Oklahoma to pioneer standards in computer science education

TULSA — Oklahoma may suffer from low budgets when it comes to education, but the state’s been working hard on making sure its academic standards are high.

Recently, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) released a draft of new academic standards for computer sciences.

If adopted, Oklahoma will become only the third state in the nation to have grade-specific standards for computer science.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told KRMG Wednesday that it’s vitally important to prepare Oklahoma’s students for the realities of the job market of the future - and indeed, of the present.

“This is going to be a part of an important foundation so that our students are equipped for the world they will live in for the next decade or beyond,” Hofmeister said. “We know that coding and the work of computing is going to drive a lot of the economy in the future. It already affects everything from health and medicine to agribusiness and finance.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says computing is the primary source of new wages in the country, and estimates that 67% of those jobs are outside the actual tech sector.

Conversely, its estimated that only about 40% of the nation’s schools offer computer coding classes, and less than 3% of Oklahoma high school students currently enroll in computer science.

These new standards, Hofmeister says, will address that issue at every grade level from Kindergarten to 12th Grade.

“This is a high bar, and we want our children to be ready to enter those courses in high school, and it won’t just happen. We need to prepare them along the way, and it starts as early as Kindergarten.”

She stresses that computer coding involves language, so while it may appeal to those with a scientific predilection, it’s allure may entangle those of a more artistic bent as well.

“Coding is a universal language, but it is also an art,” she told KRMG. “It is the language obviously of computer science, and it is the language of the future. So those who may attach some connotation of a ‘geek’ sitting down at a computer, that needs to be dispelled. It is for everyone.”

And that’s the other major goal she believes the new standards will help Oklahoma reach.

“This is also, I think, opening access to females, as well as all demographic groups that we serve within our schools. There are many who have been underserved with the opportunity for computer science education. What this does is it kicks down every door and barrier, and says ‘this is for all kids.’”

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