Department of Homeland Security-funded CYBER.ORG has announced the kickoff of the development of the K-12 cybersecurity learning standards that can be used in schools and districts around the country. When complete, the standards will help ensure that students not only have a foundational understanding of cybersecurity, but the skills and knowledge they need to pursue cybersecurity careers in greater numbers.
Announcing the news on September 14, DHS said the work supports the recommendations of the recent Cybersecurity Solarium Commission report to recruit and develop the next generation of the federal cybersecurity workforce and the bipartisan PROTECT Act.
CYBER.ORG is convening key stakeholders across education, government and industry to collect input that will increase the relevance and value of the standards. It plans to release the final standards to the public at the start of the 2021-22 school year, with voluntary adoption likely to begin in states the following year.
State standards are the learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Currently, there are only a few models of state-developed cybersecurity standards and no national standards specific to cybersecurity.
“As a former educator, I know firsthand the value of creating a core set of K-12 standards for cybersecurity education,” said Kevin Nolten, director of academic outreach for CYBER.ORG. “These standards will provide educators with a roadmap that will not only introduce fundamental concepts of cybersecurity to all students, but will also increase the availability of more advanced cybersecurity education opportunities for students that will prepare them to enter the workforce or to expand their study in college.”
The standards development process will be facilitated by McRel International, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education research, development and service organization that helps schools, districts and education agencies improve outcomes for students. The process will include input and review from education, industry and government partners, including: EduTech, Maricopa County Regional School District, Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, Palo Alto Networks, Southwest Airlines, Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
“We’ve seen success in adopting standards for similar fields, like computer and cybersecurity science,” said Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Our number one priority is to prepare students in our state for the high-demand jobs of the future. We’re eager for this resource to help us scaffold our cybersecurity education offerings.”
Participating partners will draft and review the K-12 cybersecurity learning standards through a series of committee meetings. Once the standards are agreed upon by the internal committee, they will be released to the public for comment.
This CYBER.ORG-driven effort is a part of the organization’s mission to address the growing cybersecurity workforce crisis by increasing foundational cybersecurity awareness and interest in the cybersecurity profession, ultimately building a larger and more diverse pipeline of individuals entering the cybersecurity field. With the global cybersecurity workforce shortage projected to reach 1.8 million unfilled positions by 2022, CYBER.ORG’s K-12 cybersecurity learning standards initiative is critical to guaranteeing that the future cybersecurity workforce is equipped to handle the cybersecurity challenges of tomorrow.
“The cybersecurity industry is constantly challenged by the growing skills shortage and a lack of diverse talent in the pipeline,” said Dan Myers, Global Manager of Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Academy. “The development of K-12 cybersecurity standards is critical to addressing both of these issues and expanding cybersecurity training for the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.”