Impact of the CPS Computer Science Graduation Policy on Student Access and Outcomes

December 2022


Steven McGee

The Learning Partnership

Lucia Dettori

DePaul University

Andrew Rasmussen

Chicago Public Schools

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) leads the nation in computer science education. Each year 14,000 Chicago Public Schools students graduate with at least one year of computer science. This is the result of a graduation requirement that CPS enacted in 2016. The foundational course that most students completed to fulfill the requirement is Exploring Computer Science (ECS). This evaluation of the impact of the graduation requirement was framed around the CAPE framework. To ensure that a district supports equal outcomes in computer science, they need to develop Capacity for schools to offer computer science, increase Access to computer science, ensure equal Participation, and then examine how computer science Experiences lead to equal outcomes. The analysis was conducted through a CME-funded summer fellowship program, which included advanced graduate students and early career researchers. They found the following results. The ECS professional development program supported a rapid expansion of school Capacity after the enactment of the graduation requirement. At the time the graduation requirement was enacted, roughly half of the schools did not offer any computer science and 2/3 did not have sufficient capacity to support computer science for all students. Larger schools with fewer low-income students and a strong college going climate were more likely to offer computer science just before the enactment of the graduation requirement. Access to computer science expanded significantly after the computer science graduation requirement. Participation in computer science significantly increased across all demographic groups after the graduation requirement. By the time the 2nd cohort graduated after the requirement, the demographics of students taking computer science matched the demographics of the district. Students’ Experiences with ECS led to equivalent course performance between students taking ECS before and after the enactment of the graduation requirement. The number of students pursuing computer science pathways in CPS doubled after the enactment of the graduation requirement.

Suggested Citation

McGee, S., Dettori, L., & Rasmussen, A.M. (2022). Impact of the CPS Computer Science Graduation Policy on Student Access and Outcomes [report]. Chicago, IL: The Learning Partnership.