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Give to DPI’s Community Education Fund

DPI’s Pritzker Tech Talent Labs’ Community Education Unit creates programming for K-14 students and computer science teachers to develop skills and pathways into computing and tech-related fields.

Our goal is simple: to significantly increase the number of Black, Latinx, female, and other underrepresented populations pursuing and completing degrees and certificates in computer science, data science, and related fields of study at Illinois institutions.

We design programs to help students build tech skills and competencies, foster a sense of belonging in the tech world, and create a smoother pathway to guide historically underrepresented groups into technology careers. We recognize that this work cannot exist in a bubble; we partner with school districts, universities, community colleges and tech companies to ensure that our pipeline is robust, our curriculums are relevant, and our outcomes are meaningful.

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Teacher Training Initiative

A significant driver behind the disparities in computer science education is the need for qualified instructors.

Thus, a foremost strategy to increase student access, participation, and engagement in CS learning and career opportunities is through building teacher capacity

Over the next 5-10 years, we aim to endorse hundreds of teachers in computer science and support hundreds more through ongoing professional learning activities so that every Illinois high school is equipped with a qualified CS teacher.

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Illinois is behind:

  • Today, there are few pathways to licensure for prospective CS teachers, and most of the state’s CS teachers do not have any formal endorsement or certification in CS education and have never taken a college-level CS course.
  • Only 10% of the more than 1,000 high schools in Illinois offer AP CS courses, largely because of a shortage of CS instructors.
  • Illinois recently established statewide CS standards in January 2022, but many school districts will struggle to implement them without support in training and endorsing teachers in CS.

We urgently need to address the disparities that exist in CS education in Illinois, which, make no mistake, is a social justice issue. And we need to start with the quality, delivery, and accessibility of K-12 computer science instruction in Illinois.

Landscape Report of K-12 Computer Science Education in Illinois

With funding from the CME Group Foundation, our partners at UIUC’s College of Education conducted a comprehensive study among K-12 teachers and school and district-level administrators throughout the state on computing education.

The report uncovered data points including current CS course offerings, teachers’ qualifications, disparities in access to CS education, and perceived barriers to providing CS courses in Illinois schools. The research team, led by Dr. Raya Hegeman-Davis, notes that educators and administrators indicated the lack of trained CS teachers and the need for funding to train in-service teachers as the greatest barriers to offering CS courses in their schools.

This landscape report also highlighted the critical need for teacher certification programs, including both pre-service and in-service endorsement programs, as well as funding support for professional development for current teachers, especially in rural school districts. These and other findings establish a baseline for DPI’s goals and will be used to inform the necessity, relevance, and trajectory of our teacher-focused programming activities and funding initiatives.

Read the Full Report