California’s Brown Signs Bill to Increase Computer Science Education

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that will implement a three-year planning process to increase computer science education across all grade levels in public schools throughout the state.

Assembly Bill 2329 will require State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to put together a 23-person advisory panel by September 2017, which will be put in charge of the creation of a long-term plan that will make computer science education a top priority within California.

Depending on what the panel finds, the Instructional Quality Commission in the state will have until July 2019 to develop computer science content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade which will then be recommended to the State Board of Education.  It is up to the Instructional Quality Commission to offer advice to the State Board on curriculum and instruction, writes Mike Burkholder for East County Today.

With information technology becoming one of the fastest-growing job sectors in California, the law makes a push for the state to satisfy the increase in job demands in that area.

“California currently has tens of thousands of open computing jobs where salaries are significantly higher than the state average, but our education system is not aligned to meet this workforce need and economic opportunity,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, the author of the bill, said that she believes it will ensure that students, and “especially those from underrepresented communities,” are fully prepared for the future.

“It is imperative that the education of all our K-12 students not only meets the demand for computing jobs, but more importantly, that students are being engaged at a young age,” she said.

Estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest a total of 531,000 job openings in the areas of computers and mathematics across the country by 2024.  It is believed that 51% of all science, technology, engineering, and math jobs will be within the field of computer science by 2018, reports Pat Maio for EdSource.

Meanwhile, just 25% of high schools throughout California currently include a computer science course.  Citing data that states only 15% of the 3,525 high school graduates in 2014 who enrolled in computer science courses were female, Newsom is hoping to address both gender and racial gaps.  He went on to say that of the 8,700 high school students in the state who took the AP computer science exam in 2015, 26% were female.  A total of 973 students were Hispanic and 148 were black.

While Bonilla did mention the cost of the initiative, a spokesman stated that in the event state or federal funding is not available, funding would be allowed from private or public partnerships.  The law would also provide grants by the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, which looks to increase computer science curriculum throughout the state.

Meanwhile, school districts across the state have already taken steps to expand their computer science curriculum.  Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified and Riverside Unified, in addition to other school districts, are creating computer science curriculum pathways in their schools, from the elementary level through high school.  Several of these districts have also begun to collaborate with national groups in an effort to gain funding for courses and teacher training.