Tennessee first to approve K-8 computer science standards
- The Tennessee State Board of Education recently gave final approval to the implementation of the first state-approved set of computer science standards for grades, K-8 which will be incorporated in classrooms in the fall of 2019, Chalkbeat reports.
- In elementary schools, the new standards will introduce students to computer basics and responsible use of computers while middle school students will study computer-related calculations, information-processing skills, digital citizenship and career opportunities in the computer science field. These skills will be woven throughout core classes while coding and programming will be taught as a separate class.
- Tennessee is in the process of revising state standards for all core areas, but is directing efforts at computer education in earlier grades because of a need for more computer professionals to fill jobs in the state.
The need for increased computer education is a truth that transcends political barriers. Both the Obama administration and the Trump administration have stressed this need for economic reasons as the need for computer professionals increases. Though many states are already including computer education at the high school level, Tennessee is the first to officially set benchmarks that recognize the need to integrate computer science studies in earlier grades. However, other states, including Wyoming, are also strengthening their computer science education requirements in the K-12 arena. And the Association for Computing Machinery, Code.org, Computer Science Teachers Association, Cyber Innovation Center, and National Math and Science Initiative have developed their own guidelines for the development of K-12 computer science standards.
A 2016 article published by the Committee for Economic Development stressed the importance of earlier exposure to computer science education. The article states: “STEM is finally being integrated in schools, but not early nor extensively enough. Thirty-eight percent of students who start college with a STEM major do not graduate with one, which is reflected by the fact that 69% of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level math or science, according to the National Math and Science Initiative. This is alarming and can be traced back to students not receiving the appropriate supports and interventions they need in early grades.”
While the state of computer science education in public schools is trending upward, schools administrators may need to look at ways to integrate more of these skills at an earlier age. While some schools accomplish this in after-school or summer programs, incorporating the skills in the classroom would help level the playing field for students who may not have the same access to extracurricular computer studies. Since computer science skills are imperative for future jobs, educators who are preparing students can work with lawmakers to make sure the proper supports are in place to attain them. Fortunately, both industry support and public support for this effort are strong and will make such measures easier to pass.