Pushing the needle forward on computer science education is essential if the United States is to keep pace with the rest of the world on producing skilled technology workers.
Not only have Ericson, director of computing education outreach, and Guzdial, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing, helped expand female and minority participation in Georgia, the duo are actively involved with growing computer science education in high school classrooms across the country.
Georgia Computes! was the first initiative launched by Ericson, Guzdial, and others in an effort to increase the number of students interested in computer science. Rolled out in 2006, the initiative used summer camps, workshops, teacher professional development, lobbying efforts, and other tactics to grow the computing education pipeline in Georgia.
In spring of 2013, Ericson created Rise Up 4 CS, a program that helps prepare underrepresented groups for the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) A class and exam. The program has since grown and expanded to Florida, Maryland, and other states.
Since the program started, a record number of underrepresented students pass the challenging AP CS A exam each year in Georgia.
“While we can't claim that the record number is all due to Rise Up 4 CS, several students have told us they wouldn't have passed the exam without it,” said Ericson.
Building on the success of Rise Up 4 CS, in 2014 Sisters Rise Up was launched to specifically help young women succeed on the AP CS A exam.
In a recent interview with Education Week, Ericson said that girls are often given mixed messages when it comes to computer science.
“The girls certainly get [the] message that ‘computer science is not necessarily for you. It's for the guys’," said Ericson.
Sisters Rise Up was founded specifically to counter any discouragement young women may encounter. Along with helping them to do well on the exam, the project also works to encourage more females to consider computing careers.
Despite the success so far, Ericson and Guzdial are continuing their work to increase access to computer science education for an ever-growing number of students. Along with Guzdial’s blog dedicated to advancing computing education and Ericson’s annual analysis of AP CS A exam results, the couple (they’ve been married for 31 years) are also part of the leadership team for Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP).
“The primary goal for ECEP is to improve and expand participation in computing education state by state,” said Guzdial. “The program is currently in 16 states and in Puerto Rico, which recently held its first-ever CS for All symposium.”
The group recently held its annual summit in Washington, DC. Attending the two-day event were K-16 educators, researchers, and leaders from non-profit organizations, industry, and government. Guzdial led a panel discussion about the need for standards, certification, and direction at the state level in order to increase computer science participation for all students, particularly those from underrepresented groups.
“We’ve got to increase state-to-state coordination if we’re really going to make some headway in this effort,” said Guzdial. “Were starting to see some positive steps like South Carolina using a survey tool developed by Massachusetts, but there’s still an awful lot more to do. The keys are to observe, document, and change the system to better serve these kids.”