Georgia Governor shows Support for CS in Schools
It’s not too often that a policy announcement about education happens on the Georgia Tech campus. In the picture above, tech entrepreneur Chris Klaus is introducing Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (who is second from the right — the guy on the far right is our Provost Rafael Bras), in the Klaus Advanced Computing Building (same Klaus — he funded the building). Chris has been spearheading an effort to get more “coding” into Georgia schools.
The Governor said that he’s asking the State Board of Education for computer science to count as core science, mathematics, and foreign languages.
The gossip before the talk was that he was going to announce that CS would count for (i.e., replace) foreign languages (which is not a good idea). This announcement was a bit better than that, but it’s still not clear what it means. AP CS already counts as a science towards high school graduation. Does it mean that more CS courses will count? That AP CS will count as any of math, science, or foreign languages? And will the State Board of Education go along with this? Who knows?
The guy on the far left of that picture is Representative Mike Dudgeon. He’s taken on the task of changing the “highly-qualified” list in Georgia so that business teachers OR math teachers OR science teachers can teach CS in Georgia. Currently, CS is a “Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education” subject, meaning that only teachers with a business certificate can teach CS. Barbara Ericson has fought hard so that mathematics teachers can also teach AP CS — but this all leaves us in the weird position that AP CS counts as a science, but science teachers can’t teach it. Only math and business teachers can teach AP CS in Georgia. That would be great if Dudgeon is successful. It’s easier to teach CS to math and science teachers than business teachers.
I was a meeting recently with Chris Klaus where he said that he wants to make Georgia the first state in the USA to require CS for high school graduation. When I balked at that (citing the issues in my Blog@CACM post), he had an interesting counter-proposal. We give schools and districts who aren’t ready to teach CS a waiver, but to get a waiver, you have to have a plan in place to be able to teach CS within three years. Might work.
My proposal in the group that Chris has founded to have more “coding education in Georgia” isn’t getting much traction. I proposed we do what Calculus did. How did Calculus get taught in every high school? First, schools in the 1800’s started teaching calculus to undergrads. By the 1900’s, every STEM undergrad had to take Calculus, and the top high schools were preparing their kids for Calculus. By the late 1900’s, all high schools were offering calculus. My proposal is that that the Board of Regents make CS part of the general education requirement of all undergraduates in the University System of Georgia. Every student in every college in Georgia would be required to take a course in CS. Unlike elementary and high schools, USG institutions have CS teachers — they might have to hire more faculty to handle the load, but they know how to do it. It’s much less expensive to teach CS at the undergraduate level than at the high or elementary school level. But this creates the curriculum (you have to teach a different CS to everyone from what you teach to CS majors) that the high-end schools will immediately start to emulate, and that will get copied into other high schools. Biggest advantage is that every new teacher (business, math, or science) will take a CS class! That should accelerate the rate of getting teachers who know CS into schools, and give them a new tool for teaching STEM classes.
Anyway, it’s probably a good thing that there is all of this interest in computing education from Georgia political leaders.