How will we teach cybersecurity in our high schools? UT-led CS Task Force offers six critical recommendations.

By Christian Bazán
CS Task Force Report 2018: Preparing Texas Students for the Cyber Economy

The Texas Computer Science Task Force released its 2018 report "Preparing Texas Students for the Cyber Economy" to the public today. The report recommends several policy changes and details a new high school computer science (CS) pathway culminating in a capstone cybersecurity course.

The CS Task Force is a thirty-one person panel of educators, industry professionals, computer scientists, and military security experts identified by the WeTeach_CS program, headquartered at the UT STEM Center, and convened by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). From February to July, the Task Force conducted an in-depth review of Texas’s current CS landscape and compiled six recommendations on how to meet the mandates of the Texas House Bill 3593 which proposed the creation of a cybersecurity pathway to address the growing need for cybersecurity professionals.

The report divides recommendations to TEA and the State Board of Education into two types of proposals: implementation of the new cybersecurity pathway and refinement of current K-12 CS education policies. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Create a capstone cybersecurity course.

  • Designate a cybersecurity pathway that culminates in the capstone course.

  • Move all computer science courses from Technology Applications (Tech Apps) to Career and Technical Education (CTE).

  • Create a long-range plan for monitoring cybersecurity.

  • Update the high school computer science Texas Educational Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to reduce overlap or gaps in the current courses.

  • Update the K-8 Tech Apps TEKS to place more emphasis on computational thinking in the courses.

Currently, Texas uses two classifications for computer science related courses: Tech Apps and CTE. Tech Apps courses often have more rigorous certifications and curriculums while CTE courses have more direct funding and are audited to ensure that they are representative of the student population. The report recommends structural changes that would take advantage of the best aspects of both classifications to provide both increased rigor and access to computer science education.

“By moving the Tech Apps computer science courses to CTE, high schools enrolling students in CS courses would secure weighted funding for those courses and simultaneously incentivize diversity in their classrooms,” said Carol Fletcher, Ph.D., deputy director of the UT STEM Center. “Removing the barriers between Tech Apps and CTE means less repetition in our courses, higher quality, and better equity in enrollment. We could prepare more Texas students than ever to enter CS pathways which lead to success in college and high-paying jobs in the workforce.”

In 2017, the Texas Legislature recognized the need for a computer science literate population that could contribute to the increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals. HB 3593 proposed a five-course cybersecurity pathway for Texas high schools, weighted funding for the courses in the pathway, and a stipend for teachers who gain a cybersecurity certification. The bill passed committee, was approved by the House and Senate, and was signed by the Governor shortly after.

“Cybersecurity is a national problem, and Texas is taking the lead, especially in tech hubs like San Antonio and Austin, but this is an opportunity, as well as a challenge, that all of Texas needs to embrace,” said Fletcher.

The full report is available to the public here:

View / Download CS Task Force Report 2018

About the author:

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Christian Bazán is the Communications Coordinator for the STEM Center.