Rhode Island Partners for Computer Science Education

(Image: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Image: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo has launched a computer science education initiative called Computer Science for RI (CS4RI) through which the state has teamed up with Microsoft, Code.org, and universities to help every public school student have access to computer science classes by the end of 2017.

Participants in the effort include the Rhode Island Innovation Office at Rhode Island College (RIC), the RI STEM Center at RIC, the Rhode Island Department of Education, Microsoft TEALS, Code.org, Project Lead the Way, Brown University's Bootstrap, General Assembly, and the University of Rhode Island.

The University of Rhode Island will provide options and ideas for computer science curricula in grade school, and General Assembly will help develop a CS teacher training boot camp for professional development.

The project has a total budget of $260,000, according to a press release.

Right now, computer science education in Rhode Island has a long way to go. AP Computer Science is offered only in nine public high schools, none of which are Title I schools. Only 42 students took the AP CS test last year, and only one percent of the state's public high school students are enrolled in CS courses at all.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, there will be more than 4,000 openings in computer and math fields by 2022, reports Linda Borg of eSchool News. Right now, the median annual wage for IT careers is $80,000, meaning that students who enter the field now will have solid career prospects when they graduate college.

Governor Raimondo said:

Our kids deserve the best opportunities in the 21st-century tech-driven economy, so we need to do everything we can to help them get ahead by developing the skills that matter. Part of turning our economy around and creating jobs is making sure every student, at every level, has access to the new basic skill: computer science. Thanks to the partners we have assembled for this initiative, I know we can achieve this goal.

Microsoft's existing TEALS program, or Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, pairs up professional volunteers with classroom teachers to increase the quality of computer science education, according to Madeline Vuong of Geek Wire. Volunteer professionals and their teacher partners have three options for working with teachers: the two can co-teach, the computer scientists can act as TAs to give students individual instruction when they need help, or they can Skype with classes.

TEALS, founded in 2009 by Microsoft's Kevin Wang, is a central part of the company's YouthSpark initiative which aims to increase global computer science education opportunities. The program is active in 17 states, but its management hopes to be in 33 states in 3 years.

The partnership with Rhode Island is Microsoft's first collaboration with the government.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said:

Digital technology is democratizing access to knowledge and opportunity at a rapid pace making computational thinking and problem-solving skills critical to every job in the future.

This January, President Barack Obama proposed spending $4 billion on computer science education in an effort to increase nationwide access to CS courses.

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