Rhode Island is setting an audacious goal with a new statewide initiative: Every public school will teach computer science by December 2017.
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo kicked off the Computer Science for Rhode Island initiative Monday, March 7, and has included $260,000 in her budget to back up her commitment. This initiative involves collaboration across the state and across agencies — a priority for Richard Culatta, who became the state's first chief innovation officer in January. The Rhode Island Office of Innovation, Rhode Island Department of Education, Rhode Island College and Rhode Island STEM Center are all working together on ways to increase computer science access from kindergarten through 12th grade.
These agencies and colleges have plenty of work to do if they want to reach their goal. One percent of 42,892 students are enrolled in computer science courses at nine public high schools, according to the Governor's Office, and just 42 students took the AP Computer Science test in 2015.
The lack of computer science education access troubles Culatta, who said in January that Rhode Island would be working on solid computer science education options for students and adults in the state.
"One of the most important ways to create an innovation economy is to make sure that there are great learning opportunities," Culatta said.
To create great learning opportunities, the Computer Science for Rhode Island initiative has pulled in five partners from the business, university and non-profit communities: the University of Rhode Island, Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS), Project Lead The Way, Code.org and Bootstrap. The training provider General Assembly will also work on a pilot bootcamp on computer science for teachers.
These partners have already made low or no-cost learning options available to Rhode Island schools with courses at every grade level and with different timeframes. Some of them can even fit into existing Algebra classes. School leaders who want to get a head start with the initiative can fill out the Expanding CS Opportunities Survey to be matched up with learning providers.