When teachers succeed, students succeed: How Code.org PD aligns with ESSA

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Teachers attend a Code.org Professional Development workshop for CS Discoveries.

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced the No Child Left Behind Act in 2015 as the primary federal law governing K-12 education, it elevated the importance of computer science. ESSA included the subject in the definition of a “well-rounded education,” a key objective of the law.

While it’s up to the discretion of the school, some may decide computer science is integral to the student’s educational experience just like traditional core subjects such as writing, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

ESSA, as well as state and local policy changes, reflect the growing realization that a foundational education in the 21st century includes computer science, but for many teachers and school administrators, this is uncharted territory. With this understanding, Code.org designed a curriculum and professional learning program that empowers schools, teachers, and students new to computer science to succeed.

“[Code.org is] concerned with taking care of every student, and how to improve and increase computer science in my community,” said Mitch Channell, a West Virginia high school teacher who participated in the CS Principles professional development program. “[The] program is put together very well, and I think can improve me as a teacher, and more importantly, improve my students as computer scientists.”

When every teacher succeeds

Students can only succeed when their teachers do. So ESSA also sets guidelines for high-quality teacher training and professional development to ensure teachers are equipped to teach new and emerging subjects like computer science. ESSA defines professional development as programming that is “sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short-term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven and classroom focused.”

So how does Code.org Professional Learning Program align to those six key criteria and fit into your ESSA plan? Read on!

Sustained

Code.org’s program begins with an intensive five-day workshop followed by a set of regularly scheduled follow-up sessions throughout the academic year.

“I am glad to have the chance of ongoing training as the year progresses, too,” said Donna Richardson, a CS Principles teacher in Indiana. “I know I am at the end of what I can absorb right now, but the ongoing training times will be helpful because by the time they come around I will know what holes I need to have filled in!”

The initial workshop engages teacher cohorts in roughly 40 hours of structured, focused learning. The curriculum and learning tools are then reinforced through 24 hours of in-person academic year workshops (usually four, one-day workshops).

“I appreciate the ongoing four Saturdays for follow-up, I feel this will be vital to successful implementation and something that is not offered often,” said Tina Terwiske, a CS Discoveries teacher in Indiana. “I loved the opportunity and experience as a whole.”

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Intensive

The five-day, in-person summer workshops are designed to give a comprehensive overview of the curriculum and allow teachers to ask questions, explore the lessons and practice how to implement them in their own classrooms.

“Our facilitators were relentless taskmasters forcing us to discuss, collaborate, role-play and move around the room at regular intervals to experience this class the way our students should,” said Brian Van Hise, a New Jersey teacher who went through the initial five-day workshop in August 2018. “It was an amazing experience and I leave here more excited than ever to teach this class!”

A typical workshop day might include lesson exploration sessions, which allows participants to experience the curriculum as both the teacher and the learner; lesson planning sessions, where teachers work together to plan a lesson that they will co-teach later in the week; and plenty of group discussion time, which allows teachers to learn from each other.

“As a person with zero experience in computer science, I feel confident with the tools and resources supplied this week that I’m ready to teach this,” said one CS Principles teacher. “I enjoyed the week and really learned a lot.”

Collaborative

The program’s team-based learning, peer-networks and online forums allow educators to collaborate and learn from each other. The workshops are intentionally designed to encourage cooperation and group learning from the very beginning, said Brook Osborne, a Code.org education program manager. “We know teachers gain a lot from each other, and we want to foster and encourage these connections.”

These relationships can be particularly important for teachers who are new to teaching CS altogether. These first-time teachers say they appreciate opportunities to build confidence in teaching CS by talking to other first-timers and establishing a support network.

“[The workshops] provided an opportunity for people to collaborate and build community in the short time allotted,” said Elva Lewis, a CS Principles teacher in Los Angeles. “I think this is important in contributing to the confidence that first time teachers develop for teaching the course.”

Many teachers say this extended workshop format keeps them engaged and feeling connected to a CS teaching community, which is vital for teacher success. In fact, our surveys show that almost 100 percent of teachers who go through our PD say they feel “more connected” to the broader CS community after completing the program.

Job-embedded

The learning program covers far more than pure theory, offering new skills to educators to transfer into practice in their jobs. Additionally, teachers receive tools and support through the academic year to help them navigate the curriculum in their day-to-day teaching. Teachers are also supported by others in their cohort, their Regional Partner and Code.org staff throughout the year.

“I feel like I am constantly attending PD provided by my district and other teacher organizers and this delivery method was far more effective for me,” said Robin Whitsel, who participated in the CS Discoveries professional development program in July 2018. “I have been teaching for 18 years and I think I have learned more about teaching this week than I have in the past 18 years! I will incorporate these methods into all my classes.”

Other teachers say they appreciate learning new teaching strategies they can apply to other subject areas.

“This was a fantastic week!” said Imani Butler, a San Jose, California teacher who took the CS Principles workshop. “I am inspired to leverage some of the pedagogy in other classes that I teach.”

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Data-driven

The structured curriculum and teaching practices are built on research-based foundational concepts and continually assessed. Then, facilitators and support staff use ongoing feedback to measure success and drive personalization and program evolution. The result is effective professional development that helps teachers recruit more students to study and succeed in computer science.

A study led by West Coast Analytics compared participation and scores in the AP Computer Science exam at schools with a teacher that had gone through the Code.org Professional Learning Program to a set of comparable schools provided by the College Board. Researchers found a school’s participation in the Code.org program causes an estimated five-fold increase in the number of students that take and earn qualifying scores on the AP Computer Science Principles exam!

Among young women and underrepresented minorities, the results are even more encouraging. A school’s participation in the Code.org program causes an estimated ten-fold increase in the number of Black students that took the AP exam, and a near 7-fold increase in the number of Black students who earned qualifying scores.

This research shows that not only do teachers enjoy the Code.org Professional Learning program, they achieve significant results when it comes to encouraging diverse groups of students to study computer science.

Classroom-focused

Modeling a student-centered, hands-on approach, the Code.org program equips educators with actionable and practical strategies that inform daily classroom instruction. For example, Code.org’s teaching pedagogy, which is reinforced in the workshops, is built around the “lead learner” philosophy, meaning teachers never have to position themselves as subject matter experts. Instead, they use curriculum materials to help solve problems with students.

Many teachers say this method helps them better teach other subjects, and encourages students to take ownership of their own learning. “Code.org does a great job of making you feel comfortable using that lead learner positioning,” said Kyleigh Lewis, a teacher at a rural school in Nebraska. “A lot of times, as teachers, we’re afraid to try something new or afraid of pushback or doubt from students. But with the lead learner process, I know I might not have the answer right away, but all the answers can be found by working together.”

Applications are still open for Code.org’s Professional Development, but priority deadlines are fast approaching. Apply now to open doors for your students through computer science!

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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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