Written by Carol Yarbrough,
A+ College Ready Computer Science Content Specialist
On Wednesday, September 27, 2017, Governor Kay Ivey announced the formation of her Computer Science Education Advisory Council. Members of the council include educators, industry representatives and advocates for computer science education. The council will make recommendations for the expansion of computer science education, as well as teacher professional development, within the state.
“We have a lot of great work happening around our state, but we need to create a unified vision that will provide better access to, and equal opportunity for, all of our students to succeed in a technology-driven economy,” Governor Ivey said. “I will use this advisory group to help create new policies aimed at better preparing our students and teachers for the future.”
The timing of this announcement is quite fortunate. The federal government recently announced that $200 million in current educational grant funding will be awarded with priority given to computer science education. Also, tech companies have pledged over $300 million for computer science education programs. Alabama is working to position itself to be a beneficiary of the current growth in funding for computer science education.
A+ College Ready is heavily involved in the statewide effort to expand computer science education. Both Tammy Dunn, Chief Academic Officer, and Carol Yarbrough, Computer Science Content Specialist, are members of the Governor’s newly formed advisory council. A+ College Ready is excited to be able to continue its work and play a part in the latest effort to train Alabama teachers and students in computer science.
A+ College Ready and Dr. Jeff Gray at the University of Alabama, received a 3 year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2013 to develop computer science curriculum and train teachers in the state. Nationally, one of the biggest impediments to K-12 computer science education is the lack of qualified teachers. Alabama became one of the first states to address this shortage of teachers through the work done on this grant. During each of the three years of the grant, in parallel with the College Board’s three year pilot of the course, a new cohort of teachers was trained to teach AP Computer Science Principles. When the grant work was finished in 2016, approximately 50 Alabama teachers were teaching the new AP Computer Science Principles course. Most of the teachers involved were either mathematics or career tech teachers being retrained in the area of computer science.
At the conclusion of the NSF grant, the Alabama State Board of Education, A+ College Ready and Code.org entered into a partnership to train approximately 50 more teachers over the following two years. We are currently in our second year of the Code.org partnership and have over 100 teachers successfully teaching AP Computer Science Principles in Alabama! At the end of October all high school computer science teachers in the state will have an opportunity to work together and learn new ways to improve their teaching practice at the Alabama Computer Science Education Summit at the University of Alabama.
Computer science education is one of the top priorities for preparing our students for the future. It is exciting to imagine what the future holds for computer science education in Alabama. We envision a future where all K-12 students in Alabama can participate in computer science courses knowing they will have reliable equipment and access to technology. A+ College Ready is committed to continuing to be a part of this effort to provide professional development and curricular resources to Alabama teachers. By enabling our teachers, we are able to directly impact the quality of computer science education our students receive.