Education experts and employers have long tried to sound the alarm about a technology skills gap that could compromise the country’s competitiveness in the next decade. While the labor market is demanding more and more employees with technology expertise and computer programming experience, high schools and colleges are simply not turning out enough.
Many suspect that the solution to this problem starts in the classroom – specifically, with well-qualified computer science teachers – and states believe that the best way to get them there would be to introduce a certification just for programming instructors. However, a new report from the Computer Science Teachers Association says that the most common approaches employed around the countries have some substantial issues.
“Computer science teacher certification across the nation is typified by confounding processes and illogical procedures—bugs in the system that keep it from functioning as intended,” says the report, which was conducted with financial support from Google.
The report also makes the case that the situation is contributing to a missed opportunity to prepare students for a field that promises solid careers.
“The information technology and computing industry cannot find the talent it needs to fill lucrative positions across the country,” it says. The study estimates that by 2020 there will be 4.6 million jobs in those fields. “These companies want more young people to discover computer science and study it, and the country’s economic fortunes depend on it.”
According to Erik Roberts of the Curriculum Matters Education Week blog, the report, titled Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the US, some of the certification requirements currently in place can actually make recruiting qualified teachers more rather than less difficult.
Roberts cites Florida as one example. In order to teach computer science in a Florida classroom, an instructor needs to have complete a course in K-8 computer science teaching methods — but the course is not offered in by any teacher training programs in the state.
In addition, the research says that prospective computer science teachers often encounter difficulty in even determining what the certification/licensure requirements are in their own state “because no one seems to know.” As one illustration, the report points to the responses to its online survey in New Hampshire. Two computer science teachers and a state official provided contradictory answers to the following, basic questions: Is there a required middle school computing course? Does your state require a computing course for graduation? Does your state offer any additional or optional certificates, endorsements, or licenses related to computing?