Iowa makes progress in expanding computer science opportunities for students
DES MOINES – A work group charged with studying ways to expand computer science opportunities for all students today released recommendations that will position Iowa to become a national leader in computer science education. The recommendations include a vision that computer science will eventually become a high school graduation requirement for all students.
The Computer Science Education Work Group’s recommendations center on giving more students access to high-quality computer science courses and giving schools the tools they need to effectively teach computer science.
“Computer science instruction is a high priority in Iowa because computer science has become a basic skill in today’s economy,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise, who led the work group. “Building a strong foundation in computer science will help prepare students for success and will strengthen Iowa’s workforce talent pipeline.”
The work group was established as part of Senate File 274, which former Gov. Branstad signed into law in April. The legislation encourages computer science instruction in every Iowa school by July 1, 2019, establishes computer science standards, and creates a computer science professional development incentive fund to help prepare teachers.
“We know that today's jobs increasingly demand the skills taught in computer science, including critical thinking, problem solving, and logical thinking,” said Erin Rollenhagen, a work group member who is chief executive officer of Entrepreneurial Technologies in Urbandale. “Strengthening computer science education in Iowa positions our students to be prepared with the skills employers need to keep advancing Iowa's economy.”
The group’s final report emphasizes motivating – not mandating – schools to expand computer science. A key part of that is providing money from the professional development incentive fund to school districts that have developed clear plans for increasing the reach and rigor of computer science (for example, a school district that modifies local high school graduation requirements to include computer science).
The work group also recommended encouraging all school districts to eventually offer computer science courses that meet state standards for computer science. The Iowa Department of Education will soon convene a team to begin writing those standards.
Other recommendations included:
- Allow students to use computer science to meet math credit requirements after they’ve taken courses covering required math standards.
- Improve communication with Iowa school administrators so they understand how computer science courses can be integrated into career and technical education pathways.
- Make computer science professional development available to teachers and expand computer science education through a variety of platforms, including concurrent enrollment courses and Iowa Learning Online.
- Develop parameters around the professional development fund, including a competitive application process that spurs innovative proposals. Ensure funding is spread out geographically and covers both urban and rural school districts.
For more information, visit the Computer Science Education Work Group's webpage.