Archive for October 16, 2009

“Constant Vigilance!”: Working for Computing Education in Georgia

It’s been a rough week for “Georgia Computes!” and our work to promote computing education in Georgia.

One of the things that Barb Ericson (a co-PI on our project, the Director of CS Outreach for the College of Computing, my co-author, and my wife) helped establish is an endorsement (a kind of certification) in computer science for high school teachers. Last week, Barb got bad news from one of the teachers she works with. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission website had been updated to explain that the endorsement does not allow a high school teacher to teach computer science classes, but to “run computer labs.”  Barb talked to her contacts at Georgia PSC all this week, trying to get that corrected.  Finally, they agreed that it was a mistake, and it would get fixed.  No word on how the erroneous information got posted.

Then, two days ago, Barb got word from one of her high school teachers that the Georgia Department of Education had announced that AP Computer Science would no longer count towards high school graduation requirements.  Until last month, Georgia and Texas were the only two states in the US who let students use AP CS credit towards graduation, a significant incentive to take AP CS.  Both Barb and I have working with our contacts in all the various organizations the last two days trying to find out what happened.

Here’s the story, best as we can tell so-far.  Georgia has one public University System, with one Board of Regents.  The Board of Regents recently refined their standards for admission to the system, and worked with the Georgia Department of Education to make sure that what GaDoE required for graduation met what the BoR was requiring for admission.  One of the particular areas of focus was the Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Division classes.  There was some serious concern in both the BoR and GaDoE that some of those classes shouldn’t really count as a “Science” course for the “fourth science class requirement” of graduation and admissions.  For better or worse, computer science in Georgia is part of CTAE.  It was CTAE that announced that AP CS would no longer count towards meeting that requirement.

Now, the Board of Regents is telling us that AP CS was never even brought up for review.  They are willing to review it, and they are investigating this next week.  We just heard today from a contact with the Science Committee of the Georgia Dept of Ed that “Computer Science is only a ‘science’ in that the word is in its name.”  The Department of Education may not have brought AP CS up for review, because their Science Committee didn’t want it to count as a science towards graduation.  We’ll learn more this week, as the BoR checks to see if AP CS was on its review list, and then starts their own review of AP CS curricula to decide if it should count.

For right now, it doesn’t count.  As of October 1, only Texas counts any computer science towards high school graduation requirements.  Georgia has backslid.

I keep thinking about Mad Eye Moody in the Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling.  “Vigilance! Constant Vigilance!” he would demand of all those fighting against the Dark Wizards. It feels like that’s what we have to do in “Georgia Computes!” to make sure that computing education keeps progressing, and doesn’t backslide.  Fortunately, Barb has her own “Order of the Phoenix,” in her network of teachers who let her know of any sign of trouble.  It really shouldn’t be this hard, should it?

October 16, 2009 at 8:57 pm 7 comments

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