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Mississippi graduated only 155 computer science majors in 2015, but the number who wanted to go into teaching was even lower. In 2016, not even one graduate was qualified to teach computer science, according to a new report on the state of computer science education in America.
The report, released last month by Code.Org, also found that the state lacks a pipeline of students who are prepared to pursue computer science in college. Only 13 schools in the state offered a college-level Advanced Placement course in computer science during the 2016-17 school year, and female students and minority students were underrepresented in those courses. That underrepresentation continues in college. In 2015, for example, only 12 percent of the state’s 155 computer science graduates were female.
Nationwide, only 35 percent of high schools across 24 states teach computer science. Rural students, black and Hispanic students, and low-income students are less likely to have access to these courses. Only six states have an in-depth plan for increasing access to computer science classes, and only 22 states, including Mississippi, have standards for K-12 computer science. The scarcity of computer science teachers nationwide is not surprising: Just 19 states provide state funding for K-12 computer science teacher professional learning opportunities, and only 13 states have an approved teacher preparation program in computer science at an institution of higher education.
Mississippi has made an effort to improve its numbers. In April, the state adopted K-12 computer science standards. Beginning this year, incoming freshmen must earn one credit in technology or computer science. College students who want to enter a higher education program in fall of 2022 will be required to have at least one credit in technology or computer science under their belt in order to gain admission.
The need for a qualified workforce in computer science is high in Mississippi, which has more than 1,300 open computing jobs, paying an average salary of $70, 798. That’s far higher than the state’s average salary of $38, 910.
To increase the number of students who have access to computer science and ultimately graduate with a computer science degree, Code.Org recommends the state offer computer science courses to aspiring teachers, require all secondary schools to offer computer science classes, and create a state plan to make computer science a “fundamental part of [Mississippi’s] education system.”
This story about computer science education was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.