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A tale of two states’ computer science programs


Computer science is becoming more essential to future jobs; but are students developing the skills they need?

As computer science education grows across the nation, many states are making it a core subject and are counting it toward math and science requirements.

But progress across states varies. Here’s a look at how two different states, California and Maine, are faring in their computer science efforts.

In California, some think the state’s progress to make computer science a graduation requirement is too slow. An editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune says the state’s is displaying “astounding lethargy” in its efforts to increase access to computer science.

And in Maine, the Portland Press Herald notes that “not too long in the future, almost all jobs will require some fundamental skill with computing, and many of the best new jobs will require a mastery of it. Yet computer science remains a subject on the periphery – if it is covered at all – in most Maine high schools, where students should be getting their first taste of this high-opportunity field.”

(Next page: Two editorials, both focusing on computer science)

California moving too slowly on computer science graduation requirements

The San Diego Union-Tribune

In a June 1998 commencement speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President Bill Clinton called for computer literacy to be a high school graduation requirement and declared that training should begin in middle school to ensure students had early exposure to invaluable tech job skills. Clinton made a powerful case that mandatory computer training was not only crucial to the American economy but a potent tool to address inequality by giving impoverished minority children a path to lucrative and satisfying careers and lives.

Clinton’s proposal won cheers from high-tech firms in Silicon Valley, in Boston’s Route 128 tech corridor and from the Microsoft tech hub in Seattle. It got little if any reaction from most corners of the education community.

Nineteen years later, this astounding lethargy continues. As of September, according to the Education Commission of the States, computer science could be used to fulfill mathematics, science or foreign language graduation requirements in 20 states, but only Virginia has decided to make computer science a graduation requirement. Given that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast a shortage of 1 million computer science graduates by 2024 — and given that a comprehensive 2016 survey showed college graduates majoring in computer science had the highest starting salaries — this amounts to institutional malfeasance on a staggering scale.

Click here for the full story

Maine high schools should offer computer science courses

Portland Press Herald

Jobs in almost all fields will require proficiency by the time today’s youths enter the workforce.

Not too long in the future, almost all jobs will require some fundamental skill with computing, and many of the best new jobs will require a mastery of it. Yet computer science remains a subject on the periphery – if it is covered at all – in most Maine high schools, where students should be getting their first taste of this high-opportunity field.

School officials throughout the state, then, should be looking hard at a new initiative that is training teachers to integrate computer science into curricula – helping students build the skills to compete for the jobs of the 21st century. Two statewide groups – Educate Maine and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance – are working with Code.org, a national nonprofit interested in expanding computer science education. This summer, the first class of 35 middle- and high-school teachers representing a wide range of subject areas will receive training – and ongoing support – to bring computer science programming to their schools. The plan is to educate a new class every year in order to build Maine’s capacity for computer education.

Students will need this foundational learning as they enter the workforce, as computer literacy becomes necessary for work in almost all fields, and technology becomes more and more integrated into industries like health care.

Click here for the full story

 

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Laura Ascione

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