New funding will expand computer science programming for high schoolers and will provide tuition for teachers pursuing their computer science endorsement.
December 5, 2022 (Chicago) — To kick off Computer Science Education Week, Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System, today announced a $200,000 grant from Google to expand its efforts to develop promising and diverse tech talent in Chicago.
Computing is the top source of new wages in the U.S., and computer science accounts for the majority of new STEM jobs, according to Code.org. However, Black and Latinx populations currently make up just 12-14% of Chicago’s tech workforce overall, an inequity driven largely by inadequate and uneven access to high quality computer science education opportunities.
The funding will help DPI expand its successful Discover Computing program directly into a pilot group of public Chicago high schools, and provide educators with the professional development needed to sustain the program’s success. Funding will also provide tuition support for teachers serving students of historically marginalized groups to pursue their teaching endorsement in computer science.
“Google is deeply invested in reducing the equity gap in computer science education access,” said Shanika Hope, Director of Google’s Education for Social Impact team. “We’re proud to partner with DPI to help equip more students and educators with resources to learn and teach computer science – and ultimately, to increase representation in tech.”
This investment is part of Google’s $20 million Grow commitment to fund computer science education-focused nonprofit organizations reaching underserved students in major urban centers and rural communities, which includes allocating more than $1.5 million to support students, educators and organizations across the country during CSEdWeek.
Initially launched in Fall 2021 in partnership with Wilbur Wright College, Discover Computing is a free, two-part program designed to help ninth and tenth graders build interest in pursuing computer science and tech careers. Students explore computing concepts and tools, including HTML/CSS, data analysis, Python, and machine learning; build a portfolio with creative coding; connect with Google mentors and Wright College near-peer mentors; and develop skills in problem solving and team building through human-centered design thinking activities.
The program will continue at DPI’s downtown space as half-day sessions on Saturdays, which ran fall 2022 and will continue into the winter 2023. It will also expand to Wright College and other high school locations through a school-based model continuing through the 2023-24 school year. The program has reached almost 130 students to date – 86% of which self-identified as Black or Latinx, and 41% of which self-identified as female or non-binary. The program anticipates reaching more than 300 students through this expansion, with a focus on underrepresented populations in tech — Black, Latinx, and women.
In June, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s College of Education, in partnership with DPI, announced the launch of the second cohort of teachers into its Teaching Endorsement in Computer Science pathway [dpi.uillinois.edu/csted]. The cohort-based, online course of study fulfills the Illinois State Board of Education’s credit requirement for obtaining a subsequent teaching endorsement in CS. Approximately 60 teachers have enrolled in CSTed courses to date, with the goal of endorsing 200-300 teachers by 2026.
“We know that young people absolutely need a strong foundation in computer skills to be successful in today’s workforce, no matter what career path they choose. However, we also know access to computer skills education is historically unequal, which places an unacceptable disadvantage on Chicago’s most in-need students,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m grateful to DPI and Google for this collaboration that will help close that gap and give all Chicago students, regardless of their backgrounds, the opportunity to pursue an interest in computer science.”
Google’s support will help provide tuition support for 10 teachers. The next cohort will start in summer 2023.
“In today’s workforce, computing is the common denominator required to solve problems and innovate,” said Mark Harris, director of community education at DPI. “We are thrilled to be growing our partnership with Google Chicago and Wright College to expand the reach of our programs by building more capacity within schools to advance more inclusive computer science learning pathways.”
“With crucial funding from Google, DPI and City Colleges of Chicago are empowering high school students to unlock their STEM potential. City Colleges serve non-traditional and diverse students interested in pursuing Computer Science and Engineering and that’s why we’re so proud to share that together with Google and DPI, we are empowering young people to know that “yes” they can achieve in tech,” said Doris Espiritu, Senior Advisor to Provost and Dean at Wilbur Wright College Center Of Excellence in Computer Science and Engineering.
With 80% of jobs currently requiring some level of computing knowledge, high school graduates in Illinois are entering a workforce dominated by technology, yet many of these young people are not receiving the computing education or digital skills they need to work and innovate in this new digital workforce.
“Our aim is to address the disparities that exist for under-represented groups in computer science and tech to provide more exposure and learning opportunities within these dynamic fields. This growing partnership with Google is just the beginning of a larger goal to make Chicago the most inclusive tech workforce,” said Gina Grant, associate director of K-9 student programming at DPI.
A shortage of trained computer science teachers is the No. 1 reason why more of these courses are not offered in Illinois schools. This critical need was highlighted in June 2021 by UIUC’s College of Education in Illinois’ first statewide landscape report on K-12 computer science education [go.illinois.edu/csed-landscape-report].
Interested students and teachers can contact DPI’s Community Education Unit [firstname.lastname@example.org] for more information.