BOSTON (SHNS) – Despite high demand for workers with tech skills, there are persistent gaps and inequities in computer science courses for Massachusetts high school students, according to a new report, which recommends that the state eventually mandate that students take a computer science class in order to graduate.
In the 2020-2021 school year, 84.7 percent of Massachusetts high school students attended a school that offered computer science, but only 5.8 percent of students were enrolled in a computer science course, according to the report by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education.
Only about 71 percent of urban school districts, which are more likely to serve higher populations of minority and low-income students, offered computer science, and at the urban schools that did have the class most of the enrollees were white and male.
Statewide, 28.4 percent of students who took computer science in the 2020-2021 school year were female.
Salaries for computer science and information technology jobs far outpace average earnings. As of March 20, the average annual salary for an employee with a computer science degree in Boston was $107,543, according to ZipRecruiter. The site says the average salary among all Massachusetts workers is $65,279.
Computer science skills, such as software engineering, are the most in-demand tech skills, according to the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council.
“However, only a fraction of job candidates possesses these skills — limiting the ability of employers to fill computer science-related occupations,” the report says. Computer science knowledge is also in demand in the science, media, and security sectors, according to the report, and “access to CS education can thus prepare students to be informed and active citizens of the digital age in any field they choose to pursue.”
Arkansas, South Carolina and Maryland require students to take a computer science class in order to graduate.
“Massachusetts’ current grassroots approach has already led to inequities in CS access and participation, and continuing along this path would likely result in further disparity. Thus, Massachusetts should take a bolder approach and utilize mandates,” the report says.
With the eventual goal of implementing a computer science graduation requirement, MBAE recommends the state require all high schools offer the course without the requirement at first, to build capacity to later add the mandate.