How Arkansas reaches beyond the 9 policies and provides model for other states
Arkansas has led the nation in computer science education for the last five years, blazing a trail of innovations that other states have replicated. Leadership at all levels across the state, from Governor Hutchinson to the classroom, has made Arkansas a model for how a state can successfully structure a high-quality computer science initiative.
In 2014, the state began putting into place all 9 of the Code.org Advocacy Coalition’s recommended state policies for making computer science a foundational part of K-12 education. Arkansas was the first state in the nation to make computer science classes available in every high school. Two components critical to the success of this initiative has been the $2.5M allocated for the initiative each year, and a focus on investing in teachers. A bulk of the funding has been used to support teachers via professional learning (including attendance at state and national conferences), teacher mentoring, and teacher stipends and reimbursements. The state recognizes high-quality teaching via the first-of-its-kind Computer Science Educator of the Year Award. In the one-year time span from summer 2018 to summer 2019, over 5,000 total educators received some level of CS training.
The state has the outcomes to show the value of this investment: Not only has Arkansas seen exploding growth in enrollment (9,813 students enrolled in a high-quality computer science course in 2019–2020, up from 1,103 just five years earlier), but diversity of students enrolled in those courses increased. The representation of female students enrolled in computer science courses increased from 20% in the 2014–15 school year to 27% last year, and the state continues to strive to increase that percentage. Currently, the racial demographics of students enrolled in CS courses match the overall student population.
Anthony Owen, State Director of Computer Science Education at the Arkansas Department of Education, said, “We attribute this growth to state policy as well as our amazing Arkansas teachers.”
The state continues to innovate, not stopping at putting each policy into place. They have gone beyond the 9 policies with their continued support for CS teachers and active recruitment of students with innovative strategies. And last week, Governor Hutchinson announced the convening of a new Computer Science and Computing Taskforce to survey the current state of the initiative and make new recommendations.
While we recognize that the circumstances in each state differ, we believe Arkansas’ success can be a roadmap for every state. All 50 states now have at least one of 9 policies in place. By continuing to pass policies that prioritize computer science education, and continuing to invest in funding and teachers like Arkansas has, we know that every state can provide a high-quality education in computer science to every student!
-Katie Hendrickson, Code.org