Woodland awarded NSF grant for computer science models for schools

Woodland and UMass researchers awarded NSF grant to create computer science models usable in high-needs schools

Rebecca Woodland, educational policy, research and administration, and W.R. (Rick) Adrion, computer science, received a one year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to begin a planning process for creating effective and transferable “Computer Science for All” (CSforAll) models in two school districts in western Massachusetts. Both districts serve significantly diverse student populations, large numbers of economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English-Language learners.

The UMass Amherst researchers will conduct focus groups with teachers by level (elementary, middle, and high) to identify obstacles to computer science education from their perspectives. The UMass team, which also includes Enobong Hannah Branh, sociology; Nilanjana Dasgupta, psychological and brain sciences, and graduate research assistants, hopes to draw on teachers’ extensive local knowledge to develop effective strategies for implementation of an age-appropriate computer science education curriculum that accounts for local but also widespread structural challenges, such as high teacher turnover, state funding and takeover, and infrastructure.
The models created for Springfield and Holyoke public schools should be able to be adapted for large and medium urban school districts and can be transferable to other cities and regions nationally, Woodland said.

CSforAll is a national effort announced by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in partnership with other federal agencies and private partners, to ensure that computer science (CS) education is available to all students across the U.S.

The initiative is designed “to empower all American students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science and be equipped with the computational thinking skills they need to be creators in the digital economy, not just consumers, and to be active citizens in our technology-driven world.”  The CSforAll program expects states to develop comprehensive five-year plans to make computing curricula available across all public high schools, get students involved in computer science learning opportunities in elementary and middle schools, and ensure access for all students, including girls and underrepresented minorities.  


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