Ensuring rural AZ K-8 students aren't left behind in computer science

The Arizona K–8 Consortium Hub works to integrate computer science and computational thinking into rural and tribal K–8 education.

 Project title 
Arizona K-8 Consortium: Building CS and CT capacity in rural K-8 education

 Official grant name 
Arizona K-8 Consortium: Building CS and CT capacity in rural K-8 education

 Award amount 
$299,620

 Grant effective dates 
January 1, 2021June 30, 2022

 Principal investigator(s) 
Alexander Kurz

 Originating sponsor 
National Science Foundation

 Direct sponsor 
SciTech Institute



The challenge

Rural school districts offering computer science education encounter challenges that many urban districts don’t. A 2013 survey by Science Foundation Arizona reported that less than half of students in Arizona’s 13 rural counties have internet access at home. Other obstacles include: Higher student poverty rates Lower educational attainment within the community A lower percentage of students who speak English as their first language Long bus rides to school Lower levels of parental involvement. Like some of their urban counterparts, rural districts have difficulty recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers in the STEM and computer science areas, and teachers are often called upon to fulfill other duties outside their subject area or classroom. This decreases the time available for professional development activities, and the cost of in-person professional development (PD) is likewise prohibitive for the district. Yet in their responses to the survey, rural educators listed quality PD as one of their three most-needed supports. This was particularly true of elementary school educators.



The approach

This project will establish the Arizona K–8 Consortium Hub, a network of multiple regional researcher-practitioner partnerships (RPPs) that will work to integrate computer science and computational thinking (CS/CT) into rural and tribal K–8 education. The hub’s primary role will be to support regional RPPs logistically with partnership building and grant writing, as well as by developing and implementing an integrated professional development and Professional Learning Community (PD/PLC) platform that builds local capacity. During the 18-month development phase, RPPs will work with the hub to:

  • Assess the current state of CS/CT education and PD in their K–8 schools, including CS/CT interventions and curriculum and K–8 student CS/CT assessment tools, and identify gaps and issues to be addressed.
  • Articulate what high-quality CS/CT looks like in rural schools serving underserved, underrepresented youth, and what PD/PLC supports and work are needed to support and sustain implementation.
  • Co-design and support integrated research/evaluation studies to address gaps and issues along with building capacity.
  • Build strong integrated PD/PLCs that support RPPs in designing and implementing CS and CT interventions in rural pre-K–8 classrooms, and future proposal development to the National Science Foundation CS for All program’s pre-K–8 strand, among others.



Findings & impact

Funding for this project continues through June 2022. Outcomes will include four rural RPPs, an overview of rural Arizona's current CS/CT interventions and self-efficacy in rural K–8 educators, and a roadmap for joint research around the integration of CS/CT education in rural K–8 schools.