PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said Monday she wants every public school in the state to offer computer-science classes by December 2017, an ambitious plan designed to prepare students for the increasingly “tech-driven economy.”
The initiative, known as Computer Science for R.I. (CS4RI), will see the state partner with Microsoft, its public and private colleges and several nonprofit organizations to offer computer-science courses beginning in kindergarten and continuing through high school.
Raimondo said her budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 sets aside $260,000 to start the rapid expansion, but it remains unclear exactly how much it will cost to fully implement the initiative.
“Our kids deserve the best opportunities in the 21st century tech-driven economy, so we need to do everything we can to help them get ahead by developing the skills that matter,” Raimondo said in a statement.
- Read: The full plan
The governor held a press conference to announce the plan at William E. Tolman Sr. High School in Pawtucket. She was joined by representatives from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Microsoft and Code.org as well as Congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline and Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien.
As it stands now, only 1% of Rhode Island public high school students are enrolled in computer-science courses, and Advanced Placement (AP) computer science is only offered in nine high schools, according to Raimondo.
At the same time, Raimondo said, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training projects there will be more than 4,000 computer-related jobs open by 2022. She said the median wage nationally for computer and IT jobs is about $80,000.
Under Raimondo’s plan, school districts would partner with nonprofit code.org to offer four computer-science classes for grades K-6 aimed at teaching fundamentals. Teachers would be asked to participate in a one-day professional development session on computer science as well.
In middle school, districts would work with another nonprofit, Project Lead The Way, to offer two nine-week sessions where students will learn how to design apps. Teachers would have five days of computer-science professional development. In high school, students would work with Microsoft, the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.
Computer-science courses will not be made mandatory, a spokesperson for Raimondo said.
The initiative was immediately met with high praise from officials around the country. John King Jr., the acting U.S. Secretary of Education, called Rhode Island the “latest state to lead the way in offering computer science for all.”
“We must ensure all students have the skills they need to compete in today’s innovation economy and that means making computer science much more accessible for all learners,” King said in a statement. “President Obama’s budget includes funding for states and districts to increase access to computer science by providing training for educators, expanding access to high-quality instructional materials, and building effective regional partnerships.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said computational thinking and problem-solving skills will be “critical to every job in the future.”
“We aim to empower every educator and student in the State of Rhode Island to prepare for this future by fostering new levels of collaboration and creativity in the classroom through computer science education,” Nadella said.