STEM & STEAM
Dallas ISD Bringing Computer Science to All Elementary Schools
- By Dian Schaffhauser
A sizable Texas district is rolling out an initiative to embed computer science instruction in all of its elementary schools. Dallas Independent School District will be spending $4.4 million over the next three years to introduce coding, robotics, makerspaces and other computer science technology to more than 86,000 Pre-k–5 students in 156 elementary schools.
According to reporting by the Dallas Morning News, the project was tested last year in a pilot at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, where teachers received training and access to curriculum developed by Code.org, a non-profit that works to instill computer science into K–12 classrooms. Students there use devices, including laptops and tablets, as well as "unplugged" tools such as dry-erase boards, to learn CS concepts such as "debug," "algorithm" and robot programming, according to the newspaper.
Now 31 other schools are including CS instruction in their daily activities. The school system has become a Code.org "partner district," which provides access to professional development for helping educators bring CS concepts into every grade level.
Currently, Texas has an outsized number of open CS jobs — almost 36,000, according to Code.org — with an average salary of $91,000, nearly twice as much as the average salary across all jobs in the state, $47,770. Most of that talent will have to come from somewhere else. Code.org reported that Texas had only 2,714 computer science graduates in 2015; and just 6,060 high school students in Texas took the advanced placement computer science exam in 2016.
By starting CS instruction at the youngest ages, the district said it hopes to build a strong foundation in CS that will prepare them for later success in life and college. As the newspaper reporting pointed out, "Even if students don't go on to work in a related field, the lessons learned in [CS] — critical thinking, communication and collaboration — will pay dividend."
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.