A report released June 7 by the Computer Science Teachers Association Curriculum Improvement Taskforce criticized U.S. high schools for not uniformly requiring students to take computer science classes.
The report argued that the United States is "sitting quietly on the sidelines while other countries make improvements to ensure their high school graduates will be ready to meet the demands of tomorrows high-tech society."
Only 26 percent of U.S. high schools require computer science classes and only 40 percent even offer an AP (advance placement) computer science course, according to the report.
Less than one-third of students taking an introductory computer science course were female, and among the students taking the AP course, the number dropped to 23 percent.
CSTAs research is supported by the College Board, which found that while AP exam-taking rose by 19 percent from 2002-2004, the number of students taking the computer science exam decreased by 8 percent in the A category (easier) and 19 percent in the B category (more difficult).
Only 11 percent were female and only 6 percent were under-represented minorities.
The report states that the lack of focus in the United States on computer science education is "disastrous and shortsighted," in light of an anticipated shortage of qualified candidates for the 1.5 million computer and IT jobs expected by 2012.
Reasons cited for the low enrollments include lack of K-12 computer science curriculum and insufficient funding of computer science teachers and resources, as well as complex and contradictory certification requirements and non-competitive salaries.
Teachers polled noted that the low enrollments in these computer science courses were not the perceived difficulty of the coursework or the perception that it is "geeky," but a lack of time in student schedules.
In addition, teachers said that an increasing number of students believe that there are few rewarding or varied high-tech career opportunities, a perception based on media reporting and not marketplace realities.