Obama proposes Computer Science for All initiative

President Barack Obama has proposed a “CS For All” initiative to promote computer science in K-12 schools and in communities across the nation.

In an address on Jan. 30, he revealed details of his plan, which include a $4 billion budget for states and school districts to expand their computer science classes,  $135 million in investments from two major education foundations to train teachers, and a call to action for government officers and big-name corporations to promote computer science education.

“We have to make sure all our kids are equipped for jobs of the future,” Obama said.  “This means not just being able to work with computers, but developing the analytical and coding skills to power our innovation economy.”

For the past eight years, educators across the country have been working to design a class that will do just that. “They’ve actually fully funded the creation of AP Computer Science Principles which will go live next fall,” Richard Kick, computer science teacher and AP Computer Science Principles curriculum coordinator, said. According to Kick, this course will address not only the programming and algorithms, which are currently taught in the AP Computer Science class, but also the creativity, abstraction, data, and impact of the subject.

All three high schools in the Conejo Valley School District offer regular and Advanced Placement computer science courses, while most middle schools have combined technology programs. Walnut Elementary School has even begun a coding club for its students to learn the basic logic rules of programming, with assistance from several NPHS students.

The federal executive branch’s proposed funding aims to add more courses for such elementary and middle school students and provide a means for better technical equipment.

“I took a technology class (in middle school) and it introduced some really basic principles of computer science,” Leon Xu, junior and computer science student, said. “It didn’t make sense to me why we were doing that but then it later ended up being useful. And I feel like it would have helped me more if I had started on that earlier.”

Obama’s legislative push comes after computer science education’s recent increase in media attention due to the 2013 release of Code.org’s Youtube video, “What Most Schools Don’t Teach.” In response, Claire Shorall, CS educator from Oakland, has also started a petition on Change.org to “Make Computer Science Count in California.” The petition calls for the University of California (UC) Boards of Admissions and Relations with Schools to count high school AP/IB Computer Science courses towards mathematics (category C) college credit, rather than just elective (category G) credit, as it stands currently.
Strained by the rigors of filling their schedule with required courses, few students can even consider computer science (because of its elective credit classification),” Shorall writes on her petition. “It’s heartbreaking to see a student forced to choose between CS, which would be foundational to her career, and the courses required for college.”

Kick also explained the importance of taking computer science courses, from elementary through high school. “There is no field that is not impacted by computer science,” Kick said. “The demand for software developers is constantly increasing and the number of people that are qualified to develop software is getting lower and lower.”

With the institution of new classes and an increased budget, Obama and other educators hope to see an increase in the number of students pursuing computer science. “The country is turning it around,” Kick said.“This is going to be a historical marker: the first year that Computer Science Principles exists.”

Exploring Computer Science – Seniors Mike Liu and Glizelle Mapa and junior Rayna Kanapuram enjoy using creativity in computer science during their free time. Caitlin Henderson/Prowler

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