Computer Science: Crossing party lines [of code]

K-12

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Computer science continues to be a hot topic for policymakers across role groups and party lines. Part of this interest is driven by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which reported last December that employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, the fastest growth of any occupational area. The BLS also notes that in May 2014 the median annual wage for occupations in this field was $79,390, well above the median annual wage of $35,540 for all occupations.

Governors across political affiliations have taken recent action to expand high-quality K-12 computer science education. 2016 State of the State addresses in four states – Georgia, Iowa, Missouri and Rhode Island – included proposals to enhance student access to computer science and coding courses. At the National Governors Association meeting this past February, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced their co-chairmanship of Governors for Computer Science. They were soon joined by Gov. Raimondo of Rhode Island, who in early March launched her Computer Science for RI (CS4RI) initiative with a coalition of partners—including Microsoft TEALS, Code.org, Project Lead the Way, Brown University’s Bootstrap and University of Rhode Island’s CS curricula for high school. The initiative provides an array of low- to no-cost approaches to support broader availability of K-12 computer science education.

Legislatures are also increasingly getting into the game. General assemblies are going well beyond efforts that began emerging two years ago to allow computer science to fulfill a math or science credit for high school graduation. For instance, Idaho 2016 H.B. 379 and Utah 2016 S.B. 93 both direct their state’s STEM Action Center and state agencies to develop and implement a multipronged computer science initiative. In both states, the ambitious initiatives call for teacher professional development in computer science, and development of an online repository of computer science instructional resources.

Utah’s initiative also includes the awarding of competitive grants to districts and charter schools to provide incentives for educators to earn a computer science endorsement. Idaho additionally calls for adoption of high-quality computer science content standards, evaluation of providers of comprehensive computer science instructional software solutions, and creation of school-business partnerships to offer student and teacher mentorships and internships in computer science, among other efforts.

Meanwhile, West Virginia 2016 H.B. 4730 requires the state board to submit a plan to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability prior to the 2017 session on the implementation of computer science education in the schools. The plan must touch upon numerous components, including introducing computer science instruction in the elementary grades, increasing the availability of computer science for all students, and recommendations for appropriate teacher standards and endorsements.

And some state agencies are entering into public-private partnerships to expand the availability of computer science and coding instruction. For example, last October the Utah STEM Action Center and the Utah State Office of Education announced a three-year partnership with Code.org to increase the number of female and underrepresented minorities in computer science courses. Through the partnership, the state office of education has released a call for proposals for current classroom teachers who’d like training in computer science. Students at these schools will have greater access to computer science coursework and resources.

Want to learn more about getting a computer science initiative off the ground in your state? Education Commission of the States’ 2016 National Forum on Education Policy will include a computer science session, featuring leaders of groundbreaking computer science initiatives in Arkansas and Massachusetts, and the business perspective from Microsoft. Register today!

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