Delivering on Computer Science for All

In his 2016 State of the Union message, President Barack Obama announced the goal of “offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.” To achieve this goal, the president has requested several billion dollars in grants to schools for technology education and has channeled federal research money into improving computer science education.

We have reasonable prospects for a major improvement to American education—but also the opportunity to waste an immense amount of time, money, and opportunity. Three major cities, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, have separately announced some sort of “universal” computer science initiative. In the short to medium term, these initiatives have a good chance of getting many more students, into computer science.

We should be honest that comprehensive computer science comes with costs. These costs may be worth paying, but they are seldom acknowledged today. We should watch for ways to minimize these costs. To the extent that clever curriculum design can teach computing and other subjects simultaneously, this should be high priority.

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