tech talk

City to gain new computer science classes amid White House push

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
A sixth grade class at M.S. 88 participate in an "Hour of Coding" event organized by the computer science advocacy group Code.org. The city is planning to train 100 teachers on new computer science curriculum by 2017.

The city is set to expand its computer science offerings next fall.

The White House announced Monday that New York City will get part of a $20 million National Science Foundation grant to recruit and train 100 high school educators over the next three years, part of a larger effort to better prepare students for the increasing number of technology-related jobs and increase diversity in the field.

The first 30 of those 100 teachers will start teaching an Advanced Placement-aligned computer science course next fall, based on a curriculum developed by the University of California, Berkeley called “Beauty and Joy of Computing.”

UC Berkeley’s course material will inform the development of the new AP Computer Science Principles course set to launch nationwide in 2016. The city will receive $6.4 million to support its computer science expansion, according to the Department of Education, including training teachers during the transition.

The AP initiative adds to recent efforts underway at the city Department of Education to bring computer science education into more schools.

Last year, the city selected 20 middle and high schools to pilot a software engineering program aimed at bringing computer science education to more students than just those in advanced classes. It also launched its own teacher training plan to bring in 120 computer science teachers over the course of two summers.

And this year, the state Board of Regents voted to ease graduation requirements so that schools can now create and offer classes in subjects like computer science that hone workforce skills while also allowing students to earn credits toward their diploma.

The announcement by the White House, which came at the start of a nationwide week-long campaign designed to raise interest in computer science, is also focused on addressing gender and racial disparities among students already taking the classes. In New York State last year, 2,734 students took the AP Computer Science exam, of whom 18 percent were female, 4 percent were black and 8 percent are Hispanic, according to the College Board.

“The reason why there’s not as many black and Latino students in computer science is because this is a field that’s mostly taught in suburban private schools,” said Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, who visited M.S. 88 in Brooklyn on Tuesday as part of a to spark interest in the subject. Partovi said females are underrepresented because “there is a stereotype that girls shouldn’t do this.”

Students taking AP computer science in New York City are more likely to be females than other parts of the state and country. In 2012, 30 percent of the city’s AP Computer Science test-takers in 2012 were females.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.