Earlier this month, Congress added computer science to the list of core academic subjects as part of an update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that’ll be voted on soon.
This is a big deal! Here’s what it means:
Our national K-12 education statute (called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA) includes many definitions that ultimately affect — purposely or not — state and local decisions about what gets taught in schools, who teaches it and how.
The statute defines “core academic subjects, ” which is basically a list of subjects considered important to any curriculum. While the definition alone does not require that any or all of them are taught in schools, there is direct evidence that it drives funding decisions at state and local levels.
The standing list of subjects in the definition is based on what was being taught in the country’s schools 20 years ago, AKA last century! Computer science is absent from the list of core subjects in current law, which includes English, reading or language arts, math, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography.
After geography was added to core academic subjects in 2002, the AP exam in geography saw 7800% growth, out-pacing the growth of regular AP exams by more than a factor of 10x.
Thanks to champions Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Senate’s bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the ESEA would add computer science to this definition in law. If enacted, it’d ensure that computer science has at least equal footing as other subjects in decisions regarding allocations of funding. The bill will move to the Senate floor for debate, hopefully soon!