HOW A+ WORKS AS A TEAM
A+ works directly with elected and appointed officials to shape education policy and spending. But we also understand that policy alone cannot ensure the quality of day-to-day teaching, so we operate two direct service programs that advance quality teaching and learning, A+ College Ready (A+CR) and the Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC). The following case study provides a great example of how our policy work fuses with our programmatic work to move the needle on public education in Alabama.
THE CASE FOR COMPUTER SCIENCE IN ALABAMA
Governor Kay Ivey made it a priority to create, adopt and implement Computer Science standards for Alabama, which resulted in the adoption of the Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS) standards by the Alabama State Board of Education (SBOE) in March of 2018. This made Alabama one of only 15 states to add these to the state’s K-12 academic standards. What role did A+ Education Partnership play in this? Many!
First, we must go back to 2016, when A+ began working to create DLCS standards. A+ began collaborating with Dr. Jeff Gray from the University of Alabama, the SBOE, the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE), and Code.org, to craft DLCS standards. A+ knew from its research this was an essential area of need in Alabama, as there were approximately 4,000 open jobs in computing but only 503 computer science graduates in 2015. A+ also knew the average salary for a computing occupation in Alabama was approximately $83,000, almost double the average salary in the state. Such statistics, and the knowledge that exposure to digital learning helps students become computational thinkers, made Computer Science a policy priority for A+ in 2016.
Simultaneously, A+ CR worked with Dr. Gray to seek funding from the National Science Foundation to prepare and train teachers to teach AP Computer Science for 12th graders. That grant, and funding from Code.org, provided the resources for A+CR and Code.org to recruit, train, and support 86 teachers in AP Computer Science Principles for the first time in 2016-17. That number grew to 111 in 2017-18, resulting in 1,520 Alabama students sitting for the AP Computer Science exam.
Returning to the policy work, A+ served on Governor Ivey’s Council, providing research-based recommendations for the drafting of high DLCS standards. The DLCS standards were approved in March 2018. These new standards work with existing standards in all areas (reading, math, history, science, social studies, etc.) from K-12th grade.
While participation was initially optional, all Alabama schools will be required to use the standards in 2019-2020 school year. Therefore, training teachers to implement them has become a priority and the work of A+CR. A+CR also worked with Gov. Ivey, her Council, ALSDE, SBOE, and Code.org to host a CSE Summit in March 2018. This day-long event drew over 250 K-12 educators, administrators, policy makers, and others. http://m.wbrc.com/clip/14203993/computer-science-education-summit
Going forward, A+CR will continue to provide teachers with free professional development for effectively incorporating DLCS into their curricula. In fact, any Alabama school, district or teacher wishing to offer computer science in middle or high school can take advantage of the free teacher training offered by A+ College Ready and Code.org by registering here.