The National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC) has announced the organization’s rebrand to CYBER.ORG, unveiling a new website, logo and plans to reach even more K-12 students and teachers across the country with cyber education content, career awareness and teacher professional development.
“The rebrand reflects a significant step forward in our mission to ensure that every K-12 student in the U.S. has access to cybersecurity education,” said Kevin Nolten, director of CYBER.ORG. “With the U.S. facing a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals in the workforce projected to reach 1.8 million unfilled jobs by 2022, we know there is an urgent need to build cybersecurity skills and fill the workforce pipeline with students who are prepared to pursue cybersecurity careers. This is a matter of national security and combatting it starts with an increase in foundational cybersecurity awareness at every level of education.”
Despite the critical need to build the cybersecurity workforce pipeline, investments in K-12 cyber education have been modest. In fact, according to a new benchmark study released today by CYBER.ORG., less than half of K-12 students in the U.S. are currently receiving some type of cybersecurity education, and access to those resources varies considerably. The study, “ The State of Cybersecurity Education in K-12 Schools ” conducted by the EdWeek Research Center, also revealed that students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds where schools are in close proximity to technology companies and post-secondary institutions with cybersecurity programs had the greatest access to cyber education, while students from less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds were the least likely to have the option for cyber education. Additionally, educators say that most students are not well-informed about the educational and career requirements associated with cybersecurity jobs.
The Gold Standard for K-12 Cyber Education
With funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA)’s Cybersecurity Education Training Assistance Program (CETAP) grant, CYBER.ORG has proven its model of targeting K-12 students with cyber career awareness, curricular resources and teacher professional development is effective for encouraging students to pursue cyber careers. In a Louisiana pilot study, high schools with teachers having access to CYBER.ORG curriculum sent on average four times as many students into cyber-related college or university degree programs as those who did not.
Currently, more than 18,000 teachers across all 50 states and three U.S. territories are enrolled in the CYBER.ORG content platform, which is available at no cost. The organization plans to build on its more than ten years of expertise in K-12 cyber education to expand access to more states and districts across the country.
Cyber Standards Initiative
As a first initiative as CYBER.ORG, the organization is also launching a process to develop state standards for cybersecurity education, in coordination with state departments of education and stakeholders from government and industry including CISA and Palo Alto Networks. Education standards, the learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level, are used by educators to select curriculum that will help students meet those standards. Currently, there are only a few models of state-developed cybersecurity standards and no national standards specific to cybersecurity.
“The lack of uniform standards makes bridging the cybersecurity workforce gap and scaling cyber education difficult,” said Chuck Gardner, director of curriculum for CYBER.ORG. “By developing a set of national cybersecurity standards, CYBER.ORG will build on its existing work to promote cyber education and create a visible impact on the cybersecurity workforce by providing a structure for the next generation of learners and their teachers.”
CYBER.ORG will also expand access to teacher professional development by offering online trainings and resources. Teachers are a critical force multiplier in efforts to spark interest in and awareness of cybersecurity careers, and professional development is key to building knowledge and confidence to introduce cyber education in the classroom. CYBER.ORG has trained more than 12,000 educators to deliver cyber education in their schools and classrooms.
Recently, two educators from the CYBER.ORG community received the inaugural Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award from the U.S. Department of Education. Donna Woods of Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley, California and Kara Four Bear of New Town Middle School in New Town, North Dakota were selected for instilling cybersecurity skills, knowledge and passion in their students. Both educators are users of CYBER.ORG’s K-12 cybersecurity education curriculum and have participated in the organization’s professional development programs.
CYBER.ORG, formerly The National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC), is a cybersecurity workforce development organization that targets K-12 students with cyber career awareness, curricular resources and teacher professional development. The United States Department of Homeland Security supports CYBER.ORG through a grant from the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) to develop and distribute cyber, STEM, and computer science curricula to educators across the country. For more information, please visit http://www.CYBER.ORG.