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