Give every student access to computer science education
Despite Washington’s status as a tech hub, more than 40 percent of the state’s K-12 public school districts did not offer a single computer course, according to recent data.
It’s catastrophic. Not all young Washingtonians will want to grow up to work in computer-related industries, but every student should have the opportunity to explore these lucrative and sought-after careers.
State Senate Preschool and Kindergarten to Kindergarten to Grade 12 committee chair Senator Lisa Wellman of D-Mercer Island has her eyes set on the issue and recently told members of the Editorial Board that she wanted to ensure that all students have access to a more rigorous computer science curriculum, developed with input from industry.
More than 14,000 information and communications technology companies operate in Washington, according to the state Commerce Department. The industry includes tiny startups, titans like Google and Facebook, and local businesses like Microsoft, Amazon, and Tableau.
But only about 30,600, or just under 9 percent, of high school students in the state were enrolled in computer classes in the 2019-20 school year, according to a 2021 report from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education. Of that number, only 25% were women. Students with disabilities, English language learners and students living in poverty were also under-represented.
OSPI officials have counted a total of only 728 computer courses in 335 high schools in 169 districts. They also found that teachers in these courses tended to be less experienced than teachers of other subjects and more likely to have limited certificates in this area or to teach outside of their areas of expertise.
Washington state adopted computer learning standards in 2016, but state education officials are still working on an implementation plan to guide teacher training and put more courses in. IT available to students. Groups like Washington STEM strive to expand access to computer science education. Clearly there is a lot to do.
The state’s growing tech industry generates an estimated annual turnover of $ 36.4 billion and employs more than 313,000 tech workers. It is expected to continue to grow at an average of 3% per year, overtaking many other occupations, according to a December 2020 analysis of the Washington Student Success Council. They estimate that the sector will have more than 69,000 job vacancies per year.
Washington students, families, and businesses all benefit when these high-paying jobs are filled by qualified local applicants. Introducing K-12 students to the basics of computer systems, networks, data analysis, programming, and other basic concepts is an important step in bridging the skills gap for workers and the needs of employers.