Computer Science, the basis for all computing, drives job growth and innovation. Computational thinking, the problem-solving process inherent in computer science, is an essential skill across every 21st century job and career. Knowledge of computer science enables students to innovate and solve problems using technology, to critically engage in public discussions on important issues of national security and to participate in society as a responsible citizen.
There are currently over 10,000 open computing jobs in New Jersey. The average salary for a computing occupation in NJ is $108,028, which is significantly higher than the average salary in the state ($58,210). However, only 2,002 computer science bachelor degrees were earned in 2018 at New Jersey universities and colleges. Students exposed to computer science in high school are twice as likely to take a computer science class as part of their postsecondary education. But not all New Jersey students have equitable access to Computer Science education.
There were more than 1.4 million K-12 students enrolled at New Jersey public schools during the 2019-2020 academic year.
- The 2020-2021 NJ School Performance report noted that only 43,583 students in grades 6th through 12 (less than 6%) enrolled in a Computer Science or Information Technology course.
- Only 67% of all NJ public high schools teach a foundational computer science course. According to a state law passed in 2018, every high school in NJ must offer a CS course.
- There are no published statistics on the number of New Jersey K-8 schools that teach computer science. But only 14,094 students in grades 6-8 enrolled in a CS course according to the 2018-2019 NJ School Performance report.
- Only 9,238 exams were taken in AP Computer Science by high school students in New Jersey in 2020 (4,635 took AP CS A and 4,603 took AP CSP).
- Only 30% were taken by female students; only 1,062 exams were taken by Hispanic/Latino/Latina students; only 327 exams were taken by Black/African American students.
According to the 2020 State of Computer Science Education: Illuminating Disparities report published by Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance NJ has made progress in K-12 CS education but needs to do more in order to ensure access to equitable high-quality CS education for all students:
- New Jersey has adopted six of the nine policies identified by the Code.org Coalition as necessary for equitable K-12 CS education. The steps required to realize three of the six policies adopted: CS teacher certification, establishing preservice programs at NJ colleges and universities, and establishing a dedicated CS Specialist position at the NJDOE have been adopted but their implementation has been delayed due to COVID.
- 67% of NJ high schools teach a CS course where only 47% of high schools teach CS across the United States. New Jersey law requires that all NJ high schools offer a CS course starting in the Fall 2018.
- NJ Hispanic/LatinX students are 1.6 times less likely than their white and Asian peers to attend a school that offers AP CS and 2.3 times less likely to take an AP CS exam when they attend a school that offers it.
- NJ Black students are 1.6 times less likely than their white and Asian peers to attend a school that offers AP CS, and 4 times less likely to take an AP CS exam when they attend a school that offers it.
A 2016 Google Gallup report on Computer Science Education reported barriers leading to the underrepresentation of females and students from ethnic and racial groups across the United States:
- Black and Hispanic students have less access to computer science education than White students;
- Female students are less likely to be encouraged to study computer science than male students;
- Black and Hispanic students are less likely to use a computer at home;
- Females, Black and Hispanic students are less likely to know an adult role model working in the computing or technology fields.
A subsequent Google Gallup 2020 report found that little progress has been made since 2015 in closing the CS Education access gaps in between white, Black, and Hispanic students. Closing this CS Education access gap is imperative to providing equitable opportunity for all students.