CompuPower Investing in Innovation Evaluation

Diverse group of teenage students outside

Over the past several decades, researchers have developed and refined theoretical frameworks addressing cultural responsiveness in education. Culturally responsive education promotes academic success, helps students foster positive ethnic and cultural identities, supports the development of sociopolitical consciousness, and centers the culture and experiences of diverse students to make learning more relevant and effective (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Gay, 2018).

The CompuPower program was developed by Kimberly Scott and her colleagues at Arizona State University’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology (ASU CGEST) to address a need for culturally responsive computing courses. ASU CGEST designed CompuPower with the intention that high school students’ participation in the program would, in the short term, lead to increases in their self-regulation, critical thinking skills for everyday life, and academic achievement.

CompuPower’s theory of change proposes that these shorter-term outcomes will lead to increased STEM and leadership competencies, and that these competencies will lead students to become “techno-social change agents,” or those who challenge dominant narratives and construct liberating social relations in the process of creating new technologies (Ashcraft et al., 2017). 

The U.S. Department of Education awarded an Investing in Innovation (i3) development grant to ASU CGEST to develop and evaluate the CompuPower program. AIR served as the project’s external evaluator to evaluate the CompuPower program’s impact on students’ social-emotional skills and academic achievement, as well as examine whether the program was implemented as designed. The evaluation focused on nine mostly rural Arizona high schools that offered the CompuPower program in the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school year.

CompuPower Program Components

The CompuPower program consists of four key components that build on theory and research addressing the need for culturally responsive education practices.

  • The CompuPower course curriculum, which emphasizes society, science, and technology as innovation drivers, and provides opportunities for students to investigate their intersectional identities using technology tools and computational thinking.
  • Professional development activities that ASU CGEST provides to the “mentor teachers” who deliver the CompuPower curriculum in participating schools, which cover the rationale and methods for using culturally relevant and responsive teaching practices, as well as the CompuPower curriculum.
  • A multi-day CompuPower Residency Experience where students work collaboratively with each other and industry mentors while staying on the ASU campus.
  • A series of parent workshops designed to help parents support their children as they pursue science and technology educational opportunities in high school and college.

Key Findings

  • Across the four CompuPower program components, only the mentor teacher professional development was implemented with fidelity. Most implementation challenges to the other three program components resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were other challenges as well.
  • CompuPower students showed slightly higher scores on self-regulation, critical thinking skills in everyday life, and GPA measures than comparison group students, but the differences were not statistically significant. The results suggest the possibility that the program could lead to improved outcomes for students if the full program were to be implemented with fidelity and evaluated using a larger student sample.