Mississippi has a plan to get CS into 100% of its schools

Sixty-five percent of Mississippi high schools offer computer science, and that’s increased from 28 percent in 2018. However, only 5.2 percent of Mississippi students are enrolled in a foundational CS course.

“Whether we know it or not, computer science now touches every facet of our daily lives,” says Danielle Boulden, Code.org K-5 Education Program Manager. “As society becomes only increasingly more dependent on technology, it becomes critical that all students have opportunities to learn these important skills and concepts throughout their K-12 formal schooling.”

In March, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed into law the Mississippi Computer Science and Cyber Education Equality Act, requiring all public schools in Mississippi to offer computer science education by the 2024–2025 school year.

The bill lays out a phased-in approach for the mandated implementation and included $1 million in state funding for computer science education and was matched with an additional $1 million with private funding from C Spire.

Upon signing the law, Gov. Reeves said:

“We’ve made great progress in educating and informing the public on the importance of getting more rigorous computer science education in all of our schools so that students have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to compete for the best jobs in the new 21st-century digital economy.”

Photo by Ron Lach, Pexels.

Making a plan

The unique phased implementation could be a model for other states to follow. Should all go according to plan, here’s Mississippi’s timeline for achieving the bill’s goal of CS in every school:

2022–2023 School Year: All middle schools, 50% of elementary schools, all charter schools

2023–2024 School Year: 50% of high schools, all elementary schools

2024–2025 School Year: All schools

How will Mississippi achieve these benchmarks? A lot will depend on getting teachers trained. To accomplish the goal of having 50 percent of Mississippi elementary schools offering CS by this fall, the plan is to train at least one teacher from each grade level within a district and then allow them to go back and lead training for other elementary teachers within their district during the summer.

“Teachers are frequently surprised at just how easy it can be to learn and teach computer science,” says Shelly Hollis, Assistant Director at Center for Cyber Education, Mississippi State University — one of Code.org’s Regional Partners.

“This summer elementary training is the beginning of a focused plan to provide the students of Mississippi the opportunity to begin their educational journey with a positive experience of computer science and STEM activities. This lays the foundation for students to develop a sense of belonging in this space and leads to persistence in computer science and STEM, especially for girls.”

Facilitators at a recent Code.org workshop. Photo by Melissa Rocha, Code.org.

Every school district in the state will be sent an invitation to send six educators to one of the four large training conferences taking place this year. In theory, between eight small local trainings that also occur and the four large conferences, 100 percent of elementary schools in the state could be trained by the start of the 2022–2023 school year using this model.

“We know this will be a learning year for elementary integration in Mississippi and we are looking forward to sharing our experience with others around the country through our partnership with Code.org,” says Hollis.

Impact on students and state

As of this week, there are 27 states that require all high schools to offer CS. With the signing of this bill, Mississippi is now one of only 15 states to require all K-12 schools to offer it.

It couldn’t come at a more vital time. The poverty rate in Mississippi is the highest in the nation: One of every 4.7 residents lives in poverty. However, Mississippi has averaged 2,257 open computing jobs each month, and these open jobs have an average annual salary of $72,039. In addition to the skills and knowledge that computer science offers students, the opportunities available to CS students are life-changing.

“Technology is the way of the future,” says Joelle Stuart, a 2nd-grade teacher in Greenville, Mississippi. “Many jobs are being done by computers. If Mississippi is to progress, we must embrace computer science, and help prepare our students for the world of tomorrow.”

Photo by August de Richelieu, Pexels.

Mississippi isn’t alone

Mississippi isn’t the only state looking to expand computer science access in its schools. In fact, there are several other states with large-scale CS initiatives.

Funded by Tesla, Nevada hopes to train around 300,000 teachers to teach computer science. Hawaii will soon require all elementary schools to offer CS. Alabama, Connecticut, and Maryland also have elementary-level initiatives in the works.

By requiring all schools to offer computer science, Mississippi and the rest of these states are making a proactive move toward increasing access to CS for students and toward introducing its students to CS at an earlier age. The benefits for the students and for the states could be incredible.

— Samantha Urban Tarrant, Code.org

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