Area schools receive funding for computer science training | Education | #education | #technology | #training

SIOUX CITY – A total of $271,680 in state funding has been awarded in Northwest Iowa to prepare K-12 teachers to teach computer science.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education announced more than $500,000 in Computer Science Professional Development Incentive Fund awards on Tuesday.

Five area schools and organizations received funding:

– The Northwest AEA received the largest sum in the area at $218,100;

– Kingsley-Pierson Community School District received $20,500;

– Woodbury Central Community School District received $20,400;

– Newell-Fonda Community School District received $5,100 and;

– Sheldon Community School District received $7,580.

The fund is aimed at paying for teacher professional development, including training to teach specific computer science courses and earning university endorsements.

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This year, there were 40 applicants and 21 awards totaling $506,084.

The Northwest AEA has developed a plan to serve the 34 school districts in the area covered by the AEA.  

The Kingsley-Pierson schools will start implementing the curriculum at the high school and middle school level next year.

Taylor Kempers, K-P curriculum director, said the computer science learning will be new for the high school students, but the middle school students have already been doing a little coding through an online program.

The following year, the program will be introduced at the elementary level, where computer science learning has already been a strong focus thanks to a prior grant program.

These programs allow students to learn the basics at the elementary and middle school level, and then in high school, they can explore more technical career choices, Kempers said.

On the administration side, Kempers said receiving this grant has taken a “huge weight” off of their backs to find the funding to implement these types of programs.

“It needs to be done because there are so many jobs that revolve around computer science,” she said.

For the teachers, she said it is amazing to see how they integrate computer science learning each week.

“Through computer science, students build critical thinking, problem-solving and reasoning skills that are transferable across academic disciplines and fields,” said Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, in a press release. “These are vital skills that students need to innovate and succeed in our interconnected, digital world.”

The fund was created in 2017. In 2020, Reynolds proposed and the Legislature passed House File 2629, requiring K-12 schools to offer computer science education to all students, starting with high schools in 2022-23.

“Computer science is a basic skill set necessary for student success and an added advantage for recruitment in high-demand careers in the rapidly-changing, technology-driven workplace,”  Reynolds said in the release.

Training that prepares educators to teach computer science in the next six to 12 months is a priority, according to the press release. Recipients will report their progress after the 2021-22 school year.

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