On Friday the House passed HR 5, the Student Success Act, by a vote of 221-207.  The bill would rewrite many of the provisions of the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and include provisions helpful to computer science education and educators. These provisions were put in place because of an amendment filed by Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Representative Jared Polis (D-CO).

One new program under the bill would be called, “Teacher Preparation and Effectiveness” and would give grants to states, who could then make sub-grants to local education agencies (LEAs) to invest in teachers.

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Computer science education (and the computing community as a whole) achieved an important milestone yesterday with the introduction of the Computer Science Education Act (CSEA) in the House. CSEA would add computer science to the core academic subjects taught in K – 12 and specify that federal funding can be spent on computer science education. The Computing in the Core (CinC) coalition, of which CRA is a member, has been working on this legislation for several years.

The lead co-sponsors for CSEA are Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). Nine other members from both parties also sponsored the bill at the time of its introduction.

While the bipartisan introduction was in and of itself an important accomplishment, it is just the first step. The CinC coalition is requesting support for the legislation in the form of emails to personal offices. All the details are available here along with sample text for contacting your Representative.

(Editor’s note: We’re pleased to have Max Cho, CRA’s Tisdale Fellow, working at CRA World HQ this summer. Max is a student at Yale with a keen interest in the intersection of technology and policy and will be posting frequently on the blog!)

This morning I attended the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education.

One of the hearing’s themes was how to motivate students to study science. Motivation’s a tricky business, especially for young students: the payoffs are distant, and high-level thinking tasks have a negative correlation between payoff and effective learning. For whatever reason, engineering, while perceived as a worthwhile and high paying profession, isn’t motivating enough students to pursue it to meet industry demand.

At a subsequent briefing on university research and federal grants, one of the speakers mentioned that most scientists said the most important factor that inspired them to pursue research was excellent undergraduate research opportunities. Not the promise of fame or fortune, but of passion and opportunity. While this kind of anecdotal evidence is exactly that, it’s worth keeping in mind how federal grant monies can inspire young people: not by dangling a benjamin in front of their nose, but with the excitement of discovery.

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