Friday, February 7, 2014

School reform No. 1: Emphasizing computer science

By U-T San Diego Editorial Board 4:25 P.M.FEB. 3, 2014

In an interview with the U-T San Diego editorial board, published Sunday, California State University-San Marcos President Karen Haynes made many thoughtful observations. One such comment came when Haynes said California’s high school graduation requirements are “distinctly different” from what she thinks should be “necessary for entry into college. There’s a huge gap.”

This paralleled remarks made to the editorial board in 2011 by then-San Diego State University President Stephen Weber: “I can’t imagine anybody if you sat down with a blank piece of paper that would invent the high school curriculum that we have now.”

These remarks should trouble anyone who cares about California. Some of the energy that’s now going to instituting the Common Core curriculum and to changing the state’s school funding formula to help struggling students would be better spent addressing the point made by Haynes and Weber.

The state Education Code requires graduates to pass three courses in English; two courses in mathematics, including one year of Algebra; two courses in science, including biological and physical sciences; three courses in social studies; one course in visual or performing arts, foreign language or career technical education; and two courses in physical education.

A case can be made for all these requirements. But if the goal of public schools is to graduate students who are ready to be productive individuals — and if the goal of our nation’s leaders is to keep the middle class healthy and growing — then these requirements fall far short.

It is simply mind-boggling that California, home to Silicon Valley, doesn’t require high school graduates to take computer science. Apart from being able to read and do basic math, there is no more valuable job skill our public schools could provide than computer-science training. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1.4 million new computer science jobs by 2020 but only be 400,000 qualified Americans to fill the jobs.

What makes California’s shortcoming even more mind-boggling is that the need for greater emphasis on technology training has been obvious for decades. The 1983 “Nation at Risk” report that triggered the education reform movement recommended that a semester of computer science be a graduation requirement. In 1992, a state economic development study called a computer-savvy work force a key to the Golden State’s future.

Yet for reasons unknown, this has never sunk in with the California’s elected leaders or its education establishment — even as 17 states have added computer science to their graduation requirements.

This inertia isn’t just unacceptable. It’s borderline criminal. In our 2011 interview, Weber spoke of a “strange human veneration for what was done in the past.” California’s high-school graduation requirements don’t deserve veneration. They deserve a makeover that brings them from the 1960s into the 21 century.

No comments:

Post a Comment