New York City has 1.1 million students across 1,800 schools, yet less than 5 percent were receiving computer science education before the 2015-16 school year. In an increasingly digital world, knowledge of computer science has become fundamental to being an informed user, consumer and creator of technology. By 2020, there will be 290,000 tech jobs to fill.
In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña made a commitment as part of the Mayor's Equity and Excellence agenda that every student would receive computer science education by 2025 with the launch of Computer Science for All (CS4All), an ambitious $81 million dollar initiative administered by the Fund for Public Schools. Encouraged by a pilot funded by venture capitalist Fred Wilson and his organization CSNYC, the parties collaborated on a model that would train existing teachers in computer science education, work with school leadership and teachers on how best to incorporate computer science into their schools and fund a rigorous evaluation.
The initiative emphasizes early exposure for all students, with a particular focus on populations of children who are typically underserved by technology and computer science education, including females, underrepresented minorities, English language learners, and students with disabilities. The initiative aims to expose and create pathways for all students in New York City public schools to not just be consumers of technology, but rather to use technology as a tool to create new ideas and to solve current and future problems.
The centerpiece of CS4All is the training of nearly 5,000 teachers who will bring computer science education into their classrooms. Since launching in the 2015-16 school year, CS4All has trained 1,000 teachers in more than 500 schools. During the 2016-17 school year, approximately 93,000 students across New York City schools were learning computer science. The number of students taking an Advanced Placement CS exam rose more than threefold, from 1,137 students to 3,966 in 2017. During the 2017-18 school year, over 1,400 students from more than 60 middle and high schools participated in the first ever Citywide CS4All Hack League, a year-long, bracket-style coding competition in which students from across the five boroughs create and design games for the chance to win special recognition and prizes for their projects. The Pathfinders internship program, launched in 2015, has placed over 200 students in corporate locations in order to help them learn about workplace fundamentals and have opportunities to explore technology careers.
To complement the CS-focused curriculum, CS4All offers students out-of-school enrichment opportunities that enhance their academic exposure to CS in the classroom. The goal of student enrichment opportunities is to tie classroom-based instruction to real-world context through hackathons, maker days, internships, and showcases. Together with veteran New York CS teachers and other stakeholders including industry professionals, the higher education community and CS education providers, the DOE has developed a Blueprint that answers key questions raised by schools and teachers about how to teach computer science.
CS4All is a compelling example of partners coming together with government to tackle a challenge and achieve City-wide scale that not only supports educational outcomes but leads to a continued pipeline for success for students to gain the skills to enter the 21st century workplace.