In 2013, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a five-year plan called CS4All with a core goal of making Computer Science a graduation requirement in the city’s public schools. Tech giants such as Code.org, Microsoft, Google, The Illinois Technology Foundation and many others supported the idea and started providing curriculum and preparing teachers to make it possible.
Three years later, after a unanimous vote last week, the Chicago Public School Board of Education officially decided to make computer science a graduation requirement for all high school students in the country’s third-largest school district.
As Megan Rose Dickey of TechCrunch writes, the incoming class of freshmen (Class of 2020) should complete a computer science curriculum before graduating. The students in the Class 2016-2017 will have to pass at least one computer science class equivalent to one credit, which will be added to the pupils’ two-credit career education requirement.
Chicago is the first district nationwide to cement Computer Science as a graduation requirement, notes Karis Hustad of ChicagoInno.
Mayor Emanuel firmly believes in the importance of computer science education for the students’ future. When he launched CS4All three years ago, Emanuel also encouraged President Obama to introduce coding classes as a national requirement for high school graduation.
Through this initiative, 250 educators in the Windy City are already certified to teach Computer Science courses, writes Mariella Moon of Engadget.
The Mayor is convinced that early exposure to STEM subjects and computer science is crucial for paving the path to college and career success. He commented that computer science as a core requirement would ensure the high school graduates were familiar with the language of the 21st century so they could be competitive in the future.
According to the district, Computer Science is only offered in 25 percent of schools across the country. 107 schools in Chicago have already implemented CS curriculum; 41 of them are high schools. The Mayor’s aim is to add 50-60 schools to the list each year with priority being given to high schools.
To achieve this goal, the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of College and Career Success will continue to support the ongoing career development, coaching, and program administration and provide any assistance the schools may need to implement successfully the computer science graduation requirement. In 2017 a federal grant will make it possible to provide each school with Wi-Fi and high-speed broadband, expanding the CS4All program to all high schools in the state.
The US tech world has welcomed the CS4All initiative. Recent statistics have shown that the demand for high-qualified computer engineers and software developers will outstrip supply enough to create a gap of 1 million job vacancies by 2024. Currently, there are 600,000 job openings in computing, but universities produced fewer than 40,000 computer science graduates in 2015.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool concluded:
“No matter what field our students pursue, having exposure to STEM will provide critical skills and training for success in their careers and in life. As a national leader in technology in the classroom, CPS will continue to push the envelope to challenge our students and ensure they’re prepared for the future.”