For Immediate Release
Contact: Dale Wetzel, Public Information Specialist
Baesler: Take the "Hour of Code" Challenge
BISMARCK, N.D., Dec. 4, 2017 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler is inviting North Dakotans to take part in an “Hour of Code” to mark the start of Computer Science Education Week, which began Monday and ends Dec. 10.
The job market is demanding computer science skills, according to Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit that advocates expanded access to computer science education. The organization says North Dakota has more than 600 open computing jobs at an average salary of $70,311, which is 50 percent higher than the state’s average salary. Code.org says 50 percent of Americans rank computer science as one of the two most important academic subjects after reading and writing.
The Computer Science Education Week website has a link that gives individuals, from elementary school students to older adults, an opportunity to try their hand at computer coding, which is the act of writing directions in computer language to accomplish a task.
“Computer science is very important for all of our students, because it is part of our world today,” Baesler said. “Everything that we touch, everything that we use, everything that impacts our lives is in some way connected to a computer and a computer language.”
Baesler said the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and the state Legislature have supported several proposals to expand access to computer science instruction.
One of them is SB2185, a bill approved by the 2017 Legislature that allows high school students to substitute an approved course in computer science for one of the three mathematics credits they need for graduation.
Two computer science courses now qualify as math substitutes: Advanced Placement Computer Science A and Integrated Mathematics for Computer Science/Information Technology. SB2185 allows North Dakota schools to develop additional computer science courses that could be used as substitutes for the required mathematics credits.
The Department of Public Instruction is working with Microsoft Corp. to expand its TEALS initiative to rural schools, Baesler said. TEALS, which stands for Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, pairs a computer science professional with a classroom teacher to team-teach computer science. The computer science professional often participates in the class remotely, and the classroom teacher gradually takes over the course as he or she becomes more expert in the subject.
Code.org says 90 percent of parents want their child’s school to teach computer science, and that students who learn the subject in high school are six times more likely to become computer science majors in college. A computer science major can earn 40 percent more in their lives than the average college graduate, the organization says.
Baesler was instrumental in bringing the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), which is supported by ExxonMobil Corp. and other private companies and foundations, to North Dakota to provide instructional training for math, science and English teachers and make advanced coursework more widely available for high school students.
NMSI has promoted Advanced Placement computer science classes in North Dakota, and is developing methods for offering AP courses to rural and isolated schools, beginning in the 2018-19 school year, Baesler said.
The Legislature has made it possible for every North Dakota student to take at least one Advanced Placement exam at no cost during their time in high school, the superintendent said. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals able to take as many as four exams for free.
“When we talk about computer science, there is a whole host of occupations and jobs that our students will be better equipped to perform, in whatever field that they desire, if they have a basic understanding of computer science and coding,” Baesler said.
Baesler has been invited to a kickoff event for Computer Science Education Week in Palo Alto, Calif., on Monday that features Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook; Susan Wojcicki (pronounced woh-JISS’-kee), YouTube’s chief executive officer; and Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Microsoft Corp.