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A Decade of ACM Efforts Contribute to Computer Science For All

By Lawrence M. Fisher

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 59 No. 4, Pages 25-27

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In late January, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve $4.1 billion in spending in the coming fiscal year to support the Computer Science for All initiative, aimed at providing computer science education in U.S. public schools. Obama pointed out computer science is no longer "an optional skill" in the modern economy," yet "only about a quarter of our K–12 (kindergarten through 12th grade) schools offer computer science. Twenty-two states don't even allow it to count toward a diploma."

While many organizations have contributed to the national effort to see real computer science exist and count toward graduation requirements in U.S. public schools, former ACM CEO John R. White said, "ACM has been there from the beginning." Indeed, White contends Obama's Computer Science for All initiative "in a way represents the culmination of more than a decade of effort initiated by the ACM."

Computer science education in public schools has been a main focus for ACM since the 1990s. "This concern for, and commitment to, K–12 computer science resulted in the formation of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA, http://www.csta.acm.org/) in the 2004 timeframe," noted White. "Supporting the launch of CSTA moved ACM's efforts from a series of task forces concerned with K–12 computer science education to a national effort focused on supporting and growing the community of computer science teachers."


Ming-Yee Iu

Although I appreciate that code.org has been very effective and has a lot more resources than the ACM ever had, I can't help but feel that something important is lost when the ACM gives up its voice to code.org. The ACM has always been fair and neutral and non-partisan. We advocate for computer science out of a love for the topic. The motivations of code.org has always been a little mysterious. Since ACM initiatives are very much community-driven, I could always email my local university if I wanted to know more about what events were being planned. Code.org seems to be organized in more of a top-down fashion, so we have to wait to see what their engineers have cooked up each year. I think the ACM should endeavor to maintain its separate voice for CS education advocacy in the future because I think there is a lot of value in its independence, trustworthiness, and longer-term perspectives.

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