District Leader Pathways
Finding Partners and Building Partnerships
Senior Manager, Computer Science & Information Technology Education, Chicago Public Schools
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The Chicago Public Schools computer science education effort began when a group of committed teachers and university stakeholders connected with Brenda in the Chicago Public Schools. Together, they received a grant from the National Science Foundation to implement a modified version of the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum. Here are four key steps that they took along the way:
- Ensure stakeholder representation: It is essential to address everyone’s needs. Brenda, a district leader and advocate for computer science education, was approached to collaborate with university professors and teachers to grow computer science education in Chicago schools. Her connection with the group helped diversify the expertise of those involved and ensured that they were leveraging one another’s assets in support of computer science. To identify potential assets in your community, look at the Mapping Community Assets tool.
- Facilitate and nurture a shared commitment: Even before receiving funding from the National Science Foundation to implement computer science education, the teachers and university professors in Chicago made a pact to “make it happen” there. This drive, further enhanced with Brenda’s partnership, fueled the initiative. To learn more about important elements of a strong partnership, see the Recommendations for Building Strong Partnerships tool.
- Capitalize on university support: Brenda was fortunate that faculty from several universities were at the ready to support the district’s computer science education effort. They not only provided content expertise, but they also supported logistics and provided space for professional development. Learn more from the Recommendations for Building Strong Partnerships tool.
- Select appropriate instructional materials: Working in the district system necessitated having quality foundational instructional materials. For Brenda and the group in Chicago, Exploring Computer Science (ECS) served that purpose. For more information on K-12 computer science instructional materials, see the Computer Science Instructional Resources tool.
Read a more detailed account of the Chicago story here.
Building a District-Wide PK-12 Computer Science Instructional Program
Computer Science Coordinator, San Francisco Unified School District
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San Francisco Unified School District, like many public school districts, was looking to expand its computer science course offerings and move toward student enrollment more representative of the schools’ populations as a whole. Bryan Twarek, leading this initiative, sought to expand student opportunities and access to computer science instruction by integrating CS into the core curriculum. This involved crafting a scope and sequence for computer science knowledge and skills to be taught from grades PK-12 and developing an implementation plan for CS instruction. Here are some of the steps his district took to expand their CS program:
- Use Clear, Concise Terminology to Communicate with Stakeholders: It is challenging to communicate about the importance of computer science education to stakeholders (teachers, administrators, students, and families) because there are many different definitions used to describe and define computer science. An important step for Bryan and his team was to develop a thorough, concise definition of computer science, using the Computer Science Teacher’s Association K-12 Standards to help describe aspects of CS. See the Addressing Computer Science Misconceptions: A Principal's Guide tool and the Computer Science Terminology tool for information about frequently used terms in the field.
- Locate and Select Age-Appropriate Instructional Resources: Bryan and his colleagues learned that identifying instructional resources for teaching computer science, particularly for the elementary and middle school grades, was a challenge because there is little academic research to help guide adoption decisions. See the Computer Science Instructional Resources tool for an overview of the most visible instructional resources that currently exist for teaching CS.
- Develop CS Teachers From Within: Few K-12 teachers have experience with computer science. Faced with a lack of trained CS teachers, Bryan’s team realized moving forward, they would need to develop dedicated computer science teachers from within the district. To support these teachers, they planned to provide them with opportunities to learn CS content before determining how to teach it to students.
- Partner with CS Industry Professionals: Given the lack of teachers with prior experience with computer science, Bryan and his colleagues considered ways to tap in to industry professionals to serve as volunteers to help develop SFUSD teachers computer science content and teaching. One opportunity they tapped in to is the TEALS program (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), which provides teams of trained, experienced CS professionals as volunteers to partner with classroom teachers to support CS instruction. See the Steps for Starting Partnerships tool for more resources on how to leverage the expertise of industry professionals to enhance your district CS program.
- Engage Students in CS Inside and Outside of School: Bryan and his team decided it was important to start engaging students in computer science as soon as possible, even before an official district instructional plan was fully implemented. To make this happen, his district began to share information about out-of-class opportunities for computer science learning (for example, after school activities and other informal opportunities) with students and their families. See the Including Girls in Computer Science and Including Students Traditionally Underrepresented in Comptuer Science and Including Students with Disabilities in Computer Science tools.
For more lessons learned, see Bryan’s original CSTA blog post about his experience developing a CS program in SFUSD and details about CS in the district here.