Local and National Advocates Helped Drive the Computer Science Movement

A research paper by me, John Wachen, and Steven McGee of The Learning Partnership was submitted to the American Educational Research Association (AERA) today. This paper was previously accepted by AERA for its 2020 Annual Meeting. Titled Entrepreneurship, Federalism, and Chicago: Setting the Computer Science Agenda at the Local and National Levels, it describes the preliminary findings from an ongoing research project into the computer science movement in Chicago and nationally. 

From 2012-13 to 2018-19, the number of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school students taking an introductory computer science course rose from three thousand per year to twelve thousand per year. Our analysis examines the policy entrepreneurship that helped drive the rapid expansion of computer science education in CPS, within the broader context of the computer science movement at the national level. Specifically, we describe how actions at the national level (e.g., federal action and advocacy work by national organizations) created opportunities in Chicago and, likewise, how actions at the local level (e.g., district policy action and advocacy by local educators and stakeholders) influenced agenda setting at the national level. Data from interviews with 12 computer science advocates from local and national organizations are used to document and study the multidirectional (vertical and horizontal) flow of advocacy efforts and how these efforts influenced policy decisions in the area of computer science. The interviews with subsystem actors––which include district leaders, National Science Foundation program officers, university professors, and leaders from advocacy organizations––provide an insider’s perspective on the unfolding of events and highlight how idea champions from various organizations worked to achieve their policy objectives.

In the time since the original submission to AERA in July 2019, we have continued gathering, coding, and analyzing interview data for this project. We plan to present our expanded findings during future conferences. We will provide updates about our progress in future blogs.