More than 1,300 Arkansas high school students have signed up to take a computer coding class this upcoming school year through the state’s online Virtual Arkansas, with an unknown number taking the course under classroom teachers at their local districts, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday (Aug. 11).
Hutchinson said his signature education initiative has more than met his expectations so far. His goal is for 6,000 students to take the course each year.
The state will have a better idea by mid-October how many students are taking the class with a local teacher. He said more than 130 teachers have completed some kind of professional development to teach the class this summer, compared to fewer than 20 teachers who were prepared to teach coding when the initiative began.
To encourage more student participation, the effort will be kicked off with a “Head of the Class Bash” where students will be offered a free “Hour of Code” class at the Clinton Presidential Center from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday.
Hutchinson said the AT&T Foundation has donated $25,000 to the Arkansas STEM Coalition to purchase 70 laptops that will be used at the event and at others throughout the state over the course of the year. The Twitter handle is #ARKidsCanCode.
“It’s a great opportunity for young people to come and see their governor stumble around for an hour of code,” he said.
Hutchinson said 87 schools have applied for professional development grants of up to $20,000 as part of a $5 million package allocated by the Legislature this year. The schools must have a classroom teacher in place to teach the class this year or next. Sixty-two of the schools will teach the class this year.
Hutchinson noted that a Computer Science Task Force on July 22 voted to develop a comprehensive computer science framework for grades K-12.