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Landscape of K-12 Computer Science Education in the U.S.: Perceptions, Access, and Barriers

Jason Ravitz
Jennifer Wang
SIGCSE '16, ACM, Memphis, TN, USA (2016)
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Through surveys of 1,673 students, 1,685 parents, 1,013 teachers, 9,693 principals, and 1,865 superintendents across the United States, this study explores perceptions, access, and barriers to computer science education at the K–12 level. We found most respondents were unable to distinguish computer literacy activities from computer science, with female, Black, or Hispanic respondents even less likely to do so. Perceptions of who does computer science were narrow and stereotypical (White, male, smart), but there was high value and demand for computer science across all populations, particularly among parents. Results indicate discrepancies in access to technology and computer science. Over 75% of principals reported their school did not offer computer science with programming/coding, but Hispanic students reported lower exposure to computers at home and in school and Black students and low-income students reported less access to computer science learning in school. Hispanic students and female students were also less likely to have learned computer science or have confidence to learn computer science compared to their counterparts. Finally, we explored barriers to access and identified a harsh disconnect: parent and student demand for computer science education was high while administrators’ perceptions of this demand was low. Additionally, the most common barriers to offering computer science cited by principals and superintendents were the need to dedicate time to other courses and testing requirements and the lack of qualified teachers, with technology less common of a barrier.

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