UC urged to encourage computer science in high schools

University of California sign at west end of campus.The University of California is being pressed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and a long list of high-powered CEOs to count computer science as a math course in deciding whether applicants meet its minimum standards to be considered for admission.

This opens a new front in Silicon Valley’s push for a much bigger tech emphasis in California’s public schools. The Golden State is one of the 25 states that don’t require passing a computer science class to get a high school degree, resisting a national trend.

Sunday’s San Jose Mercury-News has details:

It’s the backbone of Silicon Valley’s world-changing tech industry, but — like journalism and geography — computer science is considered just another high school elective by the University of California.


Now, a powerful coalition of technology leaders, state politicians and high school teachers has taken aim at the university’s influential set of high school courses required for admission, pressuring UC to count computer science as advanced math, alongside calculus and statistics.


They say elevating computer science would encourage more California high schools to offer it — and more students to sign up … .


“My kids learn how the Internet works from the ground up; they learn how to program. It’s mathematical thinking,” said Karen Hardy, a computer science teacher at Wilcox High in Santa Clara.


Like many others, Hardy believes UC’s stance is holding back California schools. “I feel like we’re in the Dark Ages,” she said.

Gender, racial disparities cited in who takes classes

The Los Angeles Times’ coverage of Newsom’s letter emphasized …

… concern about the gender and racial gap of those taking courses and pursuing computer science as a profession.


According to data cited in the letter, fewer than 9,000 California high school students took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam in 2015. Of those students, only about 2,300 were girls, less than 1,000 were Latinos and about 150 were black.


According to state data, meanwhile, salaries for computing jobs are high — averaging an annual $105,622 — but the number of graduates in the field are not expected to meet workforce demands.

But it’s not just schools in poor communities or rural areas that aren’t providing access to computer science. According to Re/Code, fewer than 5 percent of high school students in San Francisco took computer science in the 2014-15 school year, with a lack of classes seen as why.

Here’s a partial list of the executives who co-signed the letter with Newsom: Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman, Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Moritz, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus and Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!.

Other signatories included California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, superintendent-president of Long Beach City College, and Republican Assembly Leader Kristin Olsen.

Newsom is a member of the UC Board of Regents as part of his duties as lieutenant governor.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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