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A Year of Progress: How the U.S. Improved Computer Science Education in 2016

A Year of Progress: How the U.S. Improved Computer Science Education in 2016

Today, December 5, 2016, marks the seventh annual national Computer Science Education Week, a week intended to spark student interest in computer science fields while highlighting the careers computer science knowledge can help to obtain.

By 2015, thanks to sweeping efforts like Hour of Code, Computer Science Education Week became the largest education campaign in history.

In honor of the seventh annual Computer Science Education Week, Education World takes a look at how the U.S. got a little bit closer to universal K-12 computer science education in 2016.

Federal Computer Science for All Initiative Announced

At the start of the year, President Obama unveiled a plan designed to give all U.S. students an opportunity to learn computer science in their schools.

"The President’s Computer Science for All plan builds on the momentum at the state and local level," said the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary at the time of the announcement.

"The President’s upcoming budget will include $4 billion in funding at the Department of Education, available over three years, for states to increase access to CS in P-12 classrooms," it said.

"Under the program, states would submit comprehensive five-year 'Computer Science for All' plans, and every state with a well-designed strategy would receive funds. In addition to state-level grants, the budget will also dedicate $100 million in competitive grants specifically for leading districts to execute ambitious CS expansion efforts for all students, including traditionally underrepresented students, and serve as models for national replication."

The Obama Administration committed to its intentions of keeping the ball rolling on ensuring that computer science education becomes a staple in American K-12 education for both 2016 and beyond. 

The Creation of the CSforAll Consortium

In line with Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative, the CSforAll Consortium was created in September 2016 and contains over 180 organizations committed to supporting students in all states and districts.

The consortium has developed a K-12 school/district pledge to include computer science education in course offerings which has so far been signed by a total of 3076 schools across 39 states.

New York’s Computer Science for All Initiative

In September, the administration under Mayor de Blasio announced it was successfully on its way to educating all New York City students in computer science by 2025.

As the nation’s largest school district, New York City’s efforts are on the national stage for other districts to watch and learn how universal computer science education can be accomplished.

The initiative’s efforts focus primarily on raising the necessary funds needed to add computer science curricula in schools and train the necessary number of teachers (5,000) to make education possible.

Through the course of 10 years, the city plans to raise $80 million to fund its efforts, a likely possibility given that the de Blasio administration announced it raised $20 million in just one year.

"This isn’t just for particular students from particular backgrounds; learning how to think critically and computationally, and how to create with technology, must be for all students. I thank our private partners for recognizing the importance of this initiative and for their investment,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in September.

The announcement was a sign that districts like the nation’s largest are taking computer science education seriously. 

California Gets Two Years to Create Implementation Plan for Computer Science for All

A law passed in October 2016 has given California officials two years to create state-wide implementation plan that will provide computer science to public education students in every state school district.

Implementation must begin by January 1, 2019, and public comment gathered via a state liaison will help ensure the community is involved.

Specifically, the implementation plan must devise ways to train teachers in the subject, define what computer science standards K-12 should learn in respective grade levels and ensure that underrepresented student groups are not left behind. 

Code.org, Partners Create Computer Science Framework

Code.org, the organization that is largely attributed to elevating the computer science education campaign, worked with several partner organizations to announce in October the creation of computer science framework designed to guide K-12 schools.

"Thanks to the leadership of fourteen states and four districts, the hard work of twenty-seven writers and twenty-five advisors, and the support of dozens of leaders in the corporate, nonprofit, and education sectors, there is now a framework for implementing K–12 computer science," said Code.org’s Chief Academic Officer, Pat Yongpradit, in a blog post.

"The framework promotes a vision in which all students critically engage in computer science issues; approach problems in innovative ways; and create computational artifacts with a personal, practical, or community purpose. The framework offers a set of guidelines that could be used to inform the development of standards, curriculum, and computer science pathways, and also help school systems build capacity for teaching computer science to a diverse student population," he said.

Apple Hosts Workshops Every Day of Computer Science Education Week

Technology juggernaut Apple announced for the first time this year that it would be taking its participation in Computer Science Education Week to the next level.

Every day of this week, Apple will be hosting Hour of Code workshops at every single one of its 487 Apple retail stores.

To find out how YOU can participate in Computer Science Education Week, check out these tips here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

12/5/2016

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