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According to code.org, an education nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools, computing jobs are the number one source of new wages in the United States. There are 15,484 open computing jobs in Colorado, but in 2017 our state only had 1,021 computer science graduates. Computer science and technology are fast becoming ever-present in our daily lives, touching things like agriculture and entertainment (and everything in between), so the demand is high when it comes to career opportunities.
In light of this, and as a nod to Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 9 to Dec. 13), Elizabeth School District is providing students with several opportunities to be exposed to this ever-expanding field.
Last school year (2018-2019), we implemented a new high-quality computer science curriculum for all grade levels, developed by code.org (and free to school districts). Using funds from the Colorado Department of Education’s Computer Science Teacher Education Grant program, we were also able to provide relevant training to the appropriate teaching staff by partnering with mindSpark Learning. As a result, not only has this new computer science curriculum (which includes coding) provided us with a common platform and curriculum pathway for computer science from kindergarten to 12th grade, but we were also able to offer a new Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science course at Elizabeth High School.
Elizabeth High School also created a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics team in 2018-2019, and now the team looks forward to their second regional competition in March 2020. Building upon the success of the high school team, two additional robotics teams were started this year at Running Creek Elementary and Singing Hills Elementary, who both recently competed in a Colorado Springs FIRST Lego League tournament.
Starting in January 2020, we are excited to have three new Girls Who Code clubs at Running Creek Elementary, Singing Hills Elementary, and Elizabeth Middle School. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to promote computer science and technology to female students. According to them, the gender gap in computer scientists is increasing each year and if nothing is done, the proportion of women computer scientists will drop to just 22% in the year 2027 (in 1995 it was 37%). Elizabeth School District is proud to be the first district in the Eastern Plains of Colorado to have multiple Girls Who Code clubs for female students.
To celebrate Computer Science Education Week, Elizabeth High School hosted their second district-wide Hour of Code event on December 4. Hour of Code is a national event where students across the country participate in an actual “hour of code” to promote and broaden involvement in the field of computer science.
These are just some of the ways Elizabeth School District provides computer science and technology experiences for all students. Per a 2017 Google-Gallup Study about computer science in schools, 58% of rural schools in the U.S. offer at least some sort of computer science class (and of those schools only 43 percent offer a computer programming or coding class) but only 8% offer an AP course. Elizabeth School District continues to develop and fine-tune our computer science offerings, and we’re definitely moving forward on the right path.
Marty Silva is the director of instructional and information technology for the Elizabeth School District.
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