around computer science courses? Are districts considering equitable access to CS education in their planning? If so, how?
  2. Which districts, such as Chicago Public Schools, already have a robust computer science curriculum? Do students in these districts perform well and pursue further training after high school?
  3. How are districts, especially rural and small ones, staffing computer science courses when they cannot carry a full-time computer science teacher? What staff structures have the best outcomes for students?
  4. What happens to historically marginalized students who take computer science courses in high school after they graduate?
  5. What can we learn about students who enroll in a computer science degree program in college and then transfer to another major? Why do they choose not to pursue the degree?
  6. What can we learn from students who do the opposite and transfer into a computer science major?

Project Team

StephWerner 500x500

Stephanie Werner

Research Specialist, IWERC

Project Director


Ying Chen

Research Associate, IWERC

Mug Replacer

Raisa Blazquez

Visiting Research Associate, IWERC


Judith Kom Nguiffo

Graduate Research Assistant, IWERC

Meg Bates

Meg Bates

Director, IWERC


Mark Harris

Mark Harris

Director, Community Education – Pritzker Tech Talent Labs

DPI Portraits Finals 026

Kay Monelle

Associate Director, High School Programming


Danna Dotson

Associate Director, Teacher Training

Karen Larson

Karen Larson

Associate Director of External Relations – Pritzker Tech Talent Labs

A special thanks to…

The Exploring Computer Science Education Structures and Pathways in Illinois research portfolio would not be possible without the support of many. This research was generously funded by an anonymous donor. We thank this funder for allowing us to complete this important work.

This research portfolio benefits from the expertise of an advisory board comprised of CS researchers, advocates, teachers, industry representatives, and more to guide our work. We thank Ben Boer, Jessie “Chuy” Chavez, Doris Espiritu, Greg Gilson, Sarah Hartwick, Raya Hegeman-Davis, Keith Jacobs Jr., Chad Lane, Maureen LaReveriere, Latanya McSwine, Kirk Mustain, Amita Shetty, Carla Strickland, Abril Vela, and Stephanie Wascher for their continued support.

We thank Charity Freeman, special advisor on this project, for her expertise and guidance in our work.

We thank the Illinois State Board of Education and their Data Strategies and Analytics Department and K-12 Curriculum and Instruction Department for providing data and valuable insights into K-12 education in the state. We thank the many post-secondary institutions in Illinois who partnered with us and continue to do the work to make CS education accessible for all students.

Lastly, we thank the many CS and tech students across the state of Illinois who have shared their lived experiences with us in the hopes of creating a more accessible and inclusive community for future computer scientists.

IWERC’s Computer Science Education Research-demo

IWERC receives $1 million gift from anonymous donor to study computer science education in Illinois.

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