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CA Adopts K-12 Data Science Education

California becomes the 17th state to back introductory Data Science in K-12.

The country's most populous state is now recommending that all students learn introductory data science in high school, and graduate with a strong data literacy to be prepared for the 21st century.

On July 12, the California State Board of Education adopted the state's new Mathematics Framework: a guidance document that provides recommendations to schools and districts for how to implement K-12 mathematics credit requirements, and for how to go beyond the required two years of mathematics in high school. The Framework garnered national attention (and controversy) on a range of issues since its first draft in 2021 - including the timing of Algebra 1, pedagogical approaches for teaching elementary math, and the practice of student "tracking" in middle school.

While generating numerous debates, the Framework's efforts to modernize content and teaching strategies for mathematics in the 21st century centered on incorporating introductory Data Science, including:

  • Adds a dedicated "Chapter 5: Mathematical Foundations for Data Science"

  • Adds a "Content Connection" for "Reasoning with Data" (CC1)

  • Recommends guidelines for integration of Data Literacy in Grades K-10

  • Recommends guidelines for a one-year Data Science capstone course in High School

The SBE recommends that schools "encourage students across age spans to become proficient at understanding and using data—a key skill in the 21st century job market."

The Framework goes as far to recommend foundational Data Science and Statistics learning as essential for every mathematics course and sequence:

"data science can and should be integrated into math instruction across the grade levels, from elementary school through high school, regardless of which pathway a school has selected." (see Chapter 8).

Several national press outlets covered the Framework adoption, and the addition of Data Science, including EdWeek, the NYTimes, and the LATimes. While some centered on a narrow debate over Algebra 2 vs. Data Science - which DS4E Coalition members believe is a false tradeoff and impacts less than 1% of students - the addition of Data Science across the Framework was strongly supported by CA education leaders, education researchers, and teachers: "The K-12 framework’s emphasis on data science proved popular during Wednesday’s public comment on the document, with several teachers, professors, and former California public school students speaking in favor of expanded pathways (Edweek)."

It also mirrors momentum in higher education for the discipline, with the University of California Berkeley recently launching an entire college dedicated to Data Science, the first new college at Berkeley in over 50 years. Regardless of post-secondary pathway, the new Framework recognizes that all students will need a strong data literacy by high school graduation.

Public comments supporting K-12 Data Science programs during the Framework proceedings can be found here. Examples of advocacy for creating modernized math experiences to incorporate Data Science can be found here, here, here, and here. DS4E looks forward to aiding schools and districts in California, and around the country, in implementing high-quality and challenging data science education programs for students to be prepared for the 21st century.

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