Arkansas is developing K-8 standards in computer education that are expected to go into effect for the 2017-18 school year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday (Dec. 5).
Arkansas would be the first state to have such standards, which Hutchinson said would lay the foundation for high school classes. The standards would be presented to the State Board of Education in January after a community feedback period. Arkansans may offer thoughts on the standards via a survey at the Arkansas Department of Education’s website.
The state began requiring high schools to offer computer science classes this year. Hutchinson said more than 3,900 students are taking the classes statewide, many through distance learning offerings. More than 2,000 students are taking an Essentials of Computer Programming course created by the state. He said the greatest jump in participation in computer classes has been among minority students.
Hutchinson made the announcement at eStem High School, a charter school in Little Rock specializing in science, technology and math.
The K-8 standards come from recommendations by a Computer Science and Technology in Public School Task Force, which was created by the Legislature this year. The report also recommended funding teacher development, school infrastructure and hardware, and curriculum development.
Hutchinson made requiring high schools to teach computer coding a centerpiece of his 2014 election campaign and said Friday that coding is “a cornerstone of my administration.” On a visit to Silicon Valley with Acxiom founder Charles Morgan, he said he had noticed companies there were scrambling for talent.
“I think what you’ll see over time is that these companies recognize that their cost of doing business will be better in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “You’ve got a source of computer coding talent that will match anyone, and so I think you’ll see a trend in coming years … of more microhubs across the country in terms of technology businesses being located there.”
The event comes as Arkansas marks National Computer Science Education Week. Next week, the Governor’s Mansion will host an “Hour of Code” event where students have a chance to practice basic computer coding. A “Girls of Promise” event is meant to encourage young women to code. Arkansas has been in the process of hosting more than 850 Hour of Code events.
Anthony Owen, Department of Education coordinator of computer science, said enrollment in computer coding courses is about 74% male.
“The only way that we’re going to get those numbers to be reflective to our state population is when we make computer science normal for every student in the state of Arkansas,” he said. “As long as it continues to be a stereotypical subject area, then it’s going to get stereotypical results. When we make it normal for everyone, it will be abnormal for no one.”