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​STEM and Computer Science FAQ

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What is STEM?

As defined by Pennsylvania’s Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated plan, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is an integrated, interdisciplinary, and student-centered approach to learning that encourages curiosity, creativity, artistic expression, collaboration, communication, problem solving, critical thinking, data informed decisions, computational thinking, and design thinking.

Who can teach STEM?

Certificates that may be used to teach STEM academic programs (with recommended trainings to meet specific competencies and skill sets) include:

  • Appropriate science certificates depending on course content;
  • Technology Education PK-12;
  • Mathematics 7-12;
  • Mid-level Math 6-9 and 4-8;
  • Mid-level Science 6-9 and 4-8;
  • Elementary K-6;
  • Art (STEAM);
  • Music (STEAM) and

Team teaching and/or collaborative planning/design are the ideal models since STEM is a combination of specific disciplines and can be integrated across content areas.

​What is computer science (CS)?

As the foundation for all computing, computer science is defined as “the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their [implementation], and their impact on society.”

​Who can teach computer science?

The following certificates may be used to teach computer science (with recommended trainings to meet competencies and skill sets):

  • Appropriate science certificates;
  • Mathematics 7-12;
  • Business Computer Information Technology;
  • Technology Education PK-12;
  • Mid-level Math 6-9 and 4-8;
  • Mid-level Science 6-9 and 4-8;
  • Elementary K-6 (with recommended trainings); and
  • Early Childhood N-3, PK-4 (with recommended trainings).

For more information about computer science professional learning opportunities, contact Judd R. Pittman at the PA Department of Education (PDE).

What standards guide computer science instruction in Pennsylvania?

​In January 2018 the Pennsylvania State Board of Education endorsed the Computer Science Teachers Association (CTSA) K-12 standards.

What organizations support computer science education?

The following list and attached "Table 1" are not exhaustive and are not an endorsement of any one program. Rather, they are intended to be resources for LEAs to begin the computer science conversation in their communities.

Apple Everyone Can Code is a comprehensive curricular approach to teaching computer science from the earliest of learners to high school students.

  • Apple K-5 builds the early skills of a computer scientists through hands on activities and progress to learning computer science concepts through visual-based apps.
  • Apple 6-8 Swift uses fundamental computer science concepts using Apple Swift to begin thinking and creating like an app developer.
  • Apple 9-12 Swift applies the tools, techniques, and concepts needed to construct an IOS app from scratch.

Code.org is a non-profit organization that aims to expand computer science learning for students and educators.

  • CS Fundamentals: Intended for teams of elementary educators, CS Fundamentals includes one full-day of training with four additional one-day sessions.
  • CS Discovery: CS Discovery is designed for teams of middle school educators. Participants attend a one-week course during the summer (June, July or August) and four additional one-day sessions during the school year.
  • CS Principles: CS principles is the professional development for high school educators and can lead to certification to teach Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science. Like CS Discovery, participants attend a one-week course during the summer and four additional one-day sessions during the school year.

Microsoft Teals: The Microsoft Teals program helps schools build a robust high school computer science program by partnering educators with technology industry professionals.

Google CSFirst: CSFirst is a professional learning package for middle school educators to provide students ages 9-14 an introduction to computer science and the programming language Scratch. Training is offered at various times throughout the year through intermediate units.

Beauty and Joy of Computing (BJC): BJC is an introduction to high school CS curriculum developed by the University of California Berkeley and prepares educators to offer AP CS Principles and advanced CS courses in their schools. Training is offered at various times throughout the year through intermediate units.

Computer Science Teachers Association is a professional organization for supporting computer science educators.

Pennsylvania Intermediate Units across the commonwealth that provide technical assistance in STEM and computer science.

What are some computer science curriculum frameworks and resources in Pennsylvania?

A variety of Pennsylvania Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are building curricular resources for CS including:

* Indicates that the LEA is a member of the Digital Promise network for CS.

What credit may be given for a computer science course at the high school level?

24 PS § 16-1605 (c)(1) permits a student who completes a computer science or information technology course during grades 9-12 to apply one credit to either the math or science graduation requirement. The LEA has the discretion to determine where the graduation credit shall be applied. For an example of this answer, please see the Peters Township School District’s handbook.

Does a computer science teacher need to be certified in math or science for the computer science course to count towards math or science credit, pursuant to Section 1605 (c)(1)?

​No. The computer science teacher must only be certified in one of the certificate areas previously listed (see Question 4). The course may then be applied to either subject area for credit as determined by the LEA.

Are Pennsylvania colleges and universities offering programs  leading to computer science certification?

In January 2018, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education endorsed the Computer Science Teachers Association standards for learning preK-12 computer science. Upon the approval, PDE developed and approved the Framework for Computer Science 7-12 Program Guidelines in December of 2018. Colleges and universities are in the process of designing computer science education programs aligned to the Framework for Computers Science 7-12 Program Guidelines. Once a college or university has an approved program it will be listed on the PDE website. By December 2019, PDE will select a vendor to provide the 7-12 Computer Science Certification Exam. PDE anticipates issuing certifications in 7-12 computer science by Fall 2020.

Where can educators find information and training on STEM and computer science?

PDE works through and funds the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance (PaTTAN) and the 29 Intermediate Units to provide training and technical assistance in STEM / Computer Science for educators. Visit the PATTAN training calendar or your local Intermediate Unit for more information on professional learning in STEM and computer science.

For a list of colleges and universities that offer the STEM Endorsement visit PDE’s website. Visit to the PDE website for subject specific program guidelines.

Table 1: Additional Examples of Computer Science and STEM Resources

OrganizationCurriculumProfessional Development1
Beauty and Joy of ComputingYear-long CS Principles course, freeIn-person in NYC, Berkeley, CA and North Carolina, free, stipends in NYC, stipends + travel elsewhere paid as available
BootstrapTeach algebra through video-game programming, with a 20-hr module to go alongside or inside a math class3-day workshops for schools and districts. Fees range
CodeHS4-year high school CS pathway. Intro CS JavaScript, Intro CS Python, Advanced Placement (AP) CS Principles, AP CS in Java, Computing Ideas, Web Design and more, free. Pro plans for schools start at $2,500Online PD for Teaching Intro CS, Teaching AP Java, and Teaching AP CS Principles, 30-40-hour course, $1,500/teacher
EdhesiveYear-long AP CS course, freeOnline PD, community and content/technical/program support available, $2,200 per school
Exploring CSYear-long introductory high school course aimed at broadening participation in CS. 6 units, 6 weeks eachWeek-long summer institute and quarterly one-day academic year workshops
Globaloria6 game-design courses, $75/student3-day, in-person training and ongoing online PD, fee included in student price
Mobile CSPYear-long CS Principles course, materials available online, freeOnline, regional in-person offered in CT, MA, NH and CA (others may be available), free, stipends available
NMSIYear-long AP CS Principles/AP CS A course, freeIn-person summer training + PD throughout the year. One-on-one mentoring available to partner schools, free
Project Lead the Way3 courses, $2,000/school5 or 10-day in-person training, $1200 or $2400, depending on course
ScratchEd6-unit course, freeIn-person educator meet-ups and online MOOC, free
TEALS3 courses, including AP CS A, freeProgram implemented by TEALS volunteers, $5,000
UC Davis C-STEMMultiple academic year-long courses on computing in math, programming, and robotics. Annual subscription/$1,000. Software $300/computer lab. Free PDF files.$150/day for training held at UC Davis campus. Costs vary for on-site training

1Prices listed are current as of summer 2019. Please refer to organizations' websites for updated and specific information.

​ More Information

More information on STEM and computer science.

More information on staffing guidelines and subject specific program guidelines.