Credit: Alison Yin for EdSource
Fifth-graders take a reading test on Chrome computers at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing $15 million to expand broadband internet to more schools and an additional $1 million to hire a state computer science coordinator as a “down payment” on a comprehensive plan to provide access to computer science classes to all California students.

The plan will be developed over the next year and could be funded in next year’s budget, according to Newsom’s revision to his proposed K-12 budget.

The governor’s office will use data on student access to technology and STEM education, testimony from experts and the California Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan, approved by the State Board of Education on Wednesday, to help create the plan with the help of the new computer science coordinator.

The budget proposes that the State Board of Education will receive the $1 million — to be used over four years — to cover the cost of hiring a computer science coordinator.

The revised budget also includes $45 million in one-time funding for training teachers and staff, some which will be used for computer science and STEM instruction.

“It is a priority of the administration that all students in the K-12 system are able to access computer science education to provide them with the skills they need to succeed,” according to the governor’s budget revision.

This school year 39 percent of California high schools offer computer science courses, according to the Kapor Center, a nonprofit that examines equity and access in technology. Only 3 percent of high school students in the state are enrolled in computer science courses, the center found.

“Governor Newsom’s proposed funding for supporting a pipeline of teachers and building infrastructure, with a focus on under-resourced communities, is a huge step toward ensuring all of California’s students have access to quality computer science education to prepare them for a range of future educational and occupational opportunities,” said Allison Scott, chief research officer at the Kapor Center. “Equally important, increased investment in education from pre-K to higher education is critical to closing equity gaps across the state.”

The May revision of the budget was released Thursday, just one day after the State Board of Education approved the California Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan. The plan is meant to support school districts as they implement the state’s first computer science standards, passed by the board in September.

The strategic implementation plan’s recommendations include expansion of broadband, hiring a state computer science coordinator, offering introductory and advanced computer science classes in middle and high school, adding a single-subject certification for teachers in computer science and offering more professional development courses for teachers in computer science.

What it doesn’t include is funding, making the recommendations in the plan voluntary instead of mandatory. The California Constitution requires that the Legislature or state agencies reimburse local governments if they mandate programs.

“We are excited that the recommendations from the plan are being translated into hard resources to help realize the plan,” said Julie Flapan, director of the Computer Science Equity Project at UCLA, where she leads the CSforCA Coalition. Flapan also was a member of the expert panel that developed the plan.

A computer science coordinator at the state level means there is someone who is accountable and has the responsibility to ensure equitable implementation throughout California, Flapan said.

Gov. Newsom has decided to take the money for both the broadband expansion and the computer science coordinator from the state’s General Fund, instead of taking it from Proposition 98 funds set aside specifically for schools. Prop. 98 was passed by voters in 1988 to establish a minimum funding level for schools.

There is no other specific information available because the legislative language is still being worked on with the Department of Education, said H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs for the California Department of Finance.

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  1. el 7 months ago7 months ago

    I know it's easy to confuse all things computer with computer science, but I'll be that annoying person that points out that broadband actually has nothing to do with making computer science training accessible or possible. Broadband is essential for schools, to the point that telephones and electricity are essential for schools, as infrastructure that supports the entire curriculum. Learning how to turn on computers, how to keyboard, how to troubleshoot microsoft excel, these things … Read More

    I know it’s easy to confuse all things computer with computer science, but I’ll be that annoying person that points out that broadband actually has nothing to do with making computer science training accessible or possible. Broadband is essential for schools, to the point that telephones and electricity are essential for schools, as infrastructure that supports the entire curriculum.

    Learning how to turn on computers, how to keyboard, how to troubleshoot microsoft excel, these things are also not really computer science. They’re computer literacy. Again, great skills.

    Teaching kids to program is mostly about teaching kids to think very methodically and to write really outstanding instructions that can be followed and understood by a robot with no vested interest in a successful outcome. It’s about expecting the unexpected and creating contingencies for all those cases. These skills are valuable not only for programming computers but for all kinds of tasks: drafting good legislation, designing knitting patterns, and writing recipes are all the same kind of skill.

    The most valuable programming lesson I ever had was a task set up in elementary school: give someone instructions to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    The assistant teacher would make the sandwich, and the student would give the instructions. The student could not watch the assistant following the instructions. The assistant had two bagged loaves of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and a knife. The assistant’s job was to follow the instructions as wrongly as possible while still literally following them. The rest of the students could watch everything.

    The first student’s instructions went something like: Take a bread. Put the peanut butter on the bread. Take another bread. Put the jelly on the bread. Put the breads together.

    They got: A loaf of bread, with a peanut butter jar balanced on top, a jelly jar balanced over that, and the other loaf of bread balanced on the jelly.

    Each student tried to learn from the mistakes to make a correct sandwich. Some forgot to specify that the jelly and the peanut butter went on the inside. Some got open jars of peanut butter on their bread. Some forgot the jelly. It was hilarious, and incredibly educational. I think it took about 10 tries for someone to finally get the steps good enough that the assistant made what we would think of as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    If you can do that, picking up any computer programming language is straightforward.