2020 CSTA Standards for Teachers - Ellipsis Education

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2020 CSTA Standards for Teachers

January 23, 2020

There’s no denying how fast the field of computer science is changing and evolving. Think about how different the world of technology is from when you were in elementary, middle, or even high school. As the field of computer science advances and broadens, methods of effective instruction also need to be evaluated and accelerated. While it can be a daunting task trying to keep up with it all, educators in computer science have an exciting opportunity to engage and learn alongside students.

In 2020, the CSTA (a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering, engaging, and advocating for K-12 CS teachers worldwide), partnered with the ISTE standards body to rewrite a set of standards and benchmarks for teachers providing CS instruction in their classrooms. The 2020 CSTA Standards for Computer Science Teachers were designed and updated to complement the instructional goals for students already outlined in both the K—12 Computer Science Framework and CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards. More specifically, the purpose of these standards for CS teachers is to:

Click here to view the full updated list of the 2020 CSTA Resources: Standards for Computer Science Teachers.

CSTA Standards

The 2020 CSTA Standards for Computer Science Teachers organizes 30 CS concepts and best practices for effective teachers into 5 categories of standards: 

Source: https://csteachers.org/documents/en-us/674961e8-f5c9-48ef-b6c7-2e754662d8a9/1/
  1. CS Knowledge and Skills: Effective K-12 CS teachers demonstrate thorough CS knowledge and skills
  2. Equity and Inclusion: Effective K-12 CS teachers advocate for equity and inclusion in the CS classroom
  3. Professional Growth and Identity: Effective K-12 CS teachers continuously develop knowledge, practice, and professional identity
  4. Instructional Design: Effective K-12 CS teachers design learning experiences using pedagogical content knowledge
  5. Classroom Practice: Effective K-12 CS teachers implement evidence-based practices as responsive classroom practitioners

Note that the updated CSTA standards 2020 offer much needed guidance for novice CS teachers, while also allowing experienced CS teachers room for professional growth. The CSTA recognizes this as critical because CS teachers enter the field from many different areas of specialization and their preparation varies significantly. Each standard is not an expectation of current knowledge, but instead a roadmap to help teachers with varying experience identify strengths and areas of need.

““Unless you try to do something

beyond what you have already

mastered, you will never grow.” ”

— Anon

The time is now to engage your own love of learning. Use this information from the CSTA to your advantage, regardless of your experience level. Seek out targeted professional development opportunities to increase YOUR mastery, then step back and admire how much your knowledge and confidence has grown.

My Two Cents… and A Secret!

Amy Marcou, Ellipsis Education in-house STEM educator and customer experience representative

As mentioned above, the world of computer science is so vast. Perhaps you are new to teaching computer science (we all have to start somewhere!), and don’t know how to begin to focus your efforts. Perhaps you do have some experience and knowledge of the basics, but struggle with a curriculum progression that makes sense for your students. I can relate to both scenarios. The pressure is on to deliver computer science knowledge to students that may know more than you! The way I see it, the CSTA has come to the rescue with the release of these teaching standards to help narrow the focus on what you need to know now.

The secret is THIS, my fellow CS educators. Yes, there are programming languages that will come and go. Yes, there will always be something new on the horizon. But, having an understanding of some basic computer science skills and a strong foundation in certain concepts will be relevant for all languages and most applications going forward. Good news… you don’t have to know it ALL! You will notice only the first standard listed on the CSTA Standards for Computer Science Teachers refers to “CS Knowledge and Skills”. More on these later. The rest of the standards pertain more to classroom inclusivity, leveraging resources, and cultivating soft skills. The reality is: success in computer science is much more than just coding. It’s being a problem-solver, thinking critically, and having the ability to collaborate effectively with peers. Seeking growth in those essential skills is just as applicable for teachers as it is for our students.

So when it does come to proficiency and the ability to integrate more of the “hard CS skills” in your class, realize that an understanding of the basics will take you far in the ever-changing world of computer science. These are the basics outlined for you in the first standard, CS Knowledge and Skills. It’s learning how to be detail-oriented in defining the steps of a process and understanding the importance of proper sequencing. It’s a general understanding of how hardware is different from software, and how they work together to run programs and access the Internet. It’s analyzing data to predict outcomes and troubleshooting using appropriate CS tools. Basic coding skills such as loops, functions, and conditionals exist in current programming languages and will be relevant for new languages to come.

Suddenly the broad scope of computer science knowledge becomes more manageable and not so overwhelming to even a novice CS teacher. Experienced CS teachers, however, have the opportunity to take these concepts to the next level and engage in more advanced implementation.

Turning to the CSTA teacher standards will guide you in where you should be focusing your time, effort, and money when educating yourself through professional development or certifications. Know that once you have grasped the basic concepts, along with your students, the world of computer science is yours to confidently dive deeper into the specific languages, careers, or topics most relevant to you now or in the future.

K-12 Computer Science Curriculum

Our Ellipsis Education K-12 computer science curriculum team is here to partner with you and help you grow in the field of computer science, both personally and professionally. Our professional development session received a CSTA certification as a quality PD opportunity. Our philosophy behind professional development is that computer science is for everyone. Our curriculum empowers teachers, technical and non-technical, to engage with every learning style in their classroom. As I mentioned, computer science is more than just coding for students and it’s more than just coding for teachers.  We aim to develop the WHOLE person. By this I mean, we recognize the need for teachers and students alike to also develop critical thinking skills, understand best digital citizenship practices with our rapidly evolving technology, explore concepts through creative, unplugged activities, and to collaborate with others to solve a problem.  We will support you every step of the way on your computer science journey to ensure your confidence grows along with that of your students throughout our K-12 Pathway. If you would like to learn more about Ellipsis Education curriculum, schedule a 30 minute call with a curriculum expert. If you’re not ready to have a call yet, explore our courses and our free lessons!


By adopting Ellipsis Education curriculum in your classroom, you have access to thorough content and resources needed to fulfill these new guidelines established by the CSTA. In fact, our computer science courses expose you to all of the CS knowledge and skills defined in the first standard, which for a novice CS teacher, may seem the most overwhelming. 


Regarding the Equity and Inclusion standard, Ellipsis Education understands that teachers, like students, bring more than their brains to school. In a previous blog, we discussed how varying leadership styles, communication skills, emotional coping mechanisms, personality traits, attitudes, and conflict resolution skills all come into play in today’s classroom. The CSTA standards for CS teachers specify that educators are expected to nurture all these things students bring to the classroom. Though challenging, we also acknowledge this reality and the need for some creativity. With Ellipsis Education computer science curriculum, teachers explore those social and emotional learning competencies that are equally critical for college and career readiness. Our social emotional learning framework provides necessary lessons for both teacher and student development in this area.


Ellipsis Education connects you to a larger CS education community to collaborate, learn, and celebrate successes. By engaging in our lessons with you students, you are also naturally modeling a willingness to learn from others and to develop new skills. We are committed to the mission of sharing computer science with all educators, just as you are committed to sharing computer science to all students. Our lesson plans are designed for any teacher to be able to deliver competent lessons, regardless of experience. You therefore reflect the idea that anyone can, and should, learn computer science. We provide all the resources needed to support and advance your own learning as well as student learning.


As an educator, you are tasked with aligning your curriculum to meet student learning standards. In the world of computer science, the same rules apply. Ellipsis Education computer science curriculum is customized, designed and continually adapted to align to comprehensive K-12 CS standards. You can deliver lessons confidently knowing you are fulfilling those standards and planning projects that have purpose and personal meaning to students. Within this standard, the CSTA specifies effective teachers “inform instruction through assessment.”  Luckily, assessments are included along the way for you to provide important feedback and support to your students.


Finally, in regards to Classroom Practices as outlined in the fifth CSTA standard for CS teachers, our Ellipsis Education curriculum strives to fulfill every one of those best practices. We see the value in inquiry-based learning to enhance understanding of CS content.  We absolutely strive to create a positive classroom environment where it’s ok to make mistakes and recognize that that is where real growth happens. We promote self-directed learning as well as structured opportunities for collaboration and the ability to receive feedback.  Again, all of these are life skills teachers need to be able to model to their students. Communication is encouraged in various ways and we all know the ability to share, discuss, and write about concepts or explanations doesn’t always come easy.

Code Builds Confidence

We anticipate that many in the CS education community will find value in the new CSTA Standards for Computer Science Teachers. Computer science will ultimately impact everything we do and the daily lives of our students for the foreseeable future. It is thus our hope and mission to be a part of your personal and professional development. We know, and want you to experience first hand, that computer science IS for everyone in some way shape or form. Identify your strengths, fuel that love of learning, master something new, and above all, be confident that you are bettering yourself as you also passionately impact the lives of your students.

CSTA Standards for Students

The CSTA teacher standards will serve as a guide as you teach the CSTA student computer standards.  The CSTA standards are a nationally recognized set of computer science standards developed by the Computer Science Teachers Association. They aim to provide an age appropriate, rigorous, and accessible foundation for schools and districts looking to implement computer science in K-12. To ensure the standards were practical for all teachers, administrators and stakeholders, a task force of educators revised the CSTA K-12 computer science standards in 2017. The standards have been adopted or adapted by many states; see if your state has implemented the CSTA computer science standards by visiting our United States K-12 Computer Science Standards page. All Ellipsis Education courses align with the CSTA computer science standards.   

The CSTA standards for students are organized by grade band (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12). Explore the standards and download the CSTA standards progression chart on the CSTA standards in computer science web page. Here is an overview of the concepts and subconcepts included:

Download a Free Lesson

In this lesson, Treasure Map Coordinates, students will use coordinates and coordinate planes to explore the functionality of the Scratch Motion blocks with the goal of animating a sprite to move around a treasure map. This lesson aligns with computer standards for elementary students and introduces coding for students using Scratch, a block based coding language. The lesson plan PDF includes links to the appropriate materials and resources, a detailed procedure, activity tips, and a bonus challenge activity.

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