Washington State Passes Bill Strengthening Computer Science Education

By Liana Loewus — June 01, 2015 1 min read
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Cross-posted from the Curriculum Matters blog.

A bill that would establish computer science standards, create a computer science teaching endorsement, and make grants available to train teachers in the subject in Washington state is now headed to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

House Bill 1813, a bipartisan proposal, passed overwhelmingly in both the Washington state House and Senate on May 28.

It requires the office of the superintendent to adopt “computer science learning standards developed by a nationally recognized computer science education organization” for the 2015-16 school year. The bill also says the professional educator standards board must develop standards for a K-12 computer science teaching endorsement by early 2016.

Further, the bill creates a grant program aimed at getting computer science in more schools that serve disadvantaged populations. There are three grants: one for schools, districts, and nonprofits that have supported historically underrepresented students with computer science; another for educators who need professional development in the subject; and a third for purchasing and upgrading technology for computer science courses. The superintendent’s office, which oversees the grants, must give priority to schools “with substantial enrollment of low-income or underrepresented or rural students.”

The grants will be funded by a mix of public and private dollars. The state will match, but not exceed, all private contributions.

Dozens of education leaders in Washington and executives from companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Starbucks signed a letter supporting the bill. “There are currently 20,000 open computing jobs across all industries in Washington, and these jobs are growing at three times the state average,” they wrote. “Besides the jobs, computer science is foundational for all students. Every student learns about photosynthesis and electricity, without pursuing careers as botanists or electricians. For today’s students, it’s equally relevant to know what an algorithm is or how the Internet works.”

The state passed another bill in 2013 that allowed Advanced Placement computer science count as a math or science credit toward high school graduation. In 2014, about 1,100 Washington students took the AP exam--just a quarter of whom were female.

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