MSU, MDE officials unveil major computer science program for K-12 schools

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> STARKVILLE, Miss.—Beginning this fall, 34 public school districts will be participating in a yearlong pilot program called Computer Science for Mississippi.
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> Beyond introducing state students to the CS profession, the training initiative is designed to equip them to be technologically literate citizens who are prepared for CS-related careers.
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> Announcement of the pilot program was made this month by officials of the Mississippi Department of Education and Mississippi State University’s Research and Curriculum Unit.
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> “The Mississippi Department of Education is extremely excited to unveil the first steps of a comprehensive K-12 computer science strategy that will give our students the ability to compete on a worldwide basis,” said Mike Mulvihill.
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> “Working in conjunction with the RCU, we will pilot the first phase of this process with 34 forward-looking districts to prepare our students to be proficient in the workforce and have the ability to adapt to new technology as it becomes available,” MDE’s director of career and technical education added.
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> “This program is an excellent example of how Mississippi State is working collaboratively with partners in the state to solve tough problems,” said David Shaw, MSU’s vice president for research and economic development.
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> “We meet with companies every week, and finding skilled, technologically-savvy employees is a priority for all of them. The Computer Science for Mississippi program shows great potential to enhance workforce development and education in our state,” he said.
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> The pilot program was sparked by the recognition of an obvious national employment need.
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> According to data from the website www.Code.org, there are currently more than 607,000 vacant computing positions in the country. This compares with only about 43,000 U.S. students graduating with CS degrees last year.
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> To qualify for the pilot program, leaders in the 34 districts agreed to make major commitments during the 2016-17 school year to professional development training, data gathering and adequate technology and infrastructure enhancements. During the first year, 235 teachers from 156 elementary and high schools will be involved.
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> The elementary-level curricula will include coding, digital literacy, keyboarding and robotics. In high schools, students will enroll in a comprehensive course covering both fundamental concepts and the “big ideas” of computing and coding.
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> In succeeding years, the pilot program will add CS courses for sixth-eighth grades while also expanding high school offerings.
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> Officials said the 2024 goal is a continuous K-12 public school curriculum that provides a solid CS foundation in problem-solving, critical thinking, logic, coding and cyber literacy.
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> “The CS4MS goal is one of the most important education initiatives since the Education Reform Act,” said Julie Jordan, RCU director. “We see this as an economic imperative because not doing this will handicap the future competitiveness of our students and our state.”
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> The RCU’s involvement with the CS4MS pilot began with staff members collecting information on how other states have incorporated CS training in their public schools. Working with MDE colleagues, they then selected curricula and established initial standards.
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> RCU staff also were charged with organizing a steering committee made up of K-12, higher education and industry representatives.
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> As the pilot program continues to unfold, RCU members will provide additional support for professional development and related areas necessary to take it to a successful completion, Jordan said.
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> “If we can leapfrog other states with this initiative, we can change the economic trajectory of our workforce,” Jordan emphasized.
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> For details on CS4MS, visit cs4ms.org. Further information may also be obtained by contacting either Kenny Langley at 662-325-7129 or kenny.langley@rcu.msstate.edu or Shelly Hollis at 662-325-6313 or shelly.hollis@rcu.msstate.edu.
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> To learn more about the RCU and its work to support Mississippi public education, see rcu.msstate.edu.
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> MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.
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