Expanding computer science (CS) education is of vital importance to the United States. The scope of this challenge is demonstrated in the National Science Foundation’s “CS10K” vision. CS10K seeks to have rigorous academic CS courses in 10,000 high schools taught by 10,000 teachers by 2016. If the nation is going to achieve this goal and realize quality CS education across the country, our strategy needs to be grounded in understandings of our current capacity. Building on this foundation, CS education advocates will be able to identify the next steps to prepare, develop, and support all levels of CS teachers and advocate for the continued expansion and improvement of CS education.

The “Building an Operating System for Computer Science” (OS4CS) study was designed as a collaborative research and communication effort to establish a more comprehensive understanding of our nation’s current high school computer science (CS) teaching population, the support they have, and contexts in which they teach. The University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE) and Urban Education Institute (UEI) worked with a partnership established by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) that includes the National Science Foundation (NSF), Google, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), Microsoft, and the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) to provide a wide range of information and guidance that would inform and shape CS education efforts.

The OS4CS project has five components. The first, the PD Landscape Study, focuses on describing the current landscape of professional development available to high school CS teachers. This study provides information about who, when, and where professional development is happening, what that professional development entails, and who is participating in it. The second, the Teacher Capacity Study, complements the PD Landscape Study by providing information about the CS teacher population that might participate in professional development. The Teacher Capacity Study describes CS teachers — who they are, where they are, how they teach, and the conditions that affect their teaching. A third component of the project, CS in Schools complements the first two by providing an in-depth description of CS education in schools using the voices of teachers and their school administrators.

This project is the first of its kind in the United States to examine CS teacher needs, the contexts and conditions under which they work, and the resources available to them. Even with this information, those wishing to support future growth of CS education may not fully know where to begin. Recognition of this need was behind the other two components of the project – Stories from the Field and the PD Design Studios. Stories from the Field offers four different examples of how advocates for CS education have made progress in their communities. The Design Studio was a face-to-face workshop conducted with PD providers to examine the findings from the Landscape Study and use them to improve existing PD offerings for CS teachers.

These project components together create a strong base for realizing the CS10K vision. However, the work has just begun. Although the studies provide the first such coordinated and aligned look at the needs of CS teachers, PD providers and CS education leaders, it is only a beginning. More work is yet to be done to provide a more systematic and comprehensive examination of the entire CS teaching population and establish common understandings about goals and norms for quality CS education. As the field develops, it will benefit from effectiveness studies of particular approaches and cost-benefit analyses of reform strategies. The University of Chicago team hopes that the work presented here will encourage other researchers to take up such studies and inspire advocates and stakeholders to come together to build and develop practices and knowledge that will bring quality CS education to every learner.


Jeanne Century
Director of Science Education and
Research & Evaluation
University of Chicago’s Center for
Elementary Mathematics and Science Education
Michael Lach
Director of STEM Partnerships and
Strategic Planning
University of Chicago Urban Education Institute
and the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education

Project Team:

Century, J., Lach, M., King, H., Rand, S., Heppner, C., Franke, B., & Westrick, J. (2013). Building an Operating System for Computer Science. Chicago, IL: CEMSE, University of Chicago with UEI, University of Chicago. Retrieved [date], from

The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the work of Dae Kim, Margaret Sharkey, George Vythoulkas, Hannah Davis and John Hreha in the creation of this report and the input of advisors Owen Astrachan, Gail Chapman, Mark Guzdial, Brook Osborne, and Chris Stephenson.