STEM & Policy

Wyoming Adding CS to State Learning Standards

computer science education, cs education, state standards for comptuer science, stem education, steam education 

Wyoming is adding computer science to its state K-12 learning standards after agreeing to reduce the amount of the instructional burden for them placed on elementary teachers. Tied to the adoption, the Department of Education received a $95,000 grant from Microsoft's TechSpark initiative to provide CS implementation and training to individual school districts that apply for grant consideration.

At a meeting in April, the State Board of Education voted on how it would move forward with legislation passed last year that required CS to be taught to all Wyoming students, an initiative called "Boot Up Wyoming." A CS standards review committee, convened by the Department of Education and populated with teachers, parents and members of business and industry, reduced the number of "required" computer standards from nine to four at the K-2 level. Grades 3-5 will have nine priority benchmarks

Shortly, the latest version of the new standards will be made available for public comment. "As many in the audience have suggested, it's better to get these right than rush to approve them," said Walt Wilcox, chairman of the state board during the meeting. "We'll work to meet our timeline imposed by the legislative mandate and approve standards that are best for the children of Wyoming. It is important this is done by delivering focused and simplified high-quality standards that are realistic for educators to deliver and attainable for learners."

In a March meeting the board heard from more than 50 people, many praising the "rigor and comprehensiveness of the standards," according to an official statement, while others suggested "[tapping] the brakes" on the approval process and refining the standards to make them more accessible, especially at the elementary grade levels.

The board has until January 2022 to approve the standards, but by law they also have to be implemented by fall 2022. The hope among several board members was that the revisions would come as soon as possible to leave plenty of time for curriculum development, professional development, and a phased implementation.

The grant from Microsoft will enable the department of education to deliver CS training to all school districts. The state will be using the Strategic CSforALL Resource & Implementation Planning Tool (SCRIPT), which lays out a process for considering what's needed to provide "equitable, high-quality" to all students. Through a series of self-assessment and goal-setting activities, districts will develop a CS education vision and roadmap for implementation. SCRIPT is offered by CS for All, a New York-based nonprofit that develops resources to help deliver K-12 CS education. The Wyoming training will occur in five locations and will be open to six districts in each location; there are 48 school districts in the entire state. Each training consists of several sessions over a year.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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