Monday, March 13, 2017

Computer Science Learning: Closing the Gap Black Students

Computer science (CS) education is critical in preparing students for the future. CS education not only gives students the skills they need across career fields, but it also fosters critical thinking, creativity, and innovation. This summary highlights the state of CS education during 2015–16 for Black students* in 7th–12th grade, a group less likely to take the AP Computer Science Exam and with a lower pass rate on it compared to other racial groups.


Many Black students are interested in CS, but lack opportunities to learn CS at their schools and use computers less at home. Nonetheless, Black students have higher confidence that they can learn CS and are more likely to see people like them “doing CS” in the media compared to White and Hispanic students. Our study found that many Black students:

Learning CS
  • Have lower access to CS classes at school. Black students are less likely to have CS classes at their schools compared to White and Hispanic students (47% vs. 58% of White and 59% of Hispanic students). Across racial/ethnic groups, 80% of students who learned CS did so in a class at school, which demonstrates that CS classes have the greatest potential to benefit all groups equally.
  • Learn CS outside the classroom at higher rates. 38% who learned CS did so in a group or program outside of school (vs. 17% of White and 21% of Hispanic students).
    Access and Exposure to CS and Technology
    Have lower computer usage, but high mobile usage. While only 58% of Black students use a computer at home at least most days (vs. 68% of White and 50% of Hispanic students), over 81% of Black students use a cellphone or tablet daily (vs. 74% of White and 72% of Hispanic students).
    Have some CS role models in the media. Black students are more likely to say they often see people “doing CS” in TV shows and movies, and of those who do, 26% say they see someone like themselves (vs. 16% of White and 13% of Hispanic students). 

    Interest and Confidence in CS
  • Show high interest in CS. About 88% of Black students say they are interested in learning CS in the future (vs. 80% of White and 84% of Hispanic students), and 88% say they are likely to have a job requiring CS (vs. 84% of White and 87% of Hispanic students).
  • Report higher confidence to learn CS. 68% of Black students say they are “very confident” they could learn CS (vs. 56% of White and 51% of Hispanic students).
  • Have parents who are enthusiastic about CS. 92% of Black parents whose children haven’t learned CS want their children to learn it (vs. 84% of White and 92% of Hispanic students).
    Broaden exposure. Increase computer and CS class access for Black students.
    Go mobile. Offer mobile-friendly learning opportunities that put CS education in the hands of
    Black students.
    Leverage interest. Advocate for schools to provide CS coursework that taps into Black
    students’ and their parents’ high interest in CS.

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