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Draft Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards (DL&CS)

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
December 4, 2015


At the meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on December 15 we will have an initial discussion on the draft Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DL&CS) Standards (attached). I plan to bring the draft standards back to the Board in January 2016 for further discussion and a vote to release them for public comment. I anticipate asking the Board to adopt the final version of the DL&CS Standards/Curriculum Framework in the spring of 2016. At that time I will present an implementation plan that will involve the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and partners, particularly the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN), to assist school and districts in implementing these voluntary standards.


In the last decade, changes in technology, communication, and the information life cycle have contributed to the changing face of information literacy. Today's students have to navigate a much wider world of information than ever before. Students are not only information users, they are information creators, contributing content that may take the shape of videos, podcasts, or other online multimedia works. Consequently, helping students become literate in technology and information is more critical than ever.

Technology is all around us and takes various forms. The Science and Technology/Engineering Standards, which the Department is in the final stages of revising, focuses on broad technological systems, such as communications, manufacturing, or transportation. The 2008 Technology Literacy Standards, which are now being reframed as "digital literacy," address proficiency in the use of computer devices and programs. More recently the business community has called for additional focus on the creation, manipulation, modification, and maintenance of digital technology and programs. The development of Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards provides the opportunity to renew the call for digital literacy and add emphasis on computer science.

During 2013, the Department entered discussions with MassCAN, which advocates for computer science education in Massachusetts schools. MassCAN is a coalition of organizations, technology companies, and community members collaborating to inspire and educate Massachusetts students in computing. Coalition members include nonprofits actively working in technology education, business organizations, technology companies, educational institutions, teachers, and organizations sponsoring and fostering collaborative systemic change. MassCAN is funded by the state Legislature through the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative ($1.5 million in FY16) to establish and promote computer science education in Massachusetts public schools.

The Department formed an internal group to re-evaluate the role of computer science education in the K-12 curriculum. These discussions led to a vision of expanded computing education opportunities for all students. To realize this vision, members of the Department's Office of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and the Office of Digital Learning (ODL) collaborated with MassCAN and representatives for instructional technology, such as Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MassCUE), on the revision of the current 2008 Technology Literacy Standards to develop the Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards.

A standards review panel was convened in the summer of 2014. The panel was charged with reviewing the existing 2008 Technology Literacy Standards and computer science standards from organizations such as the national Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), as a starting point for development of the draft DL&CS Standards. To ensure that both digital literacy and computer science were represented appropriately, the leadership team included representatives from the Department, MassCAN, and MassCUE, the state's leading organization for educators supporting the use of technology in education. Panelists were carefully selected from a pool of applicants to include representatives from K-12, colleges and universities, and the business and nonprofit sectors with expertise in digital literacy or computer science. Enclosed please find a list of review panel members.

Key Features of the Draft DL&CS Standards

One of the first decisions the panel made was to create one set of standards for both digital literacy and computer science. Digital literacy skills are fundamental to all disciplines, including computer science. Using publicly available digital literacy and information technology standards, the panel identified significant overlap in the topics common to both sets of standards. The panel also reviewed the CSTA Standards, newly developed curriculum in computer science by the College Board for Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science, Computer Science Principles, the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Exploring Computer Science, and new curricula promoted by In particular, significant overlap was found in the areas of Computing and Society, Using Digital Tools, Collaboration, Research, and Global and Societal Impact. This led to the panel's decision to create a single set of Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards.

The standards represent the core elements of digital literacy and computer science, not the totality of each. The DL&CS standards, although voluntary, will provide guidance to schools districts as they expand their programs in both digital literacy and computer science. We do not anticipate developing state assessments for this set of standards.

Four features distinguish the draft DL&CS Standards:

  1. The DL&CS Standards are organized into four strands: Computing and Society, Digital Tools and Collaboration, Computing Systems, and Computational Thinking.

  2. The DL&CS Standards progress coherently from grades K to 12.
    The standards emphasize a focused and coherent progression of knowledge and skills. As students progress through their K-12 education, they acquire increasingly sophisticated knowledge, skills, and dispositions in digital literacy and computer science.

  3. The DL&CS Standards articulate practices necessary for success.
    The practices cultivate the internalization of dispositions that skillful people in digital literacy and computer science apply in reasoning, creation, and problem solving. Practices speak to the types of performance students should be able to demonstrate.

  4. The DL&CS Standards complement other Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
    The curriculum frameworks and DL&CS Standards overlap in meaningful and substantive ways and offer an opportunity for all students to better apply and learn digital literacy and computer science. Much of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions central to digital literacy and computer science, such as computational thinking, also apply to other subjects, including, but not limited to, science, technology and engineering and mathematics.

Next Steps

Following this initial discussion, I will bring the standards back to the Board at your January meeting to ask for a vote to solicit public comment. We would gather public input through late March 2016 and use it to make final revisions to the standards. I expect to bring the final revised DL&CS Standards to the Board for an adoption vote in spring 2016.

The Department is also partnering with Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) on a National Science Foundation STEM+C Design and Development grant. This $2.1 million award (over three years) aims to develop elementary school curriculum modules that integrate computational thinking in mathematics and science lessons. The Department is in the process of recruiting educator teams from ten schools and hiring a project manager for this work.

Senior Associate Commissioner Brooke Clenchy, Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang, and other members of the Department and field who have been engaged in this work will be at the Board meeting to provide context and answer your questions.


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DL&CS Standards Review Panel Members
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Draft Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DL&CS) Standards

Last Updated: December 10, 2015
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