States Expand Access to Computer Science Classes at K-12 Schools

States Expand Access to Computer Science Classes at K-12 Schools

Over the course of the last six years, the number of states with policies designed to promote computer science education in grades K-12 has more than tripled, according to a new report. Compiled by the Advocacy Coalition, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance, the report states that several states stand out due to their policies on computer science education.

The report specifies nine recommended policies that states might consider, including areas such as equity, diversity, clarity, capacity, leadership, and sustainability.

The report indicates that in many states, computer science education policies focus on high schools. However, the report singles out four states that require computer science education at every K-12 public school, as of September 2019: Connecticut, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Wyoming.


In 2018, the Connecticut State Board of Education (CSBE) adopted the Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) K-12 Standards and the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) Standards for Students. The CSTA standards focus on the process of learning to create technology, while the ISTE standards concentrate on learning to use technology. Together, they form a foundation for computer science education.

The CSBE standards signal the belief that computer science can advance communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, creativity, and persistence. Furthermore, the standards specify that all students at all grade levels must learn computer science. The CSBE also established computational thinking as a continuous theme throughout grades K-12.

Computational thinking, as promoted by the CSBE, involves problem-solving skills such as abstraction, recursion, and iteration, among others. Mastering these skills requires proficiency in several concepts, such as algorithms and programming, computing systems, data and analysis, impacts of computing, and networking and the Internet. The CSBE suggests that in order to achieve these goals, the computer science curriculum be flexible, especially in elementary and middle schools, so that each school can decide whether to integrate the standards into existing courses or to establish new ones.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, a law was passed in June 2018 requiring computer science in public education. In August 2018, the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) adopted computer science standards. Along with the standards, the NHDOE outlined the context and guidance.

The NHDOE computer science education standards are based on the CSTA standards with a focus on both computer science and computational thinking. The computer science concepts include computing systems, networks and the Internet, data and analysis, algorithms and programming, and impacts of computing, while the computational thinking concepts include problem recognition and definition, abstractions, creating computational artifacts, and testing and refining these artifacts.

The NHDOE CS standards are based on the following principles: rigor, focus/manageability, specificity/clarity, equity/diversity/accessibility, coherence/progression, measurability, integration of practices and concepts, and connections to other disciplines. In addition, the standards suggest using inquiry, problem-based learning, and project-based learning. Furthermore, communication and collaboration are emphasized as essential skills that students can learn through computer science education.


In 2016, Virginia passed a law requiring that computer science education be added to the state’s Standard of Learning, and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) adopted computer science education standards in 2017. These standards were implemented in 2019. The VDOE computer science education standards are based on those of the CSTA, the K-12 Computer Science Framework, College Board Advanced Placement Computer Science courses, and Exploring Computer Science, a computer science curriculum and professional development program for high school computer science teachers.

The VDOE has standards for students at each grade level. For example, at the kindergarten level, students should have the ability to gather and organize data, as well as to sort and develop step-by-step processes. By the sixth grade, students should be able to construct programs and use algorithms. In high school, students can take year-long courses focused on language-based programming.

Rather than statewide standardized assessments for computer science education, the Virginia Department of Education specifies that teachers use problem-based learning assessments. Furthermore, the VDOE emphasizes cybersecurity as a target area. At many grade levels, the VDOE standards can be integrated into other subject areas rather than introduced in new courses.


The Boot Up Wyoming initiative, which passed in 2018, requires computer science education in all K-12 public schools. The initiative is expected to be implemented by 2022. Microsoft, which supports the initiative, has pledged more than $95,000 to provide staff training.

The Wyoming Department of Education (WDOE) is providing access to goIT, a computer science and computational thinking curriculum and professional development program provided by Tata Consultancy Services, for free. Additionally, the WDOE offers webinars aimed at developing computer science education throughout the state. The webinars feature outstanding computer science programs already established in school districts.

The WDOE computer science education standards are still under development. A draft has been completed, and public comments are being collected. According to the draft, the standards are based on the Computer Science Teachers Association standards and the K-12 computer science framework. The draft contains proposed benchmarks for each grade level. For example, second graders should be able to create task-based programs, fifth graders should be able to justify storage format and location, eighth graders should be able to model protocols for transmitting data across networks and the Internet, and 12th graders should be able to compare and contrast programming techniques.