Guest editorial: S.C. out front in computer science education | Editorials and Opinions

No one can dispute the important nature of computers and technology in today’s world. It is debated often just what balance of teachings are needed in schools, from mathematics to history, from personal finance to physical education. There can be no debate on the importance of today’s students learning computer science. And South Carolina is doing a good job on that front.

Code.org and its partners released the 2021 “State of Computer Science Education: Accelerating Action Through Advocacy.” Published annually, the report provides the most comprehensive analysis of national progress in computer science education. It includes descriptions of policy trends, an in-depth view of each state’s policy and implementation, and data on disparities in access to and participation in computer science.

“Careers that require computer science knowledge and skills continue to grow in South Carolina and across our nation,” S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said. “I am proud of the foundation we have laid that has made us a national leader and is helping to prepare our graduates for future success in this field.”

The 2021 report reflects South Carolina’s emergence as a national leader in computer science education with the highest rate (21%) of students enrolled in foundational computer science courses and 92% of high school’s offering computer science coursework, tied with Arkansas for the highest percentage in the nation.

Additional highlights from the report include:

• A 12% growth in the percentage of high schools in South Carolina offering computer science courses from 2020 (80%) to 2021 (92%). Since 2017, the percentage of high schools offering computer science has increased 49%.

• Students of all racial and ethnic groups have equal access to attend a school that offers computer science, and no participation disparities exist for students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

• Computer science student enrollment by gender is close to parity, with 46% female students.

• South Carolina is one of just three states with a full year, one credit graduation requirement in computer science.

• In 2017, South Carolina became one of just six states to adopt computer science standards with the passage of the South Carolina Computer Science and Digital Literacy Standards for grades K-8. In 2018, South Carolina adopted high school computer science standards making the standards span the full K-12 spectrum.

South Carolina has adopted seven of the nine policies recommended by the Code.org Advocacy Coalition and is in the process of creating a state plan to satisfy the eighth recommendation.

“To prepare our children for an ever-changing, 21st century economy, it is imperative we actively adapt our curriculum to changes in technology, and that is exactly what we have done with computer science education,” Gov. Henry McMaster said. “Our early action in recognizing this need will provide our students with the necessary groundwork to thrive at the highest levels both academically and professionally following graduation.”

The state’s climb to prominence in computer science education is testament to the focus that has been put on the career field in recent years by state and local leaders including McMaster, who serves as a member of the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science.

In each of the last three executive budgets, McMaster has recommended an increase in computer science education funding and the General Assembly has adopted the majority of those recommendations.

The money spent on fostering computer science education is a wise investment for South Carolina.

— Times and Democrat, Orangeburg