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California legislature considers computer science education

The California state legislature is attempting to affect change to computer science education in California, and for all the right reasons.  They’re getting the message that computer science is what drives innovation and economic growth in California, and that the demand for computer science graduates in California far exceeds supply. There are simply not enough students prepared or preparing to join this high tech workforce. They’re also starting to understand that computer science needs to count for something other than an elective course for more schools to offer it and for more students to take it – especially girls and underrepresented students of color.  What they may not quite understand yet is that there aren’t enough teachers prepared to teach computer science in K-12, although one assemblyman spoke of the need for a single subject teaching credential in computer science, so maybe someday we’ll get there … baby steps!

So, it’s been  exciting in Sacramento the last few weeks as the Assembly and Senate Education Committees “passed out” a handful of CS-related bills with flying colors and broad bi-partisan support!  ACCESS (the Alliance for California Computing Education in Students and Schools) was on hand to help provide analysis and information.  Many thanks to Josh Paley, a computer science teacher at Gunn High School in Palo Alto and a CSTA advocacy and leadership team member, who provided substantive testimony on two priority bills (AB 1764 and AB 1539).  Josh provided compelling stories of students who had graduated and gone on to solve important problems using their CS skills.  Amy Hirotaka, State Policy and Advocacy Manager, of Code.org, Andrea Deveau, Executive Director of TechNet, and Barry Brokaw, lobbyist for Microsoft also testified on these bills. It was also exciting to see a wide range of organizations supporting this important discipline.

All of the following CS-related bills passed out of committee, all but one with unanimous approval.  The first seven listed were heard on April 9; AB 1530 was heard on April 21.

1) AB 1764 (Olsen and Buchanan) would allow school districts to award students credit for one mathematics course if they successfully complete one course in computer science approved by the University of California as a “category c” (math) requirement for admissions.  Such credit would only be offered in districts where the school district requires more than two courses in mathematics for graduation, therefore, it does not replace core math requirements.

2) AB 1539 (Hagman) would create computer science standards that provide guidance for teaching computer science in grades 7-12.

3) AB 1540 (Hagman) establishes greater access to concurrent enrollment in community college computer science courses by high school students.

4) AB 1940 (Holden) establishes a pilot grant program to support establishing or expanding AP curriculum in STEM  (including computer science) in high schools with such need (passed with two noes).

5) AB 2110 (Ting) requires computer science curriculum content to be incorporated into curriculum frameworks when next revised.

6) SB1200 (Padilla) would require CSU and request UC to establish a uniform set of academic standards for high school computer science courses, to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements, as defined, for the area of mathematics (“c”) for purposes of recognition for undergraduate admission at their respective institutions.

7) ACR 108 (Wagner) would designate the week of December 8, 2014, as Computer Science Education Week (passed on consent).

8) AB 1530 (Chau) would encourage the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop or, as needed, revise a model curriculum on computer science, and to submit the model curriculum to the State Board of Education for adoption (specifically focuses on grades 1-6).

Anyone really interested in hearing the bill presentation, testimony and supporters can see it here:

Senate Education Committee: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2012

Assembly Education Committee: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2019

I’ll plan another update once these bills move further.

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