More computer science classes could earn students core credits soon, but the idea hasn’t completely taken root yet.
On Monday, the Georgia Department of Education announced that three courses -- Embedded Computing, Web Development and Game Design: Animation and Simulation -- had been proposed by the state school board to be added to a list of courses already part of a computer science track.
If approved after a public comment period, those courses would also be eligible to qualify as replacements for a core science, math or foreign language class.
“Skilled programmers, software developers and engineers are in demand in Georgia, but without a pipeline of skilled workers to fill those jobs, businesses will look outside Georgia to find the employees they need,” state school Superintendent Richard Woods said in a release. “We cannot afford to let our Georgia graduates miss out on those opportunities.”
David McDermott, director of career, technical and agricultural education programs for Houston County schools, said that the increased focus on computer programming classes was an effort better to prepare students for a growing field. He pointed out that the video game course even had more serious connections, from mobile device applications to educational games used in the classroom.
“Through that pathway, they would learn other computer skills to be able to take out into the workforce,” McDermott said.
Still, even though two years of IB Computer Science, AP Computer Science, Computer Science Principles and Programming, Games, Apps and Society already could be replacements for graduation requirements, that isn’t something Houston County has pursued. Instead, officials there have chosen to focus on tracks such as industrial maintenance, which could have ties to local companies like Frito-Lay, YKK and Macon’s future Kumho Tires facility.
“It just hasn’t gone very far because we thought there were other areas we could focus on,” McDermott said.
In Bibb County, Howard High School has offered AP Computer Science in the past and offers Computer Science Principles this school year, but neither is offered for core credit. Such a change still awaits school board approval.
“That has not been put on the table yet,” said CTAE director Cassandra Washington.
Another hurdle toward that type of curriculum shift is proper staffing for the “highly rigorous” courses involved, Washington said. Howard teacher Jamie Oliver is now getting the proper certification to teach AP Computer Science next school year.
“You have to have a certain degree to be highly qualified to teach one of those courses,” Washington said.
The recent attention paid to computer science by state officials has caught the eyes of Houston County administrators. McDermott recognized that digital skills could pay off both in the workforce and in four-year schools, and Eric Payne, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said that the push recognizes students’ varying skill sets.
“This is something new to us that we are going to have to look at and be open minded to,” Payne said.
Bibb County schools would also be open to the concept of alternative core options to strengthen the district’s “workforce pipeline,” like are already offered in food science and agricultural science, Washington said.
“I think so, and the thing is, all kids might not decide on that track,” she said. “It just gives kids another option.”
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter@MTJTimm.