New computer science education initiative launched in Detroit

DETROIT–The CSforDetroit Initiative was formally launched Tuesday by the CSforDetroit Steering Committee.

This multi-year initiative, supported by Kapor Foundation,, Song Foundation, and CSforALL’s Accelerator Program, aims to champion lasting transformation in Detroit through deep investment in K-12 computing education.

Specifically, the initiative will help expand access to year-round computer science learning opportunities for Detroit students, provide opportunities for professional learning for teachers and administrators, and engage the broader Detroit community in building a passion for the development of a diverse and robust pool of talent to design Detroit’s future.

Detroit has been recognized as a top emerging startup ecosystem. Across the state of Michigan, there are a monthly average of 21,062 open computing jobs paying over $80,000 a year, but only 2,639 CS graduates are prepared to fill these positions. Just 46% of Michigan high schools currently offer computer science courses, and Black, Latinx, Native students, low-income students, and girls are much less likely to have the opportunity to access these courses. Investment in expanding computing education in Detroit is critical to ensuring all students are prepared to participate in our tech-driven economy and society.

“The CSforDetroit initiative has long been overdue to bring equitable computing education to young people in Detroit,” said Aman Yadav, Lappan-Phillips Professor of Computing Education in the College of Education and College of Natural Science at Michigan State University. “Led by Kapor Foundation’s leadership and vision, a coalition of stakeholders and organizations are coming together to bring culturally responsive and community-driven computing education in formal and informal spaces. This work will be transformative, especially for K-12 educators who will get access to comprehensive professional learning opportunities.”

Added Cheryl Wilson, computer science consultant at the Michigan Department of Education: “K-12 computer science education not only empowers students with essential digital skills but also nurtures innovation, problem-solving, and paves the way for a brighter future for all while strengthening our Michigan communities/”

The CSforDetroit initiative will invest in activities and programs that ensure rigorous, culturally responsive, and community-driven opportunities for students in grades K-12 to develop knowledge, interest, and skills in computing. Key components of the initiative include:

Supporting Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) efforts to expand computing course offerings, build teacher and administrator capacity for providing equitable CS instruction, and boost district infrastructure and capacity to support student learning through the roles of Senior Director of CS & STEM Enrichment and Training & Support Coordinator.
Providing comprehensive, equity-focused professional development and learning opportunities for teachers, administrators, and counselors in DPSCD. Activities will include: conducting professional development for elementary school teachers and non-CS high school teachers to build CS competencies, conducting professional development on Tech Ethics for K-12 teachers, providing CS PD for counselors and administrators, and supporting educators in seeking additional external learning opportunities.
Supporting Detroit-based out-of-school time programs that engage youth and families in STEM and CS learning opportunities, through a community of practice that builds connectivity between programs, streamlines opportunities, and provides mini-grants.
Launching the Detroit City-Wide CS student leadership team to amplify student voice and position young Detroiters as critical leaders contributing their experiences and ideas to the initiative’s efforts to create a transformative experience in classrooms and other learning environments.
Building community-wide pride and purpose in expanding computing in Detroit through history tours led by renowned historian Jamon Jordan, examining Black contributions to STEAM in Detroit, and developing a community-driven mural to pay homage to the city’s rich past and inspire the future tech leaders from Detroit.
Collaborating with city and state policymakers to promote policies to advance equity and sustainability in CS education in Detroit.

The significance of computing extends far beyond the confines of the classroom, with implications for ethical AI development, the mitigation of algorithmic bias, and addressing disparities in the tech sector and our economy. It is essential that Detroit’s students are not only consumers of technology but also emerge as ethical creators. This initiative goes beyond simply aiming for representation in the tech sector, to ensure that technologies are designed equitably and in ways that reduce discrimination and harm.

“We’re excited to join forces with the community of Detroit to prepare students to pursue a range of tech education and career pathways fueled by their passions and interests,” said Kalisha Davis, computer science equity programs director for the Kapor Foundation. “This initiative will center youth engagement, Detroit’s history and culture, and tech ethics as core elements of its activities aiming to expand CS education.”

The Oakland, Calif.-based Kapor Foundation was established in 1997 by Mitchell Kapor, co-founder of the software company Lotus Development Corp. and developer of the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3. Its most recent federal Form 990 filing showed it had $193.6 million in assets, received $50.3 million in donations,

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