Kansas QA Letter

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September 24, 2009

Mr. Reginald Robinson
President and Chief Executive Officer
Kansas Board of Regents
1000 SW Jackson Street
Suite 520
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1368


Dear Mr. Robinson:

As leading organizations for computing professionals and educators, we are deeply
concerned with the Board of Regent's decision to eliminate the computer technology
requirement as proposed by the Qualified Admissions Temporary Regulations. Because
rigorous computer science content is currently being taught to meet the computer
technology requirement, this change would have the unintended consequence of
reducing student access to computer science knowledge. While we agree with the State
University Admissions Task Force's recommendation that basic computer literacy skills
can be taught within other courses, we believe that rigorous computer science should
be a vibrant part of Kansas' K-12 education landscape.

We respectfully suggest a different approach that we believe would meet the Board's
goals while at the same time prevent the unintended impact on rigorous computer
science courses. First, we suggested including "computer science" as one of the
approved units within the mathematics or natural science Qualified Admission
categories. Second, we recommend an update of the Board's Qualified Admissions
Regulations and state standards association with computer science to reflect the model
learning objectives for computer science created by the Association for Computing
Machinery (ACM) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA)1. With these
changes, Kansas can ensure students are gaining the critical knowledge and skills they
will need in the 21st Century.

Computing Technology Courses in Kansas

Across the country there is a movement to improve science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM) education by allowing students to count rigorous computer
science courses as math or science credits for graduation purposes. (This change has
already been made in 10 states.) In Kansas, the computing technology requirement has
allowed schools to develop computer science courses. For example, at Winfield High
School and Hays High School students enrolled in Computer Technology II as part of
the Qualified Admissions requirement are taught computer science concepts such
as webpage design and development, integrating software productively, and program
design. The Computer Technology II course is instrumental in feeding other STEM
courses such as Programming I and aligns with several of the Level II recommended
standards in ACM/CSTA model curriculum.

If the Board was to eliminate the computing technology requirement without allowing for
computer science courses to count toward core graduation requirements, students will
focus only on the core requirements and computer science courses in Kansas will
suffer.

Why Teach Computer Science?

The Task Force's recommended changes to the Qualified Admissions clearly are
intended to ensure the curriculum is preparing students with the knowledge and skills
they will need to succeed in the workforce or college. We realize that as education
policymakers make tough decisions about which subjects will meet the needs of
citizens, workers and industry in the 21st Century, they want to know how a subject
makes students successful. Teaching computer science in K-12 meets students' needs
in three ways:

     • Students gain a deeper knowledge of the fundamentals of computing, which-as
       computing becomes ubiquitous-is a critical foundational knowledge that will
       serve them well throughout their lives

     • Students are exposed to a field that drives innovation and in which job prospects
        remain strong despite the current extraordinary economic challenges
     
     • Students gain critical knowledge and skills proven to bolster their success in
       higher education academic pursuits
     
Computer science education is strongly based upon the higher tiers of Bloom's cognitive taxonomy, as it involves design, creativity, problem solving, analyzing a variety of possible solutions to a problem, collaboration, and presentation skills. Through studying computer science, students develop and extend logical thinking and problem solving skills. These skills can then be applied to
real world problems-mathematical and otherwise. Further, students who take on high school computing classes and have previous experience with technology demonstrate improved readiness for postsecondary studies.


Computer science underpins the technology sector, which has made tremendous
contributions to the domestic economy, as well as numerous other economic sectors
that depend on innovative, highly skilled computer science graduates. Computing
touches everyone's daily lives. Securing our cyber-infrastructure, protecting national
security, and making our energy infrastructure more efficient are among numerous
issues dependent on computing, computing literacy and a strong computing workforce.
We consider it critical that students be able to read and write, and understand the
fundamentals of mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics. To be a well-educated
citizen in today's computing-intensive world, students must have a deeper
understanding of the fundamentals of computing as well. It is crucial that public
education take on this charge.

Our Recommendations

We share the Task Force's conclusion that the Qualified Admissions standards should
enhance prospects for student success, but we believe that this can be achieved
without diminishing the opportunity for students to take the rigorous courses they need
to thrive in this new economy. The existing computing technology standards embedded
in the Qualified Admissions Regulations do fall short of what we would recommend
students learn in computer science courses. To ensure that Kansas' students are being
exposed to rigorous computer science courses and not basic computing literacy, we
recommend that:

   • add "computer science" as one of the approved units in either the mathematics or
     natural sciences Qualified Admissions requirements, and

   • the Board update the Qualified Admissions Regulations to reflect core computer
     science concepts. Further, that the state establish a task force to review Kansas'
     current science standards (some of which can be found in "standard 5" of the
     Kansas Curricular Standards for Science for 8th to 12th grade) and how they
     could be updated to mirror changes to the Qualified Admissions standards.

We are willing to provide whatever consultative support we can to assist the state in
ensuring that computer science is part of the curriculum in Kansas.
Thank you for considering our position on this important matter. We hope that you will
work with our organizations to improve and strengthen computer science education in

the Kansas K-12 system.

Sincerely,

Robert B. Schnabel                                  Chris Stephenson
Chair, ACM Education Policy Committee               Executive Director, CSTA
Dean, School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

With over 90,000 members worldwide, the Association for Computing Machinery is the
world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing
educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and
address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession's collective
voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of
technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing
opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA)

The Computer Science Teachers Association is a professional membership organization
committed to supporting the teaching and learning of computer science in K-12. Formed
in 2005, it now encompasses more than 7,300 members, primarily practitioners
teaching in K-12. CSTA is a national leader in the conduct of academic research and the
provision of professional development for teachers and the distribution of teaching,
learning, and informational resources focused on computer science.
________________________

1 To view the complete model curriculum and grade-appropriate learning standards see:
http://www.csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/ACMK12CSModel.html

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