As the school year draws to a close, Georgia Tech's Constellations Center for Equity in Computing is set to celebrate a milestone – the completion of its first year of providing computer science (CS) education to students in Atlanta Public Schools (APS).
Constellations began partnering with five APS schools at the start of the past academic year. In that time, its three research fellows have facilitated a CS curriculum – developed by Constellations – for more than 150 students. The fellows also helped teach the Advanced Placement (AP) CS Principles course. Added to this, Constellations fellows provided CS professional development to teachers, administrators, and counselors in an effort to begin to address the shortage of qualified CS teachers in Atlanta, and throughout the U.S.
“The infrastructure of K-12 education does not have enough teachers in computing to be able to deliver the subject equitably to all students. Part of our mandate is to address that,” said Kamau Bobb, Constellations senior director.
With this support from Constellations, however, the total number of APS schools offering an AP CS course grew from one to five in the past academic year.
The response to this partnership has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Working with Constellations has been amazing. One great thing is that they care about our kids. The kids know that they care and they understand that it won’t always be easy, but hard work pays off,” said Sakiya Franklin Jones, STEM coordinator at Douglass High School, a Constellations school.
Prior to Constellations' creation, no APS schools offered a computer science course.
“We wanted to work with Atlanta Public Schools because, not only are they a great partner, but their need for computing education was very apparent. Kids succeeding in computing is not about having talent, it's about having access,” said Lien Diaz, Constellations director of educational innovation and leadership.
A prime example of the power of this access is Mays High School senior Charity Tarver. Tarver is Mays’ salutatorian and will be attending Georgia Tech in the fall. Once she graduates, Tarver said she would like to join the Army Special Forces to become a security architect or forensic computer analyst.
“Without Constellations coming to my school, I wouldn’t have known that I could really learn the skills to actually do cybersecurity and computer science in real life. This class helped me realize my potential and let me know that an opportunity like attending Georgia Tech was available to me,” said Tarver.
With one school year in the books, Constellations is busy planning for the fall. The research fellows are continuing work this summer on an online-hybrid instructional model they expect to pilot test later this year. The center is also compiling a set of resources to help teachers – especially to support teachers who are new or novices to computing – add CS courses to their secondary schools.