Beginning next school year, students in New Mexico will be able to count computer science courses toward math and science graduation requirements.
With this new policy, which the Public Education Department announced late last month, New Mexico joins a growing group: Currently, 36 states allow computer science to count as a graduation requirement, according to Code.org, a nonprofit organization that has advocated for the integration of computer science into the K-12 curriculum.
The department’s plan is similar to one proposed in a bill last year that New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, vetoed. But that computer science bill—and nine other bills that Martinez vetoed—ended up getting a second chance. The Democrat-led state legislature sued Martinez, a Republican, arguing that her vetoes were invalid, as she hadn’t provided explanations within the designated time frame.
The Public Education Department made their announcement the day before the state Supreme Court decided in favor of the lawmakers. The 10 bills that Martinez originally vetoed—including the one regarding computer science—will now go into effect.
Like education leaders in other states, New Mexico Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski cited preparation for a changing workforce as the main driver of the department’s decision to promote computer science. “Our kids are entering the 21st-centurymarketplace where more and more jobs require computer science skills,” said Ruszkowski, in a statement.
Before students can count a computer science course toward their math graduation requirement, they must pass Algebra II and score proficient in the PARCC Geometry or Algebra II tests. (These restrictions aren’t uniform across states—for example, Ohio, another state that allows computer science courses to count toward graduation credits, lets students swap out Algebra II for a computer science class.)
Similarly, high schoolers who want to use computer science classes toward science requirements must first demonstrate proficiency in the state’s high school science assessment.
For students who have met those benchmarks, the following computer science courses can count toward graduation requirements, starting in the 2018-2019 school year:
- Scientific Technologies, described by the department as “a science course that uses computer modeling to explore scientific concepts;"
- Mathematical Modeling and Fractal Math, math courses that also employ computer modeling; or,
- AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles.
As more states allow students to substitute computer science for certain math, science, or other academic courses, some have criticized the trend. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics released a statement in 2016, cautioning that replacing high school math with computer science could “undermine students’ math preparation.” And when Ohio’s law passed earlier this year, the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics raised concerns—to what extent would math principles and content be included in the now-equivalent computer science courses?
The Public Education Department is reviewing computer and information sciences curricula to determine what other courses would meet the criteria for graduation requirements, with plans to add to the current list, according to a statement from the department.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.