By Sam Creekmore, IV, State Representative, Dist. 14
This is the second week of the 2021 Legislative Session. Because it is early in the session, bills are still being drafted, so floor action has been light. More than 200 House bills have already been filed and referred to committees. Bills must be passed out of committee before they are considered by the House. One of the bills I introduced last week is a Computer Science Bill for Mississippi Public Schools.
What does this bill mean for schools?
The goal of the bill is for every school in Mississippi to offer computer science to their students. The outcome that this will bring for our students and our future outweighs any of the hurdles that it will take us to get there. Numerous school districts have already taken action and therefore nothing additional would be expected of them. We commend those districts who have been leading the way for computer science in schools and look forward working with all school districts on making this a reality for their schools and students. For those districts who have yet to adopt computer science this bill would outline the specifics of when and what should be offered at each grade level. C Spire wants to help schools overcome any obstacles. That is why the bill is pushing for the following:
- Phased approach starting with 6th-8th grade in the 2022-2023 academic year, and all schools by 2024-2025 school year. This allows adequate time for teacher training over two to three summers.
- When the bill passes, it is requested that funds in the amount of $2 million be available for teacher training. This is comparable to what our neighboring states have requested in funding given teacher training needs.
- Distance learning for teachers and students. As we have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – distance learning can work. C Spire is exploring distance learning options so that no school or student is left behind.
1,542 Mississippi teachers have been trained in computer science content.
With the proposed bill the following would be true for K-12 Public and Charter Schools in the upcoming academic years.
Grades: 6th through 8th
Key Actions: Update current ICT courses with Cyber Foundation I, Cyber Foundations II and/or Computer Science and Engineering. Train 600 additional teachers.
Content at the middle school level is designed to be offered as a complete course where students are meeting for a full class period based on schedule type (traditional or block). For 7th and 8th grade students, all courses offer a Carnegie unit which can be counted toward the technology/computer science graduation requirement or as an elective credit. Courses available for schools to offer include:
- Cyber Foundations I:Topics include: keyboarding, digital citizenship, word processing, spreadsheets, graphic design, presentation tools, problem-solving, web design, and block-based coding
- Cyber Foundations II: Topics include: keyboarding, digital citizenship, block-based coding, data, web application development, and physical computing
- Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) – PILOT COURSE: Curriculum is designed to show how computer science and engineering are interconnected through project-based activities that combine coding, electronics, microprocessors, and robotics. Students become familiar with the engineering design process and the steps needed to create an application-controlled product
Teacher Training for Grades 6th through 8th
Cyber Foundations: 8 days of face-to-face training using the Code.org platform and online training, where needed, to cover keyboarding and technology-based productivity tools such as word processors, spreadsheets, etc.
- 618 teachers have received this training as of December 2020.
Training for CSE pilot course consists of 4 days of face-to-face training by Center for Cyber Education staff.
- 69 teachers have received this training.
Grades K5 through 5th
Key Actions: Purposeful integration into all grades and within computer activity/lab time.
Content at this level is delivered either on a weekly basis during a computer lab time or as appropriate inside the classroom, incorporated into other subjects or at classroom centers. The expectation is that 1 hour per week would be spent on computer science/computational thinking activities. Topics covered over the course of the school year may include:
- Block-based Programming
- Digital Citizenship
Teacher Training for K5 through 5th:
Training for licensed teachers or uncertified staff (usually the computer lab teacher) consists of 1 day of training using the Code.org platform.
- 570 teachers at 228 K-6 schools have received this training as of December 2020.
Grades 9th -12th
Key Actions: Offer Exploring Computer Science and AP Computer Science Principles
Foundational courses offered at the high school as electives include:
- Exploring Computer Science (ECS): This 9-12 grade course is a survey course for ALL students covering content in problem solving, critical thinking, web design, coding, data science, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
- Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (AP CSP): This 10-12 grade course was designed specifically to be for ALL students – no prior computer experience is needed. The content covers the internet, digital information storage, coding, big data, privacy, and web application development as well as prepares students for the AP CSP exam.
Teacher Training for 9th-12th :
Training for Exploring Computer Science consists of 8 days of face-to-face training provided by Center for Cyber Education staff. Training for AP CSP course consists of 9 days of face-to-face training by AP endorsed trainers.
- 212 teachers have received Exploring Computer Science training as of December 2020. 78 districts have sent at least 1 person for training.
- 79 teachers across 53 districts have received AP CSP training.
This progression of exposure to computer science from kindergarten through early high school, prepares students to make informed decisions about college and careers. They will have the foundational skills to pursue their computer science interests in 2-year high school pathways focused on software development, information technology, or game development all with options for industry certifications. These pathways are all aligned with opportunities to continue their education at 2- or 4-year institutions across the state in preparation to enter the high-demand, high-wage technology workforce.
Computer science in Mississippi
- Mississippi currently has 1,475 open computing jobs (4.1 times the average demand rate in Mississippi).
- The average salary for a computing occupation in MS is $72,039, which is significantly higher than the average salary in the state ($39,420).
- The existing open jobs alone represent a $106,257,518 opportunity in terms of annual salaries.
- Mississippi had only 201 bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science in 2018; only 17% were female. In Mississippi, only 48% of all public high schools teach a foundational computer science course.
- Only 327 exams were taken in AP Computer Science by high school students in Mississippi in 2019 (27 took AP CS A and 300 took AP CSP). Only 37% were female (30% for AP CS A and 38% for AP CSP); only 22 exams were taken by Hispanic/Latino/Latina students (1 took AP CS A and 21 took AP CSP); only 42 exams were taken by Black/African American students (5 took AP CS A and 37 took AP CSP); no exams were taken by Native American/Alaskan students; no exams were taken by Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students.
- Only 43 schools in MS (23% of MS schools with AP programs) offered an AP Computer Science course in 2018-2019 (4% offered AP CS A and 21% offered AP CSP), which is 23 more than the previous year. There are fewer AP exams taken in computer science than in any other STEM subject area.
- Teacher preparation programs in Mississippi did not graduate a single new teacher prepared to teach computer science in 2018.
- According to a representative survey from Google/Gallup, school administrators in MS support expanding computer science education opportunities: 78% of principals surveyed think CS is just as or more important than required core classes.
I have received help and support on this bill from our County of City School Districts. I also had the opportunity to promote the Bill on Super Talk Radio this week, a state wide radio program. I am excited about the opportunities this bill will create for our children in Mississippi!computer learning, Mississippi legislature, public education, teacher training