Lawmakers expand reach of K-12 computer science

Lawmakers expand reach of K-12 computer science

(Calif.) Under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, access to computer science in schools is set to expand throughout California as the number of available jobs in the technology sector continues to grow.

AB 2329, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, requires the convening of a computer science strategic implementation advisory panel comprised of K-12 teachers, industry professionals and representatives from the State Department of Education and University of California system.

“California has long been home to a rapidly-growing technology sector, but unfortunately we do not see the same growth in computer science courses and programs offered to our youth,” Bonilla said in a statement. “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.”

Although more than 86,000 computing jobs are currently open in the state, only 25 percent of K-12 schools teach any computer science, according to the author’s office. In those that do offer classes at the high school level,  just 1 percent of students enrolled in the 20 largest school districts are taking a computer science course.

The gap persists after graduation as well, with only 3,500 students earning degrees in computer science in 2015 despite the projected growth of science, technology, engineering and math–more than half of all STEM fields are expected to be computer science-related by 2018.

In both high school and college, women and minorities are far behind, with women only making up 15 percent of computer science graduates in 2014, and drastically fewer black and Hispanic students taking Advanced Placement exams in the subject each year than their white peers.

Under AB 2329, the State Board of Education would have until Jan. 1, 2019 to adopt a computer science strategic implementation plan that increases participation of students traditionally underrepresented in such courses, increase coursework so that all high schools teach at least one computer science class, provide access in college and career pathways, and ensure districts have adequate broadband connectivity, infrastructure and access to hardware and software.

According to a Senate analysis of the bill, a one-time cost of almost $240,000 would need to be allocated to support the 23 member panel and to appoint a statewide computer science liaison to serve it, and likely millions to implement the suggested recommendations included in the legislation.

Previous efforts have been made to improve access to STEM curriculum and computer science courses in California. Last year, legislators pushed to create a grant program to establish classes in these fields in schools with high percentages of often underrepresented students, and develop new content standards and guidelines for high school computer science classes.

Officials applauded the latest effort to increase access to classes when Gov. Brown signed AB 2329 last week.

“California is taking a step toward expanding computer science education and taps into an industry of prosperity and upward social mobility where, for the first time, the state has a plan to ensure that students of all backgrounds can participate in a modern workforce where advanced computing skills are in high demand,” Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.