March CodePath Update From CEO, Michael Ellison

CodePath has been increasing our scale at an average of 50% every year since our inception as a nonprofit entity, and in the last two years alone has grown from 26 to 71 university partnerships. CodePath’s results and scale are dramatically increasing social mobility in our country and diversifying the tech industry, an impact that will only get bigger as we continue to grow.

One of the things I am most proud of when it comes to CodePath, is our organization’s unique approach to learning and codifying through experimentation, while rapidly growing. Through our growth, we’ve gained a deeper understanding of how to effectively identify new partners and develop strong relationships that lead to program success.

Here are just some of the key lessons we have recently learned (with March highlights linked throughout):

Early outcomes indicate pre-internship programs may be the path to diversity at scale
The Summer Internship for Tech Excellence (SITE) program addresses a key barrier to increased minority and low-income presence in technology – early access to coveted internships at tech companies. SITE is a 10-week hands-on program that gives rising juniors relevant work experience and weekly mentorship from various volunteer software engineering teams.

For the inaugural 2021 SITE program, CodePath partnered with Fortune 500 company Workday and edtech unicorn Course Hero. While graduates of the inaugural SITE program are still interviewing, nearly 86% have already secured junior year paid internship opportunities. You can read more about 2021 SITE outcomes here.

Now in the program’s second year, CodePath is thrilled to have Schmidt Futures join as a key partner, bringing a focus on social impact to the curriculum, and encouraging students to pursue world-changing ideas in their capstone projects. We have also just opened applications for a version of this program, Futureforce Tech Launchpad, in partnership with Salesforce.

Education outcomes that scale require operational excellence
Perhaps one of CodePath’s most distinguishing features is its data-driven and iterative approach to program model development. We are incredibly intentional about collecting data on a weekly basis from students to see where instructors can make adjustments, in addition to experimenting continuously with varied approaches to instruction and career services.

An example of this includes our pilot launch of the Career Connect platform (featured in Venture Beat this month), through which CodePath CTO Nathan Esquenazi and the Career Center team have turned our popular and impactful Virtual Career Fair from a manual, human-intensive program to one that now relies on 70% software – increasing capacity without compromising the equity of our matching process.

This kind of beta testing, and constant feedback loops gives CodePath a centralized view into best practices, as well as a differentiated learning orientation relative to how we are adapting our program model.

Diverse portfolio of target schools
We confirmed the importance of building a diverse portfolio of schools to reach as many students in our target populations as possible. In 2021, we focused on adding large diverse universities as well as (typically smaller) MSIs to our portfolio. Of the total URMs served in 2021, 54% attended an MSI, while 46% came from non-MSIs.

Partner universities that brought the highest CodePath enrollment numbers of URM students in 2021 included two HBCUs (Alabama A&M + Howard University), two HSIs (Florida International University + CUNY – Hunter), and Oregon State University (a public university with a large online presence).

CodePath’s role in local ecosystems
Strong university relationships can serve as catalysts for CodePath to establish broader connections – in the Tech Industry, with regional employers, among government leaders, and within philanthropic circles – that will provide more career pathways for our students. For example, our traction at Florida International University demonstrated our ability to meet student demand, and our partners at Comcast made an introduction to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, helping us deepen our Miami expansion. We are now looking to replicate this geographic expansion and funding approach.

At the same time, strong funder relationships can serve as a catalyst for deeper university partnerships. Considering the Knight Foundation grant again, this funder is unlocking deeper levels of university partnerships within the region, due to their funding relationships with the universities. As a result, we’ve been able to access university leadership much more quickly.

As stated by said Raul Moas, Knight’s Miami program director, “Miamians are talented, full of grit and determination. Increasingly, they seek to bring those attributes to careers in tech. By investing in CodePath, we are investing in the aspirations of Miamians and key educational institutions which enable our community to succeed.”

Local ecosystems are important because they allow CodePath to open new channels to reach more students, personalize the student experience, and are required to build top-down partnerships that compliment CodePath’s bottom-up, student-led approach. CodePath is a layer on top of school infrastructure. In other words, we rely on existing infrastructure to jointly provide better student outcomes. Local partnerships make it easier for us to embed ourselves across more infrastructure resulting in improved outcomes at reduced cost.

Mindset shifts for students
Angela Duckworth, David Yeagar and others have done significant work to uncover mindset changes that can lead to improvements in student achievement and even college persistence in the K-16 process. At CodePath, there are two mindsets we directly work shift in our students and partners that we have found to have a significant impact in our model.

The first is a movement away from the approach of “weeding out” students in their first year of CS, towards an “inspiration first” approach. Many computer science courses are designed with the goal of weeding out students in their first year – and close to 80% of minorities who start a CS degree will leave CS before graduating. Alternatively, CodePath’s inspiration-first approach helps students establish their own love of software engineering before the intense training required.

While there are many inspirational CS courses, the majority of these still fail to get students to actually continue in CS. Our unique approach, that we have found to be successful, is the combination of inspiration, community, and an intentionally designed/executed onramp that prepares students for more rigorous courses, ensuring they are prepared for what’s next.

The second is an emphasis on building community on a student’s journey to tech excellence. CodePath courses are designed around this concept, and encourage community building across multiple dimensions. Perhaps the most important aspect of our approach to community building is in-class pair programming sessions, where students can engage with peers who share their desire to become technically excellent. Additionally, students connect in-between classes through our 13k member slack community, and student-led instruction and support, with hundreds of student leaders collaborating across schools, and during our group projects. We make classrooms collaborative, and believe high expectations should be matched with high levels of support.

I’d love to hear some lessons your organization learned in 2021 or Q1 of 2022 and compare notes!

Write to us @ info@codepath.org