For so long, K–12 education has focused on the basic humanities and sciences. That usually meant that core subjects were English, history, math and a laboratory science of some kind. Computer science, if it was offered, was usually an elective class in middle or high school, often focused on acclimating kids to using software rather than creating their own.
But Chicago is poised to bump up computer science into the core curriculum, according to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times.
In the next three years, every high school will offer a foundational computer science course, and within five years, CPS plans to be the first urban district offering kindergarten through eighth-grade computer courses, officials said.
“Among all S.T.E.M. careers, computer science represents one of the most dynamic and fast-growing fields, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, the U.S. will have one million more jobs in computing than they have trained professionals to fill them,” [Chicago Public] Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said.
The race to get kids coding is heating up around the country. Startups and innovators are creating robots to make coding more kid-friendly, and organizations like Codeacademy have encouraged kids to set up after-school coding clubs.
CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the IT industry, weighed in on Chicago’s initiative and applauded the school district for forging ahead with the digital future.
“Early identification of students who have a real aptitude for computers and technology is a key factor in educating these kids on the many career opportunities available to them later in life,” said Todd Thibodeaux, president and chief executive officer of CompTIA, in an official statement.
“More importantly, technical literacy is a prerequisite for virtually every occupation in today's information economy, even beyond technology positions,” Thibodeaux continued. “We applaud the Chicago Public schools for taking this important step. By expanding access to technology in the classroom, students will be better prepared and more eager to pursue advanced degrees and professional certifications and embark on careers that offer good pay and opportunities for advancement and growth.”
Some Chicago teachers openly applauded the move:
— Roxana Hadad (@rhadad) December 10, 2013
And teachers outside the Chicago area are already wishing their school districts would follow in Chitown’s footsteps:
@gochemonline Our 5th Graders are loving it too! We should all follow Chicago and make Computer Science a regular part of the curriculum!
— Jenny Kirsch (@MsJennyKirsch) December 12, 2013
Which raises a good question: Is Chicago ahead of the curve or is it overly aggressive to introduce kindergartners to computer programming?