The 7 rules parents must not break in the school drop-off line

Nov. 6, 2014 

Hey, black car -- we see you trying to cut into the school pick up line. You are violating Rule #4 !

Sarah Maizes
Hey, black car — we see you trying to cut into the school pick up line. You are violating Rule #4 !

If you have kids in school, you’ve witnessed it. The fighting, the brawling, the all-out chaos that makes “Lord of the Flies” look orderly.

And, no, it’s not the kids in the schoolyard. It’s the parents in the car drop-off or pick-up line. Or, as I call it, “the Thunderdome,” a Mad Max-style dystopia where cars are king and respect for mankind goes out the passenger seat window.

In a recent study by British insurance company Allianz, more than 1,000 parents were surveyed for their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, as they did their school day morning routine. Levels peaked just before leaving the house to drive to school, at around 8:15 a.m. each morning, researchers found. And the impact of the school run stress stays with parents well into the day. Also, nearly 25 percent of parents surveyed said that morning drop off stress sets their mood for the day — good or bad.

We’re all adults. We know better. And it’s so simple. We are taught in preschool how to form a line. It’s not complicated. In fact, the simplicity and efficiency of “the line” is what separates us from the apes. Or at least it should.

Unfortunately there are just always people who believe they’re above the system. They’re “in a hurry,” “running late,” or just “dropping their kid off super fast.” Well here’s a newsflash people — we’re ALL just dropping our kids, in a hurry, and running late for a meeting — that’s why we’re in the car line, too.

So, for all of those parents who know somebody who could use a reminder as to how it all works, here are the 7 unbreakable rules of the school drop-off or pick-up line. Print them up, keep copies in your car, and when when you see an offender, paper the h*ll out of their car:

Rule #1: Do NOT get out of your car. Ever. Not to “quickly grab” your kid, wave “come on” to your child over the playground fence, or just say “hi” to your friend in line behind you to tell her how much fun you had at Girl’s Night Out. Stay in your car. And when the car in front of you moves, you move.

Rule #2: Put down the cellphone. Don’t text or type emails. Waiting for your kid in your empty (and wonderfully quiet) car seems like the perfect opportunity to catch up on work – but it’s also a distraction. People on their phones don’t notice the car in front of them has moved, and as we learned in Rule #1, you know what to do next. More importantly, it’s dangerous. People on their phones don’t see children darting out between cars to the parents breaking rule #3.

Rule #3: Don’t double park. Maybe you’re thinking “I’ll just pull up alongside this nice lady here and my kid can run out in front of her and jump in.” No. “But I see my kid right there!” Good. Then you can wave at them to meet you at the end of the line when you circle back around the block. Plus, it’s illegal.

Rule #4: DON’T cut the line. It doesn’t matter that there is a gap the size of the one in Lauren Hutton’s smile in front of that BMW ten cars up. We’re all waiting for them to get off their phone and move up (pop quiz: “What do you do when the car in front of you moves?”). Zipping into that gap is like cutting the line at a cupcake shop. You wouldn’t pull that $#*% at Sprinkles, would you?

Rule #5: Leave the PDA at home. You love your little one and want to send him on his way to school with a kiss. That’s lovely. You’re cute. But if little Johnny won’t get out of the car or he’s not ready to say “goodbye,” go park your car and walk him in. Even better? Install an ejector seat. People are waiting, folks.

Rule #6: The rules of the car drop-off lane apply to everybody, no matter what kind of car you drive. So move your Maserati to the back of the line, dude. You’re giving the 1 percent a bad name.

Rule #7: Move swiftly. Once your kids locate you, get them into the car and get going. Don’t sit there in line and have the “how was your day?” discussion with them.

In short, a little politeness goes a long way in the car lane (and beyond). Remember, being behind the wheel of a car doesn’t make you invisible. We see you. We all see you. Including our children. So let’s try to set a good example. Now put the phone down… the car in front of you just moved up.

Sarah Maizes is author of “On My Way to School,” and a mother of three. For more of Sarah’s parenting wisdom and unsolicited advice, go to www.SarahMaizes.com, or find her on Facebookor Twitter

Why Single Sex Education is Good for Girls

Forbes

This article is by Caroline Erisman, Head of School at Dana Hall, an all-girls independent day and boarding school for grades 6-12 in Wellesley, MA. 

While it was heartening to see that Maryam Mirzakhani, born and raised in Iran, just became the first woman to win a Fields Medal in mathematics, it is unfortunate that the breaking news in this story wasn’t necessarily her accomplishment, but that she was, in fact, a woman.The Boston Globe recently ran a story about this achievement, and raised a common question: why does our country lag behind others when it comes to encouraging female talent in mathematics, especially when research has shown that mathematical talent is fueled by nurture, not nature?  It is an interesting thought, especially given recent coverage of a studyhighlighting how top male professors in life-sciences tend to hire fewer women than female professors do in the same field.

Women make up 50 percent of the population and account for 59 percent of the college-educated entry-level workforce. Today, we can look up to some of the most powerful women in the nation: three Supreme Court justices, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to name a few. But the numbers are not as high as they should be when it comes to female leadership.  According to the Center for American Progress, women still only make up 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners and a mere 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. In Massachusetts, The Boston Club released a report showing that nearly 14 percent of the 100 largest public companies have women as directors, which is below the national average of 17 percent.

Despite these discouraging statistics, there is reason for optimism. Earlier this year an article in Forbes, “11 Reasons 2014 Will Be a Breakout Year for Women Entrepreneurs,” set forth evidence that explains why the numbers of women-owned firms have increased significantly in the last couple of years.  According to research, women are able to build better, more effective teams. Women cooperate and communicate effectively, which are both important qualities of a strong entrepreneur. And women are more proactively seeking visibility these days because they recognize the importance of public speaking, and are beginning to network more aggressively.

While this information is encouraging, it is meaningless unless we ensure that these small gains turn into larger wins. So how do we take what we know and make it mean something?  The answer begins with middle and secondary education for girls.

If girls are exposed to and schooled in these skills during middle and high school, they can refine them in college and be prepared to compete on a more even playing field at that level, and when launching a career. We need to cultivate this type of skills-based learning in our girls at an early age. To create female leaders, we need to raise them as leaders. We need to integrate courses into our curricula that go beyond basic English, math and science classes, such as ones geared towards the principles of engineering, or classes that explore the central role of science and technology in shaping human life, civilization and thought. We need to incorporate into our program business-oriented courses that teach our students at a young age how to succeed in the work force. Otherwise women are disadvantaged when they leave school and enter the employment market. We need to continue to foster all-girls programs that provide an atmosphere where girls excel as leaders without a male presence, because research shows that girls are more engaged, and exude more confidence and competitiveness in single-sex environments.

We as women have come so far, and have made such strides towards success and equality, but it is frustrating to know that in the 21st century, barriers continue to block us from the highest achievements. However, if together, we as educators, parents, and mentors, start early enough, and give young girls the right tools to succeed in the future through early education, then generations of girls to come will use these tools to break down the barriers that currently stand in our way.

Want to Ace That Test? Get the Right Kind of Sleep

Photo

Jillian Dos Santos studies at her home in Columbia, Mo. In 2013, she <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/to-keep-teenagers-alert-schools-let-them-sleep-in/">successfully advocated for a later start times at her high school</a>.
Jillian Dos Santos studies at her home in Columbia, Mo. In 2013, she successfully advocated for a later start times at her high school.Credit Dan Gill for The New York Times

Sleep. Parents crave it, but children and especially teenagers, need it. When educators and policymakers debate the relationship between sleep schedules and school performance and — given the constraints of buses, sports and everything else that seem so much more important — what they should do about it, they miss an intimate biological fact: Sleep is learning, of a very specific kind. Scientists now argue that a primary purpose of sleep is learning consolidation, separating the signal from the noise and flagging what is most valuable.

School schedules change slowly, if at all, and the burden of helping teenagers get the sleep they need is squarely on parents. Can we help our children learn to exploit sleep as a learning tool (while getting enough of it)?

Absolutely. There is research suggesting that different kinds of sleep can aid different kinds of learning, and by teaching “sleep study skills,” we can let our teenagers enjoy the sense that they’re gaming the system.

Start with the basics.

Sleep isn’t merely rest or downtime; the brain comes out to play when head meets pillow. A full night’s sleep includes a large dose of several distinct brain states, including REM sleep – when the brain flares with activity and dreams – and the netherworld of deep sleep, when it whispers to itself in a language that is barely audible. Each of these states developed to handle one kind of job, so getting sleep isn’t just something you “should do” or need. It’s far more: It’s your best friend when you want to get really good at something you’ve been working on.

So you want to remember your Spanish vocabulary (or “How I Met Your Mother” trivia or Red Sox batting averages)?

Easy. Hit the hay at your regular time; don’t stay up late checking Instagram. Studies have found that the first half of the night contains the richest dose of so-called deep sleep — the knocked-out-cold variety — and this is when the brain consolidates facts and figures and new words. This is retention territory, and without it (if we stay up too late), we’re foggier the next day on those basic facts. I explained this to my daughter, Flora, who was up until 2 a.m. or later on many school nights, starting in high school. She ignored it, or seemed to. Learning Arabic is what turned her around, I think. She wants to be good at it, and having to learn not only a new vocabulary but also a completely different writing system is, in the beginning, all retention.

“I started going to bed earlier before the day of Arabic tests, partly for that reason,” Flora said (when reached by text). “But also, of course, I didn’t want to be tired.”

And you want to rip on the guitar, or on the court, right?

Just as the first half of a night’s sleep is rich with deep slumber, the second half is brimming with so-called Stage 2 sleep, the kind that consolidates motor memory, the stuff that aspiring musicians and athletes need. This is not an excuse to sleep through Period 1. Rather, it’s a reason not to roll out of bed too early and miss the body’s chance to refine all those skills learned while kicking a soccer ball off the garage or practicing dance moves.

For an older, teenage student, these two learning stages of sleep offer something more: a means of being tactical about sleep, before an important test or performance. If it’s a French test, then turn off the lights at your normal time, and get up early to study. If it’s a music recital, do the opposite: stay up a little later preparing, and sleep in to your normal time in the morning. If you’re going to burn the candle, it’s good to know which end to burn it on.

What about math tests? I hate those.

Math tests strain both memory (retention) and understanding (comprehension). This is where REM sleep, the dreaming kind, comes in. Studies find that REM is exceptionally good for deciphering hidden patterns, comprehension, and seeing a solution to a hard problem. If the test is mostly a memory challenge (multiplication tables, formulas), then go to sleep at the usual time and get up early for prep. But if it’s hard problems, then it’s REM you want. Stay up a little later and get the full dose of dream-rich sleep, which helps the brain see hidden patterns.

“Mom, I’m tired of studying – I’m going to have a nap.”

By all means. Napping is sleep too, and it’s a miniature version of a full night’s slumber. An hourlong nap typically contains deep sleep, REM and some Stage 2. One caution: napping can interfere with some children’s sleep schedule, and it’s important to make sure day sleep doesn’t scramble the full serving at night. But the central point is that a sensation of exhaustion during a period of work is the brain’s way of saying, “O.K., I’ve studied (or practiced), now it’s time to digest this material and finish the job.”

If a child can nap without losing a handle on his or her natural sleep rhythm, then let it happen.

The upshot is that, for any young student who wants to do better — in school, in sports, in music or even in the social whirl (yes, that’s learning too) — knowing the science of sleep will help them respect slumber for what it is: learning consolidation. Of the best and most natural kind.

Read more about sleep on Motherlode: On Sleep Research, My Children Didn’t Get the Memo; We Tell Kids to ‘Go to Sleep!’ We Need to Teach Them Why.; and ‘What Do Students Need Most? More Sleep.

Giving Good Praise To Girls: What Messages Stick

MindShift

  April 24, 2013

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How to praise kids: It’s a hot topic for many parents and educators. A lot of the conversation around it has stemmed from studies by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford who has been researching this specific topic for many years.

“My research shows that praise for intelligence or ability backfires,” said Dweck, who co-authored a seminal research paper on the effects of praise on motivation and performance. “What we’ve shown is that when you praise someone, say, ‘You’re smart at this,’ the next time they struggle, they think they’re not. It’s really about praising the process they engage in, not how smart they are or how good they are at it, but taking on difficulty, trying many different strategies, sticking to it and achieving over time.”

But what some might not know is that this paradox is strongest for girls.

Dweck’s research, which focuses on what makes people seek challenging tasks, persist through difficulty and do well over time, has shown that many girls believe their abilities are fixed, that individuals are born with gifts and can’t change. Her research finds that when girls think this way, they often give up, rather than persisting through difficulties. They don’t think they possess the ability to improve, and nowhere is the phenomenon stronger than in math.

“Of all the subjects on earth, people think math is the most fixed,” Dweck said. “It’s a gift, you either have it or you don’t. And that it’s most indicative of your intelligence.” This attitude presents an especially sticky problem to educators working to boost girls’ interest and passion for science, technology, engineering and math – STEM subjects. For many boys, believing math is a fixed ability doesn’t hamper achievement — they just assume they have it, Dweck said. But girls don’t seem to possess that same confidence, and in their efforts to achieve perfection, Dweck’s research shows they shy away from subjects where they might fail.

[RELATED READING: Girls and Math: Busting the Stereotype]

“We have research showing that women who believe math is an acquired set of skills, not a gift you have or don’t have, fare very well,” Dweck said. “Even when they have a period of difficulty and even when they’re in an environment that they say is full of negative stereotyping.” This research suggests parents and educators should rethink what implicit and explicit messages are being sent to young girls about achievement.

If adults emphasize that all skills are learned through a process of engagement, value challenge and praise efforts to supersede frustration rather than only showing excitement over the right answer, girls will show resilience. It also might help to provide a roadmap to correct the gender imbalance that already exists in fields requiring math and science, jobs that often involve setbacks, “failing,” and overcoming challenges.

Dweck has found that socialization and beliefs about learning ability are developed at early ages. “Mother’s praise to their babies, one to three years of age, predicts that child’s mindset and desire for challenge five years later,” Dweck said. “It doesn’t mean it is set in stone, but it means that kind of value system — what you’re praising, what you say is important — it’s sinking in. And the kids who are getting this process praise, strategy and taking on hard things and sticking to them, those are the kids who want the challenge.”

Dweck understands it isn’t easy to praise process and emphasize the fun in challenging situations. Kids like direct praise, but to Dweck lauding achievement is like feeding them junk food – it’s bad for them.

[RELATED READING: How Important is Grit in Student Achievement?]

An implicit argument here is that failure in small doses is good. Dweck’s not the first person to make that argument; advocates of game-based learning say one of its strongest attributes lies in a player’s ability to fail and start over without being stigmatized. Students learn as they go, getting better each time they attempt a task in the game. But the current education system leaves little room for failure, and consequently anxious parents often don’t tolerate small setbacks either.

“If you have little failures along the way and have them understand that’s part of learning, and that you can actually derive useful information about what to do next, that’s really useful,” Dweck said.

She believes families should sit around the dinner table discussing the day’s struggles and new strategies for attacking the problem. In life no one can be perfect, and learning to view little failures as learning experiences, or opportunities to grow could be the most valuable lesson of all.

3 Next Steps For Developing Girls’ Leadership

Edutopia

MARCH 18, 2014

Photo credit: Thinkstock

During the month of March, in many educational settings, women’s history is addressed. Images of famous female leaders are pulled out to decorate walls; special assemblies are held; picture books are read; girl power is acknowledged and celebrated. This is all good, but there are some next steps that educators (both men and women) need to take if we’re going to truly empower girls and set them up for leadership roles. We need to offer expanded definitions of leadership, take on the “Lean In” vs. “Recline” debate, and walk the talk.

#1 Explore Definitions of Leadership

It wasn’t until I read Susan Cain’s masterpiece about introverts, Quiet, that I truly recognized and embraced myself as a leader. I’d been schooled on a traditional definition of leadership: a skilled and charismatic orator who immerses himself with the people. Cain’s book propelled me into deep reflections about what it means to be a leader, about how introverts exert leadership, and of the different terrains and domains in which we exercise leadership.

Leadership is not about the role you’re in — it’s about the stance you take and the way you feel and the actions you take in any number of moments. It’s not only about being able to speak to thousands and lead them somewhere. In fact, leadership may be about the opposite, about guiding others to find their own paths, discover their own power, and speak their own truths.

When we limit our definitions of leadership, we limit possibilities. Ask a twelve-year-old girl to name a leader she admires. I bet she’ll name a known figure, if she names anyone at all. If we don’t learn to recognize the leadership that surrounds us, that exists within our own families and communities, we lose credibility when we tell girls that they can be leaders because the number of female leaders that they know will be few.

And so this month, whether with the girls in your class or in your families, explore these ideas together:

  • What does it mean to be a leader?
  • Why is leadership important?
  • What qualities must a leader have?
  • What kinds of leadership qualities do you admire, respect, and want to emulate?
  • In what ways do you take leadership everyday?
  • How can you take leadership?

#2 To “Lean In” or “Recline”?

Any discussion of women and leadership needs to explore the debate between Sheryl Sandberg’s injunction that women need to Lead In and Rosa Brooks’ recently published response urging women to “Recline: Why ‘Leaning In’ Is Killing Us”. (Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” was an earlier challenge to Sandberg and is worth reading.) Brooks’ article struck a chord in me and reminded me of my commitment to slow down, as I describedin this blog.

At the core of these arguments is a discussion about what it means to be a woman and how we chose to show up in the world. These are discussion that have been going on for a millennia and that deserve to be taken up with our young girls and boys.

#3 Walk the Talk

The messages we send to girls are confusing. We tell them, “You can be anything you want!” but then what do we show them? What do they see? This leads me to my third next step if we want to develop leadership in girls.

Women (and men, too) are going to have to do some hard thinking and talking and decision-making if we’re going to develop our daughters and female students into leaders. Once we decide whether we’re going to lean in or recline, (or do a little of both), once we’re clear on our values and options, then we need to walk the talk. That means women might need to lean in to some places and men might need to step down and make space. In classrooms, schools, central offices, and so on, in traditional seats of power, men still hold far more positions. At home, who does the majority of the cooking and cleaning? We can start to make dents in structures when at the very least we discuss what’s happening and why things are the way they are. We can start to remove the notion that this is just “natural.” And perhaps we can start to make little changes here and there.

March offers an opportunity for us to expand definitions and challenge traditional concepts about leadership, explore what it means to be a woman and the various roles and ways in which we express that identity, and finally, to do something different. In order for girls to feel empowered to explore the domain of leadership, they’ll need to engage in many of these conversations and explorations. And as we guide our girls in these, we demonstrate our leadership.

Bigger Gains for Students Who Don’t Get Help Solving Problems

MindShift

 | February 25, 2014

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CCarlstead

“Let them eat cake,” said Marie Antoinette. Should teachers, parents, and managers say of the learners in their charge, “Let them struggle”?

Allowing learners to struggle will actually help them learn better, according to research on “productive failure” conducted by Manu Kapur, a researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore. Kapur’s investigations find that while the model adopted by many teachers and employers when introducing others to new knowledge—providing lots of structure and guidance early on, until the students or workers show that they can do it on their own—makes intuitive sense, it’s not the best way to promote learning. Rather, it’s better to let neophytes wrestle with the material on their own for a while, refraining from giving them any assistance at the start.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the Learning Sciences, Kapur and a co-author, Katerine Bielaczyc, applied the principle of productive failure to mathematical problem solving in three schools in Singapore. With one group of students, the teacher provided intensive “scaffolding”—instructional support—and feedback. With the teacher’s help, these pupils were able to find the answers to their set of problems.

Meanwhile, a second group was directed to solve the same problems by collaborating with one another, absent any prompts from their instructor. These students weren’t able to complete the problems correctly. But in the course of trying to do so, they generated a lot of ideas about the nature of the problems and about what potential solutions would look like. And when the two groups were tested on what they’d learned, the second group “significantly outperformed” the first.

The struggles of the second group have what Kapur calls a “hidden efficacy”: they lead people to understand the deep structure of problems, not simply their correct solutions. When these students encounter a new problem of the same type on a test, they’re able to transfer the knowledge they’ve gathered more effectively than those who were the passive recipients of someone else’s expertise.

In the real world, problems rarely come neatly packaged, so being able to discern their deep structure is key. But, Kapur notes, none of us like to fail, no matter how often Silicon Valley entrepreneurs praise the salutary effects of an idea that flops or a start-up that crashes and burns. So, he says, we need to “design for productive failure” by intentionally managing the way learners fail.

Kapur has identified three conditions that promote a beneficial struggle. First, choose problems to work on that “challenge but do not frustrate.” Second, provide learners with opportunities to explain and elaborate on what they’re doing. Third, give learners the chance to compare and contrast good and bad solutions to the problems.

By allowing learners to experience the discomfort of struggle first, and the triumph of understanding second, we can ensure that they have their cake and eat it, too

Demand for Computer Science Classes Grows, Along With Digital Divide

MindShift

February 17, 2014

Here’s an article on the importance of children learning computer programming.  FYI: Sacred Heart students begin learning to code in Pre-School, students code in all four grades in the Middle School and we have various computer programming classes in the Upper School.

Alex Tu, left, an Advanced Placement student, works during a computer science class in Midwest City, Okla. There's been a sharp decline in the number of computer science classes offered in U.S. secondary schools.

Alex Tu, left, an Advanced Placement student, works during a computer science class in Midwest City, Okla.There’s been a sharp decline in the number of computer science classes offered in U.S. secondary schools. Sue Ogrocki/AP

By Eric Westervelt

A handful of nonprofit and for-profit groups are working to address what they see as a national education crisis: Too few of America’s K-12 public schools actually teach computer science basics and fewer still offer it for credit.

It’s projected that in the next decade there will be about 1 million more U.S. jobs in the tech sector than computer science graduates to fill them. And it’s estimated that only about 10 percent of K-12 schools teach computer science.

So some in the education technology sector, an industry worth some $8 billion a year and growing, are stepping in.

At a Silicon Valley hotel recently, venture capitalists and interested parties heard funding pitches and watched demonstrations from 13 ed-tech start-ups backed by an incubator called Imagine K-12. One of them is Kodable, which aims to teach kids five years and younger the fundamentals of programming through a game where you guide a Pac-Man-esque fuzz ball.

“As soon as you can start learning [coding] you should, because the earlier you start learning something, the better you’ll be at it later in life,” says Grechen Huebner, the co-founder of Kodable. She’s working two computer screens to demonstrate how the game works in the hotel lobby.

“Kids have to drag and drop symbols to get their fuzzy character to go through a maze so they learn about conditions, loops and functions and even debugging,” Huebner says.

So should kids who’ve barely shed their pull-up diapers really learn to code? Huebner thinks it’s vital. “We have kids as young as two using it. Five is just kinda the sweet spot.“

My daughter’s behind, I think. She’s four and she hasn’t started coding. Bad parent.

Even if kids aren’t offered game-based computer science concepts in pre-K, there is growing consensus students should get exposed to basic computer science concepts early. Kodable and other startups hope to make a profit filling this enormous void in American public education.

“Ninety percent of schools just don’t even teach it. So if you’re a parent and your school doesn’t even offer this class, your kids aren’t going to have the preparation they need for 21st century,” says Hadi Partovi, co-founder of the nonprofit Code.org. “Just like we teach how electricity works and biology basics they should also know how the Internet works and how apps work. Schools need to add this to the curriculum.”

Through his “Hour of Code” initiative, Partovi is working to get kids, parents and schools interested computer science curriculum.

‘It’s All Around Us’

Third graders at a public elementary school in Baltimore recently took part in a game-based Hour of Code to start to try to learn the very basics of coding even though they don’t realize it. “So you’re moving three blocks and then you press start,” one third grader says. Gretchen LeGrand with the nonprofit Code in the Schools is trying to bring computer science fundamentals to underserved, low-income kids in Baltimore. She says it’s a huge challenge in a district with few resources.

“The computers are old or outdated. We either can’t install the software we want to use to teach computer programming or the connection’s slow.” She’s had to adapt to teaching about coding without a computer or what more teachers are calling teaching CS unplugged.

Partovi says teaching computer science is not about esoteric knowledge for computer geeks or filling jobs at Google or Microsoft. Most of these jobs are not with big high tech companies. It’s about training a globally competitive workforce and keeping most every sector of the U.S. economy thriving.

“Our future lawyers and doctors and politicians and businessmen — the folks in the other jobs — need to have a little bit of a background about how the world around them works,” Partovi says. “It’s all around us, and every industry gets impacted by it.”

According to a study by the largest U.S. computing society, only 14 states have adopted secondary school standards for computer science. At the same time, there’s been a sharp decline in the last five years in the number of introductory and advanced placement (AP) computer science classes offered in U.S. secondary schools.

Ironically, that decline comes just as states tout improvements to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula. And several groups and corporations have voiced deep concern that the new Common Core state standards promote no significant computer science content in either math or science.

There are some bright spots: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Broward County, Fla., have all recently boosted their commitments to expanding computer science offerings. But there’s a long way to go, says Chris Stephenson who directs the Computer Science Teachers Association. She says a big problem is profound confusion about just what computer science is. Too many parents and administrators conflate gaming and basic point-and-click literacy with computer science — the principles and practices of computing and coding.

“I’ve had administrators actually say to me in all good intention, ‘I know kids are learning computer science in my schools because there are computers in the schools.’ And that is just not true,” Stephenson says.

“I think that they just don’t understand that having access to a computer isn’t the same as learning computer science any more than having a Bunsen burner in the cupboard is the same as learning chemistry,” she says. “There’s a scientific discipline here you can’t just learn by playing around with the technology.”

Informational Divide

The “guesstimate” is that only five to 10 percent of schools teach computer science, based largely on data on students who take the AP test in computer science annually. The real percentage may be lower. Nobody tracks the figures nationally.

Some sobering stats from last year’s AP data:

In Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming, no girls took the computer science exam.

In 11 states, no black students took it.

In eight states, no Hispanics took it.

In 17 states, fewer than 100 students took it.

“It’s crazy small. I mean it would be absurd if it weren’t so scary; that’s how terrifying it is,” Stephenson says.

So never mind the hardware-based digital divide, there’s a growing digital information divide. Computer science education, it seems, is now privileged knowledge accessible mostly by affluent kids.

“The people that are most likely to succeed have access to it and other kids do not, and we really need to look at those facts and figures and be horrified by them,” Stephenson says.

She says the Hour of Code — which has reached millions of students around the world — is a terrific start. But until more public schools offer computer science— for credit — she says the knowledge gap will only continue to widen.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Explore: coding, c