NYC Mayor Wants Computer Science Education For All Students - InformationWeek

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Government // Leadership
Commentary
9/16/2015
01:10 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary
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NYC Mayor Wants Computer Science Education For All Students

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio wants computer science education offered to all students within the next 10 years. Finding the right teachers, however, may be difficult.

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New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday, Sept. 16, that within 10 years, city schools will offer some form of computer science education to all of their students.

The city's Computer Science for All will "deliver computer science education to every student in New York public schools -- from the 9-year-old learning to program Scratch in the Bronx to the 15-year-old building web applications in Brooklyn -- over the next 10 years," according to the mayor's office. "This will make New York City the largest school district in the country to provide computer science education to all students, in all public schools."

Mayor De Blasio added that the plan, "speaks to the reality of the world we live in now. From Silicon Alley to Wall Street to the fashion runways, industries all across our city are increasingly relying on new technologies -- and are in need of workers with the experience to help them achieve success."

Currently, fewer than 10% of city schools offer any form of computer science education, while only 1% of students receive it, according to the city's Board of Education.

(Image: Lisa Klumpp/iStockphoto)

(Image: Lisa Klumpp/iStockphoto)

The mayor will not propose that computer science become a graduation requirement. In fact, middle and high schools can choose to offer it simply as an elective.

CSFA's plan is to spend $81 million over 10 years, half of which the city would like to raise from private sources.

Already, some potential donors have been creating partnerships for this effort. They include the AOL Charitable Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the venture capitalist Fred Wilson.

Wilson, along with his wife Joanne, recently financed the creation last year of New York's first high school devoted to computer science, the Academy for Software Engineering.

Chicago and San Francisco have both made similar commitments on computer science.

Chicago wants a yearlong computer science course to be a high school graduation requirement by 2018, which is far beyond what de Blasio proposes. Indeed, Chicago also wants to offer computer science to at least 25% of elementary school children within the same time frame that it institutes this requirement.

[Read about back-to-school gadgets.]

The San Francisco Board of Education voted in June to offer computer science from pre-kindergarten through high school, and to make it mandatory through eighth grade.

No part of the Mayor's plan makes participation mandatory.

Google and Microsoft have both donated to Chicago's effort. San Francisco has received financing from Salesforce, Facebook, and Zynga for its plans.

Delivering on his proposal may be hard for the Mayor to implement, despite tech industry encouragement.

Most pressing among the problems to solve, the teachers needed to do the teaching are hard to find. There is no New York State teacher certification in computer science, and thus there is not a pipeline of computer science teachers coming out of state colleges.

Although the National Science Foundation has said it plans to train 10,000 teachers to teach computer science, more are needed nationwide.

While the Mayor knows his plans calls for training nearly 5,000 teachers in order to provide the planned instruction at every level of schooling, he thinks that the teachers already in the system can be used to provide the instruction needed.

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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larryloeb
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larryloeb,
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9/17/2015 | 6:32:53 PM
Re: Important
Should we have taught them electronics?

Would it have even mattered?
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
9/17/2015 | 6:26:41 PM
Re: Important
I guess you're right

Beavis: What did people do before they had TV?
Butt-head: Don't be stupid Beavis, there's always been TV, there's just a lot more channels now
Beavis: Oh yeah, progress is cool!
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
9/17/2015 | 6:15:03 PM
Re: Important
Well, kids might use smartphones but most of them got no real idea on how to code for one, or even the underlying principles of what the thing does.

Computer literacy means you got some idea of how things work. You can always drill down into the specifics, but way too many youngun's got no idea even at an overview level.

Hopefully, this stuff will stick to the kids as they mature.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
9/17/2015 | 3:17:57 PM
Re: Important
The only problem is that, no matter how innocent of any other kind of knowledge they might be, the average kid already knows PLENTY about computers. Whereas my generation couldn't write worth beans, today's kids live via texting. They must pick it up via osmosis, like fighting, riding a bicycle, music and sex.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
9/16/2015 | 2:44:10 PM
Re: Important
I think DeBlasio gets the importance of it.

Now, he has to train his teachers to teach it.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
9/16/2015 | 1:42:57 PM
Important
Computer science education is important for the future of this country.

Today, we are seeing software taking over entire industries. No vertical is really safe from this change. Because of this, the majority of jobs in the future are going to rely on a lot of software development and project management surraounding it. This is why early education is so important today. 
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