De Blasio Announces Plan to Offer Computer Science to NYC Students


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that within 10 years, all public schools in the city will be obliged to offer computer science classes.  At the moment, just 1 in 10 NYC schools offer computer science classes and only 1 in 100 students takes such a course. De Blasio particularly wants underserved students to gain exposure to CS.

“Too many students are learning to type when they should be learning to code. This public-private partnership is going to open so many doors for students, beginning in their earliest grades. It’s going to ensure that New York City public schools are producing the tech talent employers are demanding,” de Blasio said.

Tech jobs in New York have grown by 57% in the seven years from 2007 to 2014. Gabrielle Fialkoff, Director of the city’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, commented:

“I think there is acknowledgment that we need our students better prepared for these jobs and to address equity and diversity within the sector as well.”

Under de Blasio’s agenda, middle and high schools can offer CS classes as an elective. Chicago has made a similar, only bolder, commitment, saying the city will have computer science as a high school graduation requirement by 2018. By the same year, Chicago has pledged to have 25% of its elementary students taking CS classes.

San Francisco also voted this summer for computer science to be a mandatory course through the 8th grade. According to research by Google and Gallup, 25% of schools offer CS classes and only 6% of high schools offer AP computer science courses.

The city of New York will train about 5,000 teachers to teach CS at every grade. The National Science Foundation says it plans to train 10,000 teachers to teach computer science. One of biggest challenges in de Blasio’s agenda for teacher training is:

“The difficulty is getting enough teachers who are trained in it, and trained well enough to make it a good introduction to computer science,” Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, said. And if you are well-trained in computer science, you can make a lot more money in industry than teaching.”

In the next decade New York City will need $81 million to implement the project, with about $40 million being raised from private firms including the AOL Charitable Foundation and the Robin Hood Foundation.

A Bronx high school teacher said he noticed his students being feeling encouraged and eager to study hard for their CS projects. The ability to interact with what students create is rewarding, he said:

“I’ve literally had a conversation with a student where she’s saying, ‘I really don’t like math,’ as she’s walking me through a JavaScript function to have an interactive photo gallery on a web page that she had also built from scratch,”  he said. “I looked at her and said, ‘This is harder math than what you’re doing in your math class.’ ”

Part of de Blasio’s agenda is also getting all of the city’s 400 high schools to offer Advanced Placement classes, an endeavor estimated at $51 million per year, and to hire 700 reading teachers that will teach 2nd grade, a project estimated at $75 million annually.