Home / Archive  / Workshop Offers Strategies to Rejuvenate Computer Science Education


February 5, 2015

To address a critical shortage of K-12 computer science teachers, students and courses, the Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching (TRC) hosted a workshop in Austin that brought together computer science researchers, educators and technology industry representatives.

Jason Turnbull

Jason Turnbull of Fort Worth ISD explores an interactive display board at the TACC Vizualization Lab during the TRC CS Network Training.

The TRC, which is part of the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, offers award-winning, high quality, research-based STEM professional development to teachers statewide.

“In case anyone still needs convincing,” said Carol Fletcher, the TRC’s associate director and event organizer, “there’s a wealth of data showing a dire problem in computer science education. Last year, only 15,000 students in the entire state of Texas took computer science I, II or AP classes, and only 90 new teachers passed the certification exam to teach the subject.”

“Even though 20 percent of the jobs in Austin are in technology, and statistics show that by 2020 the U.S. is going to need at least a million more programmers, the number of new computer science degree holders is steadily falling. The TRC is committed to reversing this trend.”

According to Fletcher, the Texas high school teachers who are part of the TRC’s computer science network and who attended the workshop will be among the leaders who transform computer science education around the state.

To create a strong Texas computer science pipeline, workshop participants examined solutions that included:

  • investing in a statewide, systemic program to train and certify skilled computer science teachers
  • incentivizing districts to offer computer science through weighted funding
  • increasing the number of high-level, project-based computer education courses
  • developing online and volunteer resources that connect high schools with interesting, accomplished professionals in computer science fields
  • aggressively recruiting females and minorities with messages and activities specifically targeted to them
  • marketing the variety and scope of possible careers

Kim Garcia

Kim Garcia of Georgetown ISD

Lorilyn Owens, director of Oracle Academy North America, outlined her company’s involvement. “The TRC model helps foster a strong and supportive community of practice, and offers additional support for educators at the regional and state levels.  We are honored to collaborate with an inspirational leader like Carol Fletcher in order sustain and grow Texas’ commitment to computer science education and educators.”

Among the state and national stakeholders who spoke at the workshop were Owen Astrachan, a computer science professor at Duke University; Hal Speed and Jake Baskin with Code.org; Tricia Berry, director of UT Austin’s Women in Engineering Program and the Texas Girls Collaborative Project; Tyra Crockett, senior marketing manager with Oracle Academy; Lien Diaz, the College Board’s senior director of curriculum and content development; and Rosalia Gomez with UT Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). IBM, Oracle Academy, TCEA, Dell and the TACC sponsored the event.

“You know, people don’t say, ‘I’m not a reading person,’ but every time you turn around you hear someone say, ‘I’m not a math person,’” said Berry. “It’s crucial that we work on dispelling negative stereotypes and incorrect information about STEM fields and subjects. It’s about creativity as much as the arts are, and it’s about problem solving, exploring and designing. If we can give STEM an image overhaul, more individuals will realize they really are science and math people.”

To learn more about how the TRC is training and supporting a new generation of computer science teachers, visit the TRC’s Computer Science Resources website or contact Carol Fletcher at carol.fletcher@austin.utexas.edu.