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In 25 states, computer science doesn't count as a math or science credit for high school graduation.
November 9, 2015 – 09:43 am
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Amanda Chen, left, and Sheree Lewis participate in the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Goldman Sachs in New York.The number of states that allow computer science to count as a graduation requirement has doubled in the last year.

As schools are placing an increasing emphasis on preparing students for work in the 21st century, it seems like a given that students would get credit for STEM courses. But in half of states across the country, computer science courses don't count toward a math or science graduation requirement.

Organizations such as, the Computer Science Teachers Association and Microsoft have been advocating for more states to pass policies allowing computer science courses to count toward high school math and science graduation requirements. And in just one year, the number of states doing so has roughly doubled – 25 states and the District of Columbia make it count. But there’s still a long way to go, as most schools nationwide don’t offer computer science classes, whether due to financial or logistical struggles, or a lack of resources for teachers.

[READ: Tech Companies Work to Combat Computer Science Education Gap]

“One thing all the companies agree on in the [information technology] space is the need for more computer science degrees, ” said Fred Humphries, Microsoft vice president of government affairs, during a recent panel discussion in Washington. “The fact of the matter is if you’re going to have the job of the future, you better have some type of background in computer science.”

Data compiled by show that at current rates, the country will have 1 million more computer science jobs than students with computer science degrees by 2020. Jobs in computer science on average are growing at two times the national average. In some states – such as California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and New York – computing jobs are growing at more than four times the state average. Still, 90 percent of schools nationwide don't offer computer science courses.

Typically, students can take computer science courses as electives, but they don't count as a core course requirement for graduation, said Cameron Wilson, chief operating officer and vice president of governmental affairs for In June 2013, the organization partnered initially with Microsoft to advocate for state-level policy changes to make sure computer science can satisfy a graduation requirement.

"That doesn't mean schools would have to teach it. It doesn't mean students would have to take it, " Wilson said during the panel discussion. "What it means is students would have some motivation to take it as a core course instead of an elective."

Early in 2013, just nine states had such a policy on the books, Wilson said. Since the beginning of 2014, at least eight states – Idaho, Kentucky, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, California and New York – have implemented new policies, according to information compiled by

"There’s still a lot of work to be done, particularly in local control states where this needs to filter down to the local level, " Wilson said of states where such decisions are made by local school boards. "B ut I’m not aware of any other policy ever that’s spread this fast, and I’m certainly not aware of any education policy that’s spread this fast."

[MORE: Obama Helps Kick Off Computer Science Education Week]

Some universities and individual school districts have also taken it upon themselves to make computer science courses available. Purdue University in Indiana – a state that makes computer science count for graduation – announced in November it would offer an introductory computer science and programming course for free to Indiana high school students. Although the course would be ungraded and would not count for credit, it could prepare a student to test out of freshman programming classes at Purdue and other universities.

Chicago Public Schools are also in the process of rolling out a K-12 computer science program. In the next three years, every high school will offer a foundational computer science course, and in the next five years, at least half will also offer an Advanced Placement computer science course, the plan says.

And student interest in computer science-related fields is high. A recent report from Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance found about a quarter of young adults between 18 and 26 said they were interested in a career in cybersecurity, but nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said their high school didn't offer enough exposure to cybersecurity or computer science courses.

But increasing access to computer science courses in high school is difficult, because teachers often feel they don't have the resources or training to teach the courses, says Deborah Seehorn, chair of the Computer Science Teachers Association board.

"There are very few places where teachers can get pedagogy classes to teach them how to teach computer science, " Seehorn says. "It's not like teaching English or math."

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