Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), in partnership with Grand Canyon University (GCU) and Code.org, today announced it has received a $100,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation. Through the grant, SFAz and GCU, as part of the Code.org Computer Science Regional Partnership program, will provide computer science training to 30 high school teachers in Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles, and support 36 teachers in Computer Science Discoveries for Grades 7-9 and 240 K-6 teachers in Code.org’s Computer Science Fundamentals program. With training accessible throughout the state, more than 8,000 students in urban, rural and reservation settings will ultimately be impacted by this initiative. The training began in July and will continue over four quarterly workshops. A third cohort of teachers will be supported in June 2018.
According to a report published by Change the Equation, a national coalition working to ensure that every young person in the U.S. is STEM literate, Arizona is projected to be number two in computing job growth and number four in STEM job growth overall in the next 10 years. Yet, only one in four schools in Arizona offer the computer science curriculum and there are fewer AP exams taken in computer science than in any other STEM subject area (Code.org 2016). The Verizon-funded Code.org Computer Science Regional Partnership program will work to close the gap between the current workforce void and the desperate need to build a pipeline of skilled workers from today’s education community.
Because educators are the key link between what is and what will be, the pipeline starts with them. Through the partnership, teachers attend training workshops hosted by SFAz and GCU on topics such as computational thinking practices, data analysis, abstraction, algorithms and programming, so they can return to their classrooms armed with new skills to share with their students. Verizon’s investment will expand an already blossoming program by providing support to cover teacher training, workshops, business/school partnerships and a spring computer science fair.
Eileen Mannion, VP-State Government Affairs with Verizon, said, “We need more kids to see the world of possibilities waiting for them and we are happy to be joining with SFAz and GCU to provide computer science training skills across the state. Long-term growth and success are tied to addressing some of society’s biggest issues and it starts in education. We are proud to be part of this exciting initiative for teachers and students”.
There are four million jobs in STEM across the U.S., however millions of students, especially from underserved communities don’t know they exist and lack access to STEM education and technology they need to compete for these jobs. This is why Verizon has committed $160 million in free technology, free access and immersive hands-on learning to kids in need. And earlier this year, Verizon launched #weeneedmore, an effort dedicated to creating greater awareness of this issue.
“Science Foundation Arizona is proud to partner with Verizon to meet the needs of Arizona, bringing computer science programs to our teachers and students,” said Linda Coyle, director of education at SFAz. “With strong industry partners and support from the state, we truly can provide a ‘Computer Science Education for All.’”
“The Code.org training has provided me, a math teacher, with an opportunity to offer Computer Science (CS) for the first time at my school!’ said teacher Jennifer Tom from the Salt River Schools. “The integration of CS and robotics engages my Native American students to problem solve, trying new things, take chances and persevere through difficult tasks–all necessary skills for life.”
Already in 2016, Code.org and the Code.org Regional Computer Science Partnership program has provided training for 437 Arizona teachers in Computer Science Fundamentals (K-5), 31 teachers in Exploring Computer Science, and nine teachers in Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles with additional support from Go Daddy and Amazon. This year’s program began July 10th at GCU and runs through spring 2018.
The Governor is proud to be involved with Arizona’s computer science initiative through the Governor’s Partnership on Computer Science, a Code.org collaboration. Last year, he proposed and received funding to develop computer science standards and professional development with the goal of having all AZ high schools offer a computer science course.
“I recognize the importance of computer science education in all grade levels,“ said Governor Ducey. “In lower grades, computer science curriculum develops necessary critical thinking and problem solving skills. In high school, rigorous computer science coursework prepares the student for high-paying workforce opportunities in the high-demand technology sector. With the support of industry partnerships, we will strive to improve access to computer science education in our schools by increasing professional development opportunities for existing and new computer science teachers.”
Coding is receiving increasing attention nationwide. President Trump is directing the Department of Education to provide $200 million every year to K-12 computer science education, according to Techcrunch.com, and several businesses recently announced $300 million for K-12 computer science programs in the U.S, according to Fox Business.com.