Computer Science in the Classroom

Students attended a class at CodeRVA High School in Richmond. Virginia is starting to implement computer science learning standards for grades K-12 during the 2019-20 school year.

In November 2017, Virginia took a leap of faith by becoming the first state to create mandatory standards for computer science in the classroom. That was a smart move.

As schools begin implementation this fall, there are several statistics that support children adopting these skills at a young age. For students with serious interest in computer science careers, the numbers are clear.

At the end of 2018, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office cited computing as the No. 1 source of all new U.S. wages. Virginia ranked No. 3 for highest concentration of technology workers and No. 1 for computer science jobs in any state. According to Payscale.com, graduates with just a bachelor’s degree in computer science earn an average salary of $83,000 per year.

“As one of the fastest growing industries in Virginia, computer science is at the core of virtually all sectors of our economy,” Northam said in a December statement.

Some students might become machine learning engineers, creating programs that bring artificial intelligence into businesses. Others might work as cybersecurity analysts, developing safety measures that protect companies’ digital property.

But what separates Virginia’s approach is its recognition that not every student will want to become a Java guru. While the commonwealth anticipates adding 150,000 STEM jobs over the next five years, other career paths can be boosted with basic computer science skills. Every third-grader will be exposed to simple problem-solving exercises, such as how to reboot a device.

“The goal is really to give them exposure at an early age,” Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni told the RTD’s Justin Mattingly. “It’s something that is growing. It’s out there so it’s good to have a basic understanding of what the discipline is.”

Adults of all ages have had to catch up and adapt to a surge of new technologies. With greater integration of computer science in the classroom, younger generations hopefully won’t have to.

Chris Gentilviso

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