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'How is this related to me?' Counselors, Administrators Discover Why Computer Science Matters

Most agree students should take math, science and English courses. With computer science, a subject many schools are offering for the first time, the benefits are often only understood by the one educator teaching the course. This makes receiving additional support and resources for the class a challenge.

NMSI’s K-12 Computer Science support model, which includes face-to-face trainings and online resources, provides support for teachers, students, administrators and counselors. This collaborative approach allows for better across-the-board CS support in schools, which ultimately contributes to student achievement.

Students pursuing every college major and career need to have some knowledge of computer science. And yet, a small minority of U.S. schools provide these courses. In those few schools with computer science courses, young women and students of color are significantly underrepresented.

Jennifer Rollins recently led a NMSI computer science training through its partner organization, Bootstrap. She also teaches at Greenville High School in East Texas, where the computer science program has limited funding and resources.

“I still haven’t gotten my own principal to get hooked on computer science,” Rollins says. “I’m just one person. He has so many different things going on. If he had come here and seen this in action, I think we’d have more computer science in our classrooms and at our district.”

The NMSI computer science training included sessions for administrators, teachers and counselors. Rollins observed at least 30 administrators interacting with teachers in the Bootstrap session and learning about their work.

Joe Politz, who co-led the Bootstrap training with Rollins, says there’s a large population of administrators who don’t know what it means for their teachers to do computer programming.

“For administrators to see teachers in action with a laptop open and producing animation makes a big difference,” says Politz, an assistant teaching professor of computer science at the University of California, San Diego. “And there’s time during this training where the (teachers, counselors and administrators) are sitting together and planning computer science curriculum as a team. I haven’t seen that elsewhere.”

Another NMSI partner, the National Center for Women & Information Technology, leads counselors through computer science professional development. During a group discussion, counselors shared their thoughts about the NMSI training. Many didn’t understand why they were participating in a computer science program and admitted to not wanting to attend. By the end of a five-day professional development, those feelings changed.  

“As a high school counselor, I thought, ‘How is this related to me?’” says one counselor during the open discussion. “But this truly was for counselors and explained computer science from beginning to end. I came in with no knowledge of computer science, and now, I have a good foundation to go back and talk to my students and team to promote it in our school.”

Counselors also say they appreciate that the NMSI program acknowledges why counselors are relevant and matter to student development. Rather than siloed, they are part of a schoolwide team that’s working toward a common goal. “Kids will read about computer science programs and know if they have any questions, they can come into the guidance office – the perfect place to reach everyone,” another counselor shares.

Along with Bootstrap and NCWIT, the NMSI-led partnership includes: Beauty and Joy of Computing, Cornell Tech, CS Awesome, Exploring Computer Science, MIT App Inventor, Mobile CSP, Project GUTS and UTeach CS.  The partners collaborate to help districts develop rigorous, inclusive and sustainable computer science courses.

Interested in learning more about how to participate in NMSI’s computer science programs? Contact us