California legislators are reviewing a bill that would create an advisory board to integrate computer science into education.
The Assembly legislation would create a 23-person panel overseen by the state Superintendent that would deliver recommendations by September 2017 on how to improve computer science education, and establish curriculum standards for grades K-12.
The panel would comprise teachers, administrators and professors across K-12 and higher education, as well as representatives from government, parent associations and student advocacy organizations. The bill is backed by Microsoft and Code.org.
“We’ve been working on trying to develop a coordinated strategy so that California could respond to the increasing needs of industry,” Julie Flapan, executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools, told EdScoop. “But, also, we wanted to make this vocational knowledge of computer science available to all kids so that they’re well prepared for their careers, and college, and civic participation.”
Currently, just one in four schools in the state offers computer science classes, and only 1 percent of California’s 1,300 high schools offer advanced placement courses in the subject.
Mark Guzdial, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing, told EdScoop that the lack of computer science classes leaves kids at a disadvantage in the long term.
“Kids in primary and secondary school simply don’t get access to computing education at all, which is really unfair, since a majority of STEM jobs in the future are going to require some knowledge of computing,” Guzdial said.
Sponsors of the legislation argue that the country’s biggest tech hub should lead the way in computer science education.
“California leads the nation in technology and innovation,” said Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, who co-authored the bill. “We should do the same in computer science education.”
Assemblyman David Chiu, who co-authored the bill with Calderon, represents part of San Francisco and founded a tech company prior to holding office. He said the Bay Area has enticed many entrepreneurs who moved from other states, but he would like to see more homegrown tech whizzes.
“Whatever investment we make today is going to pay many, many times when it comes to the workforce and the economic benefits for California,” Chui said.
The board is expected to be funded through the state Department of Education, while a combination of public-private partnerships will help fund specific programs, Flapan said.
The federal Computer Science For All program could also offer funding in the form of grants. However, that money will likely go to states that have developed strategic plans, Flapan said.
“This bill came out to put pressure on the system,” she said.