Computer science in schools gets STEM funding

By Pat Jenkins The Dispatch Eatonville School District is on the list of second-round recipients of a combined $4 million worth of state-affiliated grants for STEM education. Washington STEM, in partnership with the state superintendent of public instruction (OSPI), announced that the latest award of grants to support computer science education will be divided among seven school districts and three Educational Service Districts (ESDs), plus two other school districts and one non-profit organization that received earlier grant funding for the 2016-2017 school year. The grants help pay for training teachers in computer science, acquiring and upgrading technology for computer science instruction, and expanding access for students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). To qualify, grants recipients such as Eatonville schools must have a partnership with private organizations for a 1-1 match of funding, effectively doubling the state investment in computer science education from $2 million to $4 million, officials said. Washington STEM, a non-profit advocate of STEM education, develops and cultivates the private funding sources. The Eatonville district partnered with Tech Smart Kids, an organization based in Bellevue. "Our plan, after we had to scale back the grant a bit, is to train one middle school teacher and offer an elective computer science course in Python (a programming language),GÇ¥ said Michael Farmer, the district's director of innovation and learning. Also on the agenda, he added, is to "sooner, rather than later, replace our outdated digitools curriculum.GÇ¥ At the elementary-school level, Eatonville is training nine teachers, "including our computer specialist teachers at each of our three elementary schools,GÇ¥ Farmer said. "This will overhaul our elementary computer curriculum and get our teachers set up to integrate computer science into the classroom with other subjects.GÇ¥ The goal in Eatonville and elsewhere for the grant-funded programs is to expose students to computer science that can lead them to career opportunities. "Yet, so many students, including students of color and students from rural areas, don't have opportunities to learn computer science.GÇ¥ said Andy Shouse, Washington STEM's chief program officer. The newly awarded funding, which was announced in late-June, GÇ¥is one strong step towards expanding access to throughout the state,GÇ¥ Shouse said. One of the state's four basic learning goals is for all students to "think analytically, logically, and creatively, and to integrate technology literacy and fluency. These grants will go a long way to achieving that goal. And that will open up many doors for these students in the future,GÇ¥ said Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. Other recipients of the grants, and the grade levels they'll apply the funding to, include Auburn School District (high schools), Edmonds School District (elementary, middle and high school), Ocosta School District, Royal School District (all grades), and Vancouver School District (middle school). The Eatonville district has had other STEM-related breakthroughs that have gained notice at the state level. Since the 2013-14 school year, all three of its elementaryschools GÇô Weyerhaeuser, Eatonville and Columbia Crest GÇô have been named Lighthouse Schools. The statewide distinction by OSPI is for schools excelling in STEM efforts, and is accompanied by about $20,000 in state funding for more such programs.


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