Iowa schools urged to bolster computer science classes – DesMoinesRegister.com
Iowa school districts are being urgedÂ to offer more computer science classesÂ in elementary, middle school and high school gradesÂ under legislation signed by Gov. Terry Branstad that’s aimed at developingÂ more high-tech workers.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds held a news conference Monday at Greenwood Elementary School in Des Moines to highlight the program’s importance. Greenwood offers an after-school computer science club and 75 students are participating. Some students showed off their work on a robotic arm in the school’s library.
“Computer science is a new basic skill in the technology-driven, 21st century economy,â Â Reynolds said.Â âThatâs why Iâm thrilled that we were able to get legislation passed on a bipartisan basis this year that will help us build a strong computer science foundation for all students and strengthen Iowaâs workforce talent pipeline.”Â
The goal isÂ for each high school to offer at least one high-quality computer science course, each middle school to offer instruction in exploratory computer science, and for each accredited elementary school to offer instruction in the basics of computer science.
Reynolds was joinedÂ by Ryan Wise, director of the Iowa Department of Education,Â and Principal Eric Huinker of Greenwood School. She said the legislation is consistent with the state’s plans toÂ have 70 percentÂ of Iowaâs workforce with education or training beyond high school by 2025. Wise said the program will also help nonpublic schools and home school students.
Sixty-nine percent of Iowa’s high schools and middle schools, as well as 38 percent of elementary schools, already offer some instruction in computer science skills, Reynolds said. “We want all of them doing that,” she added.
Branstad, who is in Washington, D.C., this week for meetings regarding his appointment as U.S. ambassador to China, signed Senate File 274Â last week. The billÂ establishes computer science standards and also creates a computer science professional development incentive fund to provide reimbursements toÂ teachers and school districts.
The legislation willÂ provideÂ incentives, but is not a mandate, for schoolsÂ to increase course offerings in computer science.Â In addition, the billÂ calls for establishingÂ a computer science work group in the Iowa Department of Education that willÂ recommend computer-science related guidelines and potential policies for schools. A state report is dueÂ Nov. 1.
Branstad requested $500,000 for the computer education initiative in his Condition of Â the State Address to the Iowa Legislature in January. Lawmakers responded by providing $250,000 for fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1, 2018. Â Money for the program could also come from federal grants or from private sources, such as high-tech companies.
The costs for school districts cannot be estimated yet, according to state fiscal analysts, because it’s not clear how many schools will choose to participate.