Tech sponsors and education leaders help fuel NYC’s computer science education

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Jonathan Reyes | flickr

Judah Duke

Google committed $20 million to funding computer science education in the U.S. school system and to other nonprofits on Sep 1.

Through supporting various national and local organizations, Google estimated that computer science education would now be made available to 11 million students.

“We’ll focus our efforts on supporting national and local organizations who reach underserved students in major urban centers and rural communities, and who help governments and educators implement CS education plans nationwide,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google LLC and Alphabet Inc., said in the announcement.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in computer science will grow by 19% by 2026.

“Technology will end up playing such a big role in the future. That’s the fundamental reason we do it,” Pichai said.

Beneficiaries will include the Oakland-based Hidden Genius Project, which was the winner of Google’s 2015 Impact Challenge, as well as the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, a national network coordinated by the Texas Advanced Computing Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

In New York, Google will be involved in advancing programs in CUNY’s Computing Integrated Teacher Education project. CITE received both public and private funding, incorporating computing and digital literacies into classrooms and curriculums by training teachers.

The pledge aligned with a broader trend in New York and the nation that’s seen officials and community leaders address the gap between disadvantaged communities and computer literacy.

Students with the least access are Native American, Black and Latino from lower income backgrounds.

Additionally, women only earn 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the United States.

Collaboration between private tech sponsors and education agencies have resulted in great strides in the equity of computer science education in recent years.

Google and Cisco Systems Inc. partnered with CUNY City College to expand certifications and courses in professional studies programs in Nov. 2021.

Students were offered courses for the Cisco Academy Certificate, which included introductions to networking, wireless essentials, cybersecurity and more, plus Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate.

The New York Department of Education has also funded the Computer Science for All, or CS4All, K-12 initiative since 2015.

CS4All streamlines computer science curriculum integration in the classroom, making it easier for teachers to get students involved in computer literacy through events and coding projects.

“Computer Science for All will ensure that all NYC public school students learn computer science, with an emphasis on students who identify as girls, Black and Latinx students,” the CS4All website stated. “Through our work, students will be better prepared to utilize computer science during their K-12 experience and after graduation.”

Over 1,600 teachers across 712 schools have participated in the program, with more than 5,200 students going on to take an AP Computer Science exam. In New York, 20% of the test takers are Hispanic, 16% are Black and 42% are female compared to 28% nationwide.

Google’s pledge along with government involvement have increased opportunities for students in elementary, high school and college, but gaps in some communities’ computer science knowledge and skills call attention to the prevalence of disproportionate computer education.

Initiatives to close these gaps indicate hopes of community organization and cooperation to cement the future careers of New York’s students. Time will tell if they’re enough to prop up the next generation’s computer science knowledge, and their subsequent success.