Computer Science in Iowa

By: Erika Cook, Bureau Chief of Leading, Teaching, Learning Services for the Iowa Department of Education, and Wren Hoffman, Computer Science Program Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education

Computer science education is a hot topic around the country. According to code.org, “computing jobs are the #1 source of new wages in the United States” with over 500,000 current openings. Therefore, states are working to avoid being left behind. Iowa doesn’t have to worry. Computer science education in Iowa took a huge step forward in April 2017 when Governor Branstad signed Senate File 274. This bill provides for standards, teaching endorsements, and the establishment of a computer science professional development incentive fund. All of this information is available on the Department of Education’s Computer Science web page. Since then recommendations were released, standards were adopted and 49 schools received funding from a $1 million professional development incentive fund. And we’re not done!

So what does computer science education look like? There is some confusion here. Some think it is about literacy and using technology tools. Others think it is just about coding. So it’s easy to see that developing a computer science pathway, from pre-kindergarten through senior year is no simple task. To support the efforts in elementary school the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council partnered with the Iowa Department of Education to create the Computer Science is Elementary initiative. This program gives six high-poverty schools an opportunity to become a showcase of outstanding computer science education. Computer science is foundational and starting in elementary school is key. This is a chance for an elementary school to create a sustainable program, with support from the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and the Iowa Department of Education..

We want every student to have the opportunity to learn computer science. Every. Single. Student. Every student deserves the opportunity to try their hand with STEM and computer science. The earlier we start the more diverse the field becomes. “Students as young as elementary school begin to adopt stereotypical beliefs in STEM. Research has shown the negative impact on students traditionally underrepresented in CS, namely women and people of color” (Computer Science Teachers Association).

As Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has stated, computer science is a new basic skill in the technology-driven, 21st century economy. It is a method of thinking; it is methodical problem solving. It is about creating and is limited only by our imagination. Computer science has become a literacy that every student needs to be successful in their future. Building a strong foundation in computer science helps prepare students for personal and professional success, and strengthen Iowa’s workforce talent pipeline.

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