Parents and students alike can have more confidence that Chicago Public Schools are preparing kids for the job market as the district makes computer science a compulsory subject in high school. CPS is addressing the need for a more technology-based education by partnering with a nonprofit that promotes education in the tech field in order to provide additional training to teachers.
The district CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, has no doubt that the teaching of computer science will give students a competitive edge.
“In order to prepare our children for careers in the 21st century, we’ve increased access to high-quality STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs throughout the district,” she said.
Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that every district high school will offer an introductory computer science class within three years under the K-12 computer science education plan. Additionally, Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that half of all high schools will offer an Advanced Placement computer science course within five years.
Under the program, computer science will no longer be an elective course at high schools. Students will have the tools needed to build computer applications and programs in classes in elementary schools as part of the plan.
According to Lauren Zumbach of the Chicago Tribune, partnering with the district is Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit promoting computer science education that will provide free computer science curriculum and professional development for teachers. Among the founding donors of Code.org are Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, and it offers coding tutorials online while already partnering with school districts in New York City, Boston, Florida and Washington.
“We don’t just teach coding and programming, but how the world works digitally,” Yongpradit said. “The goal is that they can make technology, not just use it.”
Training for about 70 district teachers would begin in the spring. In addition, Yongpradit said each teacher would receive more than 120 hours of training in computer science education. Over time more teachers will be included in the program and stipends will be paid to them by Code.org for their participation, a total of about $2 million.
The plan is meant to close the digital divide as well as gender and skills gaps. According to officials, of Advanced Placement computer classes, 20% are women and about 10% are African-American or Latino. In addition, they cited that by 2020, there will be 760,000 new jobs in the U.S. requiring computer and information technology skills — but only 40,000 graduates with computer science degrees, according to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Whether or not you pick a field that is based on computer science or engineering, learning how to write computer code is now the fundamental language that everything will work off of,” Emanuel said. “If the kids in the U.K. and China today are doing this, we can’t afford to wait another day or another generation.”