IndustryA Push for More Computer Programming in Public Schools

Treehouse
writes on May 7, 2014

A student in a fifth-grade Maryland classroom. (Flickr photo by woodleywonderworks)

A fifth-grade student in a Maryland school studies in a computer class. (Flickr photo by woodleywonderworks)

Will computer programming languages like PHP, Ruby and JavaScript soon be as commonplace in U.S. classrooms as English lit, American history and chemistry? Almost assuredly, if a growing vocal group of organizations and educators has its way.

Countless education advocates stress that a STEM education — that is, curriculum taught in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — will not just be indispensable in the future. It is imperative now.

Coding — more formally known as computer science — is a huge part of that education.

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Nonprofits like Code.org, which lobbies for more coding in the classroom, says computer science education — and its constituent fields like back-end development and front-end web design — should be available in all schools. And teachers agree.

“The greatest need for future STEM workers will be in computer science-related fields, especially computer programming/coding,” Kevin Tambara, a sixth-grade teacher at Bert Lynn Middle School in Torrance, Calif., told Treehouse earlier this year.

Appeals for Students and Code at the Highest Levels

On Wednesday, prominent California CEOs, educators and community leaders asked Gov. Jerry Brown to consider partnering with them on computer science education in the state’s K-12 classrooms. In a letter to Brown on Code.org, they focused on proposed legislation that would increase computer science clout in schools.

Code.org says a coding education is wildly popular — in just four months, 34 million students participated in the Hour of Code, a program backed by Google and Apple — and classes could be even more successful if there is an institutional push behind them.

“Computer science education draws overwhelming support — not only from the tech industry and its leaders,” the letter reads, “but among regular Americans who want their children to be prepared for the software century.”

More options for educators

Edutopia suggests these seven apps for teaching coding in the class and more than 15 ways to teach every student — even without a computer.

Code.org recommends curriculum for elementary, middle and high school students.

Scratch, a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT, is aimed at young students who want to code interactive stories and games.

More preparation is needed. American students continue to lag behind their international counterparts in science, mathematics, reading and other skills.

In the United States, nearly 26 percent of 15-year-old students scored below the baseline proficiency for mathematics in 2012 tests conducted by PISA, or the Program for International Student Assessment. Only 9 percent of American students scored at the test’s highest levels.

In comparison, 55 percent of Chinese students from Shanghai performed at the test’s highest levels, while only 4 percent scored below proficiency. Education Week says the United States scored poorer than 19 other nations across the test’s math, science and reading metrics. American students trail 29 other nations significantly in math.

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