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Chicago School Board Elevates Computer Science to Graduation Requirement

By Jack M. Germain
Feb 26, 2016 12:32 PM PT
chicago-board-education-computer-science-graduation-requirement

The Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday voted unanimously to make computer science a graduation requirement for all high school students beginning with next year's freshmen.

Chicago Public Schools has become a national leader in computer science education since Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched the Computer Science for All initiative for grades K-12 in 2013, the board said.

The five-year plan aims to make computer science a core subject taught in schools. It includes a partnership with Code.org to provide the curriculum and prepare teachers.

The White House last month launched a national Computer Science for All program.

Exposing students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education early will provide critical skills and training for success in their careers and in life, CPS said.

Demand for computing skills will be greater than the supply of qualified job takers, according to CPS. That will create a gap of 1 million job openings by 2024.

While there were nearly 600,000 job openings in computing, universities produced fewer than 40,000 computer science graduates last year, the board said.

To help close that gap, Chicago public school students will be required to complete one credit of computer science education as half of the two-credit career education requirement.

"Rahm Emanuel's decision to require computer science in Chicago Public Schools should be lauded. These young men and women will now have the benefit of access to a discipline that would have simply been out of reach before," said Colleen Ganjian, president of DC College Counseling.

Education Sound

The board's decision will produce long-term gains, she told TechNewsWorld. If students choose not to pursue computer science after high school, the exposure will make them stronger candidates in the college admissions process. It also will introduce them to a variety of other career paths.

Schools need to embrace STEM to meet growing demand for better career training. There's an increasing necessity for schools nationwide to better prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow by encouraging STEM, according to Sidharth Oberoi, president of Zaniac.

"Providing exposure to students at a younger age is key to enabling better decision-making for individuals when they reach college or enter the workforce. The more extensive knowledge a student has, the greater the opportunity he or she has for higher salaries as well as the potential to have a larger impact on the betterment of society," he told TechNewsWorld.

Computer science education is an essential ingredient in the STEM formula and in today's education, noted Stephen Nichols, CEO of GameSalad.

"It allows for experimentation and rapid iteration and provides students with a platform to utilize and learn the fundamental concepts of software development and programming. A true computer science education will foster creativity and enrich the lives of students around the world and help set them up for future success," he told TechNewsWorld.

STEM Plus One

Eagle Academy Public Charter School took that concept further by expanding the STEM concept to include the arts in its STEAM curriculum.

STEAM Exploratorium is designed to challenge young students to create, solve problems, experiment, test, adapt, collaborate, explain and develop a sense of curiosity as they learn skills and strategies for the challenges of the 21st century, according to Executive Director Cassandra Pinkney.

The process "fosters engineering and technological literacy among students -- an all-important skill set in tomorrow's world," she told TechNewsWorld.

School officials are adamant about exposing students to STEAM while they are young and curious, Pinkney said. The goal is to inspire students to continue pursuing the sciences throughout their academic and professional careers.

Essential Component

The Chicago school board's action requiring computer science credits is important in furthering the intent of the Computer Science for All initiative. It will go a long way to increase the number of STEM candidates, noted Steven Rothberg, president of College Recruiter.

"The more students who are exposed to science, technology, engineering and math courses in high school, the more students who will choose to major in those fields in college, whether they attend a one-year technical/vocational school, a two-year community college or a four-year university," he told TechNewsWorld.

Exposure to computer science is critical before students enter college. In order for the U.S. to successfully compete in a global market economy, schools must present technological and computer skills early on, according to J. Luke Wood, associate professor in the Community College Leadership program at San Diego State University.

"This move sets Chicago as a national leader in preparing students for readiness in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Our nation is not prepared to compete in the emerging world economy. Our ability to do so cannot solely rely upon bringing in talent from other nations," he told TechNewsWorld.

"That will require our nation to better prepare students who have been historically underrepresented and underserved in education," Wood said, "particularly students of color."


Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.


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