Family & Community Engagement for

Equitable Computer Science Education


Family and Community Engagement for Equitable CS Education

We work with parents, caregivers, and students to increase demand at the local level to ensure high-quality computer science is equitably distributed in our schools and communities. Parents and students, especially Black, Latinx, Native American, Rural, and Low-Income students, can provide the much-need pressure to ensure meaningful, on-the-ground monitoring of the implementation of such policies and holding the system accountable to provide the necessary resources and supports to ensure high-quality computer science education is sustainable in the long-term. Local communities are most powerful in holding elected officials accountable for local and statewide changes, assuring that high-quality CS is available for all students.

Grassroots community-based organizations – experienced in developing leadership in communities of color and low-income communities – can play an important role in broadening participation in computing.  Building on the community’s strengths and resources, it’s important our communication strategies address biases about who “looks like a computer scientist.”  We need to build the capacity of community-based organization leadership about computer science education access, and its importance for college, career, and civic participation.  Increasing equity, access, and inclusion in computer science will help students see how computer science is relevant to their lives and encourage them to take advantage of CS opportunities in their schools and increase them.

However, computer science learning opportunities are not fairly distributed.  The latest data from the College Board demonstrate that while the overall growth of students taking the new AP Computer Science Principles course has nearly tripled, the participation gap among girls, low-income students, and students of color has widened.  Although California’s students are 60% Latinx and African American, they make up only 24% of AP CS test takers.   The research documented in Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing (MIT 2008, 2017) demonstrates how these racial and socioeconomic disparities are rooted in the way schools are organized and how biased beliefs can influence decisions about which students have access to teaching and learning opportunities.   Among other key findings, high-quality computer science opportunities were abundant in schools that serve upper-income students, while schools serving low-income, predominantly students of color, offered more rudimentary keyboarding skills. This is why understanding what computer science is and who has access to it, are essential conversations, especially for under-resourced communities.

Parents, caregivers, and families are wisely aware of economic opportunities available to students who have learned essential skills from computer science that will prepare them for college, careers, and community engagement. But there is a mismatch between what parents want for their kids and how school leaders perceive their support.  While the majority of parents express support for expanding computer science in their schools, only one-quarter of school principals are aware of parents’ interest in computer science (Google/Gallup poll 2015). Parents and community-based organizations can amplify their voices and communicate to school leaders the need to expand teaching and learning opportunities, especially in communities of color where these opportunities are lacking.