Here’s why American students don’t learn computer science

America’s youth isn’t getting a decent education when it comes to the basics of technology, and now we’re seeing some data on why that’s the case.
A survey conducted by Google and Gallup shows that many Americans believe computer science should be taught between kindergarten and the 12th grade. Yet most schools don’t offer the courses due to budget constraints, a lack of teachers, and the need to focus more on subjects included in standardized tests.
The results are another mark against standardized tests, which have become a point of contention among parents, students, teachers, principals, and essentially anyone else who doesn’t profit off their continued existence. Yet these reviled constructs aren’t the only cause of computer science courses’ woes.
Another problem might be the lack of communication between administrators, parents, students, and teachers. The survey showed that 91 percent of parents want their children to learn computer science; less than 8 percent of principals thought demand for the courses was that high. That can’t be blamed on tests — it’s simply the byproduct of a good-ol’ fashioned breakdown in communication.
The rising number of low-income students also contributes to the problem. More students qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school (a sign of belonging to a low income family) than ever before. Yet the schools these children attend receive less than their fair share of state or federal funding, according to a 2011 report published by the US Department of Education.
That could help explain why many superintendents who responded to the survey said there isn’t enough money to train or hire a teacher (57 percent); nor a sufficient budget to purchase necessary equipment (31 percent) or software  (33 percent); nor enough equipment (20 percent) or software (27 percent) already in their schools for them to introduce computer science courses.
All those factors combine to create a system where computer science is limited to students privileged enough to belong to schools that value the subject, have the equipment necessary to teach it, and reliable Internet access they can use to complete any homework. The barriers to computer science being taught more widely don’t end with schools; they extend into student’s home lives, too.
None of these problems are unique to computer science. The influence of standardized tests, budget shortfalls, and a student’s lack of resources at home aren’t limited to this one aspect of education held near-and-dear by the tech industry’s top companies. They pervade every aspect of America’s education system — and that means introducing computer science courses shouldn’t necessarily be a goal unto itself, but should instead be another bullet point in any argument meant to overhaul much of this country’s education system.

Tech firms say schools need more spectrum

If President Obama really wants to put Wi-Fi in every U.S. classroom, then the government will need to release more unlicensed spectrum for public use — or so says WifiForward, a spectrum lobbying group backed by Google, Microsoft, the cable companies and the Consumer Electronics Association.

WifiForward prepared a paper this week that calls for regulators to open up or lift restrictions on big swathes of the 5 GHz band so it can be used to build bigger, badder gigabit Wi-Fi networks. It also calls for the government to open up more white space spectrum and move forward with its plans to create a shared public-private band at 3.5 GHz, which could be used to link those Wi-Fi networks to the internet proper without using wires or fiber.

Obama is pushing an ambitious plan called ConnectEd to link 99 percent of all U.S. schools with high-speed broadband, and many tech companies like Apple and Microsoft and carriers like AT&T and Verizon have signed on as partners, pledging money, services and equipment to the effort. But WifiForward claims that if the administration wants to ConnectEd right, it needs to think in terms of very fat pipes.

A school of 1,000 students and staff needs at least a 1 Gbps broadband link to ensure every pupil and teacher has access to a 1 Mbps connection, according to a study by the State Educational Technology Directors Association that the paper cited. By 2018, there will be an estimated 56.5 million K-12 students in the U.S., and they will need a combined 56.5 Tbps of bandwidth. Those kind of capacities will require more spectrum than available today, WifiForward claims.

Of course, opening up more unlicensed spectrum wouldn’t just benefit schools, since that new capacity would be available to any company, organization or consumer using a Wi-Fi router. Emphasizing schools is a good way to pull on the public’s heartstrings, but WifiForward’s arguments are still valid. Unlicensed airwaves produced a tremendous amount of innovation around the world. Investing in more unlicensed technologies will keep that innovation going.

BloomSky wants to turn schools into storm tracking stations

Science teachers wanting to teach their students about the changing ways of weather soon could find themselves with an interesting teaching aid. Crowdsourced weather startup BloomSky plans to give away 10,000 internet-connected weather probes to schools and parks