As a result of the passage of House Bill 216 during the 2019 Legislative Session, every high school in Alabama is required to have a computer science course by fall of 2020. By fall 2021, every middle school is required to have a computer science course. While this mandate is very positive for Alabama students who deserve the opportunity to learn computer science, it will require significant teacher training and support as most Alabama schools do not offer computer science.
A+ College Ready has been a leader in preparing computer science teachers in our state since 2015. While hundreds of high school computer science teachers have been trained by A+ College Ready, at least 200 high schools will need to add a computer science course next fall and teacher training must be provided for our students to have access to a high-quality computer science course.
In order to both plan and implement the training that is needed in our state, A+ College Ready will be adding a second computer science content director to our staff on January 2. Gina McCarley, currently the computer science teacher at Sheffield High School, will assume that role. Gina earned a Computer Science minor at Athens State and spent time as a computer scientist in private industry before earning her education credentials, thus, bringing critical computer science/coding background knowledge to the work. In addition, she has been a teacher in two different A+ College Ready program schools, Lawrence County High School and Sheffield High School, so she knows the A+ College Ready program very well.
When asked why Gina wanted to come to work for A+ College Ready, she said, “I have worked for 2 different school systems who were supported by A+ College Ready. I have witnessed and been a part of the culture change, and growth in student achievement from having high expectations. I am so excited to join A+ and help support other schools with this partnership.”
Gina will be joining Carol Yarbrough, the AP Computer Science Content Director, in this work. Carol has solely led the very demanding computer science work for A+ College Ready for the last two years. Carol shared, “I am thrilled, not only for myself, but for all of the students in Alabama, to have Gina joining our team as the grades 6 – 10 Computer Science Content Director. Gina brings with her not only a passion for Computer Science education, but a wealth of knowledge and experience teaching high school Computer Science in Alabama. Gina has also played a prominent role in national Computer Science education over the last several years. She is an AP Computer Science Principles pilot teacher, a College Board consultant, and a Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Global Ambassador. With the rollout of statewide Computer Science education initiatives, it is important to have the best educators, like Gina, involved in this effort. Having Gina join the A+ College Ready team at this critical time will allow us to concentrate our efforts and best support schools, teachers, and students as they begin to offer or expand offerings of Computer Science in every school.”
The new requirements come as computer science job opportunities are exponentially expanding in Alabama and the USA. In addition, the critical thinking skills associated with computer science curriculum are beneficial even for those who will not professionally work as a computer scientist. Ms. McCarley understands this well. “No matter what your career interest, computer science is important for all students in Alabama. Computer Science impacts all fields and complements other careers. It is great for students to discover their talents and decide to seek careers in Computer Science. But, it is equally important for students to discover how their passion could be made better by Computer Science knowledge. For example, just think of the discoveries to be made if someone has a passion for medicine and knowledge of Computer Science and data mining. What could be created if a student had an interest in engineering and had a knowledge of coding and problem solving? The possibilities are endless. Knowledge of Computer Science will expand the opportunities for students in Alabama whatever their interests.”
It is our pleasure to welcome Gina to our staff and we look forward to what can be accomplished on behalf of Alabama schools, teachers, and students because of her leadership. “I look forward to working with a team that supports schools. Computer Science education is my passion and I think all students should have the opportunity to experience this discipline. With the new Alabama Digital Literacy and Computer Science Course of Study, more students will be getting the opportunity to explore Computer Science and I am thrilled to support and contribute to Computer Science education in our state.”