New Supplementary Authorization will Prepare Computer Science Teachers

Prof. Debra RichardsonProf. Debra Richardson has long been an enthusiastic advocate for equitable access to computer science education for all K-12 students. She has served as the Chair of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS) since 2011, where she has achieved significant impact. Case in point: Prof. Richardson recently worked with California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) to propose changes to the requirements educators must meet to teach computer science in California’s K-12 classrooms. The proposed revisions reflect a change in focus from preparing educators to teach only basic computer use, keyboarding, and software applications to a much broader preparation to teach students the 21st century skills required to be the next creators of computing technology.
Currently, teachers holding a limited set of single-subject teaching credentials are authorized to teach computer science; those holding other credentials can be authorized by obtaining a Computer Concepts and Applications (CCA) Supplementary Authorization. The CCA authorization is outdated, however, requiring coursework that covers only the use of computers (software evaluation and selection, hardware operation and functions, and classroom uses of computers). And in fact, this content is now addressed within the preliminary preparation program standards for all teaching credentials and is thus redundant.
Prof. Richardson proposed replacing the CCA authorization with one explicitly focused on Computer Science, changing both the name as well as the content areas. The new Computer Science (CS) Supplementary Authorization strengthens the required content areas of study to prepare teachers to teach the full range of K-12 Computer Science courses being offered and expanded in California. Teachers holding the authorization will have the knowledge to introduce students to creation of computing technology (e.g., computational thinking, programming, digital devices, impacts of computing). The specified content areas are differentiated by an introductory CS authorization (which basically authorizes teaching curriculum level grade 9 and below) and a specific CS authorization (which authorizes teaching content in grades K-12).
The CS Supplementary Authorization will prepare teachers with the proper background in CS to enable them to teach computer science courses that are being adopted at schools throughout the state (for instance, Exploring Computer Science and AP CS Principles), traditional introductory programming courses (e.g., AP CS A) as well as introduce computing concepts and practices in elementary school.
The new authorization is important because most California schools require computer science courses to be taught by teachers with a math credential. Given the current shortage of math teachers, they are usually assigned to traditional math courses first, leaving few if any teachers available to teach computer science. The new authorization would allow fully credentialed teachers who do not have a math credential to fill this gap and do so with
the proper training.
Prof. Richardson first presented this proposed change at the February 2015 Commission meeting, where the concept was unanimously approved. Relevant amended regulations, presented at the June meeting, were also unanimously approved. The final public hearing and unanimous approval was held at the October meeting. The new Computer Science Authorization will take effect in April 2016. For full information, refer to agenda item 1I of CTC’s October meeting.
One important note: anyone currently authorized to teach computer science courses remains so authorized. The Computer Science SA would only be required by credentialed teachers not currently authorized to teach computer science but who would like to become authorized to do so.
For more information, contact Prof. Richardson or visit the ACCESS website.
Read more about Richardson’s involvement with ACCESS in the Fall/Winter 2014 ISR Connector.
This article appeared in ISR Connector issue: