De Blasio to Require NYC Public Schools to Offer Computer Science to All Students

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 1.48.46 PMWithin ten years, all 1.1 million public school students in New York City will have access to computer science education, Mayor De Blasio announced Wednesday. The new policy is part of a larger nationwide effort, which includes programs in Chicago and San Francisco, to adapt public eduction to prepare students for work in the fast-evolving technology sector. 

In a school system with facilities and administrative policies designed before personal computers became ubiquitous, meeting this requirement won’t be easy. Or cheap–the city plans to spend $81 million on the effort.

The main hurdle to overcome is the dearth of trained computer science teachers. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of city schools offer computer science education, and only 1 percent of students receive it, per the city’s Department of Education. There’s no state teacher certification in computer science. The city estimates they’ll need to train 5,000 computer science teachers over the next ten years. Computer science teaching jobs pay more than other types of education jobs, but it’s hard to convince those well-trained in computer science to take a teaching job over, say, a cushy programming job.

Those who lament the relative lack of women and minorities in the tech world have supported the effort. In New York City, students who elect to take computer science at the few schools where it’s offered, like Stuyvesant High School, are overwhelmingly male. But training all public school kids in computer science will likely diversify the pool of applicants for tech jobs in the city, which grew 57 percent from 2007 to 2014.  “I think there is acknowledgment that we need our students better prepared for these jobs and to address equity and diversity within the sector, as well,” Gabrielle Fialkoff, the director of the city’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, told the New York Times.

Another way students will benefit from the new policy: Things like robot-building and learning to use basic programming languages like Scratch, MIT’s rudimentary coding language for young children, could come to replace much-dreaded algebra as a way to satisfy high school math requirements.

[H/T The New York Times]

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