The Evolution of Programming the Acceleration of Computing and Equity (PACE)

Throughout the late spring and summer of 2017, MassCAN and the leadership of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (M.A.S.S.) continued to meet and refine their vision for the PACE Initiative. MassCAN met twice during this period with the 20+-member M.A.S.S. executive committee to provide detailed briefings on computer science (CS) and its emerging importance as a key aspect of 21st century literacy and on the growing demand for CS jobs, both in Massachusetts and nationally.

The vision that emerged for PACE comprised three main tasks:

  1. Task 1: Launch the PACE Lab. M.A.S.S. and MassCAN would identify 5–15 school districts from throughout the state with high interest in CS education who would engage in an initial two-year effort to introduce grade-band-wide (K–5, 6–8, or 9–12) implementation of CS in their district. MassCAN and partners would provide a range of supports to the selected districts, including facilitation of the SCRIPT planning process and use of the Massachusetts K–12 Computer Science Curriculum Guide. MassCAN partners would play the primary role in providing the teacher professional development needed by each district.
  2. Task 2: Offer ongoing support to M.A.S.S., which would occur simultaneously with Task 1. This support would include providing CS speakers and presenters (business leaders, teachers, and students) for the M.A.S.S. semi-annual meetings. Additionally, MassCAN would continue to meet with M.A.S.S. as a member of the PACE steering committee—along with representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the One8 Foundation (which supports the state-funded CS grant to Project Lead The Way)—to support the ongoing development of the PACE Initiative.
  3. Task 3: Establish a PACE Clearinghouse—an online resource center for all school districts who are not involved in the PACE Lab but are still very interested in guidance on implementing K–12 CS education. This phase would start after the first two phases, as funding became available.

As the first step in launching the PACE Lab, the PACE steering committee determined that it should conduct a survey of all districts to identify the strongest candidates. M.A.S.S. developed a very comprehensive survey and sent it to all Massachusetts school districts in October 2017. Eighty-seven districts responded to the survey. After analyzing the survey data, M.A.S.S. selected 14 geographically representative districts with very high interest and unusually substantial experience with CS education to participate in the PACE Lab.

The steering committee developed a PACE Lab Phase 1 plan to bring small teams of four to five members from each of the 14 districts together for three half-day meetings in April, May, and June 2018. The meetings had three objectives:

  • Provide an orientation for Phases 1 and 2 of the PACE Lab. (Phase 2 would begin in September 2018.)
  • Discuss information and data provided by each district prior to the first meeting to understand (a) districts’ success stories in terms of professional development, student engagement, district support, and parent support (etc.), (b) district challenges (e.g., scheduling classes and out-of-class time, funding, district support), and (c) what districts thought they needed the most help with in terms of training, resources, district buy-in, etc.
  • Preview Phase 2, which focuses on the SCRIPT planning process, and discuss its implementation in the fall of 2018 with a larger group of key players in the district over a four-month (September–December) period. This planning process was intended to lay the groundwork to kick off the grade-band implementation of CS education for one of the three grade bands in each PACE Lab district.

While preparing for the first meeting, several critical problems emerged. Most importantly, the private funding needed to release state funds to support MassCAN could not be confirmed, and MassCAN’s future work was in jeopardy. Additionally, the part-time staff person hired in November as Coordinator of the PACE Lab resigned two weeks before the scheduled first PACE meeting in April to accept a more secure position at the Museum of Science, one that capitalized on her CS background

The first PACE meeting was held at Education Development Center’s conference facilty. Attendees began by introducing themselves and sharing their districts’ success stories and challenges. Attendees were then alerted that MassCAN was facing serious funding uncertainties. Shortly after this meeting, with MassCAN’s funding still quite uncertain, a decision was made to cancel the next two PACE meetings.

Further action to advance the PACE Lab will require a resolution of the many challenges related to the public-private funding model that makes funding MassCAN unpredictable. Without reliable funding, it will be too difficult to provide consistent and sustainable services.

A two-page overview of the PACE Initiative, a flyer summarizing PACE, and a PACE Lab Summary and Timeline are posted on this page.