Computer Science for Every Child in Every School: PTA General Assembly Meeting Summary, Part Two

Friday, October 09, 2015 11:31 AM | Jennifer Helton (Administrator)


At our General Assembly meeting, Bryan Twarek, the SFUSD Computer Science Coordinator, told us about the new and very exciting computer science curriculum that SFUSD is rolling out.  A detailed description of the program is here:  http://www.csinsf.org.  I’m going to summarize what I see as the key points, but there is a lot more information on the site – take some time to check it out. 


The goal is to have every student in every school studying computer science, from preK – through 12.  As our City is a major driver of global tech innovation, we should expect no less, in my view.  It’s great to see the district stepping up to this challenge.


And it is a real challenge, because currently there are no national, state or local standards for CS education on this scale.  Nationally, many schools do CS, of course, but a comprehensive program for every kid is uncommon.  No big urban district has done it.  So SFUSD is boldly going where no one has gone before.  And isn’t that what San Francisco is all about?


What will CS look like at different grade levels?  You can see a detailed Scope and Sequence here:  http://www.csinsf.org/curriculum.html   In the younger grades, the focus will be on getting kids to understand fundamental concepts.  It looks like they are planning to use BeeBots or something similar at this level.


Then, as kids get older, more complicated concepts will be introduced using programs such as Scratch Jr. and Scratch, Hopscotch and Code.org.  By the time kids are in middle school, they will be working with HTML and CSS, Python, Java, JavaScript, etc.   A menu of introductory and advanced electives and AP courses will be available for high school students.


Who will do the actual instruction, and how much will kids get?   The district is employing a number of Computer Science specialists.  The CS specialists will push in to preK and elementary school classrooms in every elementary school for 20 hours a year.  In middle school, students will receive 45 hours a year of instruction (a quarter length course).  In high school, the current plan is to offer a electives to all kids.  This will include AP courses and a Capstone course.   At the moment there is no plan to require all high school students to take CS, but every high school will offer CS electives.  It’s not impossible that CS might become a high school requirement at some point in the future.   Also for the future, the district hopes to develop the capacity of current SFUSD instructors to teach CS courses.  


When will all this happen?  This year the district is piloting its new program in middle schools.  Two middle schools offered CS last year.  Five schools (Presidio, Denman, Willie Brown, Francisco, Lick) are getting the full pilot this year, and an additional seven middle schools are getting CS as an elective.  In all, 31% of middle school students are getting CS instruction this school year.  The district expects the program to run in 21 middle schools next year, reaching 95% of sixth grade middle school students. 


Implementation in elementary schools will start this spring, when a few schools will test out curriculum.  The current plan is to have a larger pilot group in 2016-2017.  They are hoping for full or nearly full implementation for elementary schools in 2017-2018.


As for high school, the current plan is that every comprehensive high school will offer CS courses next year, with full implementation at every high school in the City the following year. 


Do you have opinions about all this?  There’s a feedback form here.  Let the district know what you think!   I know we have many techie parents in the City in with expertise in this area.  It would be great if we can help the district can leverage that.     


I also hope parents can remember that this is all new territory, and it may take some time to figure out the nuts and bolts.  For myself, I think this is a good step in the direction of making sure our kids have the skills they need for the 21st century workplace. 

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