Announcing a New Framework to Define K-12 Computer Science Education

Computing Leaders ACM,, and CSTA Launch Effort to Guide Educators and State and District Policy Makers About K-12 Computer Science

For most states and school districts, the notion of computer science for every student is a relatively new and unexplored topic. Responding to parent demand for their children to have access to computer science, there’s been a major shift in thinking by states and school districts about how to make computer science part of core academic work. They are asking big questions of the computing community: What is the appropriate scope and sequence for K-12 computer science? What does the community expect every student to learn in elementary school, in middle school, or by the time they graduate high school? And why?

CSTA, ACM, and are joining forces with more than 100 advisors within the computing community (higher ed faculty, researchers, and K-12 teachers, many of whom are also serving as writers for the framework), several states and large school districts, technology companies, and other organizations to steer a process to build a framework to help answer these questions. A steering committee initially comprised of the Computer Science Teachers Association, the Association for Computing Machinery, and will oversee this project.

The framework will identify key K-12 computer science concepts and practices we expect students exiting grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 to know. This effort will not develop educational standards. We expect that states and school districts will use the framework to create their own frameworks, guidance, and standards, and the CSTA has its own independent process for developing detailed K-12 computer science standards.

Underpinning this effort is our belief that computer science provides foundational learning benefiting every child. Computer science gives students a set of essential knowledge and skills important for students’ learning and for their future careers and interests. This work is about defining the basic expectations for what every student should have a chance to learn about K-12 computer science to prepare for the emerging demands of the 21st century — not just to major in computer science or secure jobs as software engineers.

The projected release date for the framework is summer 2016. More information, including monthly updates and how to get involved, can be found at

Mark Nelson
Executive Director of CSTA

Mehran Sahami
Chair, ACM Education Board

Cameron Wilson
Chief Operating Officer,

3 thoughts on “Announcing a New Framework to Define K-12 Computer Science Education

  1. I was just listening to Michael Fullan on Big Ideas (the old TVO podcast from Ontario), lecturing on “Schools in Need of Re-education” ( He talks about technology in education, and the need for student-led learning. The teacher as “change agent.” Does your project encompass approaches to student-led learning about CS? It seems to me that in today’s world, the way students learn is more important than what they learn.


  2. It would be great if they could also come up with a framework for skills above the foundational level; I’m a tech educator and it sounds like this work is intended to be supported by 100% of teachers, not specialists. Surely it would be helpful to have industry reflect on skills that have proven valuable to people who have pursued CS-related paths in life, but as someone who teaches in public schools on a variety of subjects that do not often directly relate to CS I do not have the industry contacts to know which competencies best translate to a lifetime of success in CS. That kind of information would, I suspect, be more valuable. I am cynical when considering the ability of the proposed scope of work (“basic expectations for what every student should have a chance to learn about K-12 computer science”) to impact curriculum because the teachers who need to implement it do not follow this kind of news.


    1. I’m not sure how your defining the foundational level, but I would expect it to include attitudinal, collaborative and technical skills. The key attitudinal skills are how students respond to a complex challenge ( “I don’t know where to begin” complexity-level). The goal for students is to respond in an open-minded, engaged, inquisitive manner, which implies conscious effort to suppress innate impulses to reject the challenge or impulsively dig-in-heels over first idea that comes to mind. Leadership skills are developed which nurture a proactive, inquisitive, comfort zone for a social group facing a daunting challenge. At the heart of these collaborative skills are ability to pose relevant questions which, if answered, move the ball forward, but in a relaxed manner that gives time to reflect, ponder, clarify and delve deeper. These higher-order cerebral problem-solving skills nurtured are now considered essential to
      preparation for success later in life.

      On the creative side, design sketching is foundational. This allow students to develop ideas, share them, and improve upon them. A lab notebook used without prompting is a key milestone.

      The technical skills germane to elementary school include understanding electrical power sources (AC-power, batteries, plugs), computer components (display, mouse, touchpad, keyboard, touchscreen), internet connections (WiFi, wired Ethernet), operating system vs. apps, and GUI interaction through touch gestures. Introductory experiences controlling machine behavior via software programming are now considered foundational, in order that students understand how machines obtain their behaviors. The goal is for every student to conclude “I can do that” — to internalize a sense of human mastery over technological artifacts by programming behavior. Working with simple, programmable mobile robotic systems, students emerge feeling a strong sense of inclusion with 21st century technology, and the uniquely creative role played by humans in the equation.

      It’s OK to identify concerns about teacher preparation. The key gap, and I’m confident it can be addressed, are PD learning experiences that move teachers to the “I can do that” level. Co-teaching with a technical expert is turning out to be a best practice, as it gives teachers the in-class support to immediately solve technical glitches while learning the ropes. In the CS Education community, the issue of tech support is front-and-center…how much? and of what kind?… to keep the trains running. Schools and districts have to be committed, staffed and ready-to-serve with tech support infrastructure to launch CS Ed.


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