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CodeEd: Combating Declining K-12 Computer Science Offerings

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In my research for CodeEd, I’ve learned that K-12 computer science offerings are actually on the decline.

By Jenny Ye (Summer Intern, CodeEd)

This summer, I’ve been tutoring in New York and developing curriculum for CodeEd, a startup organization that has been bringing computer science to middle school girls in underserved communities since 2010. I am currently studying computer science at Harvard University and I grew up in New York City in the heart of Chinatown, where I first got involved with direct service and organizing.

Working with CodeEd has been an incredibly rewarding experience and such a great way to combine my two passions of technology and community work.

Though I didn’t have computer science in middle school, I was lucky enough to have a required Introduction to Computer Science class at Stuyvesant High School. Without this first course, I might still see coding as only a good career path for guys who enjoy being in front of the computer all day. My perception of computer science has continued to develop since my first computer science class in 10th grade. I’ve found computer science to be math’s cooler sister – all of the problem solving with the added plus of design and interactivity.

Research has found that “women’s education and experience are less likely to match openings in growth areas like technology,” said Time magazine last month. It’s hard to avoid the gender imbalance in computer science. I see all-male startup teams left and right, and my higher level computer science courses (from AP Computer Science in high school to Data Structures and Algorithms in college) have all been male-dominated. Add the complexity of achievement and opportunity gaps in education to this and we have an urgent challenge to tackle.

In my research for CodeEd, I’ve learned that K-12 computer science offerings are actually on the decline.

From 2005-2010, the number of introductory computer science courses and AP Computer Science courses actually dropped 17% and 35% respectively, despite the growing impact of computing. In underserved communities like my hometown of Manhattan’s Chinatown, it’s still difficult to find adequately funded schools, let alone technology offerings. I don’t take that initial computer science class for granted.

After tutoring Taiya and Mercedes this summer with CodeEd – both creative, outspoken girls who built websites about their passions (pop music and horror, respectively) – I’m optimistic about the impact that bringing computer science to underserved schools is having. In just a few lessons, they created exciting websites, developed comfortability with the Unix environment, and learned about how the Internet works via uploading their files to our server.

The girls found it to be a great way to express themselves (a la embedding Justin Bieber videos), but they also learned extremely practical skills. It’s our hope that combining space for creativity with writing lines of code will change the image of computing for these girls, and may even lead them to choose computer science as a career path down the line.

Computer science education doesn’t stop after one semester or one summer. CodeEd tutoring might be over for the summer, but I’m excited to develop more curriculum and gear up for an exciting school year in New York, Boston and San Francisco.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Jenny Ye is a summer intern at CodeEd. Jenny tutored, developed curriculum and built partnerships for CodeEd, and worked on the Data News team at WNYC. She will continue as a Lead Teacher for CodeEd in Cambridge this fall. Jenny is a senior at Harvard University, where she is president of the Institute of Politics. She is studying Computer Science and Ethnic Studies and hopes to combine engineering and public service when she graduates. Follow her on Twitter at @thepapaya.