Expansion of Computer Science Education Needed

November 21, 2016

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Preparing our children to be contributing citizens with the skills necessary to enter the workforce is a primary goal of public education. There is an increasing understanding between employers and educators that collaboration is critical to determining what the workforce of the future will look like and what skills will be necessary for these jobs.

One such collaborative group came to Oklahoma City Public Schools recently to share information about the need for K-12 computer science education. The Computer Science Education Coalition, along with The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, hosted an Hour of Code event at Willow Brook Elementary School. Fourth and fifth grade students were introduced to an Hour of Code, in which the instructor led them through a series of exercises that provided the students not only with the basics of code, but some fun as well.

Early exposure to code has been proven to create a much higher level of interest and diversity in those entering the tech sector. There is a tremendous underrepresentation of women and minorities in the field. Girls who take AP computer science in high school are 10 times more likely to major in computer science in college and African American and Latino students taking these courses in high school are seven times more likely to major in the field.

The Computer Science Coalition is made up of a cross-section of U.S. businesses, education leaders and NGOs who have come together to expand access to funding for computer science education in K-12 classrooms across the country. Just a few of the many notable members include AT&T, IBM, Intel Corporation, Microsoft Corporation and Google. This coalition formed to advocate for funding and policy solutions that address the shortage of computer science education offered in our schools, leaving a huge gap in filling STEM jobs. According to data collected by Code.org, there are currently over 500,000 computing jobs unfilled in the country, while our colleges and universities only graduate about 43,000 computer science graduates each year.

Currently only one out of four K-12 schools offers any computer science courses. The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act offers states more flexibility in curriculum offerings, but there is not a defined funding source for computer science education. This is a huge disconnect, since in Oklahoma we currently have nearly 2,000 open computing jobs and only about 400 computer science graduates to fill these high paying jobs.

The Computer Science Coalition is urging Congress to provide $250 million in funding for K-12 computer science education this year. These funds could support as many as 52,500 classrooms across the country and the potential to reach 3.6 million students.

Time is of the essence for passage of this funding this year. Those representing Oklahoma in our nation's capital need to hear from us as we prioritize education for our students and a future workforce that keeps up with the global marketplace.

 

Click here to read Mary Mélon's original article on NewsOK.