Code.org recommends graduation requirements in computer science
Code.org has updated its policy recommendations to include a requirement for every student to take computer science to receive a high school diploma.
Artificial intelligence has increased the urgency to ensure our students are adequately prepared for a rapidly changing world. It is no longer sufficient for students to know how to use technology; they must be creators and thoughtful contributors. Several states have recognized this imperative and require students to take computer science to graduate high school. Without a graduation policy, we will not be able to ensure all students genuinely have the opportunity to learn computer science.
Code.org is excited to continue building on these early adopters' progress and officially launch our 10th policy recommendation for all states to require all students to take computer science to earn a high school diploma. (Learn more about all of our policies here.)
For a state to meet this policy recommendation, the state must have:
- A policy that requires all students to earn a credit named “computer science” or has a related name that includes “computer science” to receive a standard diploma for high school graduation,
- A list of courses or standards that satisfy the requirement, all of which must include computer science topics and standards; this list must be available before the graduation requirement goes into effect, and
- The policy is written down and publicly accessible.
To ensure the success of this policy, states should have multi-year runways, provide targeted support to schools facing challenges in offering computer science, and collect robust data.
Already, seven states have passed such a requirement: Arkansas, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Due to concerted state-wide initiatives, Arkansas has seen significant growth in high school computer science offerings and enrollment over the last eight years. Despite these efforts, the percentage of female students taking computer science in Arkansas remained below 30%, even with more than 90% of Arkansas high schools teaching computer science. This story is seen nationally; female participation in computer science has been stuck around 30%.
In 2021 Arkansas took a big step to change this persistent narrative by passing Act 414, which requires all students to take computer science to earn a high school diploma, starting with the 9th-grade class of 2022–2023. After just the first year of implementation, the results have been striking. 43% of the 9th graders taking computer science are female; there are more 9th-grade girls taking computer science than 10–12th grade girls combined.
South Carolina’s Story
South Carolina has required their students to take a technology course to earn a high school diploma since the 1980s; historically, this was often a typing or computer application class. Starting in 2016, the state began to rethink this requirement to ensure it met 21st-century needs. By 2018 the South Carolina Department of Education modified the existing technology requirement to be a robust computer science graduation requirement, and the results on student participation speak for themselves.
Rhode Island’s story
In 2020, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) began investigating the high school experience. They looked at transcripts and held open meetings to hear first-hand accounts from students. They drew clear conclusions: many students were not engaged in class and were unprepared for a 21st-century world. RIDE then looked to reform the secondary regulations (graduation requirements) to better meet students' needs.
In November 2022, after several months of public comment and multi-stakeholder collaboration, the Board of Education approved new secondary regulations. These regulations included real-world relevant proficiencies, one of which requires that students must demonstrate proficiency in computer science (starting with the class of 2028).
We are excited to continue spotlighting the progress in all states that have passed graduation requirements, and we look forward to partnering with advocates to increase the number of states with this requirement.
Stay tuned for our 2023 State of CS Report, launching on November 1, with much more data from all 50 states!
— The Code.org Advocacy Coalition