New state legislation would emphasize computer science in schools

California falling behind other states in technology and available courses

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) and Kristin Olsen, a Republican colleague from Modesto, have introduced a bill to encourage districts to expand computer science courses in high schools.

Assembly Bill 1764 would allow school districts to award students credit for one mathematics course if they successfully complete one course in computer science approved by the University of California or the California State University as a "C" requirement. Such credit would only be offered in districts where the school district requires more than two courses in mathematics for graduation.

"It is time California schools teach students how to create technology, not just use it. This bill is an important first step towards that end," Buchanan said. "Highlighting the interconnections between computer science and mathematics will make computer science more accessible and ensure that more students are given the tools they need to pursue the college and career pathways in this critical field."

By 2018, 49% of all jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in the United States will require highly technical computer knowledge and experience, according to Inspire STEM USA. Colleges nationwide say computer science drives innovation and economic growth, particularly in California.

"Computer science skills prepare students for careers in a variety of sectors beyond information technology, such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture and defense," Olsen said. "Anything we can do to encourage students to take courses in computer science will strengthen our economy and better prepare our children for almost any career path they choose."

California schools are falling behind other states in both its use of technology in the classroom and the courses offered. In states where computer science counts as an academic class, 50% more students enroll than in states where it is treated as an elective.

At the same time, computing jobs are growing at 4.3 times the state average. According to the Conference Board and the National Science Foundation, as of December 2013 there were more than 77,000 open computing jobs in California but only 4,324 computer science graduates.

"By allowing computer science courses to count towards high school graduation requirements, this important legislation would help our students gain the skills they need to thrive in the jobs of today and tomorrow," said Microsoft vice president for U.S. government affairs Fred Humphries. "We applaud Assemblymembers Olsen and Buchanan for their leadership on increasing access to computer science education, which is critical to sustaining American innovation and our economy."

AB 1764 was introduced last week and will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Education this spring.


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