DePaul Releases Study on CPS Computer Science Graduation Requirement

Last December, DePaul University, in partnership with the Chicago Alliance for Equity in Computer Science (CAFECS), released findings of a research study, funded by a $150,000 one-year grant from CME Group Foundation, on the impact of the computer science (CS) high school graduation requirement in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). According to DePaul’s study, CPS now leads the nation in CS education!

Every year, 14,000 students graduate from CPS with at least one year of computer science. This wasn’t always the case: before the CS graduation requirement was introduced in 2016, approximately half of CPS schools did not offer any CS classes, and two-thirds had insufficient capacity to offer CS for all students. Larger schools with fewer low-income students and a strong college-bound culture were more likely to offer CS.

After the graduation requirement was enacted, however, both access to and participation in CS classes at CPS expanded significantly. Overall, the number of students pursuing computer science pathways in CPS more than doubled after the enactment of the graduation requirement. By the 2020-21 school year, all STEM and selective enrollment schools and all but one neighborhood schools offered at least one CS class.

Additionally, after the CS graduation requirement was enacted, there was a significant increase in participation of all racial/ethnic groups of students, and the gender gap in participation rates narrowed significantly.

Lucia Dettori, Interim Dean of the Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul, reflected:

The implementation of the CPS computer science graduation requirement represents the culmination of over a decade of work by teachers and administrators in CPS with the support of the Chicago Alliance for Equity in Computer Science (CAFÉCS). This research shows the tremendous impact this requirement has had on the students in the district. Over just five year we have seen the number of schools offering computer science has grown to 100%, giving every student, no matter which zip code they live in, an opportunity to gain critical computing skills. More importantly the study highlights how all students, regardless of gender, race, or socio economic status, achieved similar learning outcomes. CPS is leading the nation in this effort. Studies like this one funded by the CME Group Foundation, tell the CPS story and present other districts with a road map to achieve similar systemic change for their students.

This study is critical to understanding the impact of the CS high school graduation requirement, which has completely shifted the landscape in Chicago. Not only do more high schoolers have access now, but more opportunities out of school have opened up given the increased interest and demand for them, added Eva Giglio, Executive Director of CME Group Foundation. The school district can now expand access for younger students in elementary and middle school. The resounding impact of the graduation requirement has been incredible. The Foundation has funded computer science work in Chicago for eight years.

CME Group Foundation is proud to help prepare K-12 students through its support of CS education in Chicagoland and throughout Illinois. The Foundation is the largest private funder of CPS’s Computer Science 4 All (CS4All) Initiative and supports organizations providing research and data analysis for CS4All – through in-school opportunities for students and out of school time computer science programs.

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