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Industry's Push for Computer Science Education: Is Computer Science Really for All?

Recent research on Computer Science (CS) has largely found that inequities in access persist. In 2016, President Obama announced the Computer Science for All initiative, recognizing that CS is a “new” basic skill in K-12 schools and over US$4 billion was pledged to Computer Science education (CSEd) initiatives. While general support for computer science and the associated funding is currently evident, this has not always been the case. From no mention in 2001’s No Child Left Behind legislation (2002) to making the national educational agenda in 2015’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), CS has found a place in K-12 education. The current state of the CSEd agenda in the US has been greatly influenced by those who have served in industry. However, ESSA was designed to give states flexibility in creating equitable educational systems, especially for students who have been historically marginalized. Given this contrast of federal legislation and the economic motivations of industry on CSEd, we ask, why did computer science education become part of the US federal agenda, and how have business and industry “pushed” and influenced computer science education? We draw on policies, research, reports, organization websites, and professional networking sites, to better understand the national support for CSEd as well as how state-level flexibility has resulted in specific states engaging within this policy window in varying ways. We then examine one company that has “pushed” a CSEd agenda to highlight the magnitude of the impact of industry on the field of CS. We close with implications for researchers and policymakers.