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Path Not Found: Disparities in Computer Science Course Access in California High Schools

Abstract

Twenty-first century careers and economic growth in the United States are increasingly dependent upon computing expertise. In California, the home of Silicon Valley, the economy is tied to the sustainability of its rapidly-growing technology sector. Unfortunately, diversity statistics among leading Silicon Valley technology companies indicate that the technology workforce is overwhelmingly white and male, while women and people of color are greatly underrepresented relative to their proportion of the population. With the changing racial landscape of the state and the nation, the lack of diversity within computing fields suggests there is a large pool of untapped talent which comprises a critical component of the future computing workforce.

Given the rising demand for skilled computer science professionals in California, it is vital that the state's public schools provide all students with a solidfoundation in computer science coursework. However, Californias school system is failing to prepare its students--particularly low income students and students of color--for the technology jobs of the future.

Path Not Found exposes one of the foundational causes of underrepresentation in computing: disparities in access to computer science courses in California's public high schools. The Level Playing Field Institute conducted analyses to disaggregate current computer science offerings by student demographic variables. This report illuminates vast disparities in access to computer science courses in California public high schools by race, socioeconomic status, and linguistic background, and finds that computer science courses are offered at consistently higher rates in schools with student populations that are already disproportionately represented in the computing sector.

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