May 21, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
As the academic year wraps up, the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing concludes its first year delivering instruction to Atlanta Public Schools. The center, created to ensure that all students – especially students of color, women, and others underserved in K-12 education – have access to quality computer science education, has made great strides toward achieving its mission in its first year.
By partnering with five schools in the Atlanta Public School (APS) district, Constellations has been able to provide 150 students access to rigorous computer science coursework. Through its three research Fellows, the center provided professional development to teachers, administrators, and counselors and assisted in teaching the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles course.
By training teachers and introducing this coursework to schools in marginalized areas, Constellations is also working to remediate the teacher shortage in the United States.
“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, senior director at Constellations.
Five teachers participated in the Constellations program where they received direct support in the classroom from a Fellow, who is an instructional specialist in computer science.
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, only one school in the district offered computing coursework. Five schools now offer a computer science class.
“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 students succeeding due to access to computing coursework is Mays High School senior Charity Tarver. Tarver is Mays’ salutatorian and will be attending Georgia Tech in the fall. She plans on later joining 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.
When the fellows are not in the classroom, they have been developing an online-hybrid instructional model that will start being piloted in fall 2019. Constellations is also compiling a set of teacher resources to increase the implementation of advanced computing courses at the secondary education level, especially to support teachers who are new or novices to computing.
To learn more about the center and the issues it is working to solve, watch this video.