Hi, my name is Lisa Kaczmarczyk; I am a computer scientist with my own project evaluation consultancy and I’m also an adjunct computer science (CS) faculty at Harvey Mudd College. I work primarily with CS and engineering teachers and faculty who face unique challenges when creating their computing curriculum and evaluation procedures. A recent conversation I had with a frustrated school Principal exemplified two of the problems I often encounter in this setting: enthusiasm but lack of formal CS training, and isolation from other CS teachers. K-12 CS Evaluators need to be prepared to deal with this situation.
The Principal explained to me that he wanted one of his teachers to develop a new computing curriculum for grades K-8. I was asked to help them develop CS based assessment metrics for each grade. Unfortunately, neither one of them had a computer science background or professional experience. As a result, they were having a very hard time identifying objectives that were based on age appropriate computational principles.
Unfortunately, this situation is not unusual in the US because CS teaching certification varies widely and is often hard to come by. Frequently, CS teachers have their primary certification in another area of instruction. In addition, whether or not they have a CS teaching credential, new computer science teachers often have no one to talk to. They feel isolated.
Like many of their peers, this Principal and teacher needed resources to build off of and a community to share and vet their classroom ideas and experiences. An evaluator coming on the scene needs to have resources at hand to help teachers develop their understanding about what computer science objectives are and are not.
There are several good curricular resources, guidelines and references available, each with their own very active community of teachers. The resources contain varying levels of specificity, but they all have online communities that include both new and experienced CS teachers. Without endorsing any one standard over the other, here are a few to peruse and start a conversation about classroom objectives with:
From the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) http://www.csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/K12Standards.html;
From code.org https://code.org/educate/curriculum
From the Scratch community http://scratched.gse.harvard.edu/guide/
Hot Tip: Resources alone only go so far. Teachers and administrators need support to form local support communities. Provide them with the emails or URLs to connect to their state level CS teacher meetups, professional organizations (such as CSTA) or faculty at local community colleges who might be interested in creating bridge programs. In most cases, there are other teachers willing to share computational goals and objectives they are trying in their classrooms along with members of their professional network in computing academia and industry.
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