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Computer Science for ALL: Where Does Your State Stand?

By Alicia Verweij, Heidi Williams and Kerri Wilder
October 12, 2022
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All jobs of the future will require some computer literacy skills so it’s increasingly important that quality computer science (CS) education is an urgent priority for school systems around the globe. 

Although CS has been offered in K-12 public schools for decades, it has not been uniformly required, nor universally available. Yet, as society becomes increasingly dependent upon technology, many school systems feel an urgency to adopt policies that provide universal access to CS education and to ensure that all students have an understanding of computational thinking (CT). 

CT relates to the skills and practices for solving complex problems. CT and CS are the focus of the 2021 State of Computer Science Education report, which takes a critical look at nine policy principles that support K-12 computer science education across the U.S. The report was a collaboration between, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance.

This article will analyze the nine policies from the perspective of Mississippi and Wisconsin, two states with similar percentages of high schools offering computer science, but that have vastly different strategies for implementing’s nine policies. Additionally, we have worked as educators in each of these states and experienced their CS journeys firsthand.

Policy #1: Create a state plan

Overview: Student access to CS education varies across the U.S. Though many schools offer computer labs and classes in computer literacy (e.g., typing, internet use, word processing), CS courses go beyond basics to provide instruction on computational thinking, programming, coding languages, debugging, troubleshooting, as well as hardware and software applications. Our educational system must require its teachers to have these skills as well. Making computer science a fundamental part of a state’s system of education means it must provide preservice teacher education, professional development, and a K-12 scope and sequence that is integrated throughout the curriculum.


In March 2021, the governor signed the Mississippi Computer Science and Cyber Education Equality Act, requiring all public schools in the state to offer computer science education by the 2024-25 school year. The state’s 10-year plan focuses on:

  • Equipping preservice and in-service teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to deliver high-quality, inquiry-based computer science instruction.
  • Developing and maintaining engaging and equitable computer science curricula.
  • Maintaining computer science standards that are consistent with relevant education and workforce demands.
  • Developing and maintaining industry partnerships to ensure computer science education meets industry needs.
  • Identifying, exploring and preparing for future trends in technology.


Wisconsin has developed a statewide strategic state plan to make decisions regarding state agency resource allocation, implementation and industry partnerships. Each section includes state-level goals and strategies. 

The plan provides district-level programming support with the implementation of Computer Science for All (CSforAll) SCRIPT training for K-12 curriculum and instructional practices planning. It also includes planning questions and a regional planning template for regions to consider when developing their local plan for computer science. At the end is a glossary of terms related to computer science and a list of resources.

Policy #1 implementation recommendations

  • Ensure your state has or is working toward a strategic plan.
  • Include timelines for accountability.
  • Undergo a review/revision process at least every two years due to changing technologies.

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Policy #2: Establish Rigorous K-12 Computer Science Standards

Overview: High-quality, equitable standards create foundational expectations for all students and prepare students for success in a variety of postsecondary, college and career opportunities. Just as with other standards, like math or literacy, computer science standards exist to ensure consistency and access for all students.


The state has drafted Elementary Integration Guides that were created by a team of elementary teachers from across the state and facilitated by the Center for Cyber Education. They are intended to be a working draft for the initial year of computer science integration at the elementary level. The state Department of Education was directed to implement a K-12 computer science curriculum based on the 2018 Mississippi College and Career-Readiness Standards for computer science, which includes instruction in:

  • Computational thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Programming
  • Cyber security
  • Data science
  • Robotics
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Other computer science and cyber-related content

The Mississippi standards seek to accomplish the following:

  • Introduce the fundamental concepts of computer science to all students, beginning at the elementary school level.
  • Present computer science at the secondary school level in a way that can fulfill a computer science graduation credit.
  • Encourage additional secondary-level computer science courses that will allow students to study facets of computer science in more depth and prepare them for entry into the workforce or college.
  • Increase the availability of rigorous computer science for all students, especially those who are members of underrepresented groups.

While these standards are not required at all schools, they do provide the standards for the implementation of computer science curricula and resources. Various sets of standards and standards-related documents were used in the development of the Mississippi Computer Science Standards including: 


The Wisconsin Academic Standards for Computer Science were developed by a statewide writing committee and submitted for extensive review by the public and the State Superintendent's Review Council. State Superintendent Tony Evers adopted the standards in June 2017. 

This vision for K-12 CS standards and the CSTA CS Standards is intended to:

  • Introduce the fundamental concepts of CS to all students, beginning at the elementary school level.
  • Present CS at the secondary school level in a way that will be both accessible and worthy of a CS credit, or as a graduation credit.
  • Offer additional secondary-level CS standards that will allow students to study facets of CS in-depth and prepare them for entry into a career or college.
  • Increase the knowledge of CS for all students, especially those from under-represented groups.

Wisconsin has a phased-in roll-out plan; while some districts may be in Year 2 or 3+, many have not yet entered Year 1.

Policy # 2 implementation recommendations

  • Ensure that CS courses offered at the high school level directly align with state-level course codes (just as with math and literacy).
  • Ensure that K-8 computer science standards have a scope and sequence that prepares students for meeting the 9-12 standards. 
  • Look through state digital literacy standards and computer science standards to see where they overlap. Here’s an example from Wisconsin.
  • Begin thinking about artificial intelligence and cyber-security as potential integration within CS standards.

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Policy #3: Allocate funding for computer science teacher PD

Overview: This policy is crucial! In education, we routinely see schools and districts adopt technology that “would be great.” But if teachers aren’t trained, those tools sit on a shelf or  are not used to their full potential. The only way to ensure that we implement CS and CT properly is with training.  


Due to inconsistencies in data, it is difficult to determine the exact amount of funding for CS in Mississippi. According to HB633, Mississippi has provided its schools with $2 million to implement CS education; however, the 2021 State of Computer Science Education reports $1.6 million being allocated for teacher PD. There is also HB 1700, which allocated $300,000 for computer science professional development. Since this PD is a new requirement from the Mississippi Department of Education, it’s unclear whether they are using state funds or  Title I funds.  Keeping in mind that Title I funds must be supplemental and cannot supplant the necessary needs of each school. Title I funds may not be used to pay for PD before 2024.

Once this requirement for CS education has been fully implemented, Title I funds can be used to provide PD to those who need additional assistance.    

The Mississippi Department of Education is working diligently to implement this plan by offering a list of resources and training.


According to Wisconsin’s 2021 State of Computer Science Education, the state did not allocate funding for computer science PD. Instead, the state offered strategies and recommendations. The most prolific provider of teacher professional development in the  state is Marquette University. They have secured more than $12 million dollars in funding from a PUMP-CS grant and Project {FUTURE}.

Policy #3 implementation recommendations

Once you have a foundational understanding of CT and some ideas of what it looks like in a classroom, focus on selecting products that offer CS/CT-centered lesson plans

Policy #4: Clear certification pathways

Overview: The path to obtaining a computer science teaching license needs to be clear. We do not want teachers to give up on obtaining a 9-12 computer science license if they cannot figure out the requirements they need to meet. Additionally, K-8 teachers need to have an option for obtaining a computer science endorsement/certificate.


The state does require CS certification for middle and high school level teachers. The state computer science and engineering class is considered the new STEM class. A 983 endorsement qualifies teachers to teach the CSE course.


Teachers who hold a 6-12 teaching license can add on a license by passing a content area Praxis test. For computer science, it is Comp. Sci.5652.

The state Department of Public Instruction also has a state-level strategy that recommends informing people from the computer science industry on pathways to licensure. For those professionals who have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, sciences or computer science, their pathway involves being hired by a district that has identified a critical shortage, being supervised during a two-year permit period by a licensed teacher, taking 100 hours in pedagogical instruction, and passing the appropriate competency exam.

Policy #4 implementation recommendations

  • Ensure that recommendations from the state level come with accountability, and progress is reported to stakeholders. To ensure consistency across the state, engage local BOCES, CESAs, RESAs, AESAs, or other local educational agencies to create elementary (K-8) consistency. 
  • Develop progressional Computer Science Teacher Education courses like the one from the University of Nebraska, Omaha.
  • Create incentive structures for professionals (teachers and nonteachers) filling computer science positions.

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Policy #5: Create preservice programs

Overview: The Computer Science Teachers Association says it best: “Effective CS teachers must have thorough content knowledge and skills in computer science and understand student learning progression. They must also continuously refine their pedagogical content knowledge and skills to support all students in meeting learning outcomes. Schools of education are well positioned to leverage these standards to establish robust guidelines for their preservice candidates and serve the field of CS education by expanding the pipeline of qualified K-12 CS teachers.”


The state has a few programs at institutions of higher education that offer computer science to preservice teachers. According to data reported under Title II, the following institutions offer some form of CS as part of endorsement programs:

  • Alcorn, Jackson State University, Mississippi College, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, Rust College, Tougaloo College and University of Mississippi all offer the course computer applications for K-12.
  • Mississippi State University offers a CS endorsement for K-6 and a CS endorsement for K-12.
  • William Carey University offers a STEM K-12 endorsement for graduate students that incorporates some aspects of CS.

The state’s strategic plan does indicate that by 2032, it will equip preservice and in-service teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to deliver high-quality, inquiry-based computer science instruction.


It is unclear if there are any preservice teacher education courses that focus on computer science pedagogy for grade 1-8 teachers or a grade 6-12 computer science teacher education program. While the recommendation from the state Department of Public instruction states: “Develop/review preservice academic standards and curriculum for computer science, computational thinking, and digital literacy and information technology literacy with other content areas,” there does not appear to be any such courses offered by higher education in the state.

Policy #5 implementation recommendations

  • Develop preservice teacher certifications, such as the one from the University of Northern Iowa.
  • Expose K-5 preservice teachers to courses like Computer Science in the Elementary Classroom, at Drake University.
  • Programs should focus on the infusion of computer science content into the core content curricula to ensure that all future teachers are properly trained, eliminating the need for additional teacher units.
  • Expose preservice teachers to computer science during their required coursework or by creating specific pathways for computer science teachers.

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Policy #6: Establish CS supervisor positions in education agencies

Overview: Without supervision, the mission to expand CS education may stagnate. Supervisors are necessary to ensure that the timelines set forth by each state are followed, roadblocks are identified and progress is made. Creating statewide computer science leadership positions within the state education agencies will help expand state-level implementation of computer science education initiatives. Similar positions at the local levels should support districts’ expansion of course offerings and professional development. Inequitable funding for teacher PD and lack of preservice programs should be areas of focus for this position.


The state acknowledges the need for broader partnerships and innovative approaches to help it reach its aggressive curriculum and teacher training goals. However, despite the requirement to submit yearly reports, the state does not have a designated supervisor position at the state or local education agencies.


The state has posted a position for an education consultant for computer science and digital learning innovation, which has been recently filled. Unfortunately, their sole purpose is not focused solely on computer science.

Policy #6 implementation recommendations

  • Create a statewide position that focuses solely on ensuring computer science for all students. This position should be commensurate in pay with a district administrative role.
  • Supervisory positions should be responsible for ensuring that state policies provide clarity, school and state capacity, sustainability of computer science initiatives, and promote access to and equity within rigorous and engaging computer science for all students (K-12).
  • Supervisory positions should work closely with other state-level positions to ensure equity of funding and accessibility.

Policy #7: Require all high schools to offer computer science

Overview: Historically, schools and students located in low-income or rural communities have had less access to digital infrastructure, a phenomenon widely known as the digital divide. Aside from a host of other negative consequences, this divide leaves some students with fewer opportunities to regularly interact with computing devices in learning contexts and will have less access to high-quality CS instruction. Requiring that all high schools offer computer science  will narrow the divide and level the playing field for students, regardless of economical or ethnic backgrounds.


Mississippi began pushing CS in middle and high school in 2014. By 2018 the majority of schools in the state offered such courses. The COVID-19 pandemic also helped narrow the digital divide by speeding up allocation of devices and bandwidth to every student. Today, 76% of Mississippi high school students attend a school that offers computer science, but only 5.2% of students are enrolled in a foundational computer science course. More classes are being offered across the state, and most school districts have mandated CS in elementary school.


Although Wisconsin does not yet require all secondary schools to offer computer science, it does mandate that each school board provide an instructional program designed to give students knowledge in computer science, including problem-solving, computer applications and the social impact of computers.

Policy #7 implementation recommendations

  • Advocate for revisions to the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act to include specific language around computer science education.
  • Use the SCRIPT (Strategic CSforALL Planning Tool for School Districts) program at a districtwide level to ensure CSforALL.

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Policy #8: Allow CS credit to satisfy a core graduation requirement

Overview: Most state-level leaders recognize that they play an important role in supporting and sustaining equitable K–12 CS education. However, the nature of CS requirements for graduation varies dramatically from state to state. Some states still don’t require all high schools to offer CS but have taken other approaches to extending access to CS learning experiences, such as adding computer programming. Some states permit but do not require districts to allow CS to fulfill a mathematics or science credit for high school graduation. Many state policies seek to ensure that students have completed foundational coursework in core subject areas (for example, Algebra I or geometry for mathematics or basic lab sciences for science) before allowing a CS course to be applied as a credit substitution. Some states permit only Advanced Placement (AP) CS to take the place of a mathematics or science credit.


Students are required to earn one Carnegie unit credit of technology to graduate with a traditional diploma. Students may acquire the technology credit requirement before high school. The law does require that high schools offer a course in computer science. The state is in the process of identifying approved computer science courses that can offer a minimum of four units of academic credit for high school graduation.


Courses that meet the state department's definition of computer science can count as a mathematics credit for graduation. Although there is a wide range of computer science courses available in Wisconsin public schools, only some of those courses are eligible for a third mathematics credit toward graduation requirements. The courses must be on the list of approved courses and/or contain the following components to be considered for mathematics credit: 

  • Algorithmic problem solving: Systematic study of algorithms or processes that underlie the acquisition, representation, processing, storage, communication of and access to information.
  • Application development: Application development and application design through coding, programming and software engineering.
  • Computational design and Computational Intelligence: Study of the design of computational systems, understanding how computational systems work -- and hands-on application of mathematical processes within computational systems.
  • Computational thinking: Scientific and practical approach to computation and its application.
  • Management information systems: Study of the access to information generated through computer systems (programming, databases, application development) coding, database development, and the understanding of the applications used for computational processing and application development.

Policy #8 implementation recommendations

  • Create K-12 CS pathways that allow for exposure in early grades to encourage students to take a CS course in high school.
  • Create policies requiring all high schools to offer CS. Students could also be allowed to take CS courses through higher education, both locally and online.
  • States should allow policies to include AP Computer Science Principles, dual enrollment CS, or CS courses plus attainment of an industry-recognized credential as a CS course qualification and issue graduation credits for such courses.

Policy #9: Allow CS to satisfy a higher education admission requirement

Overview: Admission policies for most colleges and universities do not allow rigorous computer science courses to meet the mathematics or science entrance requirements, which discourages students from taking such courses in secondary education — even if they count as a high school graduation requirement. Aligning these policies would incentivize students to explore computer science earlier, which is an important step in increasing diversity in the field.


The state does not have a specific plan for creating an admission requirement for CS at this time, but by working closely with the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and the Mississippi Community College Board they will approve any courses taught at the high school level. This is the first step in creating an admission requirement for CS. Mississippi plans to have the opportunity for CS education in every school in the state by the 2024-25 school year. 


The state does not yet allow computer science to count as a core admission requirement at institutions of higher education. Admission policies that do not include rigorous computer science courses as meeting a core entrance requirement, such as in mathematics or science, discourage students from taking such courses in secondary education. State leaders can work with institutions of higher education to ensure credit and articulation policies align with secondary school graduation requirements.

Policy #9 implementation recommendations

Ensure that institutions of higher education (trade schools, two-year and four year technical, certification programs) recognize computer science as meeting the skills needed to think computationally and solve complex problems.

From policy to results

In this active era of CS policy adoption, we need to explore whether these actions correspond to changes in student outcomes in CS. Are students more likely to participate and succeed in CS learning? Do race- and gender-based gaps narrow with more universal access?

“Computing is changing every part of our lives, from how we interact with each other to how we do our jobs,” according to a report from the Advocacy Coalition and the Computer Science Teachers Association. “Yet the U.S. education system does not provide widespread access to this critical subject.”  

According to’s 2021 report, State of Computer Science Education, just 51% of high schools offered computer science, up from 35% in 2018. It also found that 31 states had adopted 50 computer science education policies in the prior year. While that’s a start, it’s nowhere near enough.

Establishing policies alone isn’t enough to guarantee student success in computer science through computational thinking. It takes teachers and leaders who care and take action as well as access to technology to teach computer science and computational thinking in a meaningful and successful way. The goal of today’s society is to have computational thinkers who can harness the power of computing to innovate and solve problems. This is precisely the goal of both CS and CT.

No Fear Coding

Alicia Verweij is a seasoned educator who is passionate about teaching children to think critically, problem-solve, and function in an ever-changing digital world. As a 17+ year teaching veteran, she has shared her passion for integrating STEAM and project-based learning into the curriculum at local, state, regional and national conferences, and has leveraged her expertise by sharing tips and strategies with educators as the founder of EDGEucating.

Heidi Williams is a passionate coding and computational thinking advocate. Her over 30+ years of experience as a teacher, coach and administrator have included integrating coding into the K-12 curriculum. She currently serves as the computer science curriculum specialist at Marquette University. Check out her website

Kerri Wilder has over 25+ years of experience in various aspects of education. She works as a university supervisor of student teachers at William Carey University. As a seasoned educator, she is known for her perspective and innovation for solving problems. In addition, she has shared her expertise at national and international conferences on the topics of STEM education, school climate and culture, and strategies for administrators. Kerri shares other tips and strategies with educators as the co-founder of EDGEucating.