The third largest school district in the US just voted on an act that will require high schools students to complete a computer science course in order to graduate.
Following a unanimous vote, the class of 2020 will begin a curriculum next fall that is focused around computer science (CS).
This new development is a part of a 5 year plan, commissioned by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to make CS a core subject taught in public schools. The city has partnered with Code.org in order to prepare teachers for this new transition.
“Making sure that our students are exposed to STEM and computer science opportunities early on is critical in building a pipeline to both college [and a] career,” Emanuel said in a statement.
The Mayor said that this program will, “ensure that our graduates are proficient in the language of the 21st century so that they can compete for the jobs of the future.”
Nationally, computer science classes are not offered in all schools. Currently, only 25% of schools in the US offer it.
Mayor Rahm’s initiative aligns with US President Obama’s mission to incorporate computer science into every school across the nation. Obama has called for more than $4 billion USD in funding for states, and $100 million for districts in order make sure every K-12 student has access to computer science curriculum.
“Our economy is rapidly shifting, and both educators and business leaders are increasingly recognizing that computer science (CS) is a ‘new basic’ skill necessary for economic opportunity and social mobility,” US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith wrote on the White House blog.
The money President Obama is requesting would go towards training new and existing teachers to teach computer science, and also build a curriculum that will be first-rate.
A curriculum focused around computer skills is essential because, well, computers are everywhere (duh).
They provide access to information and the betterment of education around the world.
Starting a computer course at an early age can help children develop essential skills. It can also change the way children think, what they learn, and how they interact with peers and adults. Additionally, computers can be empowering to children who have disabilities. Besides enhancing their mobility and sense of control, computers can help improve self-esteem.
The power of computers in the classroom is obvious. However, what may be less obvious is the amount of access certain regions have to technology. For example, children attending schools with heavily poor and minority populations can have less access to most types of technology.
Programs like the ones beginning in Chicago, and President Obama’s national initiative, are working to close the gap between students and technology.
In his 2016 State of the Union address, Obama declared, “In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by … offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”
Now is the time to advance the education of the next generation and provide them with the necessary skills and tools for success. Well done Chicago. Now it’s everyone else’s turn to step up.