Over the last four years, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) have worked together to support districts in adopting computer science classes in middle school and high school. Since 2017, the Friday Institute has trained over 550 new computer science teachers in introductory computer science courses. Now, a three-year $1.8 million grant from NCDPI will give the Friday Institute the ability to expand its computer science teacher professional learning program so every middle school and high school in North Carolina has a highly qualified computer science teacher.
“Since the [computer science] initiative began, a major focus has been with access and broadening participation,” said Sheenal Young, program manager for computer science initiatives at the Friday Institute. “One of our directives is to have a computer science course in every school in North Carolina. This project directly addresses that problem. We are not only providing teachers with the knowledge, resources and tools to teach computer science, but we’re helping them with a new, innovative way of teaching–one where students get to take an active role in their own education.”
The goal of the project, titled “Computer Science Discoveries & Computer Science Principles Training,” is to prepare and support more than 1,100 North Carolina teachers to teach computer science over the next three years. Melissa Rasberry, director of the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative at the Friday Institute, will be the principal investigator for the project. Young will be the project lead.
Program components include a five-day summer workshop, four quarterly Saturday workshops during the school year to support teachers with just-in-time pedagogy guidance and curricular content, and ongoing support for a professional learning community (PLC)/cohort model with office hours, webinars and moderated online forums.
The Friday Institute’s year-long professional development program will support the implementation of Computer Science Discoveries (CSD), Computer Science Principles (CSP) and AP Computer Science A. The curricula for these courses were created by Code.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups. The Friday Institute is Code.org’s regional partner for North Carolina.
Providing more opportunities for all of North Carolina’s students to have access to AP computer science courses helps prepare them for secondary education options and eliminates opportunity gaps. Research from West Coast Analytics shows that students who take Code.org’s AP Computer Science Principles are 12% more likely to enroll in college, and students who take any AP computer science course are 17% more likely to attend college. Women who try AP Computer Science in high school are 10 times more likely to major in it, and Black and Latinx students are seven times more likely.
“More and more tech-focused businesses are making the Triangle and N.C. overall their home,” said Rasberry. “This opens opportunities for our K-12 graduates to step into high-paying, innovative industries.”
Even if students do not pursue computer science in secondary education or as a career, studying computer science teaches universal skills such as problem-solving and teamwork.
“Computer science is everywhere!” said Young. “It is a part of every industry and, therefore, gives students more opportunity in any industry. There are very few areas of life that technology doesn’t touch. Learning the skills found within computer science will open up so many doors to our students–doors that are constantly evolving and multiplying.”
North Carolina’s Computer Science Initiative aims to help students learn computer science concepts and gain skills to actively engage as informed participants in a technology-driven world. NCDPI and the North Carolina State Board of Education have added computer science to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study and created the first K-12 computer science standards for North Carolina.
“The NC Department of Public Instruction is proud to partner with the Friday Institute to continue providing CSD and CSP training to the awesome teacher leaders across our state,” said Mary Hemphill, director of academic standards for NCDPI. “This training is pivotal in providing support, resources and professional development based on the new NC Computer Science standards and allows teacher leaders to experience computational thinking for 21st-century classrooms.”
The project team looks forward to expanding the program over the next three years in order to create more opportunities for North Carolina’s students.
“Having an expanded workforce of teachers in North Carolina who believe in giving every student every opportunity possible for a successful life and career and giving them the confidence and means to push our students toward their own personal greatness will make this project a success,” said Young. “The more people we have as part of this conversation, the more we can strengthen the partnership between schools, communities and our students and the more successful North Carolina as a state will be.”