Filling the Computer Science Gap

Kent State receives $1 million Teach CS grant to prepare K-12 educators to teach computer science

What do cybersecurity, data structures, and algorithms all have in common? They are all part of the computer science industry, an industry that Ohio wants to see grow. 

Alicia R. Crowe, Ph.D., associate dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Services and professor of Social Studies and Teacher Education in the College of Education, Health, and Human Services (EHHS).
Alicia Crowe, Ph.D., associate dean for the College of Education, Health and Human Services

The skills gap in Ohio between computer science occupations and the supply of computer science graduates increases by more than 11,000 openings in the field every year, according to JobsOhio data.  

The Ohio Department of Higher Education hopes to address this gap through a recently announced funding opportunity called TeachCS. Kent State University was one of the recent awardees, receiving a $1 million grant to develop KSU TeachCS. Through a collaborative effort of the College of Education, Health and Human Services, the College of Arts and Sciences, and other faculty across campus, KSU TeachCS will provide more than 50 educators with the training needed to become accredited to teach computer science in Ohio by the start of the 2025 school year. 

The need for computer science teachers in schools will not slow down. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 11% from 2019-2029.

“We want K-12 students to have a stronger computer science background. But we don't necessarily have all the teachers who are qualified to teach those CS standards,” said Alicia Crowe, Ph.D., associate dean for the College of Education, Health and Human Services. “It turns into a cart before the horse sometimes.”

When creating the program, Kent State’s team put a lot of thought into what would be most beneficial to educators taking the courses, with the hope to empower them to introduce students to the field. 

“It's a great opportunity for us. It allows us to prepare more than 50 educators who are not yet qualified to teach CS in Ohio. And then they get to reach out to hundreds of kids over the next five to 25 years,” Crowe said. 

Frank Carraher is currently in his second year as a math coach at the Education Service Center of the Western Reserve. Carraher has gone through a computer science course like the one being offered through KSU Teach CS. Currently, he is experiencing the change that having this education can make in the field. 

While he was enrolled in the Kent State program, Carraher, who had no prior experience in computer science, found that the program enhanced his learning experience.

“In this program, nothing felt like busy work. I felt like I was learning something new every day,” Carraher said. “Some of the things that really stand out to me are learning how to build a code and managing school technology centers and programs, that was really cool, like actually creating something that I could use in a school district.”

AT&T Classroom
Students in the Research Center for Educational Technology AT&T Classroom

Having educators learn this information leads to a snowball effect of being able to expose and educate students to the world of computer science. 

“I think early exposure is something that can help teach students interests. When you're speaking of equity and equality, getting all students involved, including students that are diverse or students with special needs or students from different races and cultures, teachers are role models in students' lives,” Carraher said. “So having teachers that have the ability to talk to you about computer science, you know, can be a key in helping you find what you enjoy and finding a great career.”

Kent State Works Stacked Graphic

As the KSU TeachCS team prepares to accept the K-12 educators into the program in Spring 2024, they hope the educators will feel excited to bring what they learn into their classrooms and to their students. 

“My hope is that they are truly excited, (and) energized that they're able to bring ideas right into their classroom, whether it's a full, separate classroom, or it's their day-to-day classroom that they've been in for the last five years,” Crowe said.

Learn more about TeachCS Kent State. 

POSTED: Monday, February 12, 2024 10:19 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2024 04:54 PM
Tanner Poe, Flash Communications