Microsoft’s ambitious coding program expands

By Paige Cornwell, The Seattle Times
October 13th, 2015

More schools will offer computer science courses in Washington, a state with a higher-than-average computing job market

computer-scienceThough the technology industry is booming, especially in Washington, only about one in four high schools nationwide teach computer science.

Many local and national efforts are hoping to close that gap. In its last term, the Legislature passed a bill that will use $2 million in state and private funds to train high school teachers to teach computer science and to set standards and teacher training programs for 2016-17.

And in the past few weeks, Microsoft also expanded its own program, which now is operating in nearly 60 Washington schools.

In Microsoft’s Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, tech workers volunteer to help teach computer science in high schools across the nation. The volunteers work alongside teachers, so they can also learn the course material.

TEALS grew by 11 schools in Washington for the 2015-16 school year, bringing the total number to 57. That includes 12 high schools in Seattle, and nearly 30 others in King County. It also includes schools in Eastern Washington, including Quincy High, where volunteers teach students via Skype.

The TEALS expansion is part of a $75 million investment Microsoft has committed over the next three years to increase access to computer science education for young people, especially those from under-represented backgrounds, through its YouthSpark global initiative, CEO Satya Nadella announced last month.

Microsoft hopes to reach 30,000 students in nearly 700 schools across 33 states in the next three years.

“If we are going to solve tomorrow’s global challenges, we must come together today to inspire young people everywhere with the promise of technology,” Nadella said in a statement after the announcement. “We can’t leave anyone out.”

Started in 2009 by a Microsoft employee, TEALS was adopted by Microsoft in 2011. The program offers two course levels — an introduction to computer science and an advanced class that is an introduction to Java programming.

There are about 20,000 open computing jobs in Washington, which is three times the national state average, according to the nonprofit While Washington has passed a bill to count computer science as a math or science credit, there are no clear teacher certification pathways or curriculum standards for the courses.

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