It is critical for the long-term health of CS education in Illinois for teacher preparation programs to continue producing dedicated CS teachers. DPI is developing a pathway to licensure for undergraduate students to teach computer science and, ultimately, build a dedicated funnel of qualified teachers.
Of the CS courses offered in Illinois, more than 80% are introductory or beginner-level courses; only 10% of all school districts offer Advanced Placement CS courses. Through building teacher capacity, DPI is working to address the greatest barrier to the provision of CS courses, especially in rural areas: a shortage of qualified CS teachers.
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.
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.
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.