Award: Computer Coding Initiative

July 17, 2017

Innovations in American Government Awards

  • AWARD WON: 2017 Semifinalist
  • AWARDEE: Computer Coding Initiative
  • DESIGNEE: State of Arkansas
  • JURISDICTION: Arkansas

Arkansas’ 2015 General Assembly unanimously passed the most comprehensive computer science legislation in the nation, requiring a computer science course be made available to all public high school students beginning in the 2015–2016 school year. To attract students, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) amended its graduation requirements to allow a computer science credit in lieu of a mathematics or science credit. Soon afterwards, in fall of 2015, ADE led the development of unprecedented, first-of-its-kind K–8 computer science standards to be taught to all K–8 students in Arkansas public schools by the 2017–2018 school year. To kickstart the initiative and address challenges, the governor’s office set aside $5 million and requested for ADE to hire a computer science coordinator to oversee statewide efforts, primarily by expanding the quantity and quality of teachers available. Prior to this school year, few educators were trained and certified to teach computer science in Arkansas. The state also provides two virtual courses at no cost to Arkansas high schools to fill gaps in districts where no computer science teacher is available. Other groups, such as the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science, and the Arts, have supported these efforts by partnering with high schools to expand computer science instruction and training teachers through a hybrid model. To date, nearly 4,000 students have received training and education through the program.