February 21, 2015
(Oakland, CA) – Over 100 people gathered at the East Bay Community Foundation to discuss the unique joint effort between the Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI) Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) TEALS to improve computer science education in Oakland schools.
“It is critical that partnerships are employed which will ensure successful implementation, something OUSD must be mindful of, and LPFI and TEALS are committed and proven partners for said endeavor,” remarked OUSD District 5 School Board member Roseann Torres.
The event provided a forum for community members to learn about the work that is being done to strengthen computer science education and how they can join the effort. The program featured remarks from Kapor Capital’s Mitch Kapor, computer science activist Eugene Lemon, school board member Torres, a leader from the TEALs program and members of the LPFI leadership team. Attendees included educators, students, parents, computer science majors and tech industry volunteers.
Despite statistics projecting an sharp increase in new computer-related jobs, recent data revealed that 65% of California’s public high schools offer no computer science courses and fewer than 13% of California’s public high schools offer AP Computer Science. This disparity is even greater for African-American and Latino students, who represent 59% of the California high school population, but just 11% of the 2014 AP CS test takers.
To address these gaps in opportunity and access, LPFI and OUSD formed a computer science working group. This group’s first major action was to help pilot the TEALs program in the 2014-2015 school year.
TEALs, which is a program under the Microsoft Youthspark initiative, pairs teams of industry volunteers with classroom teacher to teach computer science courses.
“TEALS is proud to be working in collaboration with Oakland Unified School District and Level Playing Field Institute to increase access to computer science courses, particularly for students who are traditionally underrepresented in the field,” stated Vichi Jagannathan, Director, TEALS California. “In addition to exposing more students to computer science, TEALS volunteers are working in partnership with OUSD teachers to support them in learning the subject and eventually teaching the courses independently.”
“OUSD is full of classrooms with students who are prepared to learn computer science,” noted Claire Shorall, a computer science teacher at Castlemont High School. “LPFI provides the research and resources to create an informed plan for the district and TEALs provides enthusiastic volunteers. The partnership between OUSD, LPFI, and TEALs has been invaluable in making AP Computer Science a reality for my students at Castlemont High School.”
LPFI Director of Strategic Growth Sumaiya Talukdar sums up the partnership this way, “There is an African proverb which says ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. If you have to go far, go together.’ I think this partnership has been a wonderful experience for our organizations to work together for a collective goal – to provide computer science education to Oakland students. By really getting to know each other and our organizations’ respective strengths and challenges, I think we are working more effectively to strengthen computer science education than we ever could have had we gone at it alone.”
On May 7th, LPFI will be release “Path Not Found” a report that will provide detailed analysis on computer science education in California, with a focus on underrepresented communities of color.
Level Playing Field Institute is committed to eliminating the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and fostering their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation.