How Students in More Than 150 Schools in 31 States Will Learn Computer Science

Students in more than 150 middle schools across 31 states will soon have access to computer science courses that will prepare them for the increasingly technology-based economy. The opportunity is provided through a partnership between Verizon and Project Lead The Way (PLTW).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 50 percent of the 2.8 million job openings in STEM-related fields through 2018 will be for computer specialists and cites a critical need in more than 180 industries for people who have skills and expertise in software development, cyber-security, information technology and computer support.

This past spring, Verizon and PLTW gave 12 schools and 405 students who had no previous computer science classroom experience access to a course called Introduction to Computer Science (ICS). Upon completion of the course, the students – 33 percent of whom were female – developed 322 apps and reported a 42-percent increase in their interest in programming, and a 30-percent increase in their interest in STEM subjects. The success from the pilot program encouraged Verizon to work with PLTW to reach even more middle school students and further expand the program.

“We want to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in students and put them on the path toward a brighter future,” said Rose Stuckey Kirk, chief corporate social responsibility officer for Verizon.

ICS is a series of two nine-week courses created by PLTW that are designed to be the first computer science experience for students who are new to programming. Throughout the courses, students create apps for mobile devices using MIT App Inventor®, a site that teaches the fundamentals of app development and programming. Students gradually progress to more complex programming, including text-based programming in Python®. Other concepts students will cover include the impact of computing on society and the application of computing across career paths; digital citizenship and cybersecurity; and how to model, simulate and analyze data.

Dr. Vince Bertram, PLTW President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are proud to work with Verizon in support of expanding students’ access to computer science education. By reaching students who would otherwise not experience high-quality, in-school computer science learning, I believe we will make a tremendous impact on the future diversity of the computer science workforce.”

According to research by the National Center for Education Statistics and National Science Foundation, women and underrepresented minority groups earn less than 36 percent the computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded each year in the U.S. In an effort to help address this issue, Verizon and PLTW carefully selected more than 150 schools with diverse and underserved student populations. Additionally, the average free-and reduced-lunch program at these schools is more than 85 percent.

Teachers from more than 115 of the schools attended professional development training over the summer to teach the new course; teachers from the rest of the schools will attend and complete training this school year. Teacher training is especially important in computer science as most primary and secondary teachers do not have previous computer science experience.

Verizon and PLTW plan to further expand the ICS course into 75 more schools in the 2016-17 school year. For more information about this initiative and the ICS course, visit https://www.pltw.org/verizon.

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