Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Preparing kids for jobs

There is no part of our lives today that does not include a computer.  Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have policies in place that allow computer science to count as math.  Some states are letting it count as a foreign language.   Think about it.  The UPS guy has a tablet computer for the recipient to sign for the service.  We all use smartphones that are wonderful mini computers.   We go onto the internet to find out the most arcane information.
Yet here is the most remarkable thing.   The Common Core State Standards have the most minimal mention of computer science in the standards for math or science.  Some advocates report that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million jobs in the computing field but just 400,000 college computer science majors.  The Computer Science Teachers Association defines computer science as the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including hardware, software and programming.  The data are even more astounding when you take a look at the racial and gender divide.  In 2013 no African-American students took the AP exam in computer science in a total of 11 states, and no Hispanic students took it in 8 states.  Fewer than 20% of the test takers overall were female and three states had no females taking the test.
We can't solve this problem with just legislation.   We need commitment and we need teachers.  The overwhelming majority of teachers is female and these women are notoriously science and math adverse.  This would be an excellent time to get people from industry to come into the class room and teach 1-2 periods a day.  Students could be taken to the community to see what the workplace would be like.
Common Core is supposed to be preparing students for college and careers, yet we are ignoring the major area of career growth for years to come.  We are being faced with another instance of politicians seeing the need and taking the lead.  That is how we got No Child Left Behind and other political disaster solutions to education problems. Some state legislators are passing bills that require computer science as a foreign language, others as a math course.  These legislators know not what they are doing but the are rushing to fill a vacuum.   Where are the educators?  Why are we, yet again, allowing politicians to hijack our profession.    The time is now for educators to work this out.

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