Gov. Asa Hutchinson revealed Thursday (Oct. 1) recommendations from the Arkansas Computer Science and Cybersecurity Task Force, which includes a requirement for a computer science credit to graduate from high schools in the state. The task force also recommended that every public high school have at least one computer science teacher.
“From the day in 2015 when I signed Act 187 and Arkansas became the first state to require every high school to offer computer science, we have led the way nationally,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “But we can’t rest on our success. We owe it to our students to provide access to cutting-edge computer science education, and the task force’s recommendations will achieve that. As more students study computer science, we will strengthen our workforce and attract even more businesses that will bring high-paying, satisfying jobs.”
The 52-page report, which can be accessed here, details initiatives and recommendations to advance Arkansas’ computer science education.
The state has already seen a strong increase in enrollment in computer science classes since the initiative began in 2014. Enrollment increased from 1,100 to 9,800, according to the report.
Under the recommendations provided, every high school in the state will be required to have a teacher certified in computer science education. The state had 274 certified teachers in the 2019-20 school year. It had just six when the initiative began five years ago.
The state reported weaker growth in computer science education at colleges and universities. There were 2,706 students enrolled in computer science courses in 2014. That figure stayed flat for several years and then slowly increased to 3,282 in the 2019-20 school year.
“The members of the task force have produced a far-reaching blueprint that will assure Arkansas’ place as a national leader in computer science education,” Hutchinson said.
The governor also announced that T-Mobile will donate 100 gigabytes of data to eligible households and 18,000 internet access devices to Arkansas students as part of its Project 10Million, a nationwide program to increase access to the internet in rural areas.
“T-Mobile has been working closely with schools, state governments and technology partners since the pandemic started to connect those who need it most, including more than 1.6 million students nationwide and nearly 5,000 right here in Arkansas,” said Mike Katz, Executive Vice President, T-Mobile for Business.
In a third announcement, Hutchinson said Arkansas will increase high-speed broadband capacity to K-12 school districts, charter schools, and education cooperatives from 200 kilobits per second per user to at least 1 megabit per second. The upgrade will be completed by July 1, 2021, he said.
Editor’s note: Content partner KATV contributed to this report.