Newsom, Advocates Call for Computer Science Recognition


California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has joined with industry leaders in business and education to ask the University of California and Cal State system to change math admissions requirements to include computer science.

To be admitted to UC or Cal State, high school math requirements include algebra, geometry, and a third year of advanced math like calculus or trigonometry. Newsom and the education advocates want the board to adopt computer science as an option for  the advanced math designation. Computer science is currently counted as a general elective unless it is particularly rigorous, writes Katy Murphy and Sharon Noguchi of Mercury News.

The coalition sent a letter to the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, a committee in the UC Academic Senate.

Among the twenty tech, business, and government leaders who signed the letter were California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Republican Assembly Leader Kristin Olsen, superintendent-president of Long Beach City College Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang, CEO Marc Benioff, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman, Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Moritz, and Zynga CEO Mark Pincus. Lt. Gov. Newsom is a regent at UC and trustee at Cal State.

The letter read:

For a growing number of academic and professional pursuits, computer science provides just as relevant a foundation as algebra. … A basic understanding of computing and computer science is fundamental to many fields and will prepare students both for college and for the careers of tomorrow.

Claire Shorall, head of computer science at the Oakland Unified School District, said:

We’re not looking to replace mathematics … but to broaden the category so that there’s recognition among the powers-that-be that computer science is critical for students to be college- and career-ready. co-founder Ali Partovi said that 27 states allow computer science courses to count towards graduation. According to Dawn Chmielewski of Recode, Partovi said:

California is now in the minority as one of the states that does not allow computer science to count toward graduation.

The coalition is also concerned about the gender and racial gap in computer science courses and careers, writes Carla Rivera of the Los Angeles Times. The letter cited that out of the 9,000 California students that took that Advanced Placement Computer Science exam in 2015, 2,300 were girls, fewer than 1,000 were Latino, and only about 150 were black.

Fixing these gaps might help to fill the state’s demand for computer science professionals. If current trends continue, there will not be enough qualified graduates to fill computer science jobs in coming years.

UC Academic Senate Chairman J. Daniel Hare replied, saying that the board would discuss the proposal at its next monthly meeting. He also noted that the board already allows some particularly math-heavy computer science courses to count for the math requirements.