Computer Science Education Week celebrates CS expansion in Northeast Florida
Imagine a field that is growing at such a rate that it is the number one source of new wages in the United States, with 500,000 current job openings across the country, in every industry and every state.
Now imagine that this field is projected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs.
We would all want our children to have access to these economic opportunities. Yet in 2016, only 14 percent of Florida schools with Advanced Placement programs offered AP classes in computer science, a field which has more than 20,000 open jobs here and which offers an average salary $30,000 higher than the state’s average salary. Even more surprising: Florida universities did not graduate a single new teacher prepared to teach computer science in 2016.
This school year, however, Northeast Florida has turned a corner in computer science education, and with Computer Science Education Week taking place December 4-10, we have much to celebrate.
- In April 2016, Florida State College at Jacksonville partnered with Code.org, a national nonprofit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science. Through this partnership, this year FSCJ has trained 20 middle school teachers and 23 high school teachers in computer science education, reaching more than 2,000 Northeast Florida students with Code.org’s curriculum and course content.
- In the 2017-2018 school year, for the first time, Advanced Placement Computer Science is available at every single public high school in Jacksonville.
Despite this exciting progress, our work is not done. At the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub, we share Code.org’s vision that computer science should be part of the core curriculum in every school, alongside other STEM courses such as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra. And while Florida has clear course standards for computer science, and certification pathways for teachers in the field, it does not yet require that all secondary schools offer the course.
Computer science isn’t just a vocational course, it is foundational for the world in which today’s students will live and work. In a presentation to Northeast Florida educators last month, Code.org’s outreach manager for the Southeast, Don Miller, summed it up best: “Every 21st century student should have a chance to learn about algorithms, how to make apps, or how the Internet works, just like they learn about the digestive system, photosynthesis, or electricity.”
With our partners at FSCJ and Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History (MOSH), we encourage schools, libraries, and other hubs of community learning, as well as families at home, to participate in an Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week. These activities are self-guided and work on all devices and browsers, with free tutorials and other resources available online at Code.org. The goal of this program is not to make anyone an expert computer scientist in one hour, but to open more students’ and teachers’ minds to the possibilities in computer science and its applications in other fields, and nurture the problem-solving skills, logic, and creativity which are key to success in any 21st century pursuit.
Robert Copeland holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University and retired in 2000 as Business Unit Vice President at AT&T. He taught statistics, calculus and algebra at Stanton College Preparatory School for 13 years and now serves as the executive director of the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub.