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Half of R.I. schools meet governor’s computer science goal

By Linda Borg, The Providence Journal
August 22nd, 2016

Computer science initiative is central to the state's mission to close the skills gap

coding RI

Six months ago, Rhode Island Governor Raimondo rolled out an ambitious plan to offer computer science classes in every school in Rhode Island by December 2017.

When schools open this month, about half of Rhode Island’s public schools — 148 schools — will have met this goal, according to Richard Culatta, Raimondo’s chief innovation officer.

“We are on target,” he said. “And we’re well ahead of target with the high schools. It’s an indication of how serious we are as a state in providing new opportunities for our students to be successful.”

Raimondo has made job creation the centerpiece of her administration, and her new computer science initiative is designed to address the skills gap between Rhode Island graduates and high-paying jobs in technology-related fields.

Her plan relies heavily on philanthropic efforts and a commitment of time and money from the business community. The state is also partnering with Microsoft, Code.org, Bootstrap (based at Brown University) and local colleges and universities to train educators and make curriculum available.

If Raimondo is successful, it would catapult Rhode Island into the front ranks of states that are committed to building a tech-savvy workplace.

Raimondo, in her fiscal 2017 budget, allocated $260,000 for teacher training. Here’s what the administration has accomplished this summer: Bootstrap has trained more than 30 teachers from 15 to 20 schools in a computer science course aimed at students in grades 7 through 10.

“They get to feel what it’s like to be a student,” said Emmanuel Schanzer, founder and co-director of Bootstrap. “We ask them the same questions that we ask the kids. Afterward, we talk about what activity worked. When they go back to their schools, they will have a concrete image of how the curriculum works.”

Next page: What will the curriculum teach students?