Supporting our Black Employees, Students, and Teachers: January 2022 Update

In June of 2020, when police brutality in the U.S. sparked global protests against racism, Code.org published a post outlining our commitment to support our Black employees, partners, teachers, and students.

We hosted a brainstorm for our entire staff, made a multi-year plan of action, and committed to public updates twice a year. (See our prior updates from January 2021 and June 2021)

Today, as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we are pleased to report actions we’ve taken at Code.org in the last six months to better support our Black Employees, Students, and Teachers (BEST) plan. In doing this work, we have taken steps that support many more underrepresented groups as well, showing that a focus on Black populations can also improve our broader diversity, equity, and inclusion impact.

1) Launched a #RoleModelsInCS series to highlight diverse role models in computer science, with a focus on Black computer scientists

In the last six months, we have begun a series of posts, using the hashtag #RoleModelsInCS, in order to leverage Code.org’s social media reach to millions of followers to break stereotypes about computing and computer science. By highlighting the accomplishments of diverse role models, especially Black computer scientists, we aim to remind students, teachers, and all of society that success in computer science shouldn’t be about race, ethnicity, or gender.

You can see our full series of posts on Twitter here, and examples below.

2) Established analytics to measure gaps in CS enrollment, achievement, and belonging by race and gender, to help track the results of our efforts to support Black students

With tens of millions of students on Code.org, we collect data when students are active in a computer science class, or when they answer questions on skills assessments or attitudinal surveys. Because many of our students self-report race, ethnicity, and gender data, we can look for intra-classroom gaps in student experience linked to race or ethnicity. For example, do Black students feel less included in CS, or perform differently than white students, within the same classroom?

Intra-classroom gaps are more directly impacted by Code.org’s curriculum or the Code.org-prepared CS teacher, which are designed to help create equitable classroom experiences for students. We deliberately wanted to measure the equity of students’ classroom experience, as opposed to inter-school differences that are often impacted by local funding policies or other school-level inequities that, although important, are unlikely to be as directly affected by our curriculum and professional development programs.

Below is an example of the data — showing gaps in Enrollment, Course Progress, In-class Assessments, and Inclusivity Surveys, in each case measuring the average gap between groups of students within the same classroom in our CS Discoveries course. Historically marginalized and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are compared to white students, and female students compared to male students.

While gaps between each measure aren’t necessarily comparable because the underlying data is so different, considering these findings, even with a “soft gaze,” suggests that Black students in Code.org classrooms enroll at roughly the same rate as their white peers, feel roughly the same level of belonging and inclusion, yet are not progressing through the course at the same rate as their white counterparts, and perform slightly worse on computer science assessments. The results in our CS Principles classrooms are roughly the same.

We plan to share this gap analysis with our teachers as well as to look for opportunities to close these gaps via changes to our curriculum and teacher professional learning programs. (See next item.)

3) Hired a firm to help Code.org make culturally-responsive improvements to our curriculum

We hired an independent firm, the Equity Collaborative, to review lessons from our courses and provide professional development to the Code.org Teaching & Learning team on culturally responsive lesson design. The Equity Collaborative led a workshop with our team, reviewed lessons from our CS Fundamentals, CS Discoveries, CS Principles, and CSA courses to make specific recommendations, and worked with our team to draft a framework for culturally responsive lesson design that will be used as part of our curriculum development process going forward.

4) Increased representation of Black students, teachers, and role models in our materials

Aside from our #RoleModelsInCS mentioned above, we’ve taken additional steps to increase diverse representation of students, teachers, and role models on our website, in our social media posts, and blogs. Here’s just one example of a blog post and student video, which we also highlighted via email to our entire mailing list of parents, teachers, and supporters:

In addition, our newly launched CS Journeys program which uses classroom chats and virtual field trips to help students see themselves as future computer scientists, includes deliberate representation by Black role models.

5) Launched a mentorship program for all Code.org employees, with a particular focus on supporting our Black employees

We have announced a program for any Code.org employees to be matched up with a mentor to help support their career growth. Our CEO and entire leadership team came together to brainstorm ideas for mentors for every employee at Code.org, and we leveraged our collective network to leaders in tech, education, and nonprofit to ensure every employee who signed up could be paired up with somebody who matched the characteristics they sought in a mentor.

So far, 33 out of 112 employees at Code.org have been paired up with mentors via this program, including 14 out of 38 employees of color. We are so thankful to all the leaders who have helped participate as mentors — from founders or executives at prominent nonprofits and tech companies, all the way to individual engineers and program managers.

6) Developed an organizational playbook of best practices for hiring diverse teams

We have revamped our recruiting process with best practices for hiring diverse teams and ensuring a pipeline of diverse candidates at Code.org.

This work includes updating our careers page, a new process for how we post job openings, an intentional recruiting budget focused on this issue, hiring a recruiter to increase our capacity to source diverse candidates, updating our overall recruiting process, and lastly tracking gender and race analytics on candidates in our pipeline.

In 2021, 54% of candidates who applied to jobs at Code.org self-identified as people of color, and 8% identified as Black. Of the employees we hired, 14% identify as Black, which is representative of the U.S. adult population.

7) Internally published transparent job levels and compensation bands to ensure equitable pay

Earlier this year we performed a study in partnership with Syndio, which found that women at Code.org are paid equally compared to men in similar positions, and that people of color at Code.org are paid equally to white employees in similar positions.

To ensure continued pay-equity by race and gender, we have increased transparency around our job levels and internally published our compensation ranges, so that employees at Code.org have clarity about their own compensation and how it falls within the pay range for their role.

8) Continued our internal leadership development DEI work

We also continued work with Nebo (an innovative coaching and leadership development firm) to support our leadership and managing team in organizational strategy to address diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of our culture and our approach to our work.

We are not done

As we wrote in June 2020 when we kicked off this project, this work won’t be limited to one day, one week, or even one year. Over the next six to 12 months, our future roadmap includes other new efforts, such as:

  • Implementing culturally responsive curriculum recommendations mentioned above, and providing ongoing training to our curriculum team to support doing this work internally.
  • Efforts to ensure that computer science classrooms with a high population of Black students have equal access to participate in the AP exam in computer science.
  • Expand our new internal mentorship program for our employees, with intentional support for our Black employees.

Code.org was founded on the vision that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science, and our work is not done until we reach balanced representation in K-12 computer science.

We look forward to reporting again on our progress in June 2022.

— The Code.org Team

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Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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