1. Steven McGee
  2. President
  4. The Learning Partnership
  1. Lucia Dettori
  2. Executive Director
  4. Chicago Public Schools, DePaul University
  1. Ronald Greenberg
  2. Associate Professor
  4. Loyola University Chicago
  1. Andrew Rasmussen
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/andy-rasmussen-a3842210/
  3. CS Project Developer
  5. Chicago Public Schools, DePaul University
  1. Dale Reed
  2. http://bit.ly/dalereed
  3. Clinical Professor
  5. University of Illinois at Chicago
  1. Don Yanek
  2. Special Agent
  4. Chicago Public Schools, CSforAll Consortium, Chicago Alliance for Equity in Computer Science

Chicago Alliance For Equity in Computer Science

NSF Awards: 1738572

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

A decade ago, a handful of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) computer science (CS) teachers had a dream that all CPS students should have access to high-quality CS education. At the time, CS was limited to career and technical education or high-achieving students. This small group of teachers learned about Exploring Computer Science (ECS), developed by Joanna Goode and Gail Chapman. At the core of ECS is a set of equitable teaching strategies for engaging all students in inquiry about important CS concepts. The CPS teachers partnered with their administration, CS faculty at DePaul, Loyola, and UIC, and education researchers at The Learning Partnership to secure initial NSF funding for professional development. Close to 300 CPS teachers have participated; half are women and 40% are Hispanic or African American. Key to sustainability is that CPS teachers lead the professional development. This initial success enabled CPS to enact a CS graduation requirement for the high school class of 2020. Currently, three-fourths of CPS high schools offer ECS annually to 13,000 students, who reflect the diverse demographics of CPS. By 2019, every high school will offer ECS to 20,000 students annually. With funding from NSF, the Chicago Alliance for Equity in Computer Science (CAFÉCS) researcher-practitioner partnership was formalized to support the district in using evidence to shape teacher professional learning and enact accountability policies that emphasize equity for all students. CAFÉCS research has shown that ECS professional development adequately prepares teachers in fostering student success in the course, developing computational thinking, and increasing participation in and attitudes towards CS.

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Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase (17 posts)
  • Icon for: Steven McGee

    Steven McGee

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2018 | 11:33 p.m.

    Welcome to the Chicago Alliance for Equity in Computer Science (CAFÉCS). We are pleased to share the work we are doing to ensure that every high school student in Chicago receives a compelling and relevant experience in computer science. As part of our researcher-practitioner partnership between the Chicago Public Schools, DePaul University, Loyola University, University of Illinois Chicago, and The Learning Partnership, we are exploring ways to best support teachers in implementing the Exploring Computer Science curriculum. We are particularly interested in hearing from the community about strategies that others have used to:

    (1) measure student outcomes related to computational thinking;

    (2) support teachers through instructional coaching;

    (3) increase the number and diversity of STEM teachers.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Andrew Rasmussen
  • Icon for: Irene Lee

    Irene Lee

    Research Scientist
    May 14, 2018 | 08:40 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work.  Would you tell me more about the work of the RPP in terms of how it gives rise to change at both the student level and at the district level?  Were there purposeful steps and articulated processes that supported change at the various levels?

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Andrew Rasmussen
  • Icon for: Andrew Rasmussen

    Andrew Rasmussen

    CS Project Developer
    May 14, 2018 | 09:55 a.m.

    Thanks for the questions, Irene!

    For some insights into student outcomes, you can see our recent SIGCSE paper (under the "CAFÉCS Research on Student Learning" attachment at right). One highlight is that student performance on computational thinking measures after taking Exploring Computer Science increase comparably (no statistical difference) across race and gender categories.

    I think our most purposeful processes are around communication and collaboration. (Sounds like platitudinal marriage advice, but it's true.) By keeping in close contact with the researcher side of CAFÉCS, we are able to share opportunities for ways that we can work together to support our shared vision for CS education. As a result, various programs/projects (assessment, teacher coaching, curriculum development/integration) are tightly woven into the work of the Office of CS from the start, rather than being a research project that is "out there." As direct support from NSF for the research projects goes away, we are finding other ways to support that work.


    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Andrew Rasmussen
  • Icon for: Alex Lishinski

    Alex Lishinski

    May 15, 2018 | 12:46 a.m.

    Thanks for your presentation! I took a look at your SIGCSE paper and I wanted to follow up on Irene's question in terms of the theory of change and to ask you more about expectancy value. It seemed like you were examining whether the students' expectancy value positively influenced their learning, but I would wonder whether you thought this relationship might work in the reverse direction as well. Also I wanted to ask how specific you think your findings are to the ECS curriculum and why you think that might be the case.

  • Icon for: Steven McGee

    Steven McGee

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 09:24 a.m.

    Our theory of change starts with the work of Jane Margolis and her colleagues. In their book Stuck in the Shallow End, they document the root causes for the inequities surrounding participation in high school computer science, particularly AP courses. There has been a perception that only certain people are good at computer science. Joanna Goode and Gail Chapman took those findings and developed the Exploring Computer Sciencecurriculum that at its core is centered around making rigorous computer science accessible to all students through inquiry. In order to change perceptions about who can succeed in computer science, there is a comprehensive professional development program that directly confronts teacher biases. The professional development program is also designed to develop teacher leaders, such that all of the professional development in Chicago is led by CPS teachers. So in the classroom, we should see a set of teaching practices that are consistent with the philosophy of Exploring Computer Science.As a starting point, we have operationalized these practices using a combination of the Tripod 7C and an inquiry pedagogy scale. These are surveys of students' perceptions of the prevalence of these practices. We have mapped the components of the Exploring Computer Science curriculum approach to the constructs. Our theory of change predicts that the prevalence of these teaching practices will correlate with students' expectancy-value, learning outcomes, and the choice to take further high school computer science courses. We were able to show in the SGICSE paper that there is a relationship between the teaching practices and expectancy-value and a relationship between expectancy-value and student computational thinking. We did not see a direct relationship between teaching practices and student learning. However, the results in the SIGCSE paper are based on a small sample research volunteers. One outcome of the RPP has been that the district is in the process of institutionalizing the administration of the assessments and surveys to be able to track implementation at a larger scale. We will see whether and how these relationships change with a much larger, representative sample size.

    I agree with your comment about expectancy-value. While we treated it as influencing learning outcomes in our analyses, we do believe it is in fact reciprocal in that success in learning tasks also builds expectancy. In future work, we hope to be able to track this reciprocal relationship more closely as it develops throughout the course.

    In terms of generalizability, we purposefully have been using established constructs such as the Tripod 7C and expectancy value so that we can relate our findings to prior research in the field across subject areas. We don't yet have enough data to draw strong conclusions about our findings relative to the Measurement of Effective Teaching study or the long-term research on expectancy-value, but we are beginning to see some convergence. It is our belief that there are sets of powerful pedagogical practices that are unique to computer science, however the field is nascent and has not yet documented and converged around what those are yet. As the field begins to converge around a set of pedagogical practices unique to computer science, we will be able to see how findings relate to different CS curricula.

    In response to Irene's question about purposeful steps and articulated processes, the external partners meet regularly with the staff in the Office of Computer Science as Andy referenced in his response above. We review findings together as well as plan out how research can inform problems of practice. For example, there was some concern rising from various administrators in the district that the failure rate for the Exploring Computer Science course seemed high. Course failure has significant implications because the course is required for graduation. Within the RPP context, the external partners and the Office of Computer Science staff hypothesized on the causes of course failure. Through a data sharing agreement, we were able to conduct analyses to test some of these hypotheses using six years of course performance data from more than 17,000 students and 176 teachers. The most salient finding is that teacher attendance at the professional development correlated with a reduction of the course failure rate by half. Our systematic process of joint inquiry within the RPP pointed to a reinforcement of the policy that teachers need to attend the professional development to effectively teach the course.

  • Icon for: Katie Rich

    Katie Rich

    Graduate Student
    May 14, 2018 | 10:41 a.m.

    Hello Steven, Andrew, and all,

    I'm interested in hearing more about students' ideas are used to drive their projects. What kinds of community issues are students using CS to address? How do teachers and researchers support students in making connections to their own communities?

  • Icon for: Don Yanek

    Don Yanek

    Special Agent
    May 16, 2018 | 04:22 p.m.

    Hi. The Exploring Computer Science [ECS] curriculum is built around three intertwining strands. The three strands are equity, inquiry, and CS concepts. A primary focus of the teacher professional development is how to teach computer science concepts in an inquiry-based classroom setting while leveraging equitable teaching strategies to engage all students regardless of their previous computing experience. An important way to engage students is by incorporating their cultural, academic, and social backgrounds.

    Many of the projects in the ECS curriculum and PD are culturally responsive. Teachers are encouraged to create opportunities for students to consider their communities for which there are many levels and types. Projects may ask students to consider an issue in their community or may simply provide them the opportunity to share something about their lives and experiences. For example, instead of asking students to create a website about their favorite vacation spot, a teacher may simply ask them to create a website about a favorite place. Students are more engaged, and, as a teacher, I find out more about them. My students interpret this in their own way. I get websites about a Grandma’s living room, a student’s bedroom, a special spot in a park, a coffee shop, and, of course, vacation places. My experience is that when providing students a chance to incorporate their own world,  there is a higher level of engagement and student ownership.

    The first and final projects of Unit 2: Problem Solving, requires students to brainstorm an issue in their community (as they define it) and investigate the types of data that would need to be collected to analyze this issue from a research angle. A typical student focus is the school community: reducing litter, improving student attendance, bullying, celebrating diversity, etc.

    In Unit 3: Web Design, most of the projects allow for students to consider their cultural background and communities. Teachers have designed activities around food, genealogy, art, and neighborhood spaces. Here is an example of a project that includes geotagging: https://poly.google.com/view/3tbz213zpBo.

    Students have an opportunity to more deeply investigate a community issue in Unit 5: Computing and Data Analysis. The entire unit is about how data can be leveraged to better understand an issue. There is a focus on a variety of data visualization techniques. Some student project topics that come to mind are food deserts in Chicago’s South Side, gun violence in the city, gang activity, graffiti and tagging, and school budgeting and neighborhood socio-economics.

  • Icon for: Steven McGee

    Steven McGee

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 09:28 a.m.

    The curriculum is designed to leave room for teachers to incorporate students ideas throughout the units. In addition, there are three particular projects where students can pursue topics of local interest. In the projects associated with web design unit, programming, and data analysis. Students can focus their final project on issues of concern in their local community. Of course, they can also build games or information about hobbies of interest. Don Yanek will provide specific examples from his own teaching. 

  • May 17, 2018 | 01:51 p.m.

    Congratulation to CAFECS that they are working to get real CS to all students in Chicago.  How are you dealing with the very large number of students with disabilities in Chicago public schools in including them in the picture?

  • Icon for: Lucia Dettori

    Lucia Dettori

    Executive Director
    May 18, 2018 | 09:10 a.m.

    CPS office of CS is working closely with the Office of Diverse Learners at CPS on best ways to serve the students with a varieties of diverse learning needs. We have a few veteran diverse teachers that have already adapted the curriculum to their DL population and we have assembled a working group (CS teachers, SPED teachers, ODLSS staff) for the summer to work on a more comprehensive adaptation of the curriculum to serve the various populations. Will make sure to reach out outside the CPS community for expertise as needed :)

  • May 17, 2018 | 03:01 p.m.

    I have been wondering whether or when all the cool things taking place in secondary school computer science in Chicago would attract some NSF funding.  This is great to see.  And heart warming.  And to see Don Yanek, seasoned teacher, someone I knew a quarter century ago, and Dale Reed, even longer ago, whose role in my life has been so crucial in so many ways.  And Ronald Greenberg, thank you for the kind words via email, and it was nice to see the Ramblers ramble into the final four.  You have a great program, and I am voting for it for a presenters choice.  Steven, I don't think I know you, but would welcome the chance.  I have flirted - and mentioned to Dale a year or so ago, that it would be interesting to arrange a project on CT with South Fayette School District and Aileen Owens outside of Pittsburgh.  Anyway, I am planning to relocated overseas for a year, so was not really able to chase that, but here is a question, at least for Dale and Don - how does what you are doing differ, and how is it similar, to CS work you were doing in CPS in the 1990s?  And second question - will you come and visit us at presentation 1181?

  • Icon for: Steven McGee

    Steven McGee

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 05:59 p.m.

    Thanks, Eric. I also enjoyed your video very much. We have run into an issue in Chicago in which schools are asking for an online version of Exploring Computer Science to accommodate schools where for a variety of reasons they only have a few students who need to the ECS. Given that ECS is project-based, an online version would have to support collaborative projects at a distance. We would love to learn more details about how you structured the collaboration to work across sites synchronously and asynchronously and that the groups held each other accountable for producing in between the meet up sessions.

  • May 17, 2018 | 03:08 p.m.

    So encouraging to see the effort across an entire school district to bring CS (and ECS especially) to all students. An ambitious challenge. 

    How are you measuring computational thinking? Is it with the SRI assessments being developed or with something else? 

    We're trying to include assessment of computational thinking practices through studying student portfolios about their projects. We've had some success with this at a classroom level (3 classrooms) and are working this year to assess it across 18 classrooms. Stay tuned.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Eric Hamilton
  • Icon for: Steven McGee

    Steven McGee

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 05:44 p.m.

    Yes, we are using the SRI ECS assessments, which cover just the first four units, which does not include data analysis or robotics. We are finding that students' significantly increase their performance on the assessments from pretest to posttest. Students' level of performance is correlated with the level of experience teachers have with ECS (i.e., teachers are getting better) and indirectly correlated with the prevalence of ECS teaching practices. We provided a link to our paper about student learning.

    We are hoping to expand the assessment to include the units 5 and 6. It would be nice to see how we could incorporate assessments related to your e-Textiles unit for those teachers in Chicago that adopt the unit in the future.


  • May 17, 2018 | 06:04 p.m.

    Thanks for the reply! That is helpful to know, and I already looked up your paper, though I need to ask permission via google. Maybe I can find it in the ACM library.

  • May 17, 2018 | 06:05 p.m.

    Wait - using the link in the description of the video works much better than the other link I saw in our discussion forums. Well done!

  • Icon for: Ronald Greenberg

    Ronald Greenberg

    Associate Professor
    May 17, 2018 | 06:52 p.m.

    Sorry that a couple links in the web page with the longer list of publications (https://sites.google.com/site/cs4allchicago/publications-grants) were not completely publicly accessible.

    I believe I have now fixed that (by pointing to other preprint versions) for all but the two SIGCSE '18 items, and I will update those links soon.

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