Computer Science Gets a Nod in Obama’s Final State of the Union

By Benjamin Herold — January 13, 2016 2 min read
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Cross-posted from the Curriculum Matters blog.

In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said that “helping students learn to write computer code” is among his goals for the year ahead.

The shout-out to computer science is not unexpected from the president, who has touted his commitment to K-12 coding initiatives, and to expanding the science, technology, engineering, and math teaching force, over the last several years.

Obama said that the United States should continue the education reform efforts begun with the recent bipartisan passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act by “offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.”

The year he took office, the president launched a campaign aimed at improving U.S. students’ performance in science and math called Educate to Innovate. That initiative has raised more than $1 billion in support for STEM programs from both public and private organizations.

In his 2011 State of the Union speech, the president called for the recruitment of 100,000 new STEM teachers over a decade—an effort he has said is halfway complete. He has also been lobbying for a STEM master teacher corps—an idea that was authorized for federal funding under the new Every Student Succeeds Act. And he’s opened the White House doors for science fairs, maker fairs, and astronomy nights.

A year ago, Obama became the first president to write a line of computer code. Last month, the White House held its first-ever “Computer Science Tech Jam,” during which dozens of educators, programmers, and students discussed ways to bring computer science to more K-6 students.

The president isn’t the only one proclaiming the need for K-12 computer science classes. The Chicago, New York, and San Francisco school districts have all committed to making computer science courses available to all students in the coming years. The College Board is also launching a new Advanced Placement computer science course in fall 2016—one that it hopes will help increase racial and gender diversity among course-takers.

Computer science made its way into the new federal education legislation as well. The phrase computer science appears in ESSA a half-dozen times, most often clarifying that science, technology, engineering, and math efforts include computer science.

Photo: President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vice President Joe Biden after giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill.--J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.