Districts on way to meet computer science rules

January 14th, 2019

By Ashley Sloboda | The Journal Gazette

More Indiana high school students than ever are enrolled in computer science courses as districts statewide prepare to meet new requirements that take effect in 2021.

Fort Wayne Community Schools and other Allen County districts are confident about fulfilling the upcoming mandates.

After June 30, 2021, districts must incorporate computer science in curriculum for K-12 students. Public high schools must offer at least one such course as a semester elective each year.

“We do have computer science offered at all of our high schools, most – if not all – of our middle schools, and we have integrated coding into the curriculum at the elementary level to some degree,” said Krista Stockman, FWCS spokeswoman.

“We probably aren't to the point where kids in grades K-5 are learning about it every year consistently,” she added, “but as we're rewriting our curriculum, coding concepts and those kinds of things are being included in that.”

The law will have no effect on Northwest Allen County Schools.

“We were compliant long before there was a mandate for computer science courses,” Superintendent Chris Himsel said in a statement. “The mandate has not altered our curriculum at all. While we continue to evaluate and update the curriculum, student interest is really what drives our course offerings.”

East Allen County Schools offers computer science to students in grades seven through 12, spokeswoman Tamyra Kelly said by email.

Southwest Allen County Schools has computer science standards embedded in all grade levels beginning at kindergarten.

“We have partnered with Project Lead the Way and Advanced Placement as part of our programming and offer specific courses at the middle and high school level,” according to a SACS statement.

Allen County districts appear to be ahead of the curve. Only 49 percent of Indiana public high schools offered a computer science course in the 2017-18 academic year, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

The state's education leader said this week the status of computer science education in Indiana is better than just a few years ago.

Statewide, 44 percent of high schools offered a computer science class in the 2017-18 year, during which enrollment in such classes totaled 10,423 students, the education department reported.

This was an increase of 5,622 students compared with the 2015-16 year, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick touted on Twitter on Monday.

Courses include Intro to Computer Science and AP Computer Science Principles.

Additionally, McCormick said on social media, a computer science course was offered last school year in at least one high school in 80 percent of counties.

None of the 18 counties without computer science courses was in northeast Indiana, the education department reported.

“We are making progress! Let's go!” McCormick tweeted.

The state is encouraging districts to attend workshops addressing computer science options, ways to provide students with high-quality computer science experiences and the upcoming curriculum requirements.

The Region 8 Education Service Center in Fort Wayne recently welcomed representatives from six northeast Indiana school districts – none from Allen County – for a strategic planning day to help them prepare for the new law.

They considered multiple angles, including teacher capacity and existing programming and curriculum, and created an action plan with three-month, six-month and one-year targets, said Cindy McKinney, Region 8 program director.

For some, McKinney said, the strategy session validated their district is on the right path while others realized they have work to do.

“They did benefit from sharing resources and ideas with each other,” she said.