CS4NorCal Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is CS4NorCal?

A: CS4NorCal is a unique 5-year regional research and innovation project sponsored by the California Small School Districts' Association to create K-12 computer science pathways in small rural schools in 6 northern California counties: Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta and Siskiyou. Through 2024-2025, CS4NorCal is an opportunity for education leaders from county offices of education, districts and schools to investigate and design implementation models to integrate the 2018 state CS standards into their educational programs and provide students with access to one of the core subjects of a “well-rounded” education.

With guidance from the Sacramento County Office of Education, local planning teams are co-designing professional learning and school implementation models. Researchers from the University of California at Davis are evaluating the process to inform the refinement of a high-quality product that can be replicated in similar rural communities. Educators are participating in up to 3 years of compensated professional learning and have formed a regional CS community of practice in conjunction with the Far North Chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association. Schools receive access to no-cost or low-cost, nationally-validated, standards-aligned CS curriculum. Community partners will integrate CS pathways into postsecondary preparation and workforce development initiatives.

For more information: CS4NorCal One-Pager

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Q: How can I/my school participate?

A: SSDA is recruiting school teams from Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta and Siskiyou counties. No prior experience with computer science is necessary! Each team will include at least 2 teachers and an administrator. At the high school level, the team also will include a counselor. Schools will commit to implementing CS instruction across at least 2 grade levels.

Participants -- up to 265 teachers -- will be assigned to one of four cohorts:

  • Pilot (3 years starting in summer 2021)

  • Expansion (3 years starting in summer 2022)

  • Comparison 1 (2 years starting in summer 2023)

  • Comparison 2 (1 year, starting in summer 2024)

Please complete a CS4NorCal Interest Form whether you want to participate or just learn more about participating. Click here to access a printable Invitation to Participate flyer to share with your colleagues.

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Q: Is there a cost to participate?

A: Because CS4NorCal is funded by a federal grant, SSDA will cover costs associated with participation. All professional learning activities -- including summer boot camps, academic year workshops, quarterly communities of practice and ongoing technical assistance -- will be free of charge. Access to all of the nationally validated, standards-aligned curriculum will be provided at no cost or low cost. SSDA will provide stipends to teachers who participate in the project.

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Q: What will the amount of the stipend be for participating teachers?

A:

  • Up to $750 for each 5 days of training completed

    • ES PL experience is 5 days/year for up to 2 years

    • HS PL experience is 10 days/year for up to 2 years

  • All teachers:

    • $100/community of practice meeting; up to 4/year

    • $50/year to provide data for the study outside of PL time

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Q: What are the expectations of schools and teachers?

A: Participating schools and teachers in each cohort will commit to providing computer science instruction, at a minimum of:

  • 30 hours a year for students in grades K-5

  • 50 hours a year for students in grades 6-8

  • 300 hours during a student’s enrollment in grades 9-12

Computer science instruction may occur across a variety of experiences and settings (e.g., integrated with math or science, standalone electives or technology class, CTE pathway, extended-day events or summer school). CS pathways also will include work-based learning and college- and career-readiness activities pertaining to computer science.

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Q: What are the benefits of participating?

A:

  • Participating teachers will receive intensive compensated professional learning and, if desired, opportunity to earn CEUs and/or CS micro-credentials.

  • Educators will receive support to develop a regional CS network

  • Schools will receive nationally validated, online CS curriculum and jump-start their efforts to integrate CS into their regular instructional program.

  • Schools will gain support to add elective courses and/or integrate standards-aligned CS instructional units into their math and science curriculum and increase the real-world relevance and application of Common Core math and Next Generation Science Standards.

  • Schools will have opportunities to provide students with CS-relevant experiences through Work-based Learning and College- and Career-Readiness activities.

  • Students will be better prepared to succeed in postsecondary education and 21st-century careers.

  • Further benefits by grade span are described here.

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Q: What is computer science (CS)?

A: Put simply, computer science (CS) is learning how to use the power of computers to solve problems. It’s the study of computers and algorithmic processes, their principles, their designs, their applications, and their impact on society. CS core concepts provide foundational knowledge of computing principles, giving students opportunities to develop as logical thinkers who carefully weigh the societal and cultural impacts of computing, promote inclusion and celebrate diversity.

Computer science is:

  • A standards-based discipline

  • A theory and practice that allows you to program a computer to do what you want it to

  • A tool that helps you tell a story or make something happen with technology

  • A discipline that emphasizes persistence in problem solving — a skill that is applicable across disciplines, driving job growth and innovation across all sectors of the workforce

  • A skill that teaches students how to use computers to create, not just consume

Computer science is NOT:

  • Learning how to type or use a mouse

  • Learning to use word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs & Drive)

  • Learning how to build or repair computers

  • Playing video games

  • SmarterBalanced (SBAC) skills
    ~ adapted from CS First

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Q: Why is K-12 CS education important?

A: CS teaches problem solving and important skills like communication, collaboration, and design. CS is an essential component of a broad and comprehensive education, a core competency that is increasingly important in a world where computing is ubiquitous. There are tremendous career opportunities, and CS is relevant to all career pathways. Digital technologies are largely responsible for the global connectivity of the economy.

This fundamental knowledge prepares students to flourish as 21st-century workers and citizens, regardless of their ultimate field of study or occupation. CS permeates many aspects of daily life and big data, software, and the Internet are integrated into businesses and products throughout society. The knowledge and skills learned from studying CS prepare students for careers in many sectors, including manufacturing, healthcare, retail, graphic arts and management of natural resources. A computer science education prepares youth to enter a high-demand, high-wage workforce.

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Q: What is a CS pathway?

A: A CS pathway is a multi-grade sequence of instruction aligned with the California CS standards that prepares a student to pursue CS/STEM post-secondary study and careers. The pathway can be integrated into the master schedule in a variety of configurations. For example, instruction can be integrated with math or science content, offered as a standalone elective or technology class, featured in a CTE pathway, and/or supported by extended-day events or summer school). Click on this link for more information about the potential components of a CS pathway: Sample Computer Science Pathways

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Q: What curriculum is available for CS content?

A: CS4NorCal will provide free access to a variety of high quality, free or low-cost, industry-validated CS curriculum. Resources include:

Click on this link for a flow chart of the CS curricular options: Curriculum Pathway

CS4NorCal will provide professional learning workshops for all products listed here.

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Q: What are the elements of CS4NorCal’s professional learning model?

A: CS4NorCal’s professional learning model includes 10 days of summer and academic year workshops across 2 years for elementary school teachers and up to 20 days of summer and academic year workshops across 2 years for middle and high school teachers. Also, participating teachers may access quarterly community of practice meetings affiliated with the Far North chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association and on-going technical assistance and coaching. Click here for more information about the professional learning model.

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Q: What will be the focus of the Summer of CS workshops?

A: During the Summer of CS, a statewide program, participants will experience a deep induction into CS content and pedagogy. During the second summer, they also will learn about other elements of a CS pathway, including data science and equity-minded instructional CS approaches.

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Q: Must participants commit to multiple years of participation?

A: No.

Because CS4NorCal is funded through a federal Education Innovation and Research grant, participants will be placed in staggered cohorts, allowing the SSDA team to co-design the implementation with local partners from each county office of education, evaluate processes and refine the model over the course of the project. Each cohort will receive intensive professional development that will start a year at a time, commencing during summer 2021.

SSDA currently is seeking schools and teachers willing to join a cohort starting in summer 2022 or summer 2024.

Click here to learn more about the cohort experience.

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Q: CS4NorCal is a research project. How will that impact participants?

A: In conjunction with our research partner, UC Davis, SSDA will evaluate project implementation each year, learning from participant and student outcomes how to refine the professional learning and instructional delivery models. Throughout the process, SSDA and UCD also will evaluate student and teacher outcomes of a control group, which will participate in the project’s professional learning intervention at the project’s end, 2024-25.

In each year of participation, all teachers will participate in data collection activities to support the learning and evaluation of the project. Data collection activities may include, taking surveys, participating in interviews and/or focus groups, collecting student participation and outcome data, and sharing artifacts of teaching and learning.

Prior to participating in professional learning, teachers in either of the control groups (starting in summer 2023 or summer 2024) also will participate in data collection activities that will inform the project’s study and evaluation. Data collection activities will be compensated and include administering a student CS interest survey, a short assessment of CS skills, and district provision of SBAC data.

Most data collection will occur during the compensated professional learning workshops. However, participants also will receive $50/year for time spent collecting data.

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