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Wow! District creates revolutionary computer science program for K-12 students

Indiana's MSD of Decatur Township launches innovative computer science pathway program for K-12 students; more than 200 students have enrolled, with that number expected to grow significantly.

Through a partnership with nonprofit Nextech and a collaboration with Apple, the Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Decatur Township in Indiana became the first school district in the state to implement a K-12 Computer Science Pathway.

MSD of Decatur Township is a diverse, nationally recognized school district that uses an innovative and personalized, small-learning community approach. The entire district offers multiple learning pathways to its students, encouraging a deeper, more applicable learning environment.

An Exciting, New Computer Science Program

This new program gives all district students the opportunity to develop a foundation of computer science knowledge and learn new approaches to problem solving, creativity and critical thinking in a world that is increasingly influenced by technology.

Throughout the Decatur Township school system, more than 200 middle and high school students have enrolled in three different computer science courses covering topics ranging from simple design, coding and strategies to more technical courses including app development, cyber security and database analytics.

That number is expected to grow, as the district’s nonprofit partner Nextech typically sees an average of a 580 percent increase in student enrollment over a three-year period.

How the Program Works

Nextech connects educators, nonprofits and entrepreneurs to deliver K-12 computer science education and work-based learning programs with the end goal of inspiring and enabling students from all backgrounds to pursue careers in technology. Nextech’s training program serves as more than just an educational workshop, and instead offers a continuous, year-long professional development program that provides teachers with the content, instructional strategies and real-world context needed to teach computer science.

Prior to this school year, nearly 150 Decatur Township teachers participated in Nextech’s training on a variety of computer science-related topics and were provided with additional content knowledge, instructional strategies, industry experience and resources to deliver the district’s new computer science curriculum to students. The training sessions required a rigorous 74-hour commitment where teachers learned the ins and outs of the curriculum and received a first-hand look into the computer science industry. In addition, Decatur elementary and middle school teachers underwent intensive training to learn how to seamlessly incorporate basic computer science skills into their existing curriculum and lesson plans.

(Next page: Leading the pack in computer science programs with more partnerships; innovative curriculum)

Connectivity and Curriculum

Decatur schools are also ahead of the curve on connectivity in classrooms. Thanks to a partnership with Apple, the district is one-to-one with digital devices for all students in all but the earliest grades. Apple will also help educate 80 additional Decatur teachers on utilizing Swift curriculum, which features a full-year app development course designed by Apple engineers and educators.

This curriculum will go hand-in-hand with the K-12 Computer Science Pathway, teaching students the elements of app design and coding using the Swift programming language. Together, the Computer Science Pathway and Swift will help provide students with critical job skills in software development and information technology.

By building these skillsets early on, the district administration and teaching staff is confident that the K-12 Computer Science Pathway will be a huge asset to students and directly impact their career pathways. MSD of Decatur Township and Nextech envision this program helping students aspiring for a career in technology develop technical and workplace skills, authentic peer relationships, a passion for community service and deep roots for a lifelong personal and professional connection to Indianapolis.

Community Benefits

The K-12 Computer Science Pathway program also benefits the entire Decatur Township community and is specifically designed for multiple audiences, including district policymakers and administrators, curriculum developers, students, parents and teachers. One of the school district’s primary goals is to eliminate the cycle of poverty in the community by making the program available to all, and computer science courses will be offered at Decatur Township’s Area 31 Career Center. This provides community members with career pathways that are high wage and in high demand.

Plans for the K-12 Computer Science Pathway program were also instrumental in MSD of Decatur Township winning a $15,000 Education Workforce Innovation Network (EWIN) grant. The goal of EWIN is to increase the number of individuals in Indiana who complete post-secondary training in a way that aligns with workforce needs. The school district plans to utilize the grant to support the development of the K-12 Computer Science Pathway program in future phases.

These resources and partnerships allow MSD of Decatur Township to dig deeper into the K-12 Computer Science Pathway program and create an overall framework for similar pathway developments that can be replicated in the future. The Decatur Township community is excited to see the successes the pathway brings.

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