T in STEM = Computer Science

computer science education work group

In February 2014, ancient history by STEM time, the Governor's STEM Advisory Council launched a Computer Science (CS) Working Group to develop a set of recommendations to the STEM Council that would engage more Iowa youth in computer science, including programming and app development. Co-chaired by Mark Gruwell and Ann Watts, the group delivered a set of recommendations to the Council in summer of 2016 that spelled out a teacher endorsement in CS, a graduation requirement plan for CS and an incentive plan for schools to "ramp up" CS offerings. 

In perhaps the ultimate compliment, the state legislature took up the matter during its next session, generating Senate File 274 that called for the state's Department of Education to "convene a computer science education work group" (including two invited members from the STEM CS group) to work out the details by November 1, 2017. Thanks to the deft facilitation of Director Ryan Wise and his team, those details have now been delivered as unanimous recommendations to the State Board of Education, the Governor's Office and the State Legislature. Summarily:

  1. Leverage a professional development incentive fund to require recipients to offer high-quality computer science, allowing mathematics or science credit under certain conditions, with an overarching intent that computer science will eventually become a high school graduation requirement for all students.
  2. Strengthen and expand CS course offerings into CTE pathways (by clarifying BOEE rules regarding teacher qualifications and by encouraging partnerships between schools and business and industry to help expand computer science CTE offerings, for example).
  3. Through the aforementioned professional development fund, prepare educators to deliver CS courses in person, online or in blended format.
  4. A committee (assembled by the Department of Education) is to develop CS standards K-12.
  5. Establish a competitive application process by which schools may procure aforementioned professional development funds to create innovative, diverse approaches to providing professional learning and scaling high-quality computer science instruction across Iowa.

The CS recommendations promise proximately to equip educators across Iowa for the fourth basic competency alongside reading, writing and arithmetic. Ultimately, the next generation of Iowans will have the tools they need to thrive in a technology-perfused future. The Iowa Department of Education Computer Science recommendations are to be presented to the State Board of Education in early November and will be available publicly shortly thereafter. 

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