Scaling Access and Outcomes: Professional Learning in K12 California CS Education

Raspberry Pi and Python – explore, tinker, organize, and try. Offering hands-on learning and creating a colorful mess with easy-edit code creates a mental model of trying, testing, and problem solving. This photo is from introductory Internet of Things where we encourage progress through play rather than perfection.

As Computer Science education in California’s K12 schools scales up in line with 2018 standards, professional learning takes the spotlight to ensure educators are confident and comfortable preparing students with knowledge to compete in the evolving tech workforce. Livable Wage Jobs brings together an extensive network of school districts, nonprofits, institutions of higher education and tech industry leaders to explore best practices in developing pedagogical, content, and assessment knowledge for teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and counselors.          

photo of a breadboard with gears, resistors, LED - student experiment.

Studies show that teaching core CS concepts across disciplines and advancing core practices outlined in the standards requires sustained discussions and building communities of practice (CoPs), both virtual and in person. This system supports educators where they are with mentoring, peer to peer workshops, freely available open education resource lesson toolkits, and classroom practice. “CoPs can help CS teachers expand their professional networks, gain more professional development resources, and increase CS teaching self-efficacy by creating personalized experiences that consider teaching experience and grade levels taught when guiding teachers to relevant content.” (Schwarzhaupt et al.). The work of collaborative partners is informed by core CS concepts: Computing Systems, Networks and the Internet, Data and Analysis, Algorithms and Programming, and the Impacts of Computing. Core practices are guideposts for LWJ collaborators that spotlight inclusive education, capacity building, and design thinking. 

LWJ explores best practices and programmatic iterations to support educators as they guide students in designing algorithms and programs and tackling sub-problems of a larger system while mastering framework concepts. Among key lessons learned from a global review of scaling CS education, researchers note that interactive, hands-on lessons build skills for life, for example, through robotics or makerspaces. By extension, LWJ is working with California schools, county offices of education, and industry partners in a range of urban to rural environments on initiatives to scale up deeper project based learning where students link a CS area of interest to Advanced Placement courses.