The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that computer science-related jobs will be among the fastest growing and highest paying over the next decade. A large majority of parents (84%), teachers (71%), principals (66%) and superintendents (65%) agree that offering Computer Science is more important or just as important as required core courses like math, science, history and English. A majority of educators feel that students should be required to take Computer Science in schools when it is available (60% of teachers, 62% of principals and 56% of superintendents agree). Yet a recent analysis of national data shows that 22 percent of 12th graders say they’ve never taken a computer science course and more than half of all high school seniors do not have access to computer science in their school.
Online learning programs, such as Idaho Digital Learning, are tackling the problem of providing access to computer science for all students in Idaho. In 2014 the Idaho State Board of Education and House Education Committee approved a rule change that allows students to take dual credit or AP computer science as core math or science credit versus as an elective credit – providing an incentive for students to explore the field of Computer Science. In addition, there are other innovative virtual school statewide online learning programs throughout the nation that are providing students with opportunities. For example, as part of a statewide initiative to make computer science available throughout every high school, the Arkansas Governor requested that Virtual Arkansas make online Computer Science available, free, to all schools throughout the state.
Idaho Digital Learning believes that every student in Idaho should have the opportunity to build foundational skills through computer science education. This includes skillsets from a basic level of understanding of computers to higher level computer science courses that will impart critical thinking and problem solving skills, learning persistence, and logic skills. Combined together, these skills prepare students for higher education and open doors for virtually every career, benefiting Idaho’s workforce, helping to address the need for a critical workforce throughout Idaho.
To accomplish the goal of building the pipeline between public education, post-secondary education, and industry, Idaho Digital Learning offers a comprehensive selection of STEM focused courses and continues developing partnerships to meet the growing demand for computer science education and qualified teachers. By partnering with Boise State University, University of Idaho, Code.org, Idaho Technology Council and STEM Action Center, Idaho Digital Learning has increased accessibility to computer science professional development throughout the state.
Idaho Digital Learning has worked with post-secondary partners, Idaho Career-Technical Education, the State Board, and industry partners to create roadmaps; an articulated sequence of courses that provide students the opportunity to earn a post-secondary degree or technical certificate. Through a roadmap, any student may complete courses that will help them work toward their college and career goals. Courses on the road map are appropriately articulated and will transfer to post-secondary opportunities. Current roadmaps for computer science include a CISCO Academy opportunity where students can earn their CCNA, and a Web Development opportunity where students can work toward an AAS or BAS in Web Design and Development.
Idaho Digital Learning has taken a leadership role throughout Idaho in supporting the Hour of Code, a national education event that takes place each December in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week. The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science where anyone can learn the basics and begins to lay the foundation for computer science education for all students (http://hourofcode.org/). Research indicates that computing jobs are growing at a rate of three (3) times faster than the number of computer science graduates. More than 50 percent of all math and science jobs are in the field for computer science scientists. Computer science jobs can be are the highest-paying jobs for new graduates. Computational thinking is important across all subjects. Teachers and students start with an Hour of Code and from there the future possibilities are endless.
The partnership between Idaho Digital Learning and Code.org provides K-12 teachers throughout Idaho an opportunity to receive professional development in the area of Computer Science. Teachers are invited to participate in different opportunities depending on their grade level and certification areas. To date Idaho Digital Learning has trained over 400 elementary teachers, 64 middle school teachers, and 40 high school teachers. Additionally, we’ve been able to train Idaho teachers as official trainers for Idaho: three elementary, six middle school and four at the high school level.
Computer science is the art of blending human ideas and digital tools. Computer scientists work in many different areas: writing apps for phones, curing diseases, creating animated movies, working on social media, building robots that explore other planets and so much more. Idaho Digital Learning will continue to expand our computer science offerings to help build a stronger economic future for our state.
 Trends in the State of Computer Science in U.S. K-12 Schools (2016); https://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/trends-in-the-state-of-computer-science-report.pdf
 Change the Equation, 2016; http://changetheequation.org/blog/new-data-bridging-computer-science-access-gap-0