State Considers Pros And Cons Of K-12 Computer Science Program

Feb 15, 2018

Alan and Jenna Merritt work on their robot in Powell -- one of the few schools in Wyoming currently teaching computer science.
Credit Kamila Kudelska

There are over 500 open computing jobs in Wyoming, amounting to roughly $30 million in wages not flowing into the state. That’s according to Code.org, a non-profit that has partnered with the Wyoming Department of Education to expand access to computer science in schools.

 

The Wyoming Legislature is considering two bills strengthening K-12 computer science education. Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said the Senate version of the bill is stronger because it would make computer science a core knowledge subject area and would create content standards for educators to follow.  

 

Balow said the WDE, with support from the business and industry sectors, is committed to supporting this transition. Balow said she wants “to make sure that teachers are well trained and have ongoing professional development to ensure that our students receive a topnotch computer science education in every grade now and in the future.”

 

Computer science education has been strongly supported by Governor Matt Mead as a way to grow the state’s economy. But policymakers still have questions about what adding computer science to the basket of goods — the name for what schools are required to teach — will involve.

 

The Wyoming School Board Association is in support of computer science education, but asked the Senate Education Committee to consider the burden on districts who are facing funding cuts.

 

Balow said she’s heard concerns that adding a new required subject area may put too much on teachers’ plates, but she said legislation lays out a five-year implementation period to help schools get up to speed.

 

She said computer science enhances different areas of learning. “Our students, young and old, who are savvy at coding, use their reading skills, their math skills and their science skills,” said Balow. “And are able with a little bit of basic coding and computer programming to put all of that together to create innovations not just use technology.”

 

Code.org has already trained 300 teachers in Wyoming and plans to train 100 more this year, at no cost to the state. The exact cost to bring all schools up to capacity to fully implement a computer science curriculum is yet to be determined.